Counseling Counsel for Children

You are a lawyer working in juvenile court, representing children in proceedings in which their parents are accused of being unfit. Your clients range in age from newborns to seventeen-yearolds. At any one time you have 125 active cases on your docket. You work hard at your job, and you believe deeply in the rights of the children you represent. Occasionally, it occurs to you that you don’t really have as good a sense as perhaps you should of your precise role and how you ought to discharge your responsibilities to your clients. But you don’t ever seem to have the time to work through such theoretical issues. You are too practical to consider more than the need to get through your daily docket. Even though lawyers (and other representatives such as guardians ad !item) have been representing children in child protective proceedings for more than twenty-five years and are currently serving that function in every jurisdiction in the United States, there is no uniform definition of a lawyer’s role and responsibilities in this context. As a result, lawyers have been remarkably free – or remarkably burdened – to figure this out for themselves. Even worse, “in almost any state . . . one will encounter within the state a deep disagreement about [one’s] role” (p. 33).