Panel Paper: Adoption Outcomes for Foster Care Children: The Role of Attorney Representation

Saturday, November 10, 2018
Jefferson - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Amani Rashid, Eastern Michigan University and Glen R. Waddell, University of Oregon

Roughly 500,000 children reside in the foster care system, and over 20,000 age out of the system each year without ever finding a permanent home. We consider the effect of legal representation for foster youth on the probability of adoption. Exploiting temporal variation in state-level statutes that mandate that a foster child has legal representation in dependency proceedings, we find that mandated representation induces earlier adoptions, with the probability of adoption within two years of entry into foster care increasing 13 percent. Differential effects suggest that lawyers have greater impacts on the foster-care tenure for population subgroups that are at greater risk of aging out of the system, such as abused children and adolescents. Conditional on adoption, legal counsel also leads to a decrease in the probability of short-term foster care reentry. We find no evidence that children are any more likely to be adopted due to representation.