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Gonzaga to train attorneys to represent children and parents in dependency cases

Students at Gonzaga Law School will have a chance to study and specialize in child and family dependency law.
Screenshot from Gonzaga Law School video
Students at Gonzaga Law School will have a chance to study and specialize in child and family dependency law.

Gonzaga’s School of Law has begun an initiative aimed at training more attorneys to represent children and parents in child abuse and neglect cases.

The school is working with two state judicial offices, the Washington State Office of Civil Legal Aid and the Washington State Office of Public Defense, to create the Children and Parents Rights and Justice Initiative.

Associate Dean Agnieszka McPeak says a law passed by Washington’s legislature in 2021 gives children who must appear in court the right to state-appointed attorneys.

“Washington state, before that, really did not have a universal guarantee to right-to-counsel to minors in these types of proceedings and it was really that legislative change that has created the universal right which is where the need for hundreds of lawyers comes from," she said.

McPeak says there aren’t enough attorneys who represent children and parents in the first place and many who do work in this area are retiring. The new initiative will provide second- and third-year law students the chance to get specialized instruction.

“As far as I’m aware, we will be only among a handful that have this type of emphasis," she said. "We are beginning this project with really what we’re calling a concentration for our law students, where they can take a set curriculum that really gives them the substantive legal knowledge they need for this work, but also some of the practical skills training that is unique to this area of work.”

She says Gonzaga is a good institution for this, given its emphasis on social justice, and interest from students is already strong.

“I think this has a lot of appeal to our students, some of whom are survivors of the system and some who are drawn to do public interest work in general. So we’re already seeing a lot of interest and a lot of positive feedback on going this route and I will say that this need for lawyers is creating great job opportunities and fulfilling career paths for students as well," she said.

McPeak says this specialized curriculum will be available to students next fall.

Doug Nadvornick has spent most of his 30+-year radio career at Spokane Public Radio and filled a variety of positions. He is currently the program director and news director. Through the years, he has also been the local Morning Edition and All Things Considered host (not at the same time). He served as the Inland Northwest correspondent for the Northwest News Network, based in Coeur d’Alene. He created the original program grid for KSFC. He has also served for several years as a board member for Public Media Journalists Association. During his years away from SPR, he worked at The Pacific Northwest Inlander, Washington State University in Spokane and KXLY Radio.