Representation of Parents and Children in Abuse and Neglect Cases: The Importance of Early Appointment

By Judge Leonard Edwards (ret.)

The serious consequences of abuse and neglect proceedings including placement in foster care and termination of parental rights mandate that parents and children receive competent and well-trained legal representation. Unrepresented parents and children cannot match the expertise and sophistication of government lawyers and trained child welfare workers in complex child abuse and neglect proceedings. To ensure a fair opportunity to present their positions, answer their questions, and guide them through a challenging legal, administrative, and emotional process, courts must provide trained and well-prepared legal counsel to parents and children. Counsel protects important constitutional and legal rights, helps prevent the unnecessary entry of children into foster care, and assists in strengthening family supports.

Juvenile and Family Court Journal 63, no. 2 (Spring) 21, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges 2012. Shared with permission of the author.