NACC Policy Agenda

Through legislative advocacy, amicus curiae briefs, and more, NACC advocates for equitable, antiracist laws and policies that further children’s rights.

1. Right to Effective Counsel:

Children and parents should have a right to a lawyer throughout all court proceedings affecting their rights. Attorneys should be independent, competent, zealous advocates who are well-trained, well-resourced, and have a reasonable caseload.

2. Access to Justice

Children and parents should have reasonable notice of every court hearing and the right to be heard when courts make decisions about their lives. 

Courts should provide a family-friendly judicial system with reasonable dockets that treats children and parents with respect and that complies with the law and the constitution. Judges and court personnel should receive ongoing training on the legal rights of children and families, child development, trauma, court procedure, and other topics.

3. Children’s Well-Being

The system should strive to preserve families and reduce the need to remove children from their homes and communities. Funding sources and courts should prioritize family preservation, reunification, medical care, and educational stability. Courts should allow children to safely maintain attachments to important adults in their lives. 

Children the court removes should live in a family setting as close to their home as possible with loving caregivers who respect their racial, gender, ethnic, and cultural identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religious beliefs, and disability—regardless of the caregiver’s identities, abilities, or beliefs. LGBTQIA+ parents and same-sex couples can and do provide appropriate homes for children. 

Children of color and children with LGBTQIA+ identities are disproportionately involved in the system. Disparate outcomes should be eliminated. The state should support young people as they transition to adulthood. 

4. Child Welfare

Children should be recognized as legal parties in abuse and neglect proceedings and should have all the rights of a party in such proceedings.

The rights of foster children should be protected as a matter of law, including: 

safety; reunification as the primary goal; least-restrictive placement; placement with siblings; appropriate contact with family and other adults; freedom from discrimination, harassment, neglect, or abuse; access to medical care, including gender-affirming care and reproductive care; freedom from attempts to change sexual orientation; freedom from unnecessary and/or excessive medication; educational stability, including special education services and extra-curricular activities; religious freedom; personal property; permanency; privacy; and participation in programs that assist the transition to adulthood.

5. Juvenile Justice

Courts should not make young people stand trial unless they are competent to do so. Young people should receive a hearing on their competence with all the due process protections afforded to adult defendants, including legal counsel and protection from self-incrimination.

Children should not be incarcerated or confined in locked facilities except as a last resort, and only when such confinement is necessary for safety. 

When the system incarcerates a child, they should be housed humanely, separate from adults, and in supportive conditions that provide the least restrictive environment necessary. Facilities should never place a child in solitary confinement. The rights of children who are incarcerated or otherwise removed from their homes should be protected by law.

NACC’s Policy Agenda revised August 22, 2018

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