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Standards of Practice
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Child Law Standards of Practice

The lack of guidelines for attorneys representing children in child protection proceedings has often been cited as a major cause of substandard and ineffective legal representation of children. Unlike more traditional areas of legal practice, where the model of representation and the lawyer code of conduct are essentially uniform from state to state, child law practice has no commonly accepted model or code, and many states provide inadequate guidance for attorneys doing this work. This is the case in part because child law practice is a unique and relatively recent development, and because the evolution of child law has occurred on a state-by-state basis. Additionally, there has been significant disagreement as to whether representation of children should take a traditional client-directed (“expressed wishes”), or an advocate-directed (“best interests”) form, making it difficult to adopt a standard model.

 

Below, you’ll find our recommendations for attorneys representing children in abuse and neglect cases. You’ll also find ABA Standards of Practice for Lawyers Who Represent Children in Abuse and Neglect Cases (NACC Revised Version), ABA Standards of Practice for Attorneys Representing Parents in Abuse and Neglect Cases, and ABA Standards of Practice for Lawyers Representing Child Welfare Agencies.

 

NACC Recommendations for Representation of Children in Abuse and Neglect Cases

The NACC Recommendations are designed to assist local jurisdictions in the selection and implementation of an effective model for child representation. We believe that children’s legal service needs can be met by both client-directed (“expressed wishes”) and advocate-directed (“best interest”) models of representation. Rather than urging jurisdictions to choose and implement a particular model, this document provides a checklist of children’s needs that should be addressed by whichever representation scheme is chosen.


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ABA Standards for Lawyers Who Represent Children in Abuse and Neglect Cases (NACC Revised Version)

The NACC believes that the American Bar Association Standards of Practice for Lawyers Who Represent Children in Abuse and Neglect Cases represents a significant advancement in the practice of law for children. However, we also believe that such standards should provide an alternate representation scheme in certain circumstances, particularly where very young children are concerned. We have therefore produced an edited version of the original ABA document in order to address these concerns.


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ABA Standards for Attorneys Representing Parents in Abuse and Neglect Cases

Published by the American Bar Association, these standards promote both quality representation and uniformity of practice for attorneys representing parents in child abuse and neglect cases. Written with the help of practicing parents’ attorneys and child welfare professionals from jurisdictions across the country, the standards address the difficulties of day-to-day practice, but also strive to raise the quality of representation for parents.


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ABA Standards of Practice for Lawyers Representing Child Welfare Agencies

These standards were developed to improve the quality of child welfare agency representation and uniformity of practice throughout the country, but also to be realistically attainable by individual jurisdictions. Written with the help of practicing agency attorneys and child welfare professionals from various jurisdictions, the standards address the difficulties of day-to-day practice while striving to raise the overall quality of representation.


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