In 1999, the State of Delaware created the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) in response to the rising childhood mortality due to child abuse. OCA is responsible for preserving the welfare of children in Delaware. They collaborate with a number of child welfare agencies throughout the State.
Because these children live in at-risk homes, or are abused and neglected, they may need someone to act in their best legal interests. The OCA will contact an attorney for the child. These attorneys have notified the OCA that they would like to assist these at-risk children and participated in specific OCA training. They volunteer their time and efforts for the protection of this vulnerable population. These attorneys serve as a Child Attorney.
A Child Attorney is appointed to act on behalf of the child, work with the family with whom the child is being placed, report their findings, and make recommendations in the best interest of the child to the Court. What is unique about this relationship between the Child Attorney and the child, is that the relationship is created by a court order and is only for the duration of the legal action.
The attorney will meet with the OCA and members from various state agencies to discuss the growth (mentally and physically) and needs of the child. It is a collaborative effort for the child’s benefit. The Child Attorney will also work with the foster family, assisting them and referring them for services they or the child may need. This can include meeting with other foster families for socializing and support.
The attorney will represent the child at hearings scheduled by the court. The hearings may be to update the court on the child’s adjustment to their foster family, to provide updates on their biological family, or, in extreme circumstances, to assist in moving toward terminate parental rights.
The Child Attorney is there for the child where there may not have been an adult acting in the child’s best interest. The Child Attorney is protecting the child’s rights in court. Their charge is to improve the life of the child they are representing.
Murphy and Landon is proud to offer Pro Bono services when they are assigned cases for the Office of the Child Advocate.