The Access to Counsel Systemic Advocacy Project

Students in the Access to Counsel Systemic Advocacy Project (ASAP) work to increase access to quality legal counsel for young people involved in the foster care system through research, litigation, community outreach and legislative advocacy.

When a child is removed from home due to abuse or neglect, decisions about where she will live, the services she will receive and the family relationships she can maintain are determined by judges in a courtroom. In this situation, an attorney can advocate for the desires of a child, whether those desires are to remain with her parents, to maintain sibling contact or to receive services for her educational and mental health needs.

Defending Our Children: A Child's Access to Justice in Washington State is a 2016 Status Report published by The Access to Counsel Systemic Advocacy Project. This report combines first person accounts by former foster youth with data from a comprehensive court observation study in Snohomish, King and Pierce county dependency courts, a statewide county-by-county survey of appointment policies and real life anecdotes of successful attorney advocacy to demonstrate the significant, positive impact the appointment of an attorney can have in a child's life. The lesson of this report is clear: children in Washington's foster care system deserve better and will benefit greatly from the universal appointment of an attorney.

Defending Our Children is a follow up to a 2015 Court Observation report.

If you know a child or youth in foster care that you think could benefit from the assistance of an attorney, ASAP may be able to help them.

Washington State Law (RCW 13.34.100(7)(a)) gives the following people the right to request an attorney for a child in a dependency action:

  • children
  • biological parents
  • caregivers
  • guardian ad litems (including CASAs)
  • the department (DSHS)

If you are an attorney interested in presenting a Motion to Appoint counsel on a dependency case, download the template motion.