The Juvenile Division of the Office of the Cook County Public Guardian provides legal representation to thousands of abused and neglected children who are wards of the court. Our office is comprised of attorneys, case worker advocates, investigators, paralegals and other support staff dedicated to advocating for the rights of children.
When a case is filed in juvenile court alleging abuse, neglect or dependency, our office is generally appointed to represent the child client as attorney and guardian ad litem (GAL). As attorney we advocate for our client’s wishes and as GAL we advocate for what we believe to be in our client’s best interest. We provide legal advocacy to clients that range in age from birth to 21.
In our role as attorney/GAL, we make recommendations to the court on behalf of our clients, including recommendations regarding needed services and appropriate permanency goals. Our recommendations are based on information we receive from various individuals including our clients, caseworkers, service providers, and caregivers. It is our responsibility to gather all of the pertinent information to ensure that our clients are safe and that the court is well informed about all of the issues impacting our clients’ lives. In order to meet our legal and ethical responsibilities, our attorneys and other trained staff are often in the field attending staffings and interviewing clients. Field work helps us to ensure that our clients’ needs are being met and that we have the most accurate and up to date information available.
As attorneys, we are subject to both statutory and ethical obligations that require us to meet with our clients in order to ascertain their needs, adequately represent their interests and work to ensure their safety. Due to court schedules and the large number of children our office represents, our attorneys are not always able to personally travel and visit clients. Therefore, our office has agents of the attorneys – case worker advocates, paralegals, and investigators – who assist with child interviews. Any staff member assigned to interview a client has specific training and experience in child interviewing. By law, our clients are entitled to attorney-client privilege with their attorney or any of the attorney’s agents. Thus, their interviews are confidential and it is important to this relationship that the interviews only involve our client and the representative from our office.
The child welfare system was designed to protect children, but in many instances the system fails them. It is our goal to ensure that all of our clients are safe and that they achieve permanency goals that are in their best interests. For some clients this means being reunited with their parents; for others it may mean adoption, private guardianship or a court determination that our clients are able to live independently.
All juvenile court proceedings are confidential and are governed by the Juvenile Court Act of 1987