26 Child L. Prac. 1 (2007-2008)

handle is hein.journals/chilawpt26 and id is 1 raw text is: Ghild Law Practice

Vol. 26 No. 1

March 2007

Helping Lawyers Help Kids

Promoting Quality Parent Representation through Standards of Practice
by Mimi Laver

A s an attorney representing parents of children involved in the
child welfare system you probably have clients who love
their children and want to provide what is best for them. But these
parents face many challenges. Among them are poverty, language
barriers, substance abuse, mental illness problems, and unsuitable
housing. Your clients may have harmed their children, or failed to
care for them, but they still want the best for them.

The Need for Standards
As a parent's attorney, you face
your own challenges when advocat-
ing for your client. You may be a
solo practitioner with little office
support. You may never have
learned about child welfare law
during law school. Substance abuse,
mental health, and housing may feel
like social work. You may only
speak English. You are probably not
getting paid well, and lack a team of
social workers or paralegals to help
prepare your cases. You may be one
of two attorneys representing
parents in your jurisdiction and
feeling isolated. If you are facing
any of these issues, you are not
While preparing to draft
standards of practice for parents'
attorneys, I spoke with many
parents' attorneys. I heard stories
like these and learned it can be
difficult to represent parents in the
child welfare system, but when
done well, attorneys can make a
difference for their clients and their

families. For example, parents'
attorneys who are aware of local
services, such as mother-child
substance abuse treatment
programs, can advocate for their
clients to access these services.
Attorneys who truly understand the
importance of the parent-child bond
and the increased likelihood of
reunification if that bond is
maintained can argue for increased
visitation in comfortable settings.
Attorneys who take time to get to
know their clients will be able to
advocate for the clients' goals both
in and out of court. This type of
vigorous advocacy can mean the
difference between a parent having
a child reunified or having parental
rights terminated.
Standards Take Shape
For 18-months, I worked with a
committee of parents' attorneys from
around the country, representatives
of national organizations and ABA
members to draft the Standards of
Practice for Attorneys Representing
E-mail: childlawpractice @ staff.abanet.org

Parents in Abuse and Neglect Cases.
The goals of the committee in-
cluded promoting quality represen-
tation and uniform practice by
parents' attorneys throughout the
country, helping attorneys prioritize
their duties and manage their
practices in ways that will benefit
each parent on the attorney's
caseload, and clarifying the role of
the parent attorney in child abuse
and neglect cases.
Structure and Organization
The standards are organized around
44 Basic Obligations or black
letter standards for attorneys, 11
obligations for managers, and 11
suggestions for courts to improve
practice by parents' attorneys. The
11 standards for attorney managers
apply to parents' attorneys who
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+ Internet: http://www.childlawpractice.org

What's Inside:
Connect with Your Client
through Active Listening
A Glossary of Research

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