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Washington Court Considers Foster Children’s Right To Representation
Author: By Brianna Butterfield
Posted: January 28, 2011

Washington’s Supreme Court heard arguments Thursday on whether foster children have a constitutional right to a lawyer in parental termination cases.

Right now the child is not always given a separate attorney.

Casey Trupin is a lawyer with Columbia Legal Services, an advocacy group for foster kids. He told the justices that in parental termination cases the parents have a lawyer, the state has a lawyer.

Casey Trupin: “Which leaves nobody to protect the legal rights of the child, even an 18-month old, has significant legal rights.”

The state disagrees. Peter Gonick is Washington’s Deputy Solicitor General. He told the court that the state already advocates for the best interest of the child in cases where parents are being stripped of their rights.

And, Gonick said the nation’s highest court has already decided the issue.

Peter Gonick: “The United States Supreme Court has recognized that children’s constitutional rights cannot be equated with those of the parent.”

It may take several months for Washington’s high court to decide this case.