The Childs Advocate
A network of local attorneys and mental health professionals dedicated to helping the minor children of Wake County

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Meeting

Who We Are

The Child's Advocate is a partnership between attorneys and mental health professionals dedicated to providing comprehensive and competent legal representation to children in court actions that affect their lives and relationships.

We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and working in collaboration with Legal Aid of North Carolina, we will have at least one trained staff attorney and an experienced mental health professional to provide representation for children in Wake County custody cases that are high conflict or involve domestic violence or allegations of abuse. Where appropriate, we will provide representation for minors who are the victims of crime or are witnesses in criminal or civil cases.

Family

Why We Are Needed

Adults need lawyers, and children need lawyers, too. The State of North Carolina provides legal representation for children who are the subject of delinquency, abuse, neglect, and dependency proceedings, but these four types of cases are only some of the many ways a courtroom may involve a child. Some children are caught in custody disputes between their parents or other adults in their lives. Some children are the victims of a crime. Some children are witnesses to a crime. Some are the subject of an adoption proceeding which may not be in their best interests. All of these children need legal representation to protect their interests and to ensure their voices are heard. Unfortunately, at present there is no one to help these children.

The Child's Advocate will address this need in Wake County, where more than 2000 children a year are the subject of private lawsuits involving their custody. While the domestic court's caseload has increased, fewer parties are represented so approximately 1/3 of the domestic court trials in Wake County are by unrepresented litigants. High conflict and disputed custody cases put children at high risk emotionally, psychologically and sometimes, physically. Such cases also take up disproportionately large amounts of professional and court time. Unrepresented individuals require even more court resources, and they are less likely to be informed of their legal options. Unrepresented parties are less likely to be protected from abusive partners who frequently use the court system to harass and exert control. In this environment, no one is there to advocate for the child, the person who is most affected by the proceeding and who is the subject of the proceeding.

Adversarial proceedings escalate the level of conflict. A different model is needed to stop or at least reduce the abuse and violence and to protect children. One or more hearings before a judge does not and cannot address or resolve the long term effects of parental conflict and violence, but competent representation of children can improve their situation. Our children deserve better. Our community needs better.

Teacher

Cases Accepted for Advocacy

1. Contested private custody proceedings

in which the child is old enough to express an opinion, has special needs, wants to be heard, or is in need or representation for any reason.

2. Kinship placements,

where a child has lived with grandparents, aunts, uncles, or other relatives in long term placement, and that placement is being disrupted by biological parents who have not been part of the child's life.

3. Contested adoption,

where a legal challenge is brought which threatens to undermine the child's bond and best interest without due process for the child.

4. Criminal or civil cases

in which the child is a victim or witness and is not provided an attorney.

Volunteers

How You Can Help

There are many ways you can help:

1. Volunteer your talents and resources to advocate for children and for programs like ours that help children.

2. If you are a lawyer, volunteer to represent children on a pro bono basis either at the trial or appellate level.

3. If you are a mental health professional volunteer to provide child therapy on a sliding fee scale to the children we represent who need therapy.

4. Volunteer to be a lay advocate for children we represent who need such and advocate.

5. Contribute financially and invite others to contribute to The Child's Advocate. You can see our growing list of supporters here, and contribute online at: