Since its enactment in 1974, CAPTA has required appointment of a “guardian ad litem” in “every case involving an abused or neglected child which results in a judicial proceeding.” States must meet this requirement, among others, in order to be eligible for federal support under the CAPTA state grant program. The guardian ad litem (GAL) can be “an attorney or a court appointed special advocate (or both)” for the child and must obtain a first-hand understanding of the child’s situation and needs and make recommendations to the court concerning the child’s best interests.
The Louisiana Children’s Code requires appointed independent counsel for the child (art. 607) and authorizes appointment of CASA (art. 424.1).
The CAPTA requirement as amended in 2003 [42 U.S.C. §5106a(b)(2)(A)(xiii)] specifies that, in order for states to be eligible for a CAPTA state grant, there must be provisions and procedures requiring that in every case involving an abused or neglected child which results in a judicial proceeding, a guardian ad litem who has received training appropriate to the role, who may be an attorney or a court appointed special advocate who has received training appropriate to the role (or both), shall be appointed to represent the child in such proceedings.
The Children’s Code provisions were amended in 2004 to add this training requirement as an intended component of the term “qualified” in requiring qualified independent counsel for children. No additional legislation was necessary for CASA, since CASA standards already required specialized training.
According to DHHS/ACF program instructions on the CAPTA amendment, there should be no appointment of an attorney for a child who has not, before his appointment, received “appropriate” training that is specifically related to their role. CAPTA was amended to ensure higher quality representation and to bar appointment of untrained or poorly trained court-appointed representatives for children.
In connection with Louisiana’s Juvenile Justice Reform efforts, a joint Task Force on Legal Representation in Child Protection Cases, co-chaired by the Chief Justice and the Secretary of DSS, was created by HCR No. 44 (2003) to study systemic issues and concerns related to the provision of legal representation for abused and neglected children and indigent parents in child protection cases and to make recommendations on how these services may be more effectively and efficiently provided and funded. House Concurrent Resolution No. 59 (2004) continued the work of the Task Force.
The Task Force made recommendations to the 2005 legislature that included CAPTA-compliant attorney qualifications, standards of practice, and training requirements to be included in Part J of the Supreme Court Administrative Rules and implemented upon adoption by the Court.
Since July, 2005 the Louisiana Supreme Court Division of Children and Families has been collecting and maintaining information received from attorneys pursuant to this Rule. This list is a compilation based on information submitted to the Supreme Court and includes those attorneys qualified for appointment as counsel for children in child abuse and neglect cases as of the day indicated in the update notice.
It is the continuing responsibility of each attorney to provide documentation of his/her qualifications to the Division of Children and Families. Any attorney who has not submitted, prior to January 31 each year, evidence of attendance of at least six hours of approved continuing legal education in the past calendar year will no longer be considered as qualified under this Rule.
Questions or comments about the list of qualified counsel for children in child abuse and neglect cases? Please e-mail Otha Curtis Nelson, Jr., Director – Deputy Judicial Administrator for Children and Families, Louisiana Supreme Court: firstname.lastname@example.org.
RULES OF THE SUPREME COURT OF LOUISIANA
Part J. SPECIAL RULES FOR CASES INVOLVING THE PROTECTION OF CHILDREN
RULE XXXIII. SPECIAL RULES FOR CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT CASES
PART I. Reassignment to Specialized Divisions
Section 1. Purpose
This rule is intended to effectuate the expeditious disposition of child abuse and neglect cases or juvenile cases under a one-family, one-judge policy.
Section 2. Definitions
“Child Abuse and Neglect Case” means any proceeding conducted by a court exercising juvenile jurisdiction involving the abuse or neglect of children as provided specifically in Titles VI, X, XI and XII of the Louisiana Children’s Code and generally in other titles of said Code.
“One-Family, One-Judge Policy” means those policies and procedures that may be employed by a court to ensure that the same judge hears, to the extent possible, all cases involving a single family as a means of simplifying and coordinating the scheduling of cases for the parties and their attorneys, and as a means of addressing family problems in a more holistic manner.
“Specialized Division” means one or more sections of court or groups of judges in the same court designated to handle a particular type of case.
Section 3. Reassignment authority
A court having juvenile jurisdiction may reassign randomly allotted cases to a specialized division within the court pursuant to the provisions of this Part.
Section 4. Pilot program
Until such time as the legislature may grant formal authority for the permanent establishment of the specialized division, the authority herein granted by this Rule shall be limited to six years from the date a specialized division is established on a pilot basis. [amended October 29, 2003]
Section 5. Judicial consent to reassignment
A judge may be assigned to serve in the specialized division of the court only if the judge is in agreement with the pilot plan and consents to the assignment; no judge shall be coerced, in any way, to accept the assignment.