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December/January 2019Vol. 19, No. 10How Quality Representation Helps Strengthen Families

In a piece featured in a recent edition of The Guardian, Jerry Milner, Associate Commissioner at the Children's Bureau, and David Kelly, special assistant to the Associate Commissioner, talk about the need for families at risk of having a child placed into out-of-home care to have quality legal representation throughout the duration of their involvement with child welfare. Dr. Milner discusses key themes that emerged from the first Court Improvement Program Talks event, which highlighted the need for the legal community to work with partners to better serve at-risk families and improve the child welfare system.

These themes include the following:

  • Respect personal agency
  • Respect the integrity of the parent-child relationship
  • Remember that the children and families involved with child welfare are likely facing some of the most difficult times in their lives

Attorneys working with children and families involved in child welfare are instrumental in identifying resources, such as kinship placements and appropriate services and supports; reducing the need and likelihood of removal; and, if removal is necessary, reducing the time a child spends in out-of-home care. David Kelly further underscores the importance of engaging with families to find out what their goals are, what is important to them, and what would be helpful. He also highlights the spaces before and between hearings are critical to preparing clients and ultimately keeping these families together.

The article stresses the need for the child welfare and legal systems to commit to making reasonable efforts to prevent a child's removal from his or her home by making sure safety concerns are addressed, making kinship placements the first resort, and keeping well-being at the forefront of all decisions.

Read the article, "How Attorneys and Judges Help Strengthen Families," at (1,450 KB).