Why Quality Legal Representation Matters for Families Affected by Substance Use Disorders


May 19, 2020 

This Café Conversation explores the attributes of quality legal representation for parents involved in child welfare proceedings.  Although all legal professionals serve an important role on a family treatment court (FTC) team, parent attorneys play a critical role to ensure reasonable efforts are made on behalf of families affected by substance use disorders to have access to quality services to prevent removal and support timely reunification and permanency.  Viewers learn how FTC teams and their parent attorney partners can work together toward a shared vision of accountability for families involved in the FTC and child welfare system. 

The Learning Academy offers numerous technical assistance and training resources on this topic.  A 30-minute video presentation and a Team Discussion Guide are available for FTC practitioners to view and engage in discussion together.  Additionally, there is a facilitated discussion with a set of panelists who share experiences and expertise in effective collaboration surrounding this topic. 


  • Tessa Richter, Senior Program Associate, Children and Family Futures
  • Mimi Laver, Director, Legal Representation Projects, American Bar Association, Center on Children and the Law
  • Melissa Thompson, Executive Director, Colorado Office of Respondent Parents’ Counsel
  • Graham Peper, Parent Attorney and Guardian Ad Litem (Jefferson County, CO) 

Learning Objectives:

1. Understand the important role parent attorneys play in family dependency cases 

2. Highlight key principles and best practice strategies to provide early and quality legal representation, leading to improved child welfare outcomes 

3. Learn from legal professionals at the national, state, and local levels who are working collaboratively to ensure reasonable efforts are made for families 

4. Identify key next steps for FTC teams to partner with quality legal representation as a key stakeholder in the collaborative 

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Through federally- and foundation-funded projects, Children and Family Futures and its small business subsidiary, Center for Children and Family Futures, produces publications, reports, Technical Assistance tools and web-based learning for the field. The following are featured resources from our work. For more resources or information related to a specific topic, please visit our resources page or click the “Request Assistance” button below or at the top of the page.