The Child’s Advocate: At the Intersection of Juvenile Justice, Child Welfare and Education

LaToya, a Black woman with black wavy hair, wears a black blouse. By LaToya B. Powell

It’s time to register for the annual Juvenile Justice & Children’s Rights Section (JJCR) CLE program! Our 2024 program, “The Child’s Advocate: At the Intersection of Juvenile Justice, Child Welfare and Education,” will address the interplay of multiple systems that impact children and families who are involved in the court system, including juvenile justice, child welfare, and education. Research shows that approximately 90% of foster youth with five or more placements will enter the juvenile justice system. Not surprisingly, these vulnerable youth also experience a disproportionate rate of school discipline, mental health needs, and special education services.  If you are an attorney or legal professional working with this population, this CLE is for you!

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Privacy Rights of Children in the Digital Age

By Michelle FormyDuval Lynch

Do children have a right to privacy? Yes, but those rights are not always clearly defined and often depend on the actions of the parents. This is especially so in the digital age, where a picture can be shared with millions of people almost immediately.  A recent opinion by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals illustrates how privacy rights of children may be an afterthought, and when the child realizes their privacy has been invaded, there may be little or no recourse.

Before the internet became open to the public in 1993, and social media came into widespread use in the early 2000s, no one worried about pictures being shared, much less about photos or videos going “viral.” Generally, pictures stayed in the family album or wallet.

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Juvenile Justice and Children’s Rights Annual CLE (Live Webcast): June 1, 2023

Michelle, a white woman with blond hair, wears a blue blouse and is smiling. By Michelle FormyDuval Lynch

The Juvenile Justice & Children’s Rights Section annual CLE will be by Live Webcast on the afternoon of June 1, 2023 (starting at 12:15 p.m.). The CLE will consist of 3.0 MCLE hours, which qualify for NC State Bar Criminal Law (Juvenile Delinquency Law) Specialization and NC State Bar Child Welfare Law Specialization. The JJCR Council has supplemented the registration fee so that the first ten registrants that are members of the JJCR Section will qualify for the special rate of $70. JJCR regular rate is $125. The rate for NCBA members is $135; the rate for non-members is $160.

The CLE’s three 1.0 hr presentations/speakers are:
(1)   Juvenile Interrogation – Jacqui Green of the UNC School of Government;
(2)   Ethical Considerations When Representing a Juvenile – Judge Stacey Bawtinhimer, NC Office of Administrative Hearings;
(3)   Building Trauma Informed Juvenile Courts in North Carolina – Chief Judge J. H. Corpening II, NC District Court – Judicial District 5, New Hanover County.

Find more information on the program on the NCBA website and register today.



The North Carolina Guardian ad Litem Program – What Is It, and What Does It Do?

Michelle, a white woman with blond hair, wears a blue blouse and is smiling. By Michelle FormyDuval Lynch

The Juvenile Justice and Children’s Rights Section of the NCBA includes attorneys and child advocates who are committed to excellence in the direct representation of North Carolina youth. Three of the most common areas of direct representation of children and juveniles in court are child welfare, juvenile delinquency, and family law proceedings. Attorneys with the North Carolina Guardian ad Litem Program (NC GAL Program) represent children in child welfare proceedings in North Carolina district and appellate courts. This article is a short summary of the NC GAL Program, its purpose, duties, and role in that representation.

Guardian vs. Guardian ad Litem vs. NC GAL Program

A guardian of the person is one who generally has the duties of care, control, and custody of their ward. The term “guardian ad litem” comes from the latin phrase “ad litem” which means “for the purposes of the suit.” A guardian ad litem is usually an individual appointed to appear in a lawsuit on behalf of a minor party or incompetent person. While guardians ad litem may be appointed in a variety of civil and criminal proceedings in North Carolina,[1] the NC GAL Program is only appointed to represent children in abuse, neglect, or dependency (“AND”) proceedings, or termination of parental rights (TPR) proceedings under Subchapter I of the NC Juvenile Code. These cases are initiated when a county department of social services files a juvenile petition; they are sometimes referred to as “DSS court,” but a more accurate name is “child welfare court.”

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“Parental Alienation”: Too Often a Red Herring in Child Custody Cases

Suzanne, a white woman with curly brown hair, wears a white and blank sleeveless blouse and dark circular glasses. She smiles outside.By Suzanne Chester

In October 2020, I wrote about the weaponization of the charge of parental alienation in family court, and how it obscures the multiple legitimate reasons children have for rejecting contact with a parent.

In 2022, three influential organizations took a public position on this issue of parent-child contact problems. The American Professional Society Against Child Abuse (APSAC) is the leading national organization supporting professionals who serve children and families affected by child maltreatment and violence. Over the years, APSAC has repeatedly opposed the harmful presumption among many family court professionals that parental alienation is the reason for a child refusing contact with the other parent. In its most recent position statement, APSAC warns that a rush to blame one parent for the child’s aversion to contact with the other parent results in professionals failing to investigate allegations of abuse or mistreatment and making recommendations that are detrimental to the child’s best interests.

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Juvenile Justice and Children’s Rights Section Annual CLE – April 1, 2022

By Michelle F. Lynch

The Juvenile Justice and Children’s Rights Section annual CLE will be held April 1, 2022, from 9 a.m. to noon. You can attend in person or by live webcast. Register for the CLE here.

The CLE will consist of 3.0 MCLE hours, covering legislative changes in juvenile delinquency law, restorative justice, and family accountability and recovery court:

Chief Judge Elizabeth A. “Beth” Heath (North Carolina District Court for Judicial District 8, Kinston) will present on the Family Accountability and Recovery Court (FARC), which provides treatment, intensive care management, and judicial supervision to increase the likelihood of reunification of families in child welfare cases. Judge Heath has been the “driving force” behind FARC. Due to its success, FARC is now a nationally recognized model. In November 2021, it was selected by the National Center for State Court’s Rural Justice Collaborative (RJC) as one of nine Rural Innovation Sites that will serve as examples for other communities nationwide. Over the next three years, the RJC will work with FARC to create educational materials that will be featured on an online resource center, and will offer visits to FARC by leaders from other communities.

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An Interview With Attorney Jon Powell

By Jared Simmons

Attorney Jon Powell serves as the director of the Restorative Justice Clinic.

Jon Powell

The program receives referrals from the juvenile justice system, juvenile court, and Wake County schools and conducts victim impact and reentry circles in prisons and the community.

The goals of the project are to:

• Give juveniles the opportunity to take responsibility for and become accountable for their actions.

• Give victims the opportunity to learn about and be intimately involved in the outcome of their case.

• Give all parties the opportunity to create an agreement that will address and resolve the harm caused by criminal activity.

• Involve law students in the process of victim/offender mediation as active mediators.

Throughout this dialogue process, law students are involved as active co-mediators with trained law school faculty. This clinical experience provides valuable experience to law students in learning ways to approach and resolve problems which occur from criminal activity. Read more

Reconsidering North Carolina’s Minimum Age of Jurisdiction

By Eric Zogry

In 2019, North Carolina raised the age of juvenile jurisdiction from 16 to 18. This law, which was in effect for a hundred years, addressed the maximum age at which a person would be charged in juvenile court rather than adult court. Much attention was paid to the fact that North Carolina was one of the last states to automatically criminalize 16- and 17-year-olds for any offense. But did you know that North Carolina is currently the only state in the country to charge youth as young as six years old?

The minimum age of jurisdiction is the youngest age a child may be charged with a crime. Though many (29) states have no minimum age, North Carolina has the distinction of being the state with the youngest minimum age. There doesn’t appear to exist any legislative history on why this age was set, so it’s difficult to determine the policy rationale behind setting the age of six.

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When Children Reject Contact With a Parent

By Suzanne Chester

As a child’s attorney, I read an article by the child psychiatrist, Dr. Roy Lubit, with interest. The article is entitled “Valid and invalid ways to assess the reason a child rejects a parent: The continued malignant role of ‘parental alienation syndrome’” and is available in the Journal of Child Custody, 16(1): pages 42-66. Lubit’s article is loosely based on his review of fourteen child custody evaluations in which the forensic evaluator concluded the child had rejected a parent because of “parental alienation.” Lubit exposes the seriously flawed methodology and implicit bias which, he argues, led the evaluators to interpret the facts of the custody case through the lens of “parental alienation,” and to reach the foregone conclusion that “parental alienation” was responsible for the child’s rejection of a parent. By contrast, Lubit explores how a child’s rejection of visitation with a parent is much more often motivated by one of the following reasons: a) the child’s desire to remain with their primary attachment figure; or b) the child’s justified estrangement from a parent as a result of mistreatment or abuse; or c) a parent with major parenting deficiencies. As Lubit remarks: “[t]ragically for both justice and the welfare of children, conclusions concerning why a child rejects a parent frequently have more to do with who is doing the evaluation than the facts of the case and current scientific knowledge” (10).

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No More Minors in Jails

By Jacquelyn Greene 

This article was originally published on the UNC School of Government blog On the Civil Side and has been republished with permission.

No More Minors in Jails

Many people assumed that the implementation of raise the age on December 1, 2019 meant the end of confinement of anyone under 18 in a jail. That was not the case. Even under our new legal framework for juvenile jurisdiction, some youth under 18 still have cases that are handled in criminal court from the very beginning. There is currently no legal mechanism to house these youth in a juvenile detention facility instead of a jail. This changes on August 1, 2020, when Part II of Session law 2020-83 takes effect.

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