To continue this year’s legislative momentum, the National Association of Counsel for Children (NACC) announces the public launch of its right to counsel campaign technical assistance program. Read the full press release below.
DENVER, CO. May 17, 2021—In the last month, lawmakers across three states bulldozed through long-standing barriers to help ensure the right to counsel for children and youth navigating the foster care system. Governors in Arizona, North Dakota, and Washington state championed children’s legal rights by signing bills expanding access to counsel in their respective states.
In Washington state, a broad coalition including leaders with lived experience in the foster care system, their family members, resource parents, professors, and researchers united behind HB 1219 to advance legal representation for children age 8 and above. Similarly, North Dakota, enacted HB 1035, ensuring access to legal representation for children “of sufficient age and competency.” In Arizona, lawmakers enacted SB 1391 guaranteeing children direct legal representation.
“High-quality lawyers ensure that youth voices are heard in the court proceedings that shape their lives and futures,” said Kim Dvorchak, Executive Director of the National Association of Counsel for Children (NACC). “The child welfare system works best when all parties–children, parents, agencies and tribes –are represented by well- trained, zealous attorneys.”
NACC Board President Leslie Heimov added, “Children and youth deserve independent legal representation in dependency proceedings – a consensus propelled by research and endorsed by the federal government.”
Despite this legislative session’s groundswell of support, thirteen states1 still do not guarantee children access to legal counsel. The actions—or inaction—of these states contravene a growing body of research linking high- quality legal representation to improved foster care outcomes.2
To continue this year’s legislative momentum, the National Association of Counsel for Children (NACC) announces the public launch of its right to counsel campaign technical assistance program. State-based advocates are invited to apply for individualized technical assistance to support the fight for children’s right to counsel. NACC will equip state advocates with policy, strategy, and communications tools to mobilize stakeholders and inspire change, until every child involved with the child welfare court system is guaranteed access to high-quality legal representation.
For additional information about technical assistance from the National Association of Counsel for Children, visit https://www.naccchildlaw.org/page/counselcampaign
1 Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Carolina, Washington state do not guarantee the right to counsel for all children involved in dependency proceedings.
2 Children’s Bureau, IM-17-02: High Quality Legal Representation for All Parties in Child Welfare Proceedings, January 17, 2017 (Noting that legal representation for children is “critical to a well-functioning child welfare system” and contributes to “improved outcomes including cost savings to state government due to expedited permanency; increases in party perceptions of fairness; increases in party engagement in case planning, services and court hearings; more personally tailored and specific case plans and services; and increases in visitation and parenting time.”)