Kids need to be a part of decisions impacting their lives.
When kids are involved with the legal system, really big decisions are made about their lives – decisions like where they go to school, who they live with, and what they need to learn or grow.
We all have that memory of being a kid and some really big life thing was happening, whether it was a family move, a funeral, or maybe a divorce. We remember that feeling that even though we were in it, it was happening to us, and the outcome mattered, we weren’t a part of decisions or the process. It happened to us. Not with us.
That feeling, of being small, left behind, and unimportant, happens everyday to children in Northeast Florida. Without an attorney, kids have no one explaining their rights and what’s happening. Without an attorney, kids have no one dedicated to protecting their rights and ensuring that the child is a part of the process.
Kids need holistic legal representation.
When a child comes into contact with the juvenile justice system, we know there is often more to the story than what’s in an arrest and booking report. The majority of kids who are arrested in Northeast Florida have unmet educational and behavioral needs – they are grade levels behind, often not accessing the services and supports they need to be successful. They are frequently suspended. They are frequently denied mental health and behavioral services. Many have been involved with the Department of Children and Families. Yet, they have no attorney to advocate for them outside of the delinquency. To help ensure they get what they need so that they don’t get re-arrested. Last year, over 3,000 children were arrested in Duval County.
When a child is removed from their home due to neglect or abuse, they are most often the only person in the courtroom without an attorney. Here in Northeast Florida, less than five pro bono attorneys are available to represent these kids. There were over 1,000 dependent children last year in Duval County.
When a child has a learning disability or unique learning need, they are most often the only person in the room without an attorney. Here in Northeast Florida, there is one attorney providing educational advocacy for kids, CCR Associate Bev Brown. She is responsible for covering seventeen counties.
Advocating for kids is about helping systems get things right. We are all partners in creating a community where kids can thrive.
We know that kids are different. Their lawyers have to be too.
The laws affecting and impacting children’s lives are complex and intersecting. Representing kids is different than representing adults. Our kids deserve dedicated attorneys who specialize in the legal frameworks and developmental needs unique to children. Other disciplines recognize this. For example, kids go to pediatricians. The law does too. The Florida Bar now offers Juvenile Law Certification.
That’s why the Center for Children’s Rights is raising funds to provide child-centered representation by dedicated attorneys who are experts in navigating the complex legal systems in which children find themselves. Help us make kids a part of decisions impacting their lives. Donate and be a Advocate for Childhood.