We now have added "Informational Posts" which are tidbits of information that may come in handy at some point.

Second Edition: A Child’s Right to Counsel A National Report Card on Legal Representation for Abused & Neglected Children

October 2009:

According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway,1 over 300,000 American children entered foster care in the last fully reported year of 2006. Of the 289,000 children who exited from the system that year, only about half were reunified with their parents. The parents of 79,000 children were found to be \unfit. by clear and convincing evidence and had their parental rights terminated. Only 51,000 children were adopted. The remainder of these children stay in the foster care system, now numbering over 500,000 nationwide.most living in state-provided care or with relatives.

The fate of children who may enter and leave the child welfare system.especially those who stay.is determined by dependency courts in all fifty states. Shortly after a child is removed from his/her home, the dependency court holds a "jurisdictional" hearing and the state commonly assumes the legal role of parent. Dependency courts are unusual, and are often closed off from public view and scrutiny.allegedly to protect the children involved. Many child advocates argue that this concealment is more about protecting agencies from democratic accountability, and in fact hides systemic flaws from public scrutiny. But we need to be clear about who the parents of all of these children are.the court functions formally and legally as the parent. This is not a typical court performing a passive role as arbiter between contending litigants over money or a criminal offense. This entity has the affirmative duty to determine the fate and then manage the custody and care of another human being. Because we live in a civil democracy, it makes us all their parents.jointly and severally. How we treat these children tells us a lot about our actual "family values."

Who are these children? The median age is ten.2 Many children that age and even younger have sufficient maturity to warrant our attention and assistance regarding their thoughts and preferences. They come in all racial groupings, with whites the largest group, but with statistical over-representation of minorities. They have been emotionally, physically, and/or sexually abused or neglected. Often, they have been forgotten. But as many attorneys know, you will not find clients more thoughtful or generous than these. They are often extremely concerned about everyone else around them.their parents, their siblings, their friends, even their attorney.much more than about themselves.

So why this report? Because we do not do well by these kids. Abused and neglected children often languish in foster care indefinitely, lose touch with their families and siblings, and may never find a permanent home. Those that are never adopted often end up abandoned by the state at 18 and end up under-educated, unemployed, impoverished, and homeless.3

In the court drama that determines the futures of these children, the other parties have counsel. The Supreme Court has held that if counsel can make a difference in outcome, parents get counsel.publicly financed if necessary. After all, terminating parental rights is a major interference in the fundamental right to raise onees children and commands a high level of due process. Hence, virtually every parent gets counsel to whom the full panoply of the American Bar Associationes Rules of Professional Conduct applies. The state gets counsel to support the agencyes position regarding the childes removal and subsequent placements. Meanwhile, the child.whose rights to his or her parents and family unit and home and future are all being determined.has no recognized constitutional right to counsel in these proceedings. Abused and neglected children typically begin their journey with the child welfare system by leaving everything familiar to them. They leave their homes, their families, their neighborhoods, and their schools to find themselves in a system of changing faces, social workers, and courts who commonly serve as the parent of tens of thousands of children like them at a time. These children have rather a remarkable interest in these proceedings, which not only determine whether they will see their parents and siblings again, but where they will live, with whom, and under what conditions. Even in the criminal justice system, no court has the kind of detailed and continuing power that dependency courts have over abused and neglected children in state custody.

For the remainder of this study: by First Star and the Children‘s Advocacy Institute

No comments: