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Most States Fail to Protect Children's Rights

A report to be released today says that most U.S. states do not adequately protect the rights of abused and neglected children, most notably by failing to provide these children with appointed counsel to represent their interests.

The report grades each state and the District of Columbia on how well they protect the legal rights of abused and neglected children in juvenile court proceedings. Only two states earned a grade of A+: Connecticut and Massachusetts. Twenty-nine states were given grades of C or lower. The lowest grade of F was given to seven states: Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Maine and North Dakota.

The peer-reviewed study, "A Child's Right to Counsel: A National Report Card on Legal Representation for Abused and Neglected Children," was conducted by two child-advocacy organizations, First Star and the Children's Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego School of Law. The full report is scheduled to be released today at 1 p.m. in a news conference at the U.S. Capitol Building.

In addition to the grades mentioned above, the report graded other states as follows:

  • A: Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Vermont and West Virginia.
  • B: California, Kansas, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming.
  • C: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Wisconsin.
  • D: Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, New Hampshire, South Dakota and Washington.

Key factors the study looked at in assigning grades were whether state law mandates the appointment of attorneys for children in dependency proceedings; whether these attorneys represent the children in a client-directed manner; whether the representation continues throughout the case, including appeal; whether states provide attorneys with specialized training; whether the child is given the legal status of a party to the proceedings; and whether rules pertaining to confidentiality and immunity from liability apply to attorneys representing these children.

As of this writing, the full report is not yet available online. This announcement says it will be available later today at the Web sites of both of the report's sponsoring organizations.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on October 15, 2009 at 11:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

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