The Child Advocacy Unit (CAU) was created in 1974 and contracts with the City of Philadelphia to represent children. The children we represent:
The Child Advocacy Unit (CAU) first began as a pilot project in 1974. Within just 2 years, it grew into a federally funded program providing legal representation to dependent children. With an initial staff of five, the CAU’s original mandate was to advocate for the protection of a child who was abused, neglected, or deprived, and to represent a child placed on an involuntary mental health commitment.
During this period, Family Court judges appointed the CAU to a child only when there was “a divergence of interest between parent and child.” As judges rotated through Family Court, they relied on the same “divergence of interest” standard to appoint the CAU to represent a child in divorce and adoption proceedings, in paternity suits, and to minor organ donors at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. By the 1977-78 fiscal year, the CAU caseload had skyrocketed to 3002 children.
As a result of a 1990 class action lawsuit, T.M. v. City of Philadelphia, the Family Court was ordered to appoint a child advocate to every child in Philadelphia with a dependent petition. The CAU received the bulk of the dependency cases of Philadelphia children and youth moving forward.
While the CAU continued to grow, the interdisciplinary approach of law and social work grew along with it. As soon as the CAU receives a court appointment order, each child is assigned a social worker and attorney team to represent them. It was, and continues to be, the belief of the CAU that the combined practice of law and social work leads to the most comprehensive approach to representing our clients.
Throughout the 90s and into the early years of 2000 the numbers of children the CAU represented continued to increase significantly. As a result, more attorneys and social workers were hired to ensure that the specific needs of each client could be closely addressed and to continue to promote zealous representation and best outcomes for our clients. As of 2023 there are 32 social workers, 29 attorneys and 5 administrative staff employed full time at the CAU.
Child Advocate Attorneys complete independent assessments of dependency cases and advocate in court for the delivery of services to our clients and their families.
Child Advocate Social Workers assess a child’s emotional, social, physical, and educational needs.
The assigned CAU Attorney and Social Worker:
Our clients are represented by an attorney and social worker team who work together throughout the life of a case to:
Types of Hearings: