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Hearing planned on rights of neglected children

Robert Blechl

CIVIC CENTER -- State Sen. Adam Schiff (D--Burbank) will be among

several officials examining ways of bolstering the legal rights of

children during a public hearing Wednesday in the Burbank City Council



The hearing, conducted by the Select Committee on Juvenile Justice and

co-sponsored by the Judicial Council’s Center for Children and the Court,

is an attempt to give all abused and neglected children the automatic


right to an attorney in state dependency courts, organizers said.

“The outcome of the hearing will be potential legislation for the

coming year,” Schiff said. “There’s a vital importance in making sure we

do everything to protect these children.”

While all parents in California have a right to counsel during neglect

and child abuse proceedings, Schiff said a child’s right differs by


“California never had a consistent policy in terms of representing


children,” Schiff said. “The parents are always represented, but the

children are not.”

In addition to the unequal representation, Schiff said there is a

fiscal impact as well. By not offering representation across the board,

California is in danger of losing $3.5 million in federal funding from

the Child Abuse Prevention Treatment Act, he said.

Besides Schiff, Michael Nash, presiding judge of the Los Angeles

Children’s Court, will also head the hearing. Panelists from the National


Association of Counsel for Children and from the National Court Appointed

Special Advocate Program will offer their views. The event is free and

open to the public.

“I don’t think the state is doing all it can to look out for it’s

children,” Schiff said. “And if we don’t do anything about the problem,

they will continue to go unrepresented.” IF YOU GO:

WHAT: A hearing on the right of abused or neglected children to legal

representation in California dependency court.

WHY: To help children to the same legal representation as their

parents and county agencies in child abuse and neglect cases.

WHERE: Burbank City Council Chambers, 275 E. Olive Ave.

WHEN: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday