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Juvenile and Family Law Program Co-hosts Symposium

November 17, 2006

Colorado Calls for Changes to Role of Guardian ad Litem on November 9th and 10th. The Juvenile and Family Law Program teamed up with the Colorado Office of the Child’s Representative to host a symposium titled Voices of Youth in the Courtroom: Is it Time for a Change?

The symposium initiated a conversation in Colorado about how best to implement the recommendation of the PEW Commission on Foster Care that “children and parents have a direct voice in the courtroom.” Approximately 200 attorneys, judges, advocates, and students participated in the symposium, which featured speakers from around the country.

The symposium began with an overview of the child welfare system and the representation of children, given by Marvin Ventrell, Executive Director of the National Association of Counsel for Children. Five former foster youth, in a panel moderated by Professor Colene Robinson, described their struggles and real life experiences, focusing on the legal process. A panel of speakers from New Mexico, which recently changed its standard for representation of foster youth, spoke about their experience. This panel included the Honorable Petra Jimenez Maes of the New Mexico Supreme Court. After lunch, the Honorable Mary Mullarkey, Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court, delivered the keynote address. Justice Mullarkey spoke of the need for change and the importance of representation of children in foster care. This was followed by an informative presentation by Miriam Krinsky, Executive Director of the Children’s Law Center of Los Angeles, and Leslie Heimov, Policy Director at the Project Director and also of the Children’s Law Center of Los Angeles, and Clinical Professor Donald Duquette, of the University of Michigan Law School. This panel addressed reforms occurring around the country. In a very engaging talk, Emily Buss, Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School and Kanter Director of Chicago Policy Initiatives, addressed the interplay between child development and a child’s ability to participate in the legal process. To end the day, Andrea Khoury from the ABA Center on Children and the Law, discussed the ethical considerations of various representation models. Symposium participants then enjoyed a generous reception sponsored by the Juvenile Law Section of the Colorado Bar Association.

The second day of the symposium began with an overview of issues, presented by Annette Appell, Associate Dean for Clinical Studies and William S. Boyd Professor of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Professor Appell set forth five questions for the participants to address. Participants were then divided into small working groups to discuss the questions. After substantial time for discussion, the groups reconvened and shared their recommendations for giving youth a voice in the courtroom in Colorado. This was a highly energizing and energized discussion that left participants feeling as though change could be made soon in Colorado.

There was widespread consensus that Colorado should do more to give youth a voice in the courtroom. The symposium concluded with a sit-down lunch sponsored by the State Court Administrator’s Office. The first annual “Spirit of the Summit” awards were presented to a Colorado judge, a county attorney, a guardian ad litem, and a respondent parent’s counsel. The awards recognized the outstanding work of individuals in improving the lives of children and parents in the child welfare system.

Comments about the symposium: “Excellent, thought-provoking symposium” “Thank you for putting on this very special symposium” “So passionate and informative. Very smart and well-delivered.” “Appreciated diversity of views presented” “This was a great symposium. One of the best I’ve been to in a long time.”

Atendees of ?Voices of Youth in the Courtroom: Is it Time for a Change??

Lorenzo A. Trujillo speaking at the symposium on legal representation of youth in foster care

Judge Cisneros from El Paso County presents Respondent Parents? attorney, Bill Webb, with Spirit of the Summit award for excellent legal representation

Participents in the Voices of Youth symposium

Participents in the Voices of Youth symposium