Representation of Children in Child Abuse and Neglect Proceedings - Wyoming

Date:

Making The Appointment

Citation: Ann. Stat. §§ 14-3-211; 14-6-216

An attorney shall be appointed to represent the child. The attorney also shall serve as the child's guardian ad litem (GAL).

Counsel shall be appointed to represent any child in a court proceeding in which the child is alleged to be abused or neglected. Any attorney representing a child under this section shall also serve as the child's GAL, unless a GAL has been appointed by the court.

The court shall appoint a GAL for a child who is a party to proceedings under this act if the child has no parent, guardian, or custodian appearing in his or her behalf or if the interests of the parents, guardian, or custodian are adverse to the best interests of the child. A party to the proceeding or employee or representative thereof shall not be appointed GAL for the child.

The Use of Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs)

Citation: Wy. Juv. Proc. Rule 8

The local court-appointed special advocates (CASA) program may provide volunteers to serve without compensation as CASAs at the order of the juvenile court. The local CASA program shall designate the individual CASA volunteer for assignment to a case. The CASA must have successfully completed the screening and training as required by the local CASA program. All CASAs are subject to the direction of their local CASA program.

The court may appoint a CASA to serve the best interests of a child in abuse or neglect actions. The CASA volunteer shall not act as the legal representative or attorney GAL of any child in any appointed case. The CASA serves a role that is separate from the role of the attorney GAL, although it is the expectation of the court that the attorney GAL and the CASA would collaborate and cooperate in the best interests of the child. The CASA serves until the case is concluded or the court enters an order for removal.

The CASA shall do the following:

  • Serve the best interests of the child in abuse proceeding, neglect proceeding, or both
  • Provide independent, factual information to each party regarding the case
  • Submit a written report to the parties at least 5 business days prior to each hearing involving the child
  • Be allowed to observe all depositions, pretrial conferences, and hearings
  • Have access to review and make copies of all Department of Family Services records regarding the child and his or her family, the court file in the court where the action is pending, and other records as allowed and ordered by the court
  • Receive reasonable notice from the department of changes in placement, school, or any other change of circumstances affecting the child
  • Monitor cases to assist in ensuring that the terms of the court's orders are fulfilled and timely permanency for the child is achieved
  • Ascertain the wishes of the child and assist in making the wishes known to the parties

Qualifications/Training

Citation: Wy. Rules, 014-010, Ch. 2, §§ 4 & 5

To be eligible for appointment as a GAL, an attorney must have completed, within the 2 years prior to applying for certification, initial training consisting of 10 or more hours of child-related training accredited by the Wyoming State Bar, or the attorney otherwise provides acceptable evidence that he or she has recent training, experience, or both that is reasonably equivalent.

To remain eligible for appointments, the attorney GAL shall obtain 5 hours of continuing legal education per legal education reporting year. These 5 live hours shall be multidisciplinary, child-related training and relevant to an appointment in juvenile court proceedings. The director has the additional authority and discretion to require all GALs to obtain training in addition to the minimum 5 hours of continuing legal education when necessary. This paragraph does not apply to the law students supervised and practicing under faculty attorney supervisors at the University of Wyoming College of Law Clinics. It does apply to the faculty attorney supervisors.

All GALs, before assignment to any case, shall have training on their role as a GAL and specific training on early childhood, child, and adolescent development. The GAL must have sufficient knowledge in a wide range of subject areas, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • All relevant Federal and State laws, regulations, and policies
  • Infant, young child, and adolescent development needs and abilities, including the impact of trauma, mental health disorders, and disability
  • Developmentally appropriate interviewing and counseling skills
  • The role of the GAL and his or her ethical responsibilities to the client
  • Racial disproportionality within the child welfare system
  • Other biases that operate within the child welfare system that could interfere with the ability of the GAL to successfully advocate for the child's preferences and best interests
  • Cultural competency
  • The types of experts who can consult with attorneys on various case issues
  • Family dynamics and dysfunction, such as domestic violence and substance abuse
  • The use of relative and kinship care
  • Child welfare and family preservation services available in the community
  • The role and authority of the Department of Family Services and both public and private organizations within the child welfare system

Any attorney who has, while in law school, successfully completed the Children and the Law course at the University of Wyoming College of Law, or an equivalent course there or at another American Bar Association-accredited law school, will be deemed to have fulfilled the 10-hour initial training requirement.

Before an applicant is approved as a certified GAL, the applicant shall meet the following qualifications:

  • Be an attorney in good standing with the Wyoming State Bar
  • Have continuing legal education credits verified by the administrator and the Wyoming State Bar

Specific Duties

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 14-3-211; Wy. Rules, 014-010, Ch. 2, §§ 2 & 3

The attorney or GAL shall be charged with representation of the child's best interests.

In regulation: Rather than taking direction from the client, the GAL is charged with forming the client's position by using his/her own judgment as to the child's best interests. The GAL is required to consider the child's wishes and preferences, but he or she is not bound by them. If the GAL determines that the child's expressed preference is not in the best interests of the child, both the child's wishes and the basis of the GAL's disagreement must be presented to the court. The GAL should elicit the child's preferences in a developmentally appropriate manner, advise the child, and provide guidance, including explaining to the child what recommendations the GAL is going to make and why he or she is making them.

The GAL shall specifically do the following:

  • Establish and maintain competence in the applicable legal and ethical standards, including relevant court rules, Federal and State law, case law, agency rules and regulations, and local practice
  • Be familiar with recognized standards and best-practice procedures in child welfare and protection
  • Be familiar with the dynamics of domestic violence, the rate of cooccurrence between child abuse and domestic violence, the barriers to leaving a violent relationship, and how domestic violence may affect children and their parents or caregivers
  • Conduct a full and independent case investigation in a timely manner that shall include, at a minimum, the following:
    • Obtaining information about the child and the child's circumstances
    • Obtaining copies of all pleadings and relevant notices
    • Meeting with and observing the child's interaction with caregivers, including meeting with and observing the child at home or in placement, even if a CASA or other child or family advocate is or has been, involved in the case
  • Insofar as is practical, counsel the child about the nature of the litigation, the attorney's role, the child's rights, the possible outcomes of each proceeding, and the consequences of the child's participation or lack of participation
  • Prior to making a recommendation for out-of-home placement, research and consider alternative community programs, treatments, and family preservation services available to the family
  • Independently identify and advocate for appropriate family and professional resources for the child
  • Participate in in depositions, negotiations, discovery, pretrial conferences, multidisciplinary team meetings and hearings, including review hearings
  • Independently verify and advocate for timely and permanent resolution of the case
  • Make independent recommendations, with an emphasis on community services most likely to preserve families and avoid out-of-home placement, when appropriate
  • Encourage the presence of children at hearings in which they are the subject, unless, for their best interests, they should be excluded
  • After the hearings, review the court's orders to ensure the written orders conform to the court's oral orders, as well as comply with statutorily required findings and notices
  • Monitor and advocate for timely implementation of the case and/or permanency plan, the court's orders, and communicate with the responsible agencies

A GAL shall attend, in person, all pertinent multidisciplinary team meetings/hearings in the child's best interests.

How the Representative Is Compensated

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 14-3-434

The following costs and expenses, when approved and certified by the court to the county treasurer, shall be a charge upon the funds of the county where the proceedings are held and shall be paid by the Board of County Commissioners of that county:

  • Reasonable compensation for services and costs of counsel appointed by the court
  • Reasonable compensation for services and costs of a GAL appointed by the court, unless the county participates in the GAL program pursuant to §§ 14-12-101 through 14-12-104 and the program was appointed to provide the GAL

In every case in which a GAL has been appointed to represent the child, or in which counsel has been appointed under this act to represent the child's parents, guardian, or custodian, the court shall determine whether the child's parents, guardian, custodian, or other person responsible for the child's support is able to pay part or all the costs of representation and shall enter specific findings on the record. If the court determines that any of the parties can pay any amount as reimbursement for costs of representation, the court shall order reimbursement or shall state on the record the reasons why reimbursement was not ordered. The court also may in any case order that all or any part of the costs and expenses be reimbursed to the county by the child's parents or any person legally obligated for his or her support, or any of them jointly and severally, upon terms the court may direct.