24 Children’s Legal Rights Journal [Vol. 39: 1 2019]
too many instances the only “service” offered was foster care. 69 Even when services are offered,
the community too often lacks the needed services. 70 Or, parents are ordered to complete a
particular program (such as a “parenting class”) despite any evidence that the program would be
of any help. 71 Further, when parents fail to complete the program, the failure is used as a basis to
terminate their parental rights because compliance with court orders serves as some kind of proxy
for the degree to which the parent really loves her child. 72
IV. NACC IGNORED AND REMAINED SILENT ABOUT SEVERAL ASPECTS OF CHILD WELFARE
PRACTICE IN THE UNITED STATES THAT HAVE BEEN DEEPLY DESTRUCTIVE OF POOR
CHILDREN AND THEIR FAMILIES
This snapshot of various deficiencies in practice in child welfare courts is not meant to be
exhaustive. This is not an article about all that is wrong with child welfare practice and policy. It
is a review of NACC’s public statements over its first thirty years of existence, given some of the
shortcomings and failures we have just reviewed. What this article has already discussed should
make it clear both that what was going on in those courts was unacceptable and that anyone
practicing in them had to know this. These practices not only involved serious breaches of basic
fairness and due process, they also involved no less serious violations of crucial substantive rules
– rules designed to ensure that children would not needlessly be removed from their homes except
when no less drastic remedy existed.
NACC’s first major publication, the Advocacy Guide, designed to encourage NACC’s
membership to fight for improvements in child welfare practice, was published in 2000.73 The
explicit purpose of the Advocacy Guide was to encourage members throughout the country to
become more directly involved in advocating for children’s rights beyond the courtroom, and to
address NACC’s list of what they regarded to be the most important issues affecting children in
the United States. 74
Here is its list, in its entirety, as it relates to child welfare:
1. NACC believes that, in order for justice to be done in child abuse and neglect
related court proceedings, all parties should be represented by counsel. The children
who are the subjects of these proceedings are usually the most profoundly affected
69 The Child Welfare League of America found in 1987 that in more than half of the foster children’s cases they
reviewed, the most pressing need for the family was for daycare or babysitting. See MARY ANN JONES, PARENTAL
LACK OF SUPERVISION: NATURE AND CONSEQUENCE OF A MAJOR CHILD NEGLECT PROBLEM 29, 63–64 (1987).
70 Margaret Beyer, Too Little, Too Late: Designing Family Support to Succeed, 22 N.Y.U. REV. L. & SOC. CHANGE
311, 314 (1996) (“Many states . . . define reasonable efforts in terms of those services already available, however
inadequate, and plug families into limited, predefined services”).
71 See Annette R. Appell, Protecting Children or Punishing Mothers: Gender, Race, and Class in the Child Protection
System [An Essay], 48 S.C. L. REV. 577, 601 (1997) (“Instead of offering meaningful assistance, caseworkers too
often take a cookie cutter approach to the families and their problems”).
72 See Martin Guggenheim, Parental Rights in Child Welfare Cases in New York City Family Courts, 40 COLUM. J.L.
& SOC. PROBS. 507, 508 (2007) (“Child welfare practice is, instead, received commonly as a police power function,
controlling poor parents' lives, setting needless obstacles in their path, and unnecessarily delaying or thwarting
progress. Parents experience agencies and caseworkers as playing a game of ‘gotcha,’ pouncing when parents fail in
73 MIRIAM A. ROLLIN, NAT’L ASS’N OF COUNSEL FOR CHILDREN, BETTER PUBLIC POLICY FOR CHILDREN, YOUTH AND
FAMILIES: AN ADVOCACY GUIDE (2000).