For Immediate Release
October 28, 2021
Lawmakers considering historic proposal through Child Abuse, Prevention, and Treatment Act reauthorization
WASHINGTON — As Congress considers legislation to reauthorize the Child Abuse, Prevention, and Treatment Act (CAPTA), hundreds of national, state, and local organizations signed a letter urging congressional leaders to guarantee legal counsel for children and parents involved in child welfare court proceedings.
Enacted in 1974, CAPTA is the only piece of federal legislation to address the representation of children in dependency cases. If passed, reauthorization could guarantee legal counsel for children and parents in child welfare court proceedings for the first time under federal law. Supporters include 50 national organizations, 85 state organizations, 41 law firms, and individual signatories from 47 states. Supporters represent nearly every corner of the child welfare field, including foster youth-led organizations, judges, community service providers, civil rights groups, district attorneys, education advocates, immigrant rights groups, tribal law organizations, state agencies, local Court Appointed Special Advocate programs, and more.
As states across the country expand and strengthen the right to counsel—including changes to state law in Arizona, North Dakota, and Washington state in 2021—the proposed federal legislation comes at a pivotal tipping point for the child welfare system to finally expand access to justice for all youth. Despite this trend, 14 states still do not guarantee legal representation for youth involved in dependency cases, even though legal representation is widely considered best practice. This federal legislation would ensure that all youth and parents each have independent legal counsel as courts make important decisions about their families and futures.
“Providing independent legal counsel is the only way to ensure that the voices of all parties in child welfare proceedings are heard,” said Kim Dvorchak, Executive Director of the National Association of Counsel for Children. “Attorneys help judges understand the facts of the case and make the best decision for children, parents, and families.”
“Reauthorizing the Child Abuse, Prevention, and Treatment Act is a key opportunity for Congress to affirm the fundamental principles of justice for children and parents in dependency cases,” said Celeste Bodner, Executive Director of FosterClub, the national network for young people in foster care. “No one should have to go to court alone—especially when their family and future are at stake.”
Contact: Evan Molinari