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Author Topic: Child Advocate  (Read 1866 times)

jeffjoe

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Child Advocate
« on: April 05, 2004, 11:14:05 AM »
I will be starting school in the fall and with my limited knowledge of the legal profession, I think I want to work as a child advocate.  I'm not even sure exactly what I mean by that.  I want to help in some wayin situations where children are caught between warring parents and others.

Great and mighty law students, please, enlighten me as to this area of law, what is possible, what is being done now and what might be done in the future.  I humble myself at your altar.
 ;D
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Pub. Interest Gal

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Re: Child Advocate
« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2004, 12:54:33 PM »
There are many different sections of Child Advocacy.  You can work as an educational advocate, as a Guardian AD Lidum for abused and neglected children in the social welfare system, as a staffer on the hill, for policy institutes, etc.  This is a field that is becoming more and more popular as children start to be recognized as individuals with rights and interests.  As someone who is going into this field herself after graduating, I applaud you for your interest.  While the money isn't great (slight understatement) the joy of having a needy child throw their arms around you in thanks, or getting them into a better home, school, etc- makes all the struggle worthwhile. 
To see if you really want to go into this field I would suggest a couple of things- first a book worth reading to learn about children involved in abusive homes is "A child named it".  This will show you the horror of what you might encounter and help you determine if you want to be on the "front lines" or rather in a more policy associated position.  Also, I would suggest volunteering when you are in law school.  CASA is a national organization that will let you serve as an advocate without your law degree and you will see all the different sides of the system.  casa.org will direct you to an organization in your area.  Also, look at the websites for Children Law Center, Youth Law Center, Juvenile Law Center- they will all give you an idea of your chosen area.

After your 1st year in law school, you should start to take classes in family law, child advocacy, the education system, and probably a little bit of criminal law/juvenile justice, depending on what your school has to offer.  Most schools also offer clinics in this area.  Regardless of what your school has to offer, these organizations can always use volunteers.

Something to keep in mind... public interest work is becoming as competative as top firm jobs, so if you are truly interested in this ares of work get ahead now.

jeffjoe

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Re: Child Advocate
« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2004, 01:40:25 PM »
I was head of a homeless shelter for 18 months and gained some insight to what happens to children.  My own grandchildren have been victims of an immature mother and her boyfriend.  Not horrible, especially compared to what we see in the news, but victims just the same.

I'll be attending a night law school while holding down a fulltime job, so voluneering doesn't seem to be an option.  But I will take your advice and grab every course that is related to the topics you mention and I will try to squeeze out some time to volunteer.  Thanks.

There are many different sections of Child Advocacy.  You can work as an educational advocate, as a Guardian AD Lidum for abused and neglected children in the social welfare system, as a staffer on the hill, for policy institutes, etc.  This is a field that is becoming more and more popular as children start to be recognized as individuals with rights and interests.  As someone who is going into this field herself after graduating, I applaud you for your interest.  While the money isn't great (slight understatement) the joy of having a needy child throw their arms around you in thanks, or getting them into a better home, school, etc- makes all the struggle worthwhile. 
To see if you really want to go into this field I would suggest a couple of things- first a book worth reading to learn about children involved in abusive homes is "A child named it".  This will show you the horror of what you might encounter and help you determine if you want to be on the "front lines" or rather in a more policy associated position.  Also, I would suggest volunteering when you are in law school.  CASA is a national organization that will let you serve as an advocate without your law degree and you will see all the different sides of the system.  casa.org will direct you to an organization in your area.  Also, look at the websites for Children Law Center, Youth Law Center, Juvenile Law Center- they will all give you an idea of your chosen area.

After your 1st year in law school, you should start to take classes in family law, child advocacy, the education system, and probably a little bit of criminal law/juvenile justice, depending on what your school has to offer.  Most schools also offer clinics in this area.  Regardless of what your school has to offer, these organizations can always use volunteers.

Something to keep in mind... public interest work is becoming as competative as top firm jobs, so if you are truly interested in this ares of work get ahead now.
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schoomp

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Re: Child Advocate
« Reply #3 on: April 06, 2004, 02:20:37 AM »
Just something to think about (not to be pesimistic too much though):

Although you both have said you want to go into child advocacy laws, alther than the homeless shelter experience jgruber, have either of you had any other experience working with children?  Especially once they become wards of the state?  I say this as someone who had worked with children (although not in a legal sense, but in a psychiatric sense) and it is a very mentally demanding field.  To work with abused children, or children who are mentally ill, is very, very tough.  Typically when the parents are involved, it is an extremely volatile situation.  The children involved are also very hard to work with - many times very untrusting of adults.

This is not to try to presuade either of you from trying to go into this field - I know when I worked in it, I really wished their were more people who were willing to help this children out legally.  However, I would definately recommend taking some child psych courses and volunteering/working at some places that work with children in different age ranges.  Also, I don't know what the age of the children in the homeless shelter were, but I know there is a BIG difference between working with say 8-10 year olds and 16-18 year olds.

One last thing to think about - you might want to also think about studying more than one field in law school.  Just in case something happens and you can't work in child advocacy full time, you can always get a higher paying job and do pro-bono work on the side for children...

dta

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Re: Child Advocate
« Reply #4 on: April 06, 2004, 06:26:11 PM »
My mother is an attorney and does child advocacy stuff. She focuses in special education. Her typical case is:

Johny goes to high school X. He has learning disability Y. According to state law, high school X is supposed to provide specific services for dealing with Y, but they are not doing so.

The parents of Johny hire her to get these services. Of course, all of this is pretty mundane and you probably already knew it. However, the one interesting thing she keeps telling me is that the schools actually prefer that the parents be represented by an attorney. Often when the parents come without an attorney they have an exagerated sense of what they are entitled to and the school must spend a long time arguing/litigating with the parents to prove so. When the parents come with an (reputable) attorney, they are more informed about the boundaries of their rights as parents of a special ed. kid and therefore the problem usually gets resolved more quickly and efficiently.

Anyway, just thought it was interesting that supposed 'enemy' of the lawyer in these cases (the school) actually prefers that the parents are represented by counsel.

jeffjoe

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Re: Child Advocate
« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2004, 11:15:34 AM »
This is good information!

I have 'worked' with children of many ages, but it is very limited experience.  I know I have a lot to learn and I know that this kind of work can encompass some extreme conditions.  The attorney ad litum sounds interesting.

But keep the info coming.

Thanks.
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cjuva

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Re: Child Advocate
« Reply #6 on: April 08, 2004, 01:58:03 PM »
Good advice for getting to know what you are getting into.  I actually have been working as a child advocate for the last two years, on a volunteer basis.  In the courtroom, with social services, with the education system- trust me, with 7 children assigned to me, 3 with learning disablities and 2 having been physically abused- I have seen enough to have an idea of what I am getting into. 

Besides being a child advocate, however, my interests include advocating for victims of domestic violence, and women's rights advocacy in general- specifically in employment discrimination, reproductive rights, and a few others.  I see myself doing some direct services work, but also have an interest in working for organizations dedicated to impact litigation, or in the policy sector trying to change state law.


jeffjoe

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Re: Child Advocate
« Reply #7 on: April 08, 2004, 02:10:22 PM »
That sounds very challenging, but also very rewarding.  At my age (49) the money won't be as important as it would have been when I was in my 20s and because I'm going to an inexpensive night law school and won't have any debt when I finish -- God willing.

Good advice for getting to know what you are getting into.  I actually have been working as a child advocate for the last two years, on a volunteer basis.  In the courtroom, with social services, with the education system- trust me, with 7 children assigned to me, 3 with learning disablities and 2 having been physically abused- I have seen enough to have an idea of what I am getting into. 



Don't make the mistake of assuming that domestic violence is always a woman's problem.  Their are males who fall victim to domestic violence.  My son's ex, used to beat the crap out of him.
Besides being a child advocate, however, my interests include advocating for victims of domestic violence, and women's rights advocacy in general



I hadn't heard the term 'impact litigation' before, but I like it.  After I read your posting, I found a definition.  Of course, I suspect most lawyers want their work to have a larger impact.   :)
but also have an interest in working for organizations dedicated to impact litigation, or in the policy sector trying to change state law.
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cjuva

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Re: Child Advocate
« Reply #8 on: April 09, 2004, 01:44:52 PM »
You might be surprised... a lot of lawyers want to win their case, or do well by their client, but impact litigation is about changing the existing law or having it be enforced in a different matter.  Brown vs Bd of Ed, the suit down in Texas over the redistricting, the pledge of allegiance case from California- these are all the type of cases that I am refering to when I speak of impact litigation.

(And sorry about your son's ex...)

jeffjoe

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Re: Child Advocate
« Reply #9 on: April 09, 2004, 09:12:38 PM »
They weren't together long enough to do real damage, but 'we' are still fighting the ugly divorce you-said-mean-things-about-me battle. 

 I suspect the battle will still be going on after I finish law school.

But that's another story.

(And sorry about your son's ex...)
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