Wednesday, April 16, 2008


CITY LIMITS A movement to include more young people in their own Family Court hearings has slowly but surely been gaining momentum over the past several years. The question now, advocates and those involved in the Family Court system say, is not whether it is a good idea to encourage children to participate in their hearings - particularly when the hearings focus on the child's long-term, permanent living situation - but how to make it happen more often.
The Family Court system in New York City, with one court building for each borough, addresses cases of abuse and neglect, adoption, custody and visitation, juvenile delinquency and other matters involving children and families. . .

The movement to encourage more children and youth participation in Family Court began to pick up steam several years ago. While children would attend hearings from time to time, advocates say it was a challenging feat to pull off and there was no clear mandate to include children in hearings. . .

In June of last year, advocates began hearing from children themselves through the citywide Youth Justice Board, a panel of foster children and former foster children under the aegis of the public-private Center for Court Innovation. . . One of the findings of the YJB report was that youth feel like their voice is missing from their cases. "Youth want their needs and opinions to be heard, but they don't always understand how to make that happen. ... The perception from the youth's point of view is that many adults are talking about them, but not many are talking to them." According to the report, some young people have been involved in court proceedings and had a positive experience. One such person was quoted as saying, "They [the people in the courtroom] see your face, they have more understanding. They felt the emotion. I think it goes quicker when they see your face." Another youth said, "I spoke to the judge. I felt like it was all about me - it felt good.". . .

One method of encouraging youth and children to participate in court has been to acclimate them to the court system through an annual "Teen Day," Gendell said, when the calendar is cleared for youth participation all day and teenagers get taken to lunch and meet with judges, judge surrogates called "referees," and law guardians, who are the lawyers appointed to represent children.


At April 16, 2008 4:57 PM, Anonymous m said...

About 15 years ago my son, then 16, decided that my child support payments coupled with a similar monthly sum from his mother, would be enough to provide separate support for himself and his girlfriend in a manner to which they wanted to become accustomed. They found a bottom feeding attorney and a family court "hearing officer" who were happy to play this charade.

Although the outcome was never in doubt, it took hefty retainers from both my ex and myself to put an end to that legal farce.

I discovered that there are indeed "attorneys" who hang around family court just waiting to be appointed to a case. Combining the subpoena power of one, with the exquisite sensitivities and incredible fantasies of the other is not unlike handing a loaded revolver to a toddler.

I am just glad that there was existing case law on the matter, and that I did not get dragged into the County Supreme Court.


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