The lack of standards of practice or guidelines for attorneys representing children in child protection proceedings has frequently been cited as a major cause of substandard and ineffective legal representation of children. Unlike more traditional areas of practice where the model of representation and the lawyer code of conduct are essentially uniform from state to state, the practice of law for children has no commonly accepted uniform model or code, and many states provide inadequate guidance for attorneys doing this work. This is the case in part because the practice of law for children is a unique and relatively recent development, and because the evolution has occurred on a state by state basis. Additionally, there has been significant disagreement as to whether representation for children should take a traditional client directed ("expressed wishes"), or an advocate directed ("best interests") form, making it difficult to adopt a model.
The NACC works to develop standards and guidelines for attorneys representing children. The NACC has two standards of practice publications.
1. NACC Recommendations for Representation of Children in Abuse and Neglect Cases
The NACC Recommendations for Representation of Children in Abuse and Neglect Cases is a document designed to assist jurisdictions in the selection and implementation of a model of child representation. Rather than urging jurisdictions to choose a particular model, this document sets out a checklist of children's needs that should be met by whatever representation scheme is chosen. It is the NACC's hope that this approach will allow jurisdictions to focus on what matters, serving the child client, and avoid becoming mired in the debate over best interests and expressed wishes. The NACC believes that children's legal service needs can be met by both client directed ("expressed wishes") and advocate directed ("best interest") models of representation. In an effort to help jurisdictions understand various models, this document includes a section describing the various models of representation. Whatever form of representation jurisdictions choose, the NACC believes that every child subject to a child protection proceeding must be provided an independent, competent, and zealous attorney, trained in the law of child protection and the art of trial advocacy, with adequate time and resources to handle the case.
2. ABA/NACC Revised Standards of Practice for Lawyers Who Represent Children in Abuse and Neglect Cases
The NACC believes that American Bar Association Standards of Practice for Lawyers Who Represent Children in Abuse and Neglect Cases is a significant advancement in the practice of law for children. At the same time, the NACC believes the Standards should provide an alternate representation scheme in certain circumstances, particularly where very young children are concerned. The NACC, therefore, produced an edited version of the Standards which we call theABA / NACC Revised Standards of Practice for Lawyers Who Represent Children in Abuse and Neglect Cases.
Additional NACC endorsed standards/guidelines, click here