Lawyers looking out for Clark County foster kids

Updated August 13, 2017 - 10:37 am

Resort lawyer Kim Sinatra has a very different clientele away from her day job: at-risk children.

Sinatra, the general counsel for Wynn Resorts Ltd., represents foster children through the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada. The nonprofit represents about 85 percent of Clark County’s foster children.

“You really can make a difference,” Sinatra said. “If we can provide a lawyer for every kid in foster care it’s going to give them a much better chance of surviving the system.”

That goal — representing all 3,300 or so foster care children in the county — could be reached by early 2018 if Clark County commissioners vote Tuesday to increase county recording fees, Legal Aid Center Executive Director Barbara Buckley said.

Buckley, a lawyer and former state assemblywoman who launched the Children’s Attorneys Project in 1999, said the increase in services will be a huge win for a vulnerable population.

“We believe that children are the most important people in a child welfare case and that they deserve to have an attorney to protect and advance their interests, to help them understand the judicial process and feel empowered,” she said. “The government has a lawyer, the person accused of abuse has a lawyer, but the kid didn’t have a lawyer before we started this program. We’ve changed that.”

To fund the increase in services, county commissioners will vote to double the recording fee to $6 on Oct. 1. Buckley said the rate hike is expected to generate about $1.9 million a year in funding for the Legal Aid Center.

The change is in response to Senate Bill 305, which mandates that a child who is alleged to have been abused or neglected shall be represented by an attorney during civil proceedings. The bill was adopted during the 2017 Nevada Legislature.

Buckley said Nevada is the 41st state to declare that foster children have a right to independent legal counsel.

Contact Michael Scott Davidson at sdavidson@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861. Follow @davidsonlvrj on Twitter.

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