8 Children’s Legal Rights Journal [Vol. 39: 1 2019]
practices that were documented to be efficacious – known in the vernacular as “evidence-based.”
Our field has risen to the challenge of proving the merit of providing a lawyer to every child in a
dependency case, with a growing body of research to support the theoretical and normative claims
that had been made for years. For example, the federally funded National Quality Improvement
Center on the Legal Representation of Children in the Child Welfare System (“QIC-ChildRep”),
was a seven-year, multi-project that gathered and developed knowledge in the field, including
empirical research. 48 Among other things, QIC-ChildRep developed a practice model involving
six core skills, gleaned from demonstration projects in two jurisdictions. 49 The evidence showed
that children who were represented by lawyers who were trained and appropriately supervised in
the six core skills tended to exit foster care sooner than children in a control group. 50 Similar work
has demonstrated the expedited permanency experienced by children assigned counsel in one
county in Florida. 51 More research can and will be done, not only to justify the work, but to
improve it. 52 Of course, the field is still roiled by the age-old debate about whether lawyers should
advocate in accordance with their client’s direction or based on the lawyer’s notions of what is
best for the child. With the ABA Model Act, 53 the examples of rules in New York54 and
Massachusetts, 55 and other influences, there is movement towards the client-directed model.
Where advocating for a particular substantive outcome would be too controversial or problematic
(especially but not exclusively in the example of young children unable to express their wishes),
there is some support for the concept of advocacy for a child’s “legal interests.” 56 A child’s legal
interests are generally thought to be some uncontested bundle of rights to which every child is
entitled but which may be given short shrift by the other parties to litigation. I am less sanguine
about the existence of such non-outcome determinative “legal interests;” this concept may sound
neutral but is not always so in practice. 57 I certainly concur with the Model Act’s call to focus on
48 DONALD N. DUQUETTE, CHILDREN’S JUSTICE: HOW TO IMPROVE LEGAL REPRESENTATION OF CHILDREN IN THE
CHILD WELFARE SYSTEM (2016).
49 Id. at 67-68.
50 BRITANY ORLEBEKE, XIOMENG ZHOU, ADA SKYLES & ANDREW ZINN, FINDINGS OF THE EVALUATION OF THE
QIC-CHILDREP BEST PRACTICES MODEL TRAINING FOR ATTORNEYS, CHILDREN’S JUSTICE: HOW TO IMPROVE LEGAL
REPRESENTATION OF CHILDREN IN THE CHILD WELFARE SYSTEM, at 84 (2016).
51 Andrew E. Zinn & Jack Slowriver, Expediting Permanency Legal Representation for Foster Children in Palm Beach
County, Florida, CHAPIN HALL CTR. FOR CHILD. (2008), available at
52 Just as child welfare policy and the services provided to support it touch far more lives and cost far more money
than the dependency court system, so too the policy and social work research base is more extensive than in law. See,
e.g., Richard Barth, A Look Back at the Impact of Research on Child Welfare Policy, THE CHRONICLE OF SOC. CHANGE
(Nov. 7, 2017), https://chronicleofsocialchange.org/analysis/look-back-impact-research-child-welfare-policy.
53 See generally Model Act Governing the Representation of Child. in Abuse, Neglect, & Dependency Proc. (Am. Bar
Ass’n. 2011). See also Andrea Khoury, ABA Adopts Model Act on Child Representation in Abuse and Neglect Cases,
30 ABA CHILD L. PRACTICE 106 (2011).
54 N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 22 § 7. 2 (2007), available at http://ww2.nycourts.gov/rules/chiefjudge/07.shtml.
See also Gary Solomon, Giving the Children a Meaningful Voice: The Role of the Child’s Lawyer in Child Protective,
Permanency, and Termination of Parental Rights Proceedings, http://www.legal-
55 MASSACHUSETTS COMMITTEE FOR PUBLIC COUNSEL SERVICES, PERFORMANCE STANDARDS GOVERNING THE
REPRESENTATION OF CHILDREN AND PARENTS IN CHILD WELFARE CASES, § 1. 6(b) at 9,
56 See, e.g., Standards of Prac. for Law. Who Represent Child. In Abuse & Neglect Cases, §B- 3 cmt. at 5 (Am. Bar
57 Guggenheim, supra note 16, at 99.