Slide outline: Representing children in legal proceedings

CFCA webinar - 9 July 2015

  1. Representing children in legal proceedings - learnings from the US, Canada and the UK
    • The views expressed in this presentation are those of the presenter and May not necessarily reflect those of the Australian institute of Family Studies, the Australian Government or Legal Aid NSW
  2. Los Angeles, US
    • Image of Courtroom
  3. Pittsburgh, US
    • Image of Courtroom
  4. Why do we have legal representatives for children?
    • The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (Articles 9 and 12)
      • Article 12. Every child has the right to say what they think in all matters affecting them, and to have their views taken seriously.
    • Family Law Act 1975 (Aust.)
    • State child protection law
    • Direct and best interests models of representation
  5. What does a child legal representative do?
    • They perform 3 roles:
      1. Evidence gathering about the child’s circumstances
        • i.e. by making enquiries with therapists, schools and carers, or by issuing subpoenas to agencies such as police, child protection agencies and doctors.
      2. Honest broker role in case management and settlement negotiations between parties.
      3. Facilitating the participation of a child, or ensuring that the voice of a child is heard
  6. Reviewing resource allocation
    • Recommendation:
      • Redesign the initial information-gathering, screening and assessment processes undertaken by Family Courts and the resultant agency responses
    • Why?
      • Committing more resources in the early stages of a court matter could improve our responses to children and families.
      • Structural changes to how we allocate resources could result in better information being available at an early stage to allow courts to make well-informed decisions about children.
  7. Multi-disciplinary team approaches
    • Image of reception desk with smiling welcoming woman. Sign on wall reads: Kids Voice, Protecting Children's Rights.
  8. Multi-disciplinary team approaches to child representation
    • Recommendation:
      • In children’s law practices, trial a multidisciplinary team approach to the delivery of child representation services
    • Why?
      • To test whether there are benefits that children could derive from a multidisciplinary team approach
      • To assess whether this approach could be as cost effective as traditional methods of legal service delivery
  9. Better links with universities
    • Image of university classroom
  10. Better links with universities
    • Recommendation:
      • Forge closer links between children’s legal practices and university law schools and clinical programs
    • Why?
      • To improve the standard of child representation in Australia
      • To encourages good lawyers and social workers to specialise in this area
      • Let’s professionalise child representation, so that it develops into an area of legal expertise
  11. Training and support
    • Recommendation:
      • Dedicate funding and resources to supporting, monitoring and training child representatives so they can deliver higher quality child representation services
    • Why?
      • Investing resources in effective monitoring processes, training and supervision improves the quality of child representation services.
      • There is a connection between the resourcing of child protection and family law legal systems and the quality of legal services delivered.
  12. Establish a single-focus advocacy office for children
    • Recommendation:
      • Investigate whether establishing a single-focus advocacy office for children would better ensure that all of their legal needs are appropriately addressed
    • Why?
      • To provide a wider range of functions i.e. overseeing child representation, investigatory & expert report writing services, guardians
      • To ensure better public accountability, improve resource allocation practices and achieve more national consistency across the family law system.
      • To partner with Legal Aid commissions, who have the size and scale to provide more consistent services, and due to their training, support and supervision structures, lead to better child representation practices.
  13. Hearing the voice of the child
    • Image of woman and child sitting at a desk and having a discussion. The desk has colour pencils and textas and there is a teddy bear on a bench behind them.
  14. Hearing the voice of the child
    • Recommendation:
      • Review the 'Guidelines for Independent Children's Lawyers' and the legislative framework to ensure they lead to an appropriate level of participation for children in family law processes.
    • Why?
      • To ensure that we promote appropriate levels of participation of children and community confidence in court processes.
      • To consider the notion of 'systems abuse'
  15. Edmund D. Edelman Children’s Court in Los Angeles
    • Images of:
      • Edmund D Edelman Children's Court building seen from outside.
      • Edmund D Edelman Children's Court cafeteria.
      • Playground at Edmund D Edelman Children's Court.
      • Pool tables at Edmund D Edelman Children's Court.
  16. Child centred facilities at courts
    • Image of room filled with toys and dressing up costumes with smiling woman.
    • Image of bookshelves full of books.
  17. Children’s involvement in court processes
    • Recommendation:
      • That Children’s Courts and the Family Courts develop principles to guide decision making about the participation of children in legal processes including judicial interactions with children.
    • Why? 
      • To inform decision making and the participants
      • To articulate appropriate processes and procedures
      • To ensure that judicial meetings are conducted in a safe, transparent and child inclusive manner.
  18. Feedback tools
    • Recommendation:
      • Introduce a system-wide feedback mechanism for child representation services in order to elicit the views and perspectives of people across the system, including children
    • Why?
      • To ensure child representatives are meeting the needs of the children they represent and the family law system
      • To improve the performance of child representatives
      • To monitor performance and assess whether skill levels are appropriate
    • KYLIE BECKHOUSE – July 2015
      • You can continue the conversation started here today, and access some of the resources discussed, via the following link:

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