Tuesday, April 24, 2007

States Urged to Provde Children with Lawyers

"Fifteen states get failing grades on a first-of-its-kind report card assessing the legal representation provided to abused and neglected children as courts make potentially fateful decisions about whether to separate them from their families.

The report, being released at a Capitol Hill briefing Tuesday by the Washington-based child advocacy group First Star, is sharply critical of states which do not require all children in these proceedings to be represented by their own attorneys.

It also says more states should join the 17 that require lawyers in these cases to represent the child's expressed wishes and ensure that those preferences are heard in court.

''In these proceedings the family of a child can be created and or destroyed based on the determination by the court,'' the report says. ''And too often, the child, although most impacted by the court, has the least amount of input.''

Since 1974, Congress has required states to appoint a representative -- often known as a guardian ad litem -- for any child involved in abuse and neglect proceedings. However, states have interpreted the federal law in varying ways; the First Star report said 16 do not have statutes requiring that these children be represented by their own attorneys in all child-protection proceedings." Associate Press, N.Y. Times Link to Article (last visited 4-24-97 NVS)

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