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May Policy Updates

Monday May 1, 2023

NACC Releases Policymaker’s Guide to Counsel for Kids

On April 26, NACC released Seen, Heard, and Represented: A Policymaker’s Guide to Counsel for Kids. The guide highlights five top priorities for policymakers and includes model legislation for legislators to adopt in their state. It also describes untapped and underutilized funding, such as federal title IV-E dollars, to provide counsel for kids and details how investing in justice for children can save taxpayer’s money. Read NACC’s press release and The Imprint’s article on this cornerstone document.

Illinois, Mississippi, & Montana Lawmakers Advance Children’s Right to Counsel 

Illinois Senate Bill 1478 would guarantee a client-directed attorney for youth in any abuse or neglect proceeding and establish the Due Process for Youth Oversight Commission to oversee implementation. The Senate unanimously passed the bill on March 24 and awaits hearing in the House Judicial Civil committee. 

Mississippi House Bill 1149 will require the appointment of an attorney for a child at all stages of an abuse or neglect proceeding and will also ensure the child is a party to the proceeding. The bill permits the guardian ad litem attorney to serve in a dual role if no conflict of interest is present. Governor Reeves signed the bill on April 19. 

Montana House Bill 37 and Senate Bill 148 would require the appointment of legal counsel for any child subject to abuse and neglect court proceedings, notwithstanding the appointment of a guardian ad litem. The House Speaker signed HB 37 on April 22 after the House and Senate approved it. The Senate approved SB 148, and the House amended the bill and returned it to the Senate. Those amendments await concurrence from the Senate. House Bill 555 will establish practice standards for children’s attorneys and require the state to maximize use of Title IV-E of the Social Security Act funds for children’s legal representation. Governor Gianforte signed it on April 20. 

NACC Opposes Florida House Bill 875 and Senate Bill 1384  that would take away the already narrow guarantee of counsel for children with special needs in state custody and move the state model further from best practice. The Children, Families, and Seniors subcommittee (3/15), House Civil Justice subcommittee (4/4), Appropriations (4/12), and Health and Human Services Committee (4/17) approved HB 875 and the House took it up in late April. The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs committee approved SB 1384 but the Senate has not set additional committee hearings. The Florida legislative session adjourns May 5. 

Federal Advocacy for Youth and Families 

NACC urged Congress to support legislation to stop institutional child abuse and to renew a prior legislative proposal to protect parents, caregivers, and guardians with disabilities from discrimination. NACC also supports the Administration for Children and Families proposed kinship regulations and asked for clarification. 

Amicus Update – NACC defends children’s access to gender-affirming care 

NACC joined partners in an amicus brief in the case of PFLAG v. Abbott opposing child abuse investigations of children who receive gender-affirming care. It advances the same arguments NACC made in the amicus brief filed in Doe v. Abbott

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