The background is this: NACC is looking to set up certification programs for counsel working with children across the country. This includes GALs, AALs, government attorneys, and even parents’ attorneys. The plus sides are obvious: baseline education and training requirements, elevation of the profession to something worthy of requiring special expertise (which it is), and creating cross-organizational relationships of attorneys working in child advocacy.
Just about everyone who has thought or voted on the subject has agreed that it’s a good thing for the attorneys and children of Florida. With one glaring exception: the Florida Association of Counsel for Children (FACC) has taken a strong position against the certification. Why? To roughly quote one of its members: because the GAL Program will get its attorneys certified and then people will think they’re legitimate and we’ll never get rid of them.
The GAL Program’s response was appropriate and measured. Since this is a blog, my critique does not have to be. FACC’s position is short-sighted, ideologically inane, and harmful to their own goal of institutionalizing a representation model in which children are represented directly by competent counsel. Adopting their slant (which I don’t fully agree with), if you want the GAL Program gone, you’re going to have to offer a viable, scalable alternative. Currently, there is none. Good attorneys at DCF and the GAL Program leave on a daily basis to seek careers in other fields of law. That is the enemy. Starving the GAL Program of expertise only furthers the brain drain. By creating a real thing called a counsel for children, you give those attorneys a sense of identity and a level of competence to aim for. With that you hopefully increase the likelihood of them making a career of child advocacy instead of using it as just a band-aid job until something better comes along.
NACC has my vote.