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Engaging Nonresident Fathers in Child Welfare Cases: A Guide for Attorneys Representing Public Child Welfare Agencies

September 15, 2011 Comments off

Engaging Nonresident Fathers in Child Welfare Cases: A Guide for Attorneys Representing Public Child Welfare Agencies (PDF)
Source: National Quality Improvement Center on Non-Resident Fathers and the Child Welfare System

Each year, hundreds of thousands of children become involved with child protective services (CPS) due to suspected or confirmed abuse or neglect. Some states report that at least half of children involved with the child welfare system had noncustodial fathers (e.g., come from female-headed single parent households). For these children, because of systemic failure, their biological fathers and paternal relatives are often left out of caregiver search efforts, case planning, team meetings, and court hearings, even if they were positively involved in the child’s life before CPS involvement.

Failing to engage noncustodial (“nonresident”) fathers in child welfare cases harms children by robbing them of many potential resources. Fathers and paternal relatives may serve as placement resources and provide financial, emotional, and other support. Support from noncustodial fathers may also help custodial mothers or other caregivers address the issues that first brought the child to the attention of CPS. In cases where the father does not want to be involved with a child, or cannot be a positive presence in the child’s life, determining and documenting this throughout the case will also reduce delays in permanency if the case reaches the guardianship, termination of parental rights and/or adoption stages.

This guide provides background on the systemic failure to include nonresident fathers in child welfare cases. It then discusses research findings on the benefits of father involvement and offers practice tips to identify, locate, assess and help the agency engage fathers in your cases. The information and tips below are primarily for attorneys who represent the child welfare agency in dependency court. Guidance to attorneys who serve in a general counsel or policy role is available at page 15. This guide will help you make informed recommendations to represent the agency’s position, act in the child’s best interests, and promote father engagement that supports those interests.

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