Child In Need Of Care Representation
In 2003, as part of the statewide Juvenile Justice Reform movement, the Louisiana Legislature (HCR 44) created a multi-disciplinary Task Force on Legal Representation in Child Protection Cases to "study systemic issues and concerns related to the provision of legal representation of abused and neglected children and their indigent parents in child protection cases and to make recommendations on how these services may be more effectively and efficiently provided and funded."
Prior to this reform, there were no standards for representation of children or parents in Child Protection Cases, there were no qualifications for representation of children or parents in these cases, and different organizations represented parents and children in these cases in each judicial district. The lack of standards, qualifications and coordination led to prolonged case times and inconsistent rulings across the state.
Following the 2003 Resolution, and for the next five years, representatives from the three branches of government, along with numerous public and private stakeholders, committed resources to develop a plan for systemic statewide reform of the existing deficient and decentralized efforts. This reform has been embraced by both the former and current administrations, supported by Supreme Court Rule, and guided by legislation enacted in five legislative sessions.
In 2006, Act 271 created the Child Advocacy Program (within the Mental Health Advocacy Service (MHAS)) to provide for specialized representation of children in child protection cases. Act 95 of 2007 created the Indigent Parents' Representation Program (within the Louisiana Public Defender Board) to provide for the representation of indigent parents in child protection cases.
In 2009, the network of Legal Service Corporations ('LSC's') around the state, with the help of the Louisiana Bar Foundation, joined the Task Force. The LSC's joined the Child Advocacy Program in providing representation for children in child protection cases. Finally, in 2010, the Task Force fully implemented the new representation design statewide. The Louisiana Public Defender Board (LPDB) currently provides attorneys statewide to represent parents in abuse and neglect cases. LPDB is a participating member of the Task Force on Legal Representation in Child Protection Cases and plays a critical role in training and policy leadership.
Together, the Task Force has helped to create specialized training and uniformity of representation between multiple state agencies, which has helped to reduce case time, increase services provided to families and led to better, more permanent outcomes for children.