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Access to Justice and Advocacy are Critical Anchors during Uncertain Times

Children’s Rights was proud to join fellow advocates Children’s Advocacy Institute, Juvenile Law Center, National Association of Counsel for Children, National Center for Youth Law, and Youth Law Center in issuing a statement this week. The joint statement compels courts and legal professionals to safeguard the needs and rights of every young person and family member with proceedings in family court during this public health crisis. All of us must work to ensure thoughtful consideration of individual circumstances and resist reactive, sweeping policies. As we respond to the emerging circumstances of the pandemic we must be proactive to avoid leaving a legacy of bad practices. We strongly urge the child welfare court community to uphold the fundamental values that define our profession.

Our statement, which you can read here, includes specific recommendations for ensuring justice and fair treatment during these difficult times:

•    Courts must ensure access to justice and due process during this period.

•    Access to counsel and CASAs for young people and parents must be preserved. 

•    Family time must be protected and prioritized unless factual, case-specific health concerns necessitate a temporary, virtual alternative. 

•    Youth and parent voices must be elevated and considered at every opportunity. 

•    Courts must continue to consider and address the myriad of interdependent issues facing each young person in their docket on an individualized basis.

•    The safety, health, and well-being of young people should be considered within the context of their age and developmental stages. 

•    Reasonable efforts to prevent the removal of children and to achieve permanency must continue to be made. 

•    Judges and other court professionals must embrace their unique leadership role during this critical time.

Unwavering insistence upon access to justice, due process, and zealous advocacy will help anchor systems during unsteady times. We must preserve a sacred framework for keeping children safe and meeting their and their families’ needs – – during this crisis, and beyond it.