A Joint Statement on Child Welfare Courts During a Public Health Crisis: Access to Justice and Advocacy are Critical Anchors During Uncertain Times.
University of San Diego. Children’s Advocacy Institute. Children’s Rights. Juvenile Law Center. National Association of Counsel for Children. National Center for Youth Law. Youth Law Center.
Briefing Materials Policy Analysis Public Awareness
Published: March 31, 2020
Youth Law Center
832 Folsom Street #700
San Francisco, CA 94107
This joint statement by children advocacy organizations provides guidance on safeguarding the needs and rights of every young person and family member experiencing dependency court involvement during a public health crisis. It explains judicial officers, attorneys for children, parents, agencies, and tribes, Court Improvement Programs, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs), and court administrators should resist reactive, sweeping policies and insist upon thoughtful consideration of each child’s and each family’s individual circumstances, promoting decisions based on current information, informed by medical expertise, and anchored in due process values. Standards are then discussed and include strategies to ensure: courts provide access to justice and due process and uphold proper notice requirements; access to counsel and CASAs are preserved for young people and parents; family time is protected and prioritized unless factual, case-specific health concerns necessitate a temporary, virtual alternative; youth and parent voice are elevated and considered at every opportunity; courts continue to consider and address the myriad of interdependent issues facing each young person on their docket and ensure case plans are holistic and grounded in medical evidence, particularized to the individual child; the safety, health, and well-being of young people are considered within the context of their developmental stages; the continued scrutiny of reasonable efforts to prevent the removal of children and to achieve permanency; and the acknowledgement of judges and other court professionals of their unique leadership role during a public health crisis.
communicable diseases; disaster response; family courts; guidelines; standards; child advocacy; court time frames; youth engagement; parental visits; judicial role; reasonable efforts; permanency