Blue Ridge, GA — Twenty-three Child Welfare Legal Specialist (CWLS) attorneys met in Blue Ridge on June 6-7, 2013, to review and comment on the current state plan for the Supreme Court of Georgia's Committee on Justice for Children. The plan is a requirement for the application process for the federal Court Improvement Grant; this grant comes to the state of Georgia through the Supreme Court solely for improving the process of civil child abuse and neglect cases. The CWLS attorneys were invited to review the plan as a group and give suggestions for improvement for the upcoming years remaining on the plan and the grant.
Attorneys participating in the review included Judge Cassandra Kirk, Juvenile Court, Atlanta Judicial Circuit, Judge Willie Lovett, Juvenile Court, Atlanta Judicial Circuit, Jamie Averett, Wenona C. Belton, Pat Buonodono, Jen Carreras, Laurie-Ann Fallon, Wendy Furey, Darice Good, Karlise Y. Grier, Nathan Hayes, Diana Rugh Johnson, Kristi Lovelace, Robin McCallum, Faye McCord, Kimberly Puckett Mullins, LaMia Saxby, Leslie Stewart, Katherine Terry, Marie Watson, Vicky Wuesthoff, Ashley Willcott, and Stephany Zaic.
“It is really great to have these expert attorneys in our state who represent the different parties in child welfare cases: including the agency, children, and parents, as well as two juvenile court judges,” said Michelle Barclay, Assistant Director for the Administrative Office of the Courts of Georgia. “These experts are an asset for state policy work.”
Georgia has 39 attorneys who are CWLS certified. The certification program, sponsored by the National Association of Counsel for Children, was created and sponsored by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Children's Bureau and is accredited by the American Bar Association. Each local state bar must authorize the CWLS certification availability in its state. The very difficult test to become a CWLS attorney has been authorized for Georgia for approximately five years.
A second meeting for the CWLS attorneys has been scheduled for December 2013 and will focus on improving educational outcomes for children known to the court and agency.