In Child Welfare, Two Worlds When it Comes to Legal Representation

In one world, parents with resources immediately hire lawyers to help navigate troubled legal terrain. In the other, attorneys are viewed as luxuries, superfluous actors in a system in which the state is entrusted to protect the family’s interests.

Op-Ed (Mississippi)

Vivek Sankaran
Chronicle of Social Change (CA)
September 10, 2018

Tags: Child Custody

Organizations mentioned/involved: Child Advocacy Law Clinic


How will any of this change? It will only change when those with power within the system – the federal government, child welfare agencies and courts – speak out about the unfairness that exists in child welfare and make adequate legal representation a national priority.

Small signs of progress can be seen. For example, last year, the Children’s Bureau published an information memorandum “strongly encouraging” every state to ensure that “high quality legal representation is provided to all parties in all stages of child welfare proceedings.”  But until “strong encouragement” is accompanied by an infusion of federal funds, very little will change.

Until then, we can guarantee that mothers – like the one in Mississippi – will continue to lose their children because they failed to take a drug screen. And those with resources will immediately rely on lawyers to navigate tricky situations.