Effective agency-court collaboration is essential to the achievement of timely outcomes for children and their families within the child welfare system. Judges and attorneys operate under detailed ethical and practice considerations within the judicial system, which has developed specific guidelines for applying those standards in child dependency and family court cases. This section contains standards for judges and legal representatives developed by national organizations as well as State and local examples.
ABA Practice Standards and Tools
National Child Welfare Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues
Contains American Bar Association standards of practice for lawyers who represent children, parents, and agencies in child welfare cases.
Attributes of High Quality Legal Representation for Children and Parents in Child Welfare Proceedings (PDF - 579 KB)
Family Justice Initiative (2018)
Describes the fundamentals of quality legal representation for parents and children involved in child welfare court proceedings.
Better Counsel for Children and Parents: What the Research Says
The Chronicle of Social Change
Explains the need for legal counsel in dependency court as evidence proves justice is better served when parents and youth have legal representation.
National Center for State Courts
Reviews strategies judges can use to create a collaborative and outcome-oriented court and child protection environment, which results in better services for children and families.
IM-17-02: High-Quality Legal Representation for All Parties in Child Welfare Proceedings (PDF - 290 KB)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (2017)
Highlights best practices and strategies to promote and sustain high-quality legal representation for children, parents, and child welfare agencies during child welfare proceedings.
How Does High-Quality Legal Representation for Parents Support Better Outcomes?
Casey Family Programs (2019)
Details the importance of high-quality legal representation and reviews characteristics of effective representation.
Representing the Child in Child Protective Proceedings: Toward A New Paradigm (PDF - 1,034 KB)
Widener Commonwealth Law Review, 28
Describes a new approach to child protective proceedings based on the child’s best interests. The article summarizes statutes governing the role of child’s counsel in these proceedings and outlines methodologies that address the child interests at stake.
Standards of Practice
National Association of Counsel for Children
Provides information on standards for attorneys representing children in child protection proceedings.
Child Protective Proceedings Benchbook, Fourth Edition: A Guide to Abuse & Neglect (PDF - 5,284 KB)
Michigan Judicial Institute (2021)
Provides information on standards and best practices for judges presiding over child protection proceedings in Michigan.
Dependency Court Guides and Tools
Florida’s Center for Child Welfare
Offers resources and tools from the Office of the State Courts Administrator for attorneys and judges in Florida working on dependency cases.
Office of Children & Families in the Courts
Discusses the accomplishments of a legal representation workgroup in Pennsylvania, which worked to educate and train attorneys in the State on best practices in child proceedings, family engagement, trauma, client communication, and safety.
Legal Representation in Child Protective Services Cases
State Bar of Texas
Explains the duties and requirements for attorneys for children and parents in child protective services court cases in Texas.
Specific Standards for Representation in Juvenile Dependency Cases (PDF - 777 KB)
Oregon State Bar (2017)
Offers performance standards for attorneys in juvenile dependency cases in Oregon.
Texas Child Protection Law Bench Book and Bench Cards
Texas Children’s Commission (2020)
Outlines standards for child protection court proceedings in Texas and includes checklists for judges.