Should Children Who Face Abuse and Neglect Have a Right to An Attorney? | Podcast Episode 15

Posted on October 26th, 2022

In Indiana, many children who face abuse and neglect do not have the right to an attorney in the child welfare system, but their abusers do.

A state senator has been seeking legislation to change that with hopes Indiana will join the majority of U.S. states that do guarantee or mandate attorneys for children.

Currently, Child Advocates is the only organization in the state offering a free, in-house attorney for older children in child welfare cases. In this eye-opening podcast episode, we talk with a national expert on counsel for children who tells us why and how an attorney can change a child’s future.


  • Cindy Booth / Child Advocates CEO
  • Rachel Vilensky / Director of Direct Representation for Child Advocates
  • Natalece Washington, JD / Policy Counsel for the National Association of Counsel for Children
  • Angela Cain / Communications Consultant / Podcast Host




  • Child Advocates Direct Representation program and why the organization offers a free attorney for children in child welfare cases
  • The difference between representing the “child’s best interest” as a CASA (court-appointed special advocate) and directly representing the child as his or her attorney
  • An overview of an Indiana State Senator’s recent Independent Study Committee examining the possible benefits of legal counsel for children in child welfare cases and potential future legislation
  • What some judges in other states say about whether it is a violation of children’s rights not to have an attorney
  • An examination of why a foster child isn’t always guaranteed an attorney but their abuser is
  • Why we might be a “better system” if children had a voice in their future and what children, who’ve had attorneys, say about their experience
  • Natalece Washington’s response to people who are “on the fence” about whether children should have a say in their future with an attorney representing their rights and, who, in the end, has the final say
  • Some of the roadblocks to mandating or guaranteeing attorneys in Indiana and why a change in systems is sometimes difficult
  • A Supreme Court Decision in a juvenile delinquency case about the due process rights of children
  • An examination of children’s legal rights in child welfare cases and why Natalece Washington feels attorneys are essential and critical for their future
  • The benefits, based on research, of children having attorneys including the percentage of children who exit the foster care system much sooner with an attorney’s representation
  • A comparison of a state’s costs for child welfare, which can include placement in institutions and residential care, versus a state’s costs for attorneys and the children’s well-being outcomes
  • The differences between CASA’s, court-appointed special advocates who represent the child’s best interest, and the work of an attorney who directly represents them
  • Why Natalece says CASA’s and attorneys for children have complementary roles
  • Why there is some resistance to attorneys representing the children by some CASA organizations and how the two different roles can and do co-exist, in many U.S. states, for the benefit of the children

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