Out-of-court advocacy is critical in every child welfare legal proceeding. As an attorney for the child or parent, you must be a highly skilled litigator and be willing to use the court process to meet your client’s goals. You must also be skilled in out-of-court advocacy. Out-of-court advocacy encompasses traditional legal work, such as investigating facts, interviewing witnesses, consulting experts, and using discovery. It also goes beyond that traditional work. When a child protection case focuses on past facts to determine if a child was abused or neglected, the out-of-court work you undertake is similar to the work in other areas of law. You may talk to fact witnesses, review records, consult experts, and gather discovery to learn what happened in the past. However, when the case focuses on the family’s future, including the child’s safety, permanency, well-being, where a child will live, and who will care for the child, out-of-court work moves beyond traditional legal advocacy. Underlying all of this work is the fact that a family’s future is at the heart of the case, and your clients—parents and children—need additional connections with you and the support team outside of litigation preparation.
Family Justice Initiative – May 2021