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National Association of Counsel for Children Publishes New Recommendations for Legal Representation

Monday January 10, 2022

For Immediate Release
Contact: Evan Molinari
[email protected]

First update to legal practice standards in two decades emphasizes youth voice, equity, and high-quality legal representation.

DENVER, CO. — For the first time in 20 years, the National Association of Counsel for Children has published updated Recommendations for Legal Representation of Children and Youth in Neglect and Abuse Proceedings. Their release coincides with a growing national recognition that it is important for legal advocacy to incorporate youth voice and address the injustices of poverty and structural racism, the trauma of family separation, and the harm of negative foster care experiences.

Co-designed with NACC’s National Advisory Council on Children’s Legal Representation—comprised of young professionals with lived expertise in the child welfare system—the new Recommendations call upon attorneys and legal service delivery systems to anchor legal representation around the voice and interests of children and youth. They establish 10 primary duties of attorneys for children, which reflect NACC’s vision for effective, high-quality children’s lawyering in neglect and abuse proceedings.

After a two-year review and development process, this new publication replaces NACC’s 2001 Recommendations for Representation of Children in Abuse and Neglect Cases—widely recognized and cited by attorneys, judges, and policymakers as child welfare law best practice standards. The new Recommendations incorporate the expertise of staff, people with lived experience, interdisciplinary experts, practitioners from across the country, and key publications and resources. In addition to enhanced emphasis on youth voice, changes compared to the 2001 recommendations include a reduction in the recommended caseload cap from 100 to a range of 40-60 clients per attorney to allow for more robust engagement. The recommendations also explicitly endorse client-directed representation, consistent with prior NACC policy positions.

“Those with lived expertise in the child welfare system deeply understand what effective lawyering looks like,” said Cristal Ramirez, Youth Engagement Manager. “Attorneys, judges, policymakers, and advocates who read these new standards will benefit from their wisdom and insights as they work to advance justice for young people in foster care.”

“These Recommendations reflect NACC’s commitment to centering youth voice, equity, and family integrity in child welfare lawyering,” said Allison Green, Legal Director. “Now we must transform these principles from words to reality and ensure that every child and youth in foster care has a high-quality attorney in their corner.”

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