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Lawyers' Roles in Child Protection (From Battered Child, Fifth Edition, P 460-481, 1997, Mary E. Helfer, Ruth S. Kempe, et al., eds. -- See NCJ-183728)

NCJ Number
Donald N. Duquette J.D.
Date Published
22 pages
Lawyers in child protection civil proceedings most represent the sometimes overlapping and sometimes conflicting individual interests of the child, the child protection agency, and the parents.
The role of lawyers in child protection cases is defined in the context of an adversarial process. Lawyers in such cases act as advocates for one side or another or for one set of interests or another. Once a matter alleging child maltreatment is brought to a family court or a juvenile court, an independent advocate is appointed to represent the child. This advocate is nearly always an attorney. The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act requires that guardians ad litem be appointed to represent children in civil abuse and neglect cases as a condition of state eligibility to receive federal funding for child protection and foster care activities. The prevailing view, however, is that children should be independently represented in child protection proceedings, especially since lawyers do not always have adequate training in the needs of children or in specific strategies of advocating for them in the complex child welfare system. Various dimensions of child advocacy are addressed to shed light on the role of child advocates. Responsibilities of child protection lawyers are considered, with emphasis on duties to the child, the child protection agency, and the family. Lawyers in child protection cases face unique challenges for which traditional law school education has probably not prepared them. To function effectively, lawyers need advice and consultation from social work and mental health professionals. 43 references


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