Child Advocacy Clinic

The Child Advocacy Clinic (CAC) is part of the St. Vincent de Paul Legal Program, Inc. It is an in-house, one-semester litigation and policy reform clinic offering students distinct opportunities to assist children and caregivers in need:

Child Welfare Practice. Operating in conjunction with the Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Practice, the CAC’s Child Welfare Practice represents children (newborn-21 years) in family court cases involving alleged abuse or neglect. Typically, these are Queens County matters where parents are accused of drug or alcohol abuse, physical abuse, failure to ensure school attendance, mental illness, domestic violence, and inadequate guardianship.

Foster Family Support Initiative. Students participating in the CAC’s Foster Family Support Initiative represent kinship foster parents seeking compensation for their care of special needs foster children. These matters involve administrative proceedings before the New York State Office of Children and Family Services.

Immigrant Children’s Justice Project. CAC students participating in the Immigrant Children’s Justice Project team with students from the Refugee and Immigrant Rights Clinic to represent abused, neglected and abandoned children who were apprehended and placed into federal custody by the Department of Homeland Security. Students litigate the children’s family court and immigration court (deportation) cases. They also work on policy reform initiatives at the state and federal levels.

During the semester, CAC students gain valuable skills and insight into legal practice as they:

  • Interview clients, witnesses and family members
  • Work with social services professionals, mental health providers and others ensuring client well-being
  • Conduct factual investigations
  • Appear at Family Court hearings and conferences
  • Visit residential, educational and/or other client-related sites
  • Research and draft legal documents
  • Advocate formally and informally for children and their caregivers
  • Collaborate with St. John’s University and Legal Aid Society social workers, subject area specialists and other consultants
  • Conduct all aspects of pre-trial, trial, and post-dispositional proceedings in family court

Students in the Clinic also benefit from teaming with Legal Aid Society mentors. Through mentor shadowing, they observe seasoned lawyers in court and are further exposed to a variety of court-related experiences, such as conferences, plea deals, trials, emergency hearings, witness preparation, pro se proceedings, bench conferences and diverse litigation and negotiation styles. Mentors share strategy and practice skills, answer questions and guide students toward a better understanding of institutional, courthouse lawyering.

Child Advocacy Clinic
Clinical Office
St. John’s School of Law, Room 2-26
8000 Utopia Parkway
Queens, NY 11439
benjamil@stjohns.edu
718-990-6898
Fax 718-990-1961