As a nonprofit law firm, Dependency Legal Services (DLS) provides high quality legal representation and advocates for indigent families in California’s child welfare system.
By offering full family representation, we ensure that all family members receive the services they need and are able to work together on a level playing field to accomplish an outcome that’s best for the whole family.
We only accept clients in the child welfare system appointed to us by the Juvenile Court and do not represent clients on a retained basis.
Our interdisciplinary team advocates for each and every one of our clients to ensure they receive the services needed, work toward family reunification, and permanently exit the child welfare system.
Our attorneys work with both parents/guardians and children to provide high quality legal representation for juvenile dependency proceedings.
Policy and Legislation
We also use the legal process to work toward system improvement, including offering trainings and advocating for new policies and legislation surrounding the child welfare system.
Supporting Eight Counties in Northern California
Dependency Legal Services has contracts with Judicial Councils in eight counties in Northern California.
Across all of our counties, we serve around 4,000 clients at any given time.
Approximately 60% of our clients are parents or guardians and 40% are children in the child welfare system. The individual contracts may involve representing parents and guardians, children, or both parties in juvenile dependency proceedings, depending on the county.
- In Sonoma and Placer counties, we represent parents and guardians.
- In Marin, Solano, Yolo, Mendocino, Lake and Stanislaus counties, we represent both parents/guardians and children.
By working in multiple counties, we’re able to marshal the resources, influence and experience of a large firm for the benefit of small and mid-size counties.
The best way to serve a community is to have an active presence in that community. Because of this, we aim to hire staff who live in and are from the counties we serve. Our model is also tailored to fit the unique needs and culture of each county while employing our experience and knowledge to enhance parent and child representation.
Improving Child Welfare Outcomes
In each county we serve, DLS is committed to increasing family reunification rates, increasing relative placement rates, decreasing a child’s length of stay in foster care, and decreasing re-entry into the child welfare system. Together with our partners, we’re working to achieve these goals through systemic reform.
- Establishing and/or expanding local Dependency Drug Court programs
- Working with system partners in strategic planning/program improvement efforts
- Legislative advocacy at the state and federal levels
- Engaging community volunteers to assist with parent mentoring or other needed support
- Membership in state and national boards/organizations dedicated to improving child welfare
With our help, counties we currently contract for have experienced tremendous success in improving child welfare outcomes.
In Mendocino County, DLS spearheaded an effort to build and sustain a dependency drug court. The result was a thriving program that garnered $3,500,000 in federal grants to support it.
Solano and Marin Counties
In Solano and Marin Counties, we partnered with the Family Justice Initiative to bring a parent mentor program to Solano County and expand the use of social workers supporting parent and child representation in Marin County.
These programs contributed to more stability for foster children, increases in the numbers of children returning home and a rate of almost zero re-entries into the foster care system. Typically, just above 10% of children re-enter foster care across California.
The percentage of foster children returning home to their parents was highest in Marin County, increasing from 40.5% of exits to reunification to 66.7% in 2021— well above California proportions, which hover around 50%.