Probate Guardianships and Dependency Law: Undervalued but Richly Rewarding

We are excited to bring you this unique and informative crossover issue related to the black sheep of the legal profession: protecting children. As a former child welfare attorney (Amanda) and practicing probate attorneys (both of us), we know first-hand that Probate Guardianships and Juvenile Dependency are often overlooked and undervalued in the legal profession – the pay is poor, the caseloads are high, and the work is hard. But these practices are rich, highly specialized fields that encompass a wide range of legal issues found not only in the Probate or Welfare and Institutions Codes: practitioners must also be familiar with education law, public benefits law, federal funding laws, “Indian” law, and constitutional rights. While at times these cases may feel as if they grind at an attorney’s soul, there is a level of satisfaction that comes from them that is not found in any other practice area.

Many attorneys enter the practice of law with the goal of finding meaning and a purpose in their work. They want to make a difference in the world, yet come away each day knowing that they have only helped the hollow shell of a corporate void. Sure, corporate voids need attention, but that is the subject of for other issues of the magazine. Attorneys representing families in protective proceedings know that they are making a difference on a day-to-day basis as they are able to see the fruits of their labor.

In this issue, we will explore what it means to families, children, and practitioners to be involved in protective proceedings, the overlap of safety and money, what actions the government must take when it removes children from their homes, and what happens when the government seeks to permanently sever parental rights. We hope this crossover issue gives members the opportunity to look behind the curtain of protective proceedings, and find that while the work is hard,  it is also intellectually stimulating and deeply meaningful.