3. Improve and support the practice of law affecting children through
education, training, technical assistance and the creation of comprehensive
4. Achieve the NACC’s mission through federal, state, local, and court
5. Promote the welfare of children through youth empowerment.
6. Promote an effective, high quality juvenile court judiciary.
7. Enhance association effectiveness through collaboration with related
child advocacy programs.
8. Enhance the welfare of children through litigation programs. 91
Where to begin a critique of this Mission Statement? What should we have expected of the
organization calling itself the leading children’s advocacy organization in the United States
focused on child welfare practice and policy? Surely NACC would have said something about how
poorly many courts were acting at a time when a glaring problem in child welfare cases was the
virtual absence of a due process practice, of a meaningful system of checks and balances, and of
courtrooms ensuring that the law was faithfully followed. At a time when objective outsiders found
courts performing as rubber stamps and agencies getting whatever they asked for in court, where
was NACC to speak up? How can it be that the leading organization committed to children’s rights
in child welfare proceedings would fail even to acknowledge, let alone condemn, the problem?
Any defense of this manifesto suggesting that NACC was subtly acknowledging the failures of the
court process by its call to “improve courts” and “promote [their] systemic improvement” should
It also should not be overlooked how quickly NACC retreated from its 2000 Advocacy
Guide’s expressed commitment to quality representation for all parties. 92 By 2004, NACC was
again focused exclusively on ensuring that children are provided with well resourced, high quality
legal counsel when their welfare is at stake and enhancing the quality of legal services affecting
During a period when too many courts commonly allowed parents to appear unrepresented
or appointed a lawyer paid so little or so overworked that the parent was little better off than getting
no lawyer at all, NACC did worse than ignore the problem; it even dropped its titular commitment
to parents’ entitlement to excellent legal representation, reverting to its origins that the most
important party in child welfare proceedings are the children and the most important principle to
NACC was that each child be represented by a lawyer – and a real lawyer at that. By now we can
see that NACC did not believe that it is more important that parents are well represented than
children. Perhaps for this reason, NACC did not consider part of its mission to complain when
parents were denied their right to excellent legal representation.
There are other equally unacceptable qualities about this Five-Year Plan. Everything
NACC talked about focused on process. I have already explained why I consider what they chose
to discuss and ignore is unacceptable. However, the reader should also appreciate that the Five-