The New Uniform Representation of Children in Abuse, Neglect, and Custody Proceedings Act: Bridging the Divide between Pragmatism and Idealism
53 Pages Posted: 18 Oct 2006
This article explains the development, structure, and operation of the new Uniform Representation of Children in Abuse, Neglect, and Custody Proceedings Act, and it identifies some of the ongoing controversies in the child advocacy field that are relevant to particular policies underlying the Act. The Act requires all children's representatives, regardless of role, to inform the court of the child's expressed objectives if the child so desires, and the Act requires the appointment of a lawyer for every child who is the subject of an abuse or neglect proceeding. One area of controversy under the Act concerns the Act's inclusion of a "best interests" option for children's lawyers, a role endorsed by the ABA in its 2003 Standards for Lawyers Representing Children in Custody Cases. This article contends that the best interests model is a necessary alternative for children's lawyers in order to provide meaningful representation for children of all ages and developmental levels. The best interests option is also necessary to meet the needs of the judiciary in particular cases, such as when a judge fears that a client-directed lawyer may not make a full evidentiary presentation. The Act thus takes a pragmatic approach to improving child representation while still endorsing some of the fundamental ideals advocated by children's lawyers.
Keywords: Uniform Representation of Children Act, child custody, child welfare, abuse and neglect, child representation, guardian ad litem, best interests attorney, child's attorney
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