In the webinar entitled, Giving Children a Voice, there was a discussion regarding the benefits of client directed council among the panelists. Two of the panelists were Allison Green and Natalece Washington from the National Association of Counsel for Children. The other three were, J. Kendall Seal, Tom Jose, and Tim Keller representing the Center for the Rights of Abused Children. The five individuals provided unique perspectives on the issue of representation for children.

Unanimously the panelists agreed that client directed council has been proven to be beneficial for children and all advocated for it. A common discussion throughout the webinar was how the client directed model allows children to be an active participant in their cases. It allows children to have more of a say in their future and what their life looks like.

An incredibly impactful addition to the webinar was the testimony of someone with lived experience. He shared how he was not given an opportunity to ask for what he wanted and was not provided with adequate legal representation during his years in the system. He described how easily it is for foster youth to fall through the cracks and not be provided with a place to voice their feelings, especially since they already are in a system they have no control over.

The client directed model was discussed as an addition to already implemented tools and positions. For instance, this model is to be used in tandem with social workers and CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) volunteers, in order for children living in the foster care system to have a voice. This model has a very real impact and allows for a continuing conversation and a positive trajectory.

By Carlin Whalen, Policy Intern