John F. Kennedy said “children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.” He was right. In Delaware, volunteer attorneys or volunteer advocates have the privilege of representing our most valuable resource in Family Court proceedings through the Office of the Child Advocate and the Court Appointed Special Advocate Program. Senate Bill 188, which was passed by the General Assembly, will bring both programs under one office. Specifically,
This bill transfers the Court Appointed Special Advocate Program to the Office of the Child Advocate creating one office in this State that provides legal representation to children. The bill updates the law to reflect the practices of the Office of the Child Advocate, including ensuring that the child is the party to the proceeding once legal counsel is appointed, that every child is provided legal representation, that the wishes of the child are a significant factor in the legal representation, and that the child’s rights are explained to him or her. Finally, this bill allows the Office of the Child Advocate to assist other Courts of this State in the rare instances where they need legal representation of a child, and will enable OCA to begin to establish volunteer attorney pools to assist in other areas of the law regarding children.
The Bill becomes effective on March 5, 2017.