Children's Advocacy Association
by Pam Sornson
As a program of the State Judicial Department, the CAA would become the Administrator for the statewide Childrens Advocacy Program, to ensure that it and all local Childrens Advocacy programs are in compliance with state law and policy.
The purpose of the CAA is to provide every child in foster care with a well trained Advocate, who works within the child welfare and juvenile justice systems in support of the child.
1. To ensure that all Advocates in the state are compliant with state law;
2. To ensure that each Advocate is fully engaged and participating appropriately in the child
welfare and juvenile justice systems’ activities and organizations in their communities;
3. To establish and maintain consistent standards of action for Advocates across the state that:
a. are based on state and federal law and policy;
b. include constitutional and evidentiary principles that apply in every case;
c. follow state and federal based Judicial Best Practices;
d. define a state wide standard scope of activity of the Advocate, to reduce or
eliminate the risk of inadvertent liability due to an absence of standards;
e. connects the work of the Advocate to the work of the Judge and the system.
4. To establish and implement standards for Advocacy administrations across the state:
a. that require competence in administrative, judicial and child welfare subject matter
before determination of eligibility of funding;
b. that define the standard scope of activity for all local administrations, to ensure
consistency across the state and to reduce or eliminate the risk of liability due to
absence of standards;
c. that ensure consistent review of practices over time to ensure accountability and
d. that require transparent reporting of Administration activities, using data that is
relevant to the work of the Advocate and its impact on the child welfare system;
e. with enforceability capacity to redirect or discipline as necessary, and to hold all
Advocate Administrations accountable to the children and communities they serve.
5. To leverage existing public and private funding levels to support more Advocates in their to
service to children by:
a. Re-allocating state funds to where need is greatest, based on population;
b. Developing innovative new practices to address challenges unique to rural
c. Implementing successful use of technology to reduce waste of time and human
d. Improving relationships with local communities to better support the work of
e. Strengthening the partnership between Advocate and other volunteer citizen
What will it take to achieve this goal:
1. Political Will to Make the Necessary Changes:
Lawmakers now have the opportunity to make significant changes in the lives of vulnerable children. To do so they must:
A. Recognize that the existing system is no longer effective in its administration of the states’ Child Advocacy programs due to changes in law and policy;
B. Acknowledge that the state Judicial Department is an appropriate entity to house administration for these programs, since it is fundamentally invested in proper oversight of the lives of children living in state care, and
C. Move quickly to ensure Advocate activities across the state are not suspended by an inadvertent “sunset” clause, which terminates funding at the end of this legislative session.
2. Recognition at all levels that Standards are Necessary:
The State Court system operates under one set of standards for all participants, regardless of their local jurisdiction. Statewide, Advocates need a single standard of activities to maintain consistency of the quality of the program, reduce the risk of personal liability for the work they do as Advocates and enhance their ability to advocate effectively in court.
Case Management staff across the state should know the rules and regulations of juvenile justice (the courts and their internal systems) and the child welfare system (DHS and it’s service providers) in order to provide appropriate support to the volunteers, protect and properly manage confidential juvenile court files, and maintain program immunity from liability for action undertaken in support of a child, as is set out by law.
As a program of the Judicial Department, the Advocates Association will:
* provide training, support, and resources to Advocates across the state;
* ensure that all foster children receive the same level and depth of attention from their Advocate, regardless of where in the state they live;
* ensure that all funds – public and private - are spent through best practices and with 100% transparency;
* ensure that data gathered will assist law makers in evaluating the true status of the children in their care;
* leverage private and public funds to provide more Advocate representation for the same cost, and expand existing advocacy opportunities to address more issues facing children in state care.