Mississippi finally authorizes appointment of counsel in child welfare cases

Key_development Question_mark

05/13/2016, Legislation, Abuse/Neglect/Dependency - Accused Parents

In 2016, the Mississippi Legislature enacted a law authorizing youth court judges to appoint counsel for parents in child welfare cases.  Until 2016, Mississippi was the only state that did not authorize appointment of counsel for parents in such cases (and the vast majority of states require appointment).  See Miss. Code §§ 43-21-201(2) ("If the court determines that a parent or guardian who is a party in an abuse, neglect or termination of parental rights proceeding is indigent, the youth court judge may appoint counsel to represent the indigent parent or guardian in the proceeding"); 99-18-13(2) ("The State Defender may provide representation to parents or guardians who have been determined by the youth court judge to be indigent and in need of representation in an abuse, neglect or termination of parental rights proceeding or appeal therefrom.  Representation may be provided by staff or contract counsel including, but not limited to, by contract with legal services organizations.")


This statutory change comes on the heels of a report on pilot representation projects that showed the impact of providing counsel for parents in theses cases.

Appointment of Counsel: discretionary Qualified: no



The NCCRC gave some input on the bill language.