WA State guarantees counsel for most children in child welfare cases

Key_development Question_mark

05/10/2021, Legislation, Abuse/Neglect/Dependency - Children

In 2021, the Washington State Legislature enacted HB 1219, which guarantees appointed counsel for children in dependency and termination of parental rights cases, codified at Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 13.34.090(3).  The right will be phased in over 6 years and coordinated through the state's Office of Civil Legal Aid [phase-in schedule found at § 13.34.212(3)(c)].


For children who are younger than eight years old, the court's obligation to appoint only triggers upon the filing of a termination of parental rights petition, although the court retains the power to appoint counsel for young children in the dependency matter prior to the filing of the termination petition. Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 13.34.212(3)(a)(i).  For children over the age of eight, "appointment must be made upon the filing of a new dependency petition at or before the commencement of the shelter care hearing." Wash. Rev. Code Ann. § 13.34.212(3)(a)(ii). 

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: yes



The NCCRC provided supportive testimony and has worked with advocates in WA State for some time on this issue.