Counsel for Kids Campaign Update – Spring 2022

The Counsel for Kids (C4K) Campaign continues to grow – expanding state coalitions, evolving partnerships, increasing media visibility, improving public awareness, and enhancing tools and resources to influence policymakers.
Youth should be seen, heard, and represented: watch our new video.

Technical Assistance (TA) Requests

In addition to ongoing technical assistance in Florida, Idaho, Indiana, and South Carolina, the Counsel for Kids campaign received new requests for TA from Colorado, Connecticut, and Washington. We continue to accept TA requests to advance children’s right to counsel. Technical assistance services include policy analysis, data review, policy drafting/review, resource development, campaign strategy support, youth engagement, coalition building, litigation strategies, and high-quality legal representation.

New Tools

C4K released two new tools to assist stakeholders in public education and advocacy efforts: Complementary Roles: Attorneys and CASA’s and Promoting Race Equity Check them out and share with your networks!
Our Toolkit also includes factsheets and resources on:

  • Including lived experience experts
  • Appropriations
  • Mythbusters on Counsel for Kids
  • Guide for Policy Advocates
  • How to write an Op-ed
  • Model Statute
  • Chart on Models of Representation
  • Policy Advocacy Matters slides
  • Template for a factsheet for your state

State by State Policy Update

Alaska: Supreme Court of Alaska issued Order No. 1978 making significant changes to Child in Need of Aid (CINA) rules, effective October 17th. Rule 3 guarantees a child’s right to be present and participate in court hearings and Rule 12.1 mandates the appointment of legal counsel to children age 10 or older in CINA proceedings in certain circumstances: if they refuse residential treatment or psychotropic medication; if they are pregnant or parenting; if they want to protect their therapy records as confidential or under other circumstances; or if they’ve been put on runaway status from a foster home placement. C4K provided comments on the proposed rules during the Supreme Courtscall for comment. The rule changes are a welcome expansion of access to legalcounsel for Alaskan youth.

Colorado: Governor Polis signed House Bill 22-1038 –requiring client-directed legal counsel for youth age 12 or older in child protection matters—into law on April 12th. NACC Executive Director Kim Dvorchak testified (@ minute 10:56) in committee hearings, submitted written testimony of support, and participated in the signing ceremony.

ConnecticutSenate Bill 309 would allow youth age 18-23 in extended foster care to be eligible for legal representation. NACC submitted written testimony of support for a March 8th hearing but the bill stalled in committee.

GeorgiaHouse Bill 322 would establish statewide performance measures and standards, minimum training requirements, duties, and responsibilities of attorneys representing parties in child protection matters. The bill passed the House in 2021 and was carried over for consideration by the Senate this session where it was passed by substitute, but later stalled.
House Bill 1234 would provide a right to an attorney for any child receiving extended foster care services from the Department of Family and Children Services. The bill was passed by the House Juvenile Justice committee but stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

FloridaSenate Bill 948House Bill 1549 would create a statewide office of child representation and new right to direct representation by an attorney for children placed in out-of-home licensed care. The Children, Families, and Elder Affairs committee unanimously approved the bill in a public hearing, on January 11th during which lived experience experts and child welfare law practitioners testified in support. Although this bill later died in in Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice, House Bill 5001 includes a Child Representation Pilot Program in Broward and Palm Beach Counties. The Governor is expected to consider and sign the budget in coming weeks. C4K supported advocates by circulating this action alert to encourage the Governor’s support.

Indiana: Senate Bill 180 would require the appointment of legal counsel to children in abuse and neglect proceedings. On January 10th the Family and Children Services committee voted unanimously to pass the bill on to the Appropriations committee, which amended the bill to require a summer study children’s legal representation. A diverse group of stakeholders including attorneys, foster parents, and judges testified at the committee hearing on the original bill language (begins at minute 15). NACC submitted written testimony of support.

New Mexico:House Bill 46, known as “The Family Representation and Advocacy Act,” establishes a new independent Office of Family Representation and Advocacy committed to providing high quality legal representation to children and families involved in the child protection system. Governor Grisham signed it into law on March 8th.

South Carolina: C4K has continued to build relationships with key decisionmakers in South Carolina. After addressing the Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children townhall, C4K supported the development of an annual report that highlights improved outcomes associated with legal representation and their utility in states with active CASA/GAL volunteer programs.

Washington: Early in the year, the Washington Association of Child Advocate Programs sought budget funding to hire attorneys to represent volunteer guardians ad litem. This request arrived just after House Bill 1219 (2021) was signed into law guaranteeing legal representation to children age 8 and up. A six-year phase-in process was established to mitigate the initial fiscal impact of HB1219. NACC submitted a letter to the house appropriations committee opposing the budget proposal that would appoint attorneys to volunteers before all children are represented. As recommended by NACC, this proviso was stricken from the final budget.

What’s Next for C4K?

This summer, we are excited to host undergraduate and graduate level interns from the Center for Law, Brain & Behavior at Massachusetts General Hospital of Harvard Medical School in partnership with clinical faculty of William James College.  The interns will research and write a white paper on the developmental capacity of school age children to direct legal representation.

The Counsel for Kids campaign is developing a comprehensive policy paper to educate legislators and staffers about why legal representation for children is necessary and how states can implement legal services delivery systems. C4K plans to publish the paper in August 2022.

How Can You Help?

To build awareness of the importance and impact of high-quality legal representation on children and families, we provide training to state groups upon request. Please notify Natalece Washington ([email protected]) about opportunities to provide public education in priority states. 

You can also send this update to your network, tell your friends about, follow @NACCchildlaw on social media, and share why #Counsel4Kids is important for your state!