The Commission on the Legal Needs of Children will hold its third meeting in Tallahassee on March 3.
Eleventh Circuit Judge Sandy Karlan, chair of the 28-member commission, said so far the group of judges, lawyers and children’s advocates have identified the major areas of concern as follows:
What type of representation does a child need in accordance with the division of court he or she is appearing in front of?
There needs to be some form of uniformity in court for children and their families appearing in division divisions, and this may be related to computer technology.
For example, a child may be in juvenile court on a delinquency matter, while the parents are going through a divorce, and the father is in criminal court for domestic violence.
“There needs to be some coordination between the divisions, where in some places the courthouses are miles apart, so the family can be treated as a whole,” Judge Karlan said.
The commission has also identified the need to educate judges and lawyers and other participants in cases on children’s developmental needs at the time they come to court.
“We talked about The Florida Bar serving as a clearinghouse of information, perhaps through a website, for members of the public trying to find out about legal programs and laws relating to children,” Judge Karlan added. “We can try to give people information so they can avoid going to court.”
The tentative agenda for the March 3 meeting, which begins at 10 a.m. in the Bar Annex, is to hear from children who have been in foster care, as well as a presentation from the director of a program in Ontario, Canada, called the “Office of the Children’s Advocate.”
The goal of the commission, appointed by Bar President Edith Osman, is to assist children who appear in Florida’s courtrooms, whether as victims, witnesses or defendants.