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February Policy Updates

Thursday February 2, 2023

Call for Public Comment on NACC Draft Policy Framework

NACC seeks input on how it should advance justice for children, parents, and families. NACC invites members in good standing and individuals with lived experience in the child protection system to submit feedback of up to five pages in length (including attachments) to [email protected] no later than February 23, 2023.

NACC is specifically interested in comments related to alignment: (does this framework accurately reflect the values in NACC’s mission and vision statements?) and impact (will these proposed reforms help improve outcomes for children, youth, parents, and families? If not, what should be changed or added?) This draft policy framework has not been adopted by the NACC Board of Directors and should not be construed as representing official policy of the National Association of Counsel for Children.

Children’s Right to Counsel Legislation in Montana, Indiana, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma

Montana House Bill 37 would require the appointment of legal counsel to any child subject to abuse and neglect court proceedings notwithstanding the appointment of a guardian ad litem. Policy Counsel Natalece Washington offered written and public comments (@9:55) at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on January 10. On January 19, the committee voted 18-1 to approve the bill for consideration by the whole House. A companion bill, Montana Senate Bill 148, would also guarantee legal counsel for children in dependency cases.

Indiana Senate Bill 0485 would require the appointment of legal counsel to a child in certain circumstances depending on their age, placement, and case. The bill would require the court to appoint counsel at the initial hearing and make a finding of whether the child has waived counsel at every hearing. Waiving the right to counsel may only occur after consultation with the attorney, and children under 12 may not waive their right. The bill would establish the Office of the Child Representative with a statewide office and regional offices.

Indiana House Bill 1172 would make a much narrower guarantee of legal counsel for a small subset of children involved in CHINS or TPR cases.

Indiana Senate Bill 0484 would establish a pilot project to study children’s legal representation in six courts for two years.

New Hampshire House Bill 535 would permit the court to appoint counsel for a child in abuse and neglect proceedings where the child’s expressed interests conflict with any recommendation of the guardian ad litem. The House Children and Family Law committee held a public hearing on the bill on January 24, 2023. NACC submitted written comments in support of the bill.

Oklahoma Senate Bill 907 (Companion Bill House Bill 1017), would establish the Family Representation and Advocacy Program to ensure all parents, legal guardians, and Indian custodians and children are appointed counsel who have the training, support, and access to resources to provide uniform and high-quality legal representation.

Amicus News

The Missouri Supreme Court will hear oral argument in the case of  Rockett v. Eighmy on February 16, 2023. NACC filed an amicus brief,  arguing against judicial immunity for a judge who unlawfully detained two children involved in a child custody dispute between their parents.

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