Magazine article Children's Voice

NACC Certifies Nation's First Child Welfare Law Specialists

Magazine article Children's Voice

NACC Certifies Nation's First Child Welfare Law Specialists

Article excerpt

The National Association of Counsel for Children (NACC) has certified the first class of child welfare law specialists (CWLS) in the country. Eighty-five attorneys who represent children, parents, and state welfare agencies in abuse, neglect, and dependency cases received specialty certification in child welfare law last June.

These lawyers were recognized publicly at the NACC National Children's Law Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, in October, and NACC is proud to list them with their well-earned credentials on its website at

Legal specialty certification, similar to medical board certification, is awarded to attorneys who demonstrate competence in a recognized legal specialty by satisfying the requirements of good standing, substantial involvement, education, peer review, writing, and substantive knowledge. Specialists must pass a comprehensive child welfare law written examination. By attaining specialty certification, lawyers identify themselves to the court, bar, and community as having the training, knowledge, and skill to practice law in a specialized area.

The American Bar Association recognized child welfare law as a legal specialty in 2001 and accredited NACC as the child welfare law certifying body in 2004. The U.S. Children's Bureau sponsored NACC's pilot program-conducted in California, Michigan, and New Mexico-to certify the nation's first child welfare law specialists. Designed to improve outcomes for children and families in the foster care and court systems by improving the quality of legal services, child welfare law specialty certification is a component of NACC and federal initiatives to produce safety, permanence, and well-being for our nation's foster care population.

Because good outcomes depend on quality legal advocacy, NACC has been dedicated to providing children with well-trained, competent, and knowledgeable legal advocates since its inception in 1977. As part of that effort, NACC has developed attorney training programs and promoted national collaboration and communication among child welfare law attorneys.

NACC child welfare law certification is available to attorneys who serve in the role of child's attorney (including guardian ad litem, law guardian, and attorney ad litem), parent's attorney, and agency/department/government attorney. The specialization area as approved by ABA is specifically defined as

the practice of law representing children, parents or the government in all child protection proceedings, including emergency, temporary custody, adjudication, disposition, foster care, permanency planning, termination, guardianship, and adoption. Child Welfare Law does not include representation in private child custody and adoption disputes where the state is not a party.

Lawyers certified in child welfare law must meet the rigorous criteria established by the NACC National Certification Advisory Board and approved by ABA. Lawyers certified in child welfare law must be knowledgeable in state and federal laws applicable to child protection and foster care. A specialist must also understand relevant principles from child development and psychology regarding individual and family dynamics, and appropriate treatment modalities of child abuse and neglect, and be capable of recognizing the professional responsibility and ethical issues that arise out of the children's status. They must also be proficient in the skills of interviewing and counseling child clients. …

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