The Children’s Justice Initiative has formed a workgroup to make recommendations to the Judicial Council concerning representation of parents in child abuse cases, now that the Board of Public Defense has said that defenders will no longer represent them. The CJI Parent Representation Workgroup, chaired by Justice Helen Meyer, will hold its first meeting Aug. 18. from 8:30 a.m. to noon in Room 230 of the Minnesota Justice Center.
No agenda has yet been released, but the members have received a 2006 CHIPS Public Defender Workgroup Final Report that was prepared at the direction of the Legislature. It’s frustrating to read. It concluded:
“The CHIPS Public Defender Workgroup spent several months discussing the crisis in the child protection system caused by lack of resources to provide appropriate legal representation to indigent parties, and the critical role well-trained, culturally competent, adequately compensated attorneys with realistic caseloads, not just in protecting the legal rights of children and parents in child abuse and neglect proceedings, but in counseling parents about their responsibilities in the process and facilitating better outcomes for children.
“The Workgroup concludes that the legislature must address the current crisis in child protection cases caused by the lack of resources for adequate legal representation in child protection cases. The need for adequate funding for well-trained, culturally competent attorneys with realistic caseloads that permit them to fully participate in the collaborative resolution of these cases is immediate. The legislature can also take the leadership in designing and implementing a statewide entity whose primary mission is to provide advocacy and legal representation for families (parents and children) in child-protection cases to ensure a permanent safe and nurturing home for every Minnesota child.”
Of course, this has not happened. Shall we anticipate that this latest group’s recommendations will meet the same fate? Obviously the Legislature needs more help, i.e. pressure, from the public and particularly the bar.