Document Type


Publication Date



It is a mistake to try to develop a single lawyer role for children in child welfare cases which tries to accommodate their developing capacities from infants to articulate teens. The older child needs a traditional attorney; the youngest child, incapable of directing counsel, needs a substitute to define and advocate for his or her best interests. We should adopt different standards for the different advocate roles. Trying to define a single lawyer role for children of all ages and all capacities is an impossible task. A better approach towards recognizing and accommodating the child's developing cognitive abilities and judgment would be to adopt a bright line age test, say at seven. At age seven (or eight or ten) and above the youth would receive a client directed advocate, that is, a child's attorney, and below the bright-line age a child gets a best interests (or substituted judgment) advocate. The court should appoint either one or the other, or both, under certain circumstances as set out in law. Both roles should be clearly established in law with duties that are aggressive and active.