In October 2019, the Utah Criminal Justice Center, a collaborative partnership between the University of Utah College of Social Work and the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, released the report, Evaluation of the Parent Representation Program Pilot (PDF).
The Parent Representation Program (PRP) Pilot was created in the 4th Judicial District with the support of IDC grant funds, whereby a social worker was assigned to cases to assist parental defense attorneys. The goals of the pilot are to
- Increase the capacity and efficiency of parental defense attorneys through the assistance of social workers on child welfare cases.
- Connect clients to services and treatment and thereby achieve better outcomes for court-involved children and their families through increased rates of family reunification.
- Achieve faster case resolutions and reduce the need for attorney continuances.
The qualitative study, conducted by Dr. Jeremiah W. Jaggers, MSW, between January 1, 2019, and September 30, 2019, found that "the social worker was perceived as being extremely effective from the perspective of clients, public defenders, and judges," and that "families were seen to progress better, through the child welfare system, with the social worker involvement."
The report also discusses challenges that came up in the PRP Pilot evaluation, such as role confusion and conflict between the social worker and the attorney. In addition, it makes recommendations for the future role of social workers on child welfare cases.