Children’s Representation Program
OCLA administers the Children’s Representation Program (CRP). The mission of the CRP is to underwrite and oversee the delivery of effective standards-based, trauma-informed, and culturally-competent attorney representation for children subject to dependency and termination proceedings in Washington State.
RCW 13.34.212 governs the appointment of counsel for children in dependency and termination proceedings. Pursuant to RCW 13.34.212(1)(a) “the court shall appoint an attorney for a child in a dependency proceeding six months after granting a petition to terminate the parent-child relationship.” Children whose parents’ rights have been terminated are often referred to as “legally free.” Legally free children who remain dependent six months post-termination of parental rights have been afforded the right to counsel under the law since 2014.
In 2021, the Legislature expanded a child’s right to counsel in dependency proceedings. Codified at RCW 13.34.212(3), this new legislation ensures, subject to the availability of funds appropriated for this purpose:
- Appointment of counsel for all children 0-7 upon the filing of a termination petition
- Appointment of counsel for all children 8-17 years old at or before the commencement of the shelter care hearing and for any pending or open dependency case where counsel has not already been appointed or privately secured
The implementation of this new legislation shall be phased in, county by county, over a six year period, beginning in at least three counties by July 1, 2022 and being fully implemented across the state by January 1, 2027. (See Implementation Schedule below.) OCLA is responsible for the development of the phase-in schedule, as well as the recruitment, training, oversight, and payment of attorneys appointed thereunder. OCLA is further responsible for recruiting, training, overseeing and paying attorneys appointed to represent young people in Extended Foster Care pursuant to RCW 13.34.267-268 under the same implementation schedule. OCLA will prioritize continuity of counsel for children who are already represented by counsel at county expense when the legislation becomes effective in that county. Courts continue to be responsible for the actual appointment of attorneys under this law.
Attorneys contracted with OCLA are required to adhere to the practice, training, and caseload standards as adopted by the Statewide Children’s Representation Workgroup. This workgroup was first appointed by the Washington State Supreme Court Commission on Children in Foster Care in 2010 and has reconvened in 2021 to update and revise the original standards. Updated standards are anticipated to be published by Fall 2022.
If you are an attorney licensed in the State of Washington and want to be considered for inclusion in the panel of contracting attorneys, contact:
Children’s Representation Program Manager
Office of Civil Legal Aid
PO Box 41183
Olympia, WA 98504-1183
July 2022: Lewis, Grant, Cowlitz
Jan 2023: Yakima, Benton, Franklin, Walla Walla, Kittitas
Jan 2024: Thurston, Mason, Adams, Grays Harbor, Pacific, Klickitat, Skamania
Jan 2025: Pierce, Whitman, Stevens, Ferry, Pend Oreille
Jan 2026: Spokane, Lincoln, Kitsap, Clallam, Jefferson, Chelan, Douglas, Clark, Skagit, Whatcom
Jan 2027: King, Snohomish, Okanogan, Asotin, San Juan, Island, Wahkiakum, Garfield, Columbia
New Study Confirms the Value of Early Appointment of Attorneys for Children in Dependency Cases
In 2017 the Washington State Legislature funded OCLA to conduct a three year study of the impact of standards based legal representation for children involved in child welfare proceedings. Final publication of the Study Report was released in November 2021 documenting significant positive impacts from the early appointment of standards-based, well-trained attorneys for children and youth.
Resources Page for Children’s Representation Attorneys.