Children win with feds’ policy reversal supporting legal representation

Children are the most vulnerable parties in child abuse and neglect cases, with every element of their lives and their very freedom at stake as they face being placed in state custody, otherwise known as foster care. They need lawyers, and good ones at that.


Amy Harfeld
Hill, The
February 2, 2019

Tags: Children & Juvenile, Civil Right to Counsel

Organizations mentioned/involved: Children’s Advocacy Institute (San Diego)


Yet a decisive right to counsel for abused and neglected children remains elusive. Federal law does not currently require states to provide legal representation for children. In a dozen or so states, the entire judicial process of determining what will happen to a child occurs without the child ever speaking with an attorney.

Federal law only requires representation by a non-attorney guardian, or court-appointed special advocate (CASA), appointed to recommend what he or she thinks is best for the child. Sometimes even this doesn’t happen, and children play no role in their own case, learning their fate after it is decided.