Representation of Children in Child Abuse and Neglect Proceedings - Alaska

Date:

Making The Appointment

Citation: Alaska Stat. § 47.10.050; AK CINA Rule 11(a)(1); 12(b)(3)

Whenever in the course of proceedings instituted under this chapter it appears to the court that the welfare of a child will be promoted by the appointment of an attorney to represent the child, the court may make the appointment. If it appears to the court that the welfare of a child in the proceeding will be promoted by the appointment of a guardian ad litem (GAL), the court shall make the appointment. Appointment of a GAL or attorney shall be made under the terms of § 25.24.310.

In court rules: The court shall appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) in all Child in Need of Aid (CINA) proceedings as soon as possible after the CINA petition is filed. The appointment shall continue through all phases of the CINA proceeding unless the court orders otherwise.

The court shall appoint counsel, pursuant to Administrative Rule 12, for a child when the court determines that the interests of justice require the appointment of an attorney to represent the child's expressed interests.

The Use of Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs)

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

Qualifications/Training

Citation: Alaska Stat. § 25.24.310; AK CINA Rule 11(c)

The court shall make every reasonable effort to appoint a GAL from among persons in the community where the child's parents or the person having legal custody or guardianship of the child resides.

In court rules: A GAL should possess the knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education that allows the GAL to conduct an independent, thorough, and impartial investigation and to advocate effectively for the best interests of the child.

The GAL should have an understanding of the following, as appropriate to the case:

  • Child development from infancy through adolescence
  • The impact of child abuse and neglect on the child
  • The impact of child in need of assistance (CINA) proceedings, including out-of-home placement and the restriction or termination of parental rights, on the child
  • Unique issues related to families involved in CINA proceedings, such as substance abuse, domestic violence, and disabilities
  • Community and other resources available for placement, treatment, and other necessary services for abused or neglected children
  • The ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds of the population to be served
  • The Indian Child Welfare Act and the prevailing social and cultural standards of the Indian community in which the child, parent, Indian custodian, or extended family resides or maintains social and cultural ties
  • Alaska and applicable Federal statutes, rules, and supreme court decisions relating to CINA proceedings
  • The ability to research and develop special areas of knowledge as appropriate or necessary in a given case

Specific Duties

Citation: Alaska Stat. § 25.24.310; AK CINA Rule 11(f)

The court shall require a GAL when, in the opinion of the court, representation of the child's best interests, to be distinguished from preferences, would serve the welfare of the child.

In court rules: The GAL represents the best interests of the child in a CINA proceeding. The GAL determines and advocates for the best interests of the child given the child's situation, taking into account the child's age, maturity, culture and ethnicity, and public laws and policies regarding family preservation and timely permanency planning.

As part of their duty to the child, the GAL shall do the following:

  • Conduct ongoing independent investigations, including, as reasonable and appropriate: in-person visits with the child; review of records; interviews with parents, social workers, teachers, and other persons as necessary to assess the child's situation; and observations of the child's interactions with parents or other potential caregivers
  • Identify relatives, family friends, or other persons who are potential placement options, and take any necessary steps to offer such persons to the Department of Health and Social Services and/or to the court for placement determinations
  • Advocate for early Tribal identification and paternity determinations
  • Consult professionals, as necessary, to determine the child's best interests
  • Participate in the case-planning process
  • Monitor the provision and utilization of family support services
  • Determine whether to seek appointment of a GAL or attorney in related legal proceedings
  • Monitor services to the child provided by educational, medical, mental health, and other community systems and ensure these services are promoting the best interests of the child
  • When appropriate, seek cooperative solutions to disputes concerning the child's situation that serve the child's best interests
  • Explain the court proceedings, the role of the GAL, and the child's rights to the child, when appropriate, in language and terms the child can understand; encourage older children to attend and participate in court hearings, as appropriate; and determine whether and under what conditions younger children should attend court hearings
  • Determine whether to call the child as a witness or determine appropriate action if others seek the child's testimony, and familiarize the child with the process of testifying

As part of their duty to the court, the GAL will do the following:

  • Appear at all hearings, present appropriate witnesses to testify at hearings, and present relevant information about the child's status and needs to the court
  • Provide timely written reports as required by court order or rule
  • Request specific court orders for evaluation, services, visitation, treatment for the child and the child's family, and placement of the child
  • Take appropriate and timely action when services are not being made available to the child, the family, or both; when the child or family fails to take advantage of such services; or when services are not achieving their purpose
  • Take appropriate action when informed of any violations of orders, new developments, or material changes in the child's circumstances
  • Advise the court promptly if appointment of counsel for the child should be considered

How the Representative Is Compensated

Citation: Alaska Stat. § 25.24.310

The court shall notify the Office of Public Advocacy if the office is required to provide GAL services. The court shall enter an order for costs, fees, and disbursements in favor of the State and may further order that other services be provided for the protection of a minor or other child.