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Spring 2023 The Law Office of George J. Skuros Justice in Family Law Scholarship Winner

Anysha Luna

The Law Office of George J. Skuros is honored to partially ease the burden of Anysha’s school expenses as she pursues her degree. After graduating from North Carolina State University, Anysha hopes to use her education to work in family law and advocate for those who may not be able to do so for themselves. In her essay, Anysha focuses on the importance of understanding childhood development when working in family law.

Anysha Luna

Read Anysha's Essay:

Early childhood development is an essential point of study and is critical for the development of cognitive abilities, language, and psychosocial skills, which are reliant on the child-parent relationship. Despite childhood development being of significant importance, the law has been significantly indifferent to the oscillation of early childhood development. The American court system has expressed its concern on making sure the child's best interests are met. The law should approach children in a manner consistent with a child's evolving capacities. Since events which occur throughout childhood influences their trajectory, the law should take into account the growing research pertaining to childhood development to foster the healthy development of children.

Early childhood is an essential period of uniquely important development, which cultivates the utmost essential life skills and a crucial component of development is between a child and parent or caregiver. Examining how childhood development and cognitive development would encourage legal reform would indicate that alternative approaches should be taken in working with children based on their experiences. The law should recognize the nature of children's capacities and identity to combat the powerlessness of children's voices. The focus on children's cases involving abuse and neglect demonstrate how the legal field is not adequately focusing on the impact and effects of childhood development. In addition, social and cognitive development theories convey that the law has largely ignored the impact of this research and has had little impact on legal reform. As many children are subjected to abuse and neglect, children are not achieving their developmental potential and progress among the legal system has been slow. This is important as expanding the law's focus from developmental facts to developmental effects of how the law can enhance children's achievements can improve children's rights. Achieving adequate placement for children needs to be specific to their needs. The child’s needs should be acted upon expeditiously to provide the utmost stability and well-being for the child and is critical for the well being of the child. The constitutional challenge to effectively protect children is aided by implementing approaches to focus on the best interests of the child. Even though the rights of children differ from those of adults since children are more vulnerable and are at risk for experiencing more traumatic events with the case procedure, they are capable of making informed decisions in a majority of cases.

One issue in legal cases involving children, is the idea that all children have the same developmental capacities. But, they do not. Each child's capability varies as each seven year old may not have the same level of capability. Reasons for this are a child's vulnerability and the differing factors in their environment may expose them to risks they may not be capable of defending themselves from. When evaluating what is for the best interest of the child, there should be an evaluation of ensuring they have minimal disruptions, and taking note of how their routine may change. An essential component to allowing children to have as much autonomy as possible and achieve their best interests which may differ from what their parents desire. The duty of the attorney is to have adequate knowledge of the multidisciplinary aspects such as psychology to adequately convey the abuse and neglect that children face. This includes being aware of the child's developmental process and understanding the input from any doctors, psychologists, counselors, and social workers. As well as consulting in a manner that children are able to interpret and understand.

Children who have experienced abuse and neglect are at an increased risk for a myriad of problematic development, mental health outcomes, and psychosocial problems such as internalizing or externalizing symptoms, which have dire consequences when they reach adulthood. Responding to the needs of children who have experienced severe and dire neglect will aid in the associated trauma.

Working with children to ensure that the law is performing in a conductive respect for human rights and the rights of the children is an ongoing process within the legal field. Understanding their differences and advocating for their refinement has garnered increased legal intentions and implications throughout and is working to recognize the nature of children's capacities and the role that the law plays in fostering and enhancing children's growth. In order to best represent children efficiently, attorneys need to develop a role to effectively understand children's psychological developmental capacities and how to best serve them. Understanding the importantness and being aware of early childhood development in child abuse and neglect cases is important for the development of in early childhood for their overall health and competence of children.

Looking at developmental psychology in understanding how to treat children allows those handling the case to effectively look into and determine what is the best course of action to determine the role of the child in the case and how the law could be improved in this area. Establishing coherence between the role of psychology and the law and assigning a merited role and empirically supported role of child development where the role of child development is relevant to legal contexts.

As a result, considering childhood development in the legal system will allow more effective communication between a child and the counsel, which is essential for adequate representation and protecting the child's best interests. This allows those to obtain imperative information from children. In addition, this aids in eliciting important information in the courtroom. When approached in a manner that is consistent with their developmental stage, they are much more likely to testify in a supportive and sensitive manner

The courts play a vital role in making decisions regarding the protection of children who have experienced maltreatment. The resources and information offered from interdisciplinary approaches to help the child determine their best needs. Ramifications to advocate from more involvement from courts and the legal community in improving the efforts of understanding their best fit to prevent child maltreatment and invest in services to best serve children. The overview of legal representation in child’s proceedings, which include child abuse and neglect cases. The benefit of an attorney understanding the role of development would most benefit families and ensure that attorneys are using the best practices. The increased understanding of trauma-informed legal advocacy and how the trauma of neglect and abuse impacts child development. The attorney-client relationship with the child would best ensure that the legal system could best respond to allegations and emotionally help children recover from the abuse and neglect that they have faced, the legal system response, and provide overall efficiency for the cases.

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