Until we Guarantee
Also available in Russian (http://bit.ly/2k833oG)
Throughout my career as a private practitioner, I have advocated for a "bad results review panel" in the cases in which I specialize. Why? Because absent the scrutiny of an objective "outsider," a child's right to appeal on "ineffective assistance of counsel" grounds is a cruel illusion.
Please Note: A "child protective proceeding" is not a divorce/custody/visitation case, regardless how such may be characterized by one or both "sides."
Calling oneself a "protective parent" is a self–awarded medal. Adults continually request (some even demand) that I represent a child consistent with one parent's view (or interpretation) of the facts. I always refuse, pointing out that were I to accept such cases, the first party to reach me would be the determiner of the child's "best interests." As a result, I am often heatedly accused of being "anti–protective parent."
Such manipulators typically claim I refuse cases on a bizarre variety of grounds, including "based on aversion to the difficulties inherent in defending a child from his father," When challenged, they disappear ... only to emerge in some other forum, feverishly gossiping their bogus "information" about my practice.
Thanks to unsourced Internet "information," I receive correspondence from strangers demanding to know if it is true that I "routinely ask [the court] that the non–abusive mother be charged with neglect." Those who disguise such moronic venom with "I'm just curious" camouflage never disclose the source of what they "heard." As Facebook is notorious for no–standards "journalism," what anything anyone "hears" is instantly at risk for becoming Internet Truth.
One common "accusation" is true: I am opposed to parading abuse victims before TV audiences on the spurious ground that "it will help other children." When I say "opposed," I am not talking about some lofty "position" ... I am bluntly saying that I don't do this, I have never done this, and I won't do this. Sure, I know "plenty of others lawyers do it." But taking my refusals to do so as being "against protective parents" is downright bizarre.
When I refuse a case in which an adult charges his/her child was "brainwashed," when I sneer at the Parental Alienation or False Memory "Syndrome(s)" [sic], I am applauded. But when I refuse a case every time an adult expects me to represent his/her interests, I am instantly branded as one of "them." The essence of my work is independence. I represent children only, not adults who wish to determine the child's "best interests" themselves and evaluate my effectiveness thereby. I fought (and still fight) the "backlash," but I do not believe adopting the pendulum–opposite position is defensible—an investigator who blindly accepts the "Believe the Children!" chant isn't worthy of the title. As I have said many times, what we seek is a system in which only wrongdoers fear the truth.
"Child protection" is a rhetoric–driven business. Hell, NAMBLA self–styles as a "child advocacy organization." The assignment of "child advocate" status to the unqualified or the self–interested is a major threat to genuine child protection. No lawyer retained to represent one parent against another can claim he or she is representing the child who is the subject of the proceedings.
The claim that some people "can always tell" when a narrative is truthful is both narcissistic and pernicious. I stand far away from those who claim "children never lie" about child sexual abuse ... and equally far away from those who bleat about "witch hunts" and "the CPS industry." As a result, I often have the experience of standing in a crossfire.
From my perspective, based on decades of experience at ground–zero, the most damaging "systemic" child abuse is the refusal of some jurisdictions to provide independent counsel to children in abuse and neglect matters. As a fraudulent "substitute," some states provide a "Guardian ad Litem" in the form of a lay person (such as a "CASA" volunteer), thus denying children the same right to counsel that we routinely grant to serial killers.
I am well aware that any litigant (be they self–proclaimed "protective parent" or targeted as a "non–admitting abuser") will judge the performance of the child's counsel by how close that lawyer's view of the facts matches their own. Unless a child's courtroom advocates are: (a) unfettered by any control other than seeking the best result for their client, and (b) subject to potential appellate review for failure to do so, courtroom advocacy will continue to be perceived as "taking sides" with an adult instead of representing a child client.
I am quite confident that I would not pass the "true believer" litmus test of some of the individuals who are always sponsoring "protective parent" legislation ... legislation often Internet "cited," but which never seems to be actually enacted. That's why I don't sign the endless stream of e–petitions, and why our site does not link to books written by "protective parents" or by those who make their living working for those they claim have been victimized by "false allegations."
Bottom line? I don't have to be on your side—it is enough that I am (always) on the child's side.
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