Clinical and Pro Bono Programs

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Tag: Child Advocacy Program

Compassion and Commitment in Child Advocacy

Florence Bryan ‘19

By: Florence Bryan, J.D. ’19

I was fortunate to work with the dedicated attorneys at the Children and Family Law Trial Division (CAFL) of the Committee for Public Counsel Services, the public defender agency for Massachusetts, during my 2L year. As a student in the Child Advocacy Clinic, I worked on-site at CAFL three days a week learning both the law and key lawyering skills under experienced supervising attorneys. There I realized how important it is to be a zealous advocate both in and out of the courtroom.

The attorneys at CAFL represent children and parents in both Care and Protection cases, which involve allegations of abuse or neglect, and Child Requiring Assistance cases, which involve children alleged to have challenges at school or home. As an intern at CAFL, I assisted attorneys with preparing for termination of parental rights trials, drafting motions, reviewing client files, and researching various issues for cases. After diving into this new area of law, I also had the opportunity to represent clients in court. It was a privilege to get to know children and parents, even as they faced some of the most difficult times in their lives, and to help them navigate the legal process alongside my supervising attorneys.

At CAFL I observed attorneys with a variety of advocacy styles. But despite having different approaches, everyone in the office shared a truly client-centered mentality. Their advocacy went far beyond the courthouse doors. The attorneys were continuously working to connect their clients with services, negotiate with other attorneys on cases, and reach out to family, friends, and community resources.

From watching the attorneys in action, it became clear to me that the foundation of their strong advocacy is effective communication with clients—especially when their clients are children. The attorneys spend a significant amount of their time with clients listening and asking questions to get a complete sense of who they are and what outcome they want. I tried to mirror this in my own interactions with clients, as I wanted to be sure that each client had a full understanding of what was happening and an opportunity to come to a decision about the case that was genuinely their own. I think this kind of advocacy not only leads to better outcomes for families, but also gives children, in particular, a sense of agency when so much feels out of their control.

With compassion and commitment, the attorneys at CAFL help children and parents through incredibly challenging situations, working just as hard for their clients behind the scenes as they do in the courtroom. I hope to carry what I learned from their example in work that I do in the future.


Children of All Nations supports work of Child Advocacy Program with $250,000 gift

Via HLS News

Child and Advocacy Program Faculty Director Elizabeth Bartholet '65, HLS Dean Martha Minow, Children of All Nations President and CEO Snow Wu, and Boston College Associate Professor of Law Paulo Barrozo S.J.D. ’09

Credit: Lorin Granger
Child and Advocacy Program Faculty Director Elizabeth Bartholet ’65, HLS Dean Martha Minow, Children of All Nations President and CEO Snow Wu, and Boston College Associate Professor of Law Paulo Barrozo S.J.D. ’09

The Child Advocacy Program (CAP) of Harvard Law School recently received a $250,000 gift from Children of All Nations (CAN). The gift, which will be distributed over five years, will provide funding to CAP to pursue its international human rights work on behalf of unparented children and their right to family. The gift demonstrates the long-standing relationship and commitment of the CAN organization, led by President and Chief Executive Officer Snow Wu, to CAP and its founder and Faculty Director Elizabeth Bartholet ’65.

To celebrate the presentation of the gift, Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow joined the CAP staff, Wu, and other distinguished guests in the Caspersen Room of the Law Library on September 9. After thanking Wu and the CAN organization for their generous gift, Minow noted, “This gift is a testament to the power of partnerships between Harvard Law School and our community organizations. With this partnership, we can expand the work of Betsy Bartholet and CAP, all while continuing to build strong relationships with wonderful organizations like CAN.”

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A Warm Welcome to Cheryl Bratt

Cheryl Bratt, Administrative Director, Child Advocacy Program

Cheryl Bratt, Administrative Director, Child Advocacy Program

Cheryl Bratt is the new Administrative Director for the Child Advocacy Program. She comes most recently from the University of Michigan Law School, where she was a clinical fellow in the Pediatric Advocacy Clinic, a medical-legal partnership that unites healthcare providers, lawyers, and social workers to improve the health outcomes of low-income children and their families. There, she supervised students litigating family, special education, and housing law cases and co-taught the clinic seminar. Previously, she was a senior associate at WilmerHale LLP, in Boston, Massachusetts, specializing in securities litigation and representing a variety of pro bono clients in education and family law matters. She also clerked for the Honorable Norman H. Stahl on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and for the Honorable Mary A. McLaughlin on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. She graduated from the University of Michigan Law School. Before law school, she taught eighth grade language arts in New Orleans, Louisiana through Teach For America and later worked for the organization as a regional director.

Event: Child Advocacy Program Open House and Lunch

We wanted to share an invite from our friends at CAP to join them at their open house this Friday:

Child Advocacy Program (CAP) is hosting an Open House and Course Info Lunch on Fri, Apr 13 at 12pm for students to learn about CAP courses offered in 2012-13 (including Art of Social Change and Child Advocacy Clinic), CAP’s law reform projects, future events, and more. Hope to see you there!

Fri, April 13, 12-1pm
WCC 4133
Lunch provided

Clinical Events: Mar 5-9

There’s always an event (or two or three) to attend at HLS. A few clinical events are highlighted below but for a complete listing of HLS events, please visit the HLS calendar.

Harvard Legal Aid Bureau 1L Info Session

Tue, Mar 6, 6–7:30pm
Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, 23 Everett Street

Stop by the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB) – the nation’s oldest student legal services organization – to learn more about the application process, the types of cases handled by HLAB, and the HLAB community.

Contesting Childhood: When Law and Politics Go to School
Thu, Mar 8, 12–1pm

WCC 4133

Harvard Law School SJD Candidate Lisa Kelly discusses mandatory schooling in North America and how the seeds of “family privacy” were sewn – and retroactively invented – in response to the shifting relationship between family and state.

Hosted by the Child Advocacy Program.

HLS Advocates for Education Conference – Closing the School to Prison Pipeline: Redirecting our Future
Thu, Mar 8, 9am–6pm

WCC, Milstein East ABC

The HLS Advocates for Education Conference will take a multidisciplinary approach to evaluating the issues that contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline while discussing potential solutions. Professor James Forman Jr. of Yale Law School will be the keynote speaker.

Co-sponsors include Child and Youth Advocates (CYA), Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project (PLAP), Harvard Defenders, La Alianza, Black Law Students Associations (BLSA), Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review (CRCL), Women’s Law Association (WLA), and Harvard Mississippi Delta Project.

Clinical Events: Feb 20-24

As many of you know, there’s always an event (or two or three) to attend at HLS. A few clinical events are highlighted below but for a complete listing of HLS events, please visit the HLS calendar.

A Year after David Kato: The State of Ugandan Gay Rights Today
Tue, Feb 21, 12–1pm
WCC B015

HLS Advocates for Human Rights hosts a commemorative event in honor of the Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato, who was found murdered last January. Val Kalende, a fellow Ugandan and gay rights activist, and Mindy Roseman, Academic Director of the Human Rights Program, will will speak about Kato’s work and the current state of gay rights in Uganda today. From 1:30-2:30pm, Kalende will lead a discussion based on issues raised during the talk.

The Promises of Web-based Social Experiments
Tue, Feb 21, 12:30–1:45pm
Berkman Center for Internet & Society, 23 Everett St, 2nd Floor

The advent of the internet provides social scientists with a fantastic tool for conducting behavioral experiments online at a very large-scale and at an affordable cost. It is surprising, however, how little research has leveraged the affordances of the internet to set up such social experiments so far. In this talk, Jerome Hergueux will introduce the audience to one of the first online platforms specifically designed for conducting interactive social experiments over the internet to date.

Prosecuting the Recruitment of Child Soldiers as a War Crime before the International Criminal Court. A Critical Reading of the Lubanga Case
Thu, Feb 23, 12–1pm
WCC Suite 4133

As part of the Child Advocacy Program (CAP) Working Paper Lunch Series, visiting researcher and Fulbright grantee Mahyad Hassanzadeh-Tavakoli will discuss how the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute – which stipulates that the recruitment and enlisting of children under the age of fifteen years into the national armed forces, or using them to participate actively in hostilities, is to be regarded as a war crime – has been handled by the Court in the Lubanga Case.

Student Voices: A Thursday at Pinal County Jail

Joel Edman writes about his work in Arizona jails and detention centers (image credit: Paige Austin)

Today’s dispatch comes from Joel Edman, a second-year student at Harvard Law School. Joel spent his winter term at the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project in Florence, Arizona for an Independent Clinical. He is also a member of the student practice organizations Tenant Advocacy Project and Harvard Immigration Project, and is currently participating in the Child Advocacy Clinic for the spring term.

I saw the potential of the Florence Project‘s work one afternoon toward the end of J-term. It was Thursday, when the “Florence team” (as opposed to the “Eloy team”) goes to the Pinal County Jail for a know-your-rights presentation, a bond workshop, and one-on-one intakes. The real lesson – for me at least – from the day had nothing to do with the law. Instead, it was the presentation style of the legal assistant and soon-to-be law student who conducted the bond workshop that I will never forget:

The word “empower” gets thrown around a lot, but that’s the only way I can describe what she passionately tried to accomplish with those men that afternoon. We stand in a circle, fellow HLS student Paige Austin and I, plus about a dozen detainees in jumpsuits. The room is just starting to get cold – I learned quickly that jailhouse concrete, bricks, and restricted sunlight can make even the Arizona desert chilly. “Usted es su propio abogado” sets the tone for the talk. The legal assistant is upfront about the harsh reality facing many of these men, but at the same time offers encouragement. She is meticulous, not just covering legal rules and procedures, but also the practicalities of getting documents from family, how to address a letter to a judge, that those letters should be in English, how to use the internal mail system at the jail, etc. She answers dozens of questions, patiently and thoroughly. In short, if you manage to walk away from her presentation not knowing exactly how to maximize your chances of getting bond, you just weren’t paying attention. I left thinking, “now that’s how you lawyer to a detained population.” And it’s a good thing too, because for that vast majority of the people the Florence Project meets, those precious few minutes will be their only interaction with an attorney.

There are thousands of detainees housed in the rural towns of Florence and Eloy, Arizona, and only a handful of attorneys at the Florence Project. Yet, the Project has as its goal to provide quality legal information to every detainee, as well as more targeted services for a few who might be helped to get some form of relief. Most days of the week, attorneys from the Project go to the detention centers to give know-your-rights presentations to groups of detainees, ranging from about 20 to 60 people. They are scheduled to happen about a week before the detainees’ initial appearance before a judge and are designed to give the detainees a sense of what to expect. The presentations – entirely in Spanish – include a brief overview of potential forms of relief, so that the attorneys can identify detainees who might be eligible.

After the presentation, or during it if there are extra attorneys on hand, the attorneys do one-on-one intakes with anyone who 1) was previously identified as potentially being eligible for relief, 2) does not speak Spanish, or 3) simply wants to speak to an attorney. After watching a presentation on my second day at the Project and observing a few intakes, I began doing intakes myself. At first, I was just gathering relevant facts so that one of the attorneys could dispense legal advice, but by the end of the first week, I had a pretty good sense of what to say in most cases. Besides being an emotionally straining process, and a healthy test of my (somewhat rusty) Spanish, intakes were a great crash course in immigration law.

There is much more to tell, but I’ll end by saying that I was one hundred percent satisfied with my experience at the Florence Project. I could not imagine a better way to have spent those three weeks!

Recent “Student Voices”
Update from Florence…, Arizona
Dispatch from Tel Aviv