Child Advocacy Unit

A voice for those who need it most

The Child Advocacy Unit (CAU) was created in 1974 and contracts with the City of Philadelphia to represent children, ranging from birth to twenty-one years old, who:

  • Have open dependent petitions in Philadelphia Family Court;
  • Are victims of neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or abandonment;
  • Are truant or incorrigible;
  • Are facing mental health challenges;
  • Need additional supports as they transition into adult living;
  • Desire to reenter the dependent system through a Resumption of Jurisdiction Motion

An attorney is appointed by the Philadelphia Family Court to act as a voice for children involved with the dependency court system.

We employ an integrated, team-based approach where attorneys and social workers work together throughout the life of a case to:

  • Protect the child’s legal rights;
  • Advocate for their best interest; and
  • Promote permanency, stability, well-being, and positive outcomes

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:

  • Review the dependency petition
  • Meet with the client
  • Develop a theory of the case
  • Identify & prepare witnesses
  • Review documents & prepare exhibits
  • Research & write legal memoranda
  • Prepare social work assessments & recommendations
  • Litigate the case in court
  • Provide legal and social work recommendations to the court

We are guided by the principles and ethics of the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law, the Juvenile Act, and the Adoption and Safe Families Act.

Connect with the Child Advocacy Unit

Doni Shaffer, CAU Chief 

Marni Gangel, CAU Assistant Chief 

James Haley, Director, CAU Social Services