Adoption Outcomes for Foster Care Children: The Role of Attorney Representation
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. 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.
As marijuana availability increases due to changes in legislation and societal norms, we wish to understand how relaxing constraints on marijuana’s availability may influence child welfare. Here, we consider the effects of marijuana availability on child-maltreatment, exploiting temporal variation in state-level legalizations of marijuana for medical purposes. Coincident with these changes in legality, we find little change in the rate of child neglect, but large reductions in the rate of substantiated physical abuse (.17σ). We also explore the additive effects of legalization for recreational use and find evidence of reductions in both substantiated neglect (.28σ) and physical abuse (.38σ).