Children in state’s custody need more representation

first_img June 15, 2002 Regular News Lawyers are needed to improve the lot of children in the state’s custody and generally in their dealings with the legal system, according to the chair of the Bar’s Commission on the Legal Needs of Children.Eleventh Circuit Judge Sandy Karlan presented the commission’s executive summary from its past three years of study to the Board of Governors last month. A final report, which includes a call for the Bar to establish a permanent Children’s Law Committee and to be involved in legislative efforts to improve representation for children, will be ready at the Bar’s Annual Meeting later this month.The commission found a lack of standards and guidance for representing children, as well as major problems with state programs that are supposed to help them.“Did you know that children aging out of foster care represent the fastest growing segment of the homeless population?” Karlan said. She quoted one former state foster child as describing the program as “a swift kick into your own life without money and without information.”Children many times don’t receive services they are entitled to and in many cases are frequently switched from one foster home to another. One child was in 20 homes over an eight-year period, she said.Other findings include:• Although experts agree it doesn’t protect the community or rehabilitate the child, Florida continues to lead the nation in the number of prosecutorial decisions to try children as adults.• There appears to be racial bias in the juvenile justice system as more minority children are tried as adults than nonminority children.• There are no standards to help lawyers representing children, including whether they should be guided by the child’s wishes or the best interests of the child.• Zero tolerance policies are used to expel children from school without regard to their prior history, the circumstances, or due process.• Children are often the last to find out their status in probate cases.• There needs to be better information sharing between the courts and agencies dealing with children, but there also needs to be privacy protections.Recommendations include creating a statewide office on children’s justice, which would encompass the guardian ad litem program as well as legal counsel for children. More also needs to be done to educate participants in the system, something the Bar can help with, Karlan said.“We want the Bar to educate all parties involved, including lawyers and judges,” she said.She noted the Supreme Court has asked the commission to comment on a pending rule determining whether children in state custody being involuntarily committed have the right to an attorney.“There’s still a lot of work to be done, and we’ve laid that out in the report,” Karlan said.Bar President Terry Russell thanked Karlan and the commission for its efforts.“It represents thousands of hours of your work,” he said of the report. “It represents more than a $250,000 investment by the Bar, and it defines issues regarding the legal rights of children, our most precious resource.” Children in state’s custody need more representationcenter_img Children in state’s custody need more representationlast_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *