Students in the Child and Family Advocacy Clinic represent children in child abuse and neglect cases in Family Court in Camden. Students also represent children in administrative hearings and proceedings regarding public benefits, education, immigration, medical and mental health issues. Through advocacy in court and other venues, students will help ensure that the child welfare, public school and social services systems are sufficiently addressing the safety, permanency, and well-being needs of the clients. The ultimate goal for clients is to help make sure each child has a loving, safe, and permanent home, and is receiving the needed services, treatments, and financial supports to become a productive and engaged member of society.
Students work with a partner and, in some cases, will collaborate with graduate social work students to undertake all steps necessary to prepare for court hearings. Students will interview clients, review court and other documents from related cases or prior proceedings, prepare direct and cross examination, make strategic case decisions, and draft documents.
Children who have suffered physical abuse, sexual abuse or neglect need zealous advocates to protect their legal rights. These children are often vulnerable and traumatized. As a result, these clients usually require intense counseling from their attorneys about their rights and options in the system. Specialized training and supervision is provided to help students understand the intricacies involved with representing minor clients in this context. In addition, a multidisciplinary panel of experts offer guidance to students in identifying needs to provide the best possible client counseling and legal advocacy.
Clinic In The News
- Woman who inadvertently left 4-year-old child home alone should not be on child-abuse registry, court rules
- Training the Next Generation of Child Advocates
The Child and Family Advocacy Clinic was my first courtroom experience and allowed me to get comfortable with courtroom procedures and court documents. I came to law school to pursue a career in child advocacy and there was only so much I could learn in the classroom and from a book. The Child and Family Advocacy Clinic gave me first hand experience of what it's like to have a child client and to experience the challenges and triumphs that come with working in this field.
Christina Duclos (CFAC Spring 2010)
Participating in the Child & Family Advocacy Clinic was the best decision I made in law school. Not only did I gain valuable, practical experience through client interviews and appearances in Family Court, but the experience helped me grow personally. Seeing children that were faced with the harsh realities of life, allowed me to truly appreciate where I am today. When the system works, either through reunification or adoption, the impact on the children's lives can be incredible.
Christopher Kurek (CFAC Fall 2009, Advanced CFAC I Spring 2010)
I use the skills that I developed in the Child and Family Advocacy Clinic nearly every day in my family law practice. My clinic experience helped me to understand the complicated dynamics of families in which there is abuse and neglect, and also how to help clients to locate resources and navigate the “system.” Although my clients are adults, many are adults with children…sometimes children very much caught in the crossfire of an unhappy dissolution or abusive situation, and the legal counseling techniques we learned in CFAC enable me to provide a more holistic approach to a variety of family law situations.
Lynda Hinkle (CFAC Spring 2009)
The clinic was wonderful because I was able to gain real world experience, such as arguing in court and communicating with opposing counsel on a regular basis. Other courses teach you theory, whereas being part of clinic teaches you practical skills. Being involved with clinic showed me the value and importance of public interest work. Having had this experience, I will now make an effort to be involved in pro bono work no matter what sector of the legal field I end up in.
Mita Dey (CFAC Spring 2010)
CFAC helped me begin making critical steps in my transition from a law student to a lawyer. As someone who is more of a "hands on" learner, having actual clients while still under the guidance of a professor was an invaluable learning experience. Working with actual clients also showed me a portion of the community that needs legal representation and should get it despite having limited financial resources. I believe that if all law students participated in a clinic during law school, the legal community and the community as a whole would benefit.
Nicole J. Curio (CFAC Spring 2009)
CFAC was my first experience practicing law and I will never forget it. Because this clinic represents children, I found myself wanting to advocate for their rights as hard as I could. CFAC also taught me how to communicate effectively to opposing counsel and advocate for my client in front of a judge. These skills that I have learned have helped me tremendously during my clerkship because when attorneys call I have the skills to effectively communicate to them. Furthermore, working with my supervising attorney and appearing before judges helped me to prepare to interact daily with my judge during my clerkship. Lastly, understanding what an impact my efforts had on my CFAC clients, I know that after my clerkship is finished, I will be looking to find a job as an attorney in the public sector.
Erica J. Hartwig (CFAC Spring 2009)
Participating in the CFAC was a valuable experience that helped me focus and apply my understanding of the law in a practical environment. Particularly in the substantive areas of evidence and trial procedure, I was able to grasp and implement formerly academic doctrines and instruction in a meaningful way. Involvement in the CFAC increased my awareness to the need for specially trained child and family representatives who are committed to providing underprivileged families legal counseling executed at the highest standard.
Shayna Mewborn (CFAC Summer 2009, Advanced CFAC I & II 2009-2010)
Like most clinics, CFAC emphasizes invaluable practical skills: conducting an interview, communicating regularly with clients, developing relationships with counsel, isolating key facts in a complicated file, and advocating confidently in court. But CFAC also affords students a unique opportunity to represent the interests of young children who literally cannot speak on their own behalf. I left law school with a clear sense of a lawyer's ability to help make a life better.
Charles Koster (CFAC Spring 2009)