Florida failing neglected and abused children, report says
A nationwide study of state policies governing legal proceedings for abused and neglected children resulted in an "F" for Florida and nine other states.
The report titled A Child's Right to Counsel: A National Report Card on Legal Representation for Abused and Neglected Children was released today by First Star, a national organization working to improve the lives of abused and neglected children, and the Children's Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego Law School. It graded each state and the District of Columbia on dependency court procedures and the type of legal representation children received.
Florida received low marks in several categories because state law does not require an attorney to be appointed to represent children in dependency proceedings. The state's guardian ad litem program allows non-attorneys to service in this capacity. Florida scored a 55 out of 100 possible points.
- 3 states earned A+’s: Connecticut, Massachusetts and Oklahoma;
- 12 states earned A’s: Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Texas, Vermont, and West Virginia;
- 11 states earned B’s: Arkansas, California, District of Columbia, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wyoming
- 9 states earned C’s: Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, and Wisconsin
- 6 states earned D’s: Alaska, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Nevada, and South Carolina
- 10 states earned F’s: Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and Washington
The two organizations are hopeful that the report leads to stronger federal and state laws, according to a news release.
“In the U.S., the right to counsel is guaranteed to everyone accused of breaking the law – including parents and other caregivers accused of child abuse and neglect,” said Elissa T. Garr, Executive Director of First Star. “Yet the abused and neglected children in these cases, who are the least able to advocate for themselves, are not guaranteed counsel. It is tragic that in many states across the country, when judicial decisions are being made that will impact every facet of these children’s lives, the right to counsel is not guaranteed to the victims of that abuse and neglect.”