32 Children’s Legal Rights Journal [Vol. 39: 1 2019]
In Krinsky’s words, “[w]ithin two years of aging out of a child welfare system that committed
collectively to parent them, more than half of former foster youth are unemployed, a third become
homeless, and one in three will be incarcerated.” 115 One reform NACC embraced was a call to
shift federal money that favors foster care to permit spending on services that could keep families
intact. 116 The article also was critical of the courts, reporting that barely half of child welfare judges
surveyed “received any child-welfare training before hearing dependency cases,” 117 and that the
courts suffer from “overloaded court dockets, a chronic shortage of available services for families,
and poorly prepared caseworkers” which create “major barriers to finding stable and secure homes
for children in foster care. 118
Ultimately, NACC’s response seemed to me, again, remarkably tepid and too attentive to
the needs of NACC’s membership. According to Krinsky, in light of these recognized problems,
NACC proposed that “[c]hildren in foster care should have the right to effective legal
representation in the court process,” “to stand on equal legal footing in the court process,” and to
“be notified of their own court proceedings and given a meaningful opportunity to participate in
proceedings that will craft their future.” 119 To ensure better, more qualified lawyers for children,
NACC proposed increasing the pay for children’s lawyers and “the establishment of loan
forgiveness programs for lawyers who specialize in this area.” 120 NACC also called for training
and collaboration, including better sharing of information. 121 It further recommended better
judicial leadership and flexible funding for cases. 122
For too many years, NACC focused in extraordinarily narrow ways on things to improve
in child welfare proceedings. No other children’s rights organization behaved like this. Take, as
an example, the juvenile defender community, which has long understood that policies happening
outside of juvenile court greatly determine what happens inside the court. Organizations such as
the National Juvenile Defender Center have long derided the school-to-prison pipeline as poor
public policy and deeply harmful to children. 123 One might think it is unfair to criticize an
organization that chooses to limit its focus to the four corners of child welfare. 124 But it is essential
that any organization devoted to advancing children’s rights in child welfare proceedings cast a
critical eye on all matters that, even tangentially, impact child welfare policy and practice.
What goes on outside of the formal parameters of the child welfare system dramatically
impacts what happens inside it. Treating child welfare as an entity unto itself while ignoring what
is happening in the United States to poor families disadvantages the children who are the subject
of child welfare proceedings. When there are only a few tools in the toolkit, government officials
can be expected to use the ones at hand, which too often means removing children from their
families. Child welfare practitioners who restrict their focus to the narrow formalities of child
welfare are unintentionally disadvantaging children.
115 Krinsky, supra note 114.
116 Id. at 1-2.
117 Id. at 1.
121 Krinsky, supra note 114, at 1-2.
123 See NAT’L JUV. DEFENDER CTR., Juvenile Defender Resource Guide, 27-33 (HyeJi Kim ed., 2016), available at
124 In all events, it should be clear that I do not rest my criticism of NACC for failing to go outside of the formal
boundaries of child welfare. Independently, NACC should be faulted for ignoring for too long the prominent failings
of child welfare within the four corners of the system.