Child Advocate Lawyer: Career Information and Education Requirements

Child advocate lawyers are a positive voice for children in the legal system. Focusing in child advocacy law allows lawyers to defend the legal rights of children and help ensure that children's best interests are protected in the courtroom.

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Career Information

Child advocate lawyers work cooperatively with social workers, investigators, guardians ad litem and educational advocates to be a voice for youth during court proceedings. Most often, the child advocate lawyer is an individual who is appointed by the court system to communicate the best wishes of a child who does not have a legal guardian or who is in the foster care system. Frequently, children need a legal advocate because they are victims of abuse, abandonment or neglect. Defending the rights of children at the state and federal level is the primary responsibility of a child advocate lawyer.

Child advocate lawyers try to minimize disruption in the lives of children in the foster care system by using legal methods to keep siblings together, ensuring children have access to adequate healthcare and finding sustainable foster care assignments. They make recommendations to the court on what they feel is best for the child. In some states, if this recommendation is in conflict with the child's own wishes, then the child advocate lawyer must also communicate what the child feels is best.

Many states have an office of the child advocate that exists to promote child welfare in the courts. Child advocate lawyers work for state or local offices of the child advocate, non-profit organizations and independent law offices.

Education Requirements

A child advocate lawyer must meet the educational requirements to be a licensed attorney, including earning a Juris Doctor (J.D.) law degree. Future lawyers who wish to specialize in child advocacy may complete coursework in family law, children and the law, criminal investigations, domestic violence and criminal defense. Most states have no additional education requirements for independent lawyers advocating for children, but a few states require child advocate lawyers to complete continuing education courses related to the well being of children. To be appointed as a guardian ad litem by the courts in some states, a child advocate lawyers may need to complete state-specific training or continuing education coursework.

The National Association of Counsel for Children (NACC) has a certification available for attorneys. Child advocate lawyers who work in child welfare law and meet education and proficiency criteria established by the NACC, may become a Child Welfare Law Specialist (www.naccchildlaw.org).

Salary Information and Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the field of lawyers will grow by 10% between 2012 and 2022, which is slower than the national average job growth of 11%. The BLS also reported that the median annual salary for lawyers was $113,530 as of May 2012.

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