Refer a Child to OCA & Resources For Parents & Individuals
The Office of the Child Advocate may be a resource for children and families who experience issues that need to be resolved through the courts, through the child welfare system, or through a variety of other systems. OCA’s referral process is described below. For children and families needing additional services, a list of community resources is also provided.
Refer a Child to OCA
OCA coordinates a legal representation program for children in Delaware, which includes the Court Appointed Special Advocate Program (CASA). While OCA primarily represents children in the custody of the state’s Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families (DSCYF or the Children’s Department), there are circumstances in which OCA may appoint a Child Attorney to represent children who are the subject of private child welfare proceedings in Family Court, such as custody, termination of parental rights, or guardianship proceedings.
If you know of a child with a history of abuse or neglect and who has proceedings pending in Delaware's Family Court, they may be eligible for a Child Attorney through OCA.
Calling OCA is not a substitute for reporting child abuse - if at any time you feel a child is abused or neglected, you must call the DFS Report Line at 1-800-292-9582 or make a report online at Iseethesigns.org .
Making a Referral
OCA regularly receives referrals from biological parents, step-parents, relatives, schools, counselors and psychologists, medical professionals, and the Court system indicating that the child would benefit from their own independent legal representation in an upcoming Family Court proceeding.
- Child's name and date of birth
- Parents' names
- Pending Family Court proceedings, including hearing dates and judicial officers
- Family Court file number(s)
- Situation involving the child
- Your name and contact information, including email address
All referral sources and OCA records are confidential pursuant to 29 Del. C. § 9006A.
Once OCA receives a referral on a child, OCA staff may contact the referent for additional information. OCA staff will then request and review records from the Delaware Children's Department and the Delaware Family Court. This process may take up to 6 weeks. Faxing copies of Family Court records in your possession along with other pertinent documentation may speed up the review process. After all compiled records are reviewed, the Chief Policy Advisor evaluates the risk factors in the case. These risk factors include but are not limited to the following: history of abuse/neglect, domestic violence in the home, drug/alcohol history, and mental health history. The Chief of Legal Services then makes the final decision, based upon a recommendation, as to whether or not a Child Attorney will be appointed for the child.
Appointment of Child Attorney
If OCA decides it is appropriate to appoint an attorney, OCA will file a motion with the Family Court requesting appointment of a Child Attorney. Once Family Court orders the appointment, the attorney becomes a party to the proceedings and has the authority to review all documents and interview all pertinent persons having significant information relating to the child and the child's life circumstances.
When a Child Attorney is Not Appointed
If the risk factors are low, or if there is no pending action in Family Court, OCA will generally not appoint an attorney. However, if there are child welfare system concerns, OCA may conduct a review and address any safety issues/concerns with the Delaware Children's Department. OCA staff will also do their best to help callers find appropriate resources to meet the needs of children and families. Referents may feel free to call OCA again if the child's situation or Family Court involvement changes.
900 King Street
Wilmington, DE 19801
Main line: (302) 255-1730
Fax: (302) 577-6831
400 Court Street
Dover, DE 19901
Fax: (302) 672-1125
6 West Market Street
Georgetown, DE 19947
Main line: (302) 856-5720
Fax: (302) 677-7027