Beth practices in the 6th and 22nd Judicial Districts in Colorado and she is licensed to practice law in both Colorado and New Mexico.
Why did you choose to practice child welfare law?
I studied juvenile and family law in law school and was interested in the subject matter. However, I did not practice child welfare law until I relocated from Denver to Durango, Colorado and opened a firm with my husband, Paul Padilla. I decided to contact OCR on the advice of a mentor and judge. It made sense to me that I might be able to help kids in southwest Colorado because I am bilingual in English and Spanish and have an immigration background.
What has been the most rewarding moment for you while working with children and families in the dependency and neglect system?
One of the first D&N cases I received was a family of three young children. The children were removed from one foster home and placed into another based on allegations of abuse. One of the kids, aged six, was asked by a caseworker who the child would contact if he felt unsafe and he responded that he would call his GAL. I was so excited that he not only remembered me but also would turn to me if he felt unsafe in his new placement.
Describe a challenge you face doing this work and your strategies to overcome it.
I am frequently confronted with the mentality of “this is how we have always done it,” even if it is contrary to the law. I struggle to encourage other parties in my cases to learn the law and follow it appropriately. I am continuing to work through how to overcome this issue, but have found that being incredibly prepared for Court and all interactions with other parties is a great way to start. I carry the GRID and Title 19 with me, I print out statutes and forms before Court, and I try to stay positive.
What advice do you have for an attorney that is new to child welfare law?
Start with the law. Child welfare is confusing and there are so many working parts. For me, step one is looking in Title 19 and step two is checking the GRID. I also think it is important to ask questions of caseworkers, opposing counsel, therapists, teachers, and most importantly, to talk to the kids. Sometimes there are so many adults “working the case” that the kids can feel left out. I have been really inspired by the insight some kids in dependency and neglect cases have about their lives and environments.
What drives you to continue in this line of work?
I am driven to continue with child welfare because I really think I can help the kids in these cases. The kids in dependency and neglect cases need an adult they can talk to and that is looking out for them. I try to be that adult.