One headline read People Seeking Justice In Congo Turn To Children the other read Who Speaks For Kids In Dependency Court? The latter left me with more questions than answers. Why was I holding onto these articles? Did I once dream of becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA)? How does one become a CASA? Was I going to put back on my white hat and lobby in my state capitol for those who do not have a voice? How many CASAs are in my state? Who are the other 15 states that depend on CASA? How has the law changed in 13 years? What I do know is I am puzzled why a child does not have legal counsel, as it is the child who is at risk. Is it me or is it wrong to only appoint a lawyer when a child requests one? Lawyers, just like social workers, are not always seen as the good guys. The stigma society has put on these professions is real. Why not implement some of what they do in the Congo in America? For example, the Children’s Parliament, which is an official forum for students to look at local and global problems and come up with their own solutions. The aim of the project is to inform youth about political processes and get them involved in their schools and communities. Although the parliament cannot render legal rulings, officers do offer recommendations — “moral advice,” Kayumba called it — based on their study of Congolese law and U.N. conventions on children’s rights. “We listen to both parties and try to assist them based on the conventions and the constitution,” Kayumba added. Most adults listen to their decisions, he said, but “if not, we contact the special police. The police do not always follow up, but when they do, consequences can range from a reprimand to fines to jail time, depending on Congolese law,” Kayumba said.
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