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44 J. Legis. 1 (2017)

handle is hein.journals/jleg44 and id is 1 raw text is: 











MOVING BEYOND LASSITER: THE NEED FOR A FEDERAL
STATUTORY RIGHT TO COUNSEL FOR PARENTS IN CHILD
                              WELFARE CASES

                                 Vivek  S. Sankaranf




                                   INTRODUCTION

    In  New York City, an indigent parent can receive the assistance of a
multidisciplinary legal team-an attorney,   a social worker, and a parent advocate1-
to defend  against the City's request  to temporarily remove   a child from  her care.2
But  in Mississippi, that same  parent can  have  her rights to her child permanently
terminated  without ever receiving  the assistance of a single lawyer.3 In Washington
State, the Legislature has ensured  that parents ensnared  in child abuse  and neglect
proceedings  will receive  the help of a well-trained and  well-compensated   attorney
with  a reasonable  caseload.4  Yet  in Tennessee,   its Supreme  Court  has held  that
although  a parent may  technically have  a right to a lawyer, that lawyer need not be
effective.5
    The  United  States Supreme  Court  has repeatedly recognized  that a parent's right
to direct the care  of her child  is one of  the oldest and  most  fundamental   rights
protected by  the Constitution.6  How   that right is safeguarded, however,  when   the
State seeks to strip a parent of that right-either  temporarily  or permanently-can
vary significantly. Over  twenty-five  years ago, in Lassiter v. Department   of Social


    T  Vivek S. Sankaran is a clinical professor of law at the University of Michigan Law School, where he
directs the Child Advocacy Law Clinic and Child Welfare Appellate Clinic.
    1  A parent advocate, also known as a parent partner or peer mentor, is a parent who was previously
involved with the child welfare system but who successfully reunified with his or her child. That parent now
serves as a mentor for other parents currently experiencing the child welfare system. For more information
about parent advocates, see Diane Boyd Rauber, From the Courthouse to the Statehouse: Parents as Partners
in Child Welfare, 28 ABA CHILD L. PRACTICE 145, 150-56 (2009).
    2  Several New York City legal organizations provide parents with a multidisciplinary legal team.
Examples include the CTR. FOR FAM. REPRESENTATION, www.cfrny.org (last visited Oct. 17, 2017); BROOK.
DEFENDER   SERVICES, www.bfdp.org (last visited Oct. 17, 2017); and  BRONX   DEFENDERS,
https://www.bronxdefenders.org/our-work/family-defense-practice/ (last visited Oct. 17, 2017).
    3  MIss. CODE ANN. § 43-21-201(2) (2017) ([Tihe youth court judge may appoint counsel to represent
the indigent parent or guardian in the proceeding.) (emphasis added).
    4  Information about the Washington State Office of Public Defense, Parent Representation Project is
available at WASH. ST. OFF. OF PUB. DEF., http://www.opd.wa.gov/index.php/program/parents-representation
(last visited Oct. 17, 2017).
    5  In re Carrington H., 483 S.W.3d 507 (Tenn. 2016), cert. denied, 137 S.Ct. 44 (2016).
    6  See, e.g., Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 65 (2000) (The liberty interest at issue in this case-the
interest of parents in the care, custody, and control of their children-is perhaps the oldest of the fundamental
liberty interests recognized by this Court.).


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