The Child Advocacy Clinic has launched a new project to represent adolescents in collateral issues relating to their aging out of foster care or other institutional settings. Most of these clients range in age from 16 to 21. The issues extend across a broad spectrum of need, including housing and homelessness prevention, teen parenting, health and health benefits, income and support benefits, education, tuition and financial aid benefits, financial planning, civil rights, including LGBT issues, job training and career planning, and domestic violence. Students paired in teams will represent clients referred from the Adolescent Project of the Juvenile Rights Practice (JRP) of the Legal Aid Society. This is a two-semester course (students cannot enter in the spring semester).
The project has four components:
Seminar in Representing Adolescents: A weekly seminar focuses on the unique attributes of adolescents as viewed from multiple disciplines including medicine, law, sociology, and psychology. In addition to law students enrolled in the clinic, graduate students from other disciplines may enroll in the seminar portion of the clinic in order to explore adolescence from multiple perspectives.
Research and Development of Adolescent Representation: Every student enrolled in the clinic and the seminar participates in a research and policy investigation into current models of representing adolescents. This exploration includes interviewing child advocates in multiple fields and youth in various contexts to determine current policies and practices and to recommend improvements. Students enrolled only in the seminar will be able to continue this work into the second semester for additional credits. Law students enrolled in the clinic will continue this work as part of their overall responsibilities in the clinic.
Class and Simulation Exercises to prepare for casework: Students participate in intensive simulation practice, being introduced to basic lawyering skills including interviewing and counseling, case development and strategy, and preparation for negotiation or litigation. Because of the unique requirements of representing youth, students engage in additional interdisciplinary learning beyond the seminar component, using the approaches and knowledge of many disciplines to represent the client effectively. In September, there may be two additional classes to jump start students' abilities to begin representing clients.
Client Representation: Students will begin to represent clients in mid-October following the intensive introduction to representation. Students will be teamed in pairs for casework. Each team will meet weekly with Professor Jane Spinak for case supervision. Once case representation begins, some portion of the classes devoted to case preparation will be structured for case rounds so that students will be aware of and learn from their colleagues' cases. Once casework has begun, students should expect to devote at least 20 hours per week to clinic-related activities.
Students with a wide range of backgrounds and/or ultimate career interests are encouraged to apply. Graduates of the clinic enter public service and private practice careers, frequently using their clinic experience to develop pro bono opportunities in the private sector. Students will focus on their own professional goals for the year, identifying specific skills or professional attributes they would like to develop or enhance in preparation for making the transition into the legal profession. The clinic will encompass professional responsibility and ethical practice issues as well as explorations into the role of law and legal practice in a just society.