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April 2016Vol. 17, No. 2Children's Rights to Counsel in Juvenile Courts

While children involved with the child welfare and juvenile justice systems generally have a team of child welfare and other professionals working on their cases, they are often not afforded their own attorneys in juvenile court, where critical decisions regarding their permanency and well-being are made. In 2011, the American Bar Association (ABA) endorsed the Model Act for Children in Abuse, Neglect and Dependency Proceedings (Model Act) (PDF - 91 KB), which promotes client-directed counsel for all children in State proceedings related to dependency and the termination of parental rights. A recent brief by First Focus and the State Policy Advocacy Reform Center discusses how the Model Act could affect outcomes for children and juvenile court systems. The brief addresses the following topics:

  • The unique and difficult role of juvenile courts
  • How to measure the impact of client-directed counsel for abused and neglected children
  • How to define and measure success with the ecology of the juvenile court
  • Implications for policy and practice

The brief concludes by stating that, while it may be difficult to provide effective representation to children with high attorney caseloads, enhancing legal representation for children could positively impact outcomes involving due process and well-being.

To access the brief, Measuring the Impact of Children's Rights to Counsel: Advancing Child Due Process and Well-Being in the Juvenile Court Ecology, visit