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When the state seeks to intervene into a family on behalf of a child who may have been abused or neglected, how can a child's views be made known to the important decision makers in the child's case? This question is at once logistically complex and desperately important to the child. The logistical complications stem from many sources: the child's inability to rely on her most natural representative, her parent; the probability that the child at critical moments in the case is traumatized or under great emotional stress; the problems of a child's encountering an adult system of law and bureaucracy which may, due to resource constraints, function based on adult priorities; and the complexity of personal and social issues that might have led to the concerns about the child's welfare. At the same time, the question is vital. The decision makers in a child protective proceeding literally decide for the child the central questions of her daily life. Where is home? Who takes care of me? Who are my parents, my siblings, my extended family and my classmates?
The international community has nearly unanimously and repeatedly committed itself to assure the child the ability to express her views freely during this extraordinarily difficult and extraordinarily crucial juncture in her life. One hundred and ninety-four countries have signed and 192 countries have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child ("Convention" or "CRC") which obligates its parties to create legislation and programs for the protection of children, create procedures assuring fairness in removal of children from their homes, and assure children the right to express themselves freely in all matters affecting them, including the right to be heard in judicial and administrative proceedings such as child protective proceedings. Even the United States, one of the two non-ratifying signatories to the Convention has independently provided children with representatives in these proceedings around the country for nearly thirty years. It is clear that there is an international consensus that children deserve a voice in these proceedings, either by means of their own direct participation or through a representative individual or agency.
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