Who can volunteer?
If you are an attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Delaware, you are eligible to represent a child through OCA. In-house corporate counsel admitted to the limited practice of law through Supreme Court Rule 55.1 are also eligible to volunteer. Retired and inactive members are eligible pursuant to Supreme Court Rules 69(d) and 69(f).
Do I have to be a Family Law attorney?
No. Very few of OCA’s volunteer attorneys consider themselves Family Law practitioners. The attorneys are partners and associates alike, and practice in all fields, including corporate litigation, patents, intellectual property, real estate, in-house corporate counsel, criminal, medical malpractice and personal injury. Several retired and inactive attorneys also volunteer, some of whom are stay-at-home parents.
What does representing an abused and/or neglected child involve?
In volunteering to represent the best interests of a child, you are statutorily charged with several duties. Most importantly, you need to develop a relationship with your client. You will want to meet all the people important in the child's life and gather all written documentation regarding the child and his or her parents. You will want to make sure you understand the reasons the child entered foster care (if you have a foster care case), and ensure that the Children's Department is doing what is necessary to remedy those issues. You will also want to ensure that the child is getting the services he or she needs.
What training does OCA provide?
Each year, OCA runs several "Nuts and Bolts" trainings. These trainings are held at the OCA offices, other Court facilities and at individual law firms. The program is for two hours and provides 2.0 CLE credits including .5 Enhanced Ethics. OCA also offers a Brown Bag Lunch Series providing one hour seminars on advanced topics in child advocacy. These topics are chosen from routine inquiries, concerns and suggestions from our pro bono attorneys. These programs also receive 1 CLE credit.
How does OCA match attorneys with children?
When you fill out the volunteer application, OCA asks for your preferences regarding the age of the children you would be willing to represent, and in which counties you would be willing to volunteer. If you have a particular interest or talent that may lend itself to representing a child, please let us know and we will consider that in matching attorneys to children. When a child is in need of representation, OCA will contact you via e-mail or phone to determine your availability. At that time, information will be shared regarding the child's special needs and the role you will need to play in the child's life.
Am I obligated to take a case when asked?
No. OCA understands that attorneys are busy and may not always be available when asked. You may request to be put on hold for a period of time, or simply to take the next case that comes along. However, if you go for an extended period of time without having an active case, OCA may remove you from its volunteer roster or ask you take the training again as a refresher.
What follow up support does OCA provide to its volunteers?
OCA staff is always available to answer your questions. Once you are appointed, OCA will secure your child's file from the Children's Department. OCA staff provide support via telephone and e-mail. The training manual provided at the Nuts and Bolts training includes six chapters of information on the child welfare system as well as phone lists, pleadings, forms, DFS documents, releases, Court rules and statutes and general literature. OCA will help with trial strategy and preparation, mentoring, general questions, interviews, subpoenas, etc. OCA staff will provide whatever assistance is needed. Regardless of the pro bono attorney's need for support by OCA, OCA will still periodically contact all attorneys regarding case status and hours donated.
How am I covered for any liability that may result from representing a child?
29 Del. C. § 9008A indemnifies from liability any OCA volunteer who acts within the scope of his or her appointment, unless the act or omission was done with gross or wanton negligence, or maliciously, or in bad faith.
What are the benefits of volunteering for OCA?
Remember when you went to law school and dreamed of making a difference? By volunteering to represent a child through OCA, you may just get a chance to fulfill that dream. You will have an opportunity to teach a child that there are people in the world who care about him or her, and in turn you will get to learn from that child. You will get to broaden your horizons, and experience an area of the law you may never have experienced before. And occasionally, you may get to dramatically change the course of a child’s life for the better.
In addition, performing pro bono legal work through OCA will help you strive to meet the ABA’s goal of 50 hours of pro bono service per year. You are also eligible to earn 1 CLE credit for every 6 hours of pro bono work you do, for up to 6 credits per reporting period.