The American Bar Association’s Center on Children and the Law is staffing up, with the addition of four new attorneys to work on issues including kinship care and legal counsel for parents and children in child welfare cases.
The center will hire two senior attorneys for its Court Projects team, which works a lot on capacity building projects with states and counties through the federal Court Improvement Projects program.
A senior attorney will also be hired to work with Mimi Laver, the center’s head of legal representation, at an eventful time when it comes to this issue. In 2018 the U.S. Children’s Bureau opened up federal Title IV-E funds to help support legal counsel for parents and children, which means states now have a path to 50-50 reimbursement on a notoriously underfunded area of the child welfare system.
That change in federal policy came largely due to the advocacy of the Center on Children and the Law’s Family Justice Initiative, which is hoping to steer those new dollars toward high-quality counsel models that pair lawyers with peer supporters and/or specialized case workers. Such models have shown results in increasing reunification rates and decreasing time in foster care in Washington, New York City and Florida.
The center will also buffer its legal research with a staff attorney focused on two critical issues in child welfare: kinship care and the educational rights of youth in foster care. The percentage of foster youth living with relatives has increased dramatically in many states over the past decade, and many more children live with kin in what some legal scholars have dubbed “hidden foster care,” the transfer of physical custody of kids to relatives and family friends without a corresponding change in legal custody.
The recently passed Family First Prevention Services Act offers up matching money to help states build more kinship navigator programs, programs that help to connect caregivers with information on benefits and resources, support groups or respite care. On the other hand, the law does envision more cases relying on informal kinship support in an effort to avoid the use of foster care in some child welfare cases.
Attorneys interested in these positions can learn more about them by clicking here, and are encouraged to apply by November 1.