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The National Association of Counsel for Children (NACC) is the body concerned with certifying child welfare law specialists. The association aims to provide high-quality legal services to children and families in the child welfare, family law and juvenile justice systems. Although once admitted to the bar attorneys are licensed to practice in any area of law, designation as a child welfare law specialist encourages specialization. As a result, attorneys work towards offering the best quality of services to improve the outcomes for children and families.
An attorney needs to have substantial involvement of at least 30 percent of his time in child welfare matters for a minimum of at least three years to be considered for certification as a specialist. Serving in the role of a child’s lawyer or legal guardian is one of the ways in which an attorney can demonstrate involvement. Working on a child’s case on behalf of a parent, government or an agency also shows that an attorney has been in the practice of child welfare. The work involves handling permanent and temporary custody applications, foster care, guardianship and adoption matters.
The NACC considers the applications of attorneys that have satisfactory peer reviews from other professionals in the child welfare field. An attorney seeking certification as a child welfare specialist needs to furnish the association with evidence of attestations of competence from other child law welfare specialists who are familiar with his work. The association requires that attorneys have at least five references, one of whom should be a judge who handles children’s matters. The attorney also needs to have good standing as a member of the bar in the state in which he was admitted.
Attorneys who wish to be certified as child law welfare specialists need to have participated in at least 36 hours of continuous legal education prior to making the application. The topics that are relevant to the practice of child welfare law include trial practice, child development, child abuse and neglect, family dynamics and relationships and dispute resolution. The attorney also needs to submit a writing sample such as an article, appellate brief or trial court memorandum, which goes towards demonstrating his ability to undertake critical legal analysis of children’s issues.
The national child welfare exam is the final stage of the certification process. An attorney is only allowed to take the exam once he has satisfied all other requirements for certification. Attorneys have an opportunity to prepare for the exam when they attend a one-day conference the association organizes to go through a survey and training course that familiarizes them with the nature of the questions that will be asked. An attorney is certified as a child welfare law specialist when he passes the exam. Note that certification is only valid for five years after which recertification is required.
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