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 to represent abused, neglected and abandoned children who were apprehended and placed into federal custody by the Department of Homeland Security or who otherwise require immigration assistance. Students litigate the children’s family court and immigration court (deportation) cases. They may also work on policy reform initiatives at the state and federal levels.
During the semester, all CAC students gain valuable skills and insight into legal practice as they:
Child Advocacy Clinic
St. John’s School of Law, Room 2-26
8000 Utopia Parkway
Queens, NY 11439[email protected]
The Child Advocacy Clinic is a one semester, four-credit clinic offered in the fall and spring. It is open to second- and third-year students, with 3Ls getting priority. While there are no pre- or co-requisites for the CAC, students may find Family Law, Poverty Law, Evidence, Administrative Law and Trial Advocacy helpful in handling their cases. This clinic is rewarding, but demanding, and students should carefully consider this in light of their commitments. Part-time employment is discouraged and CAC participants must be willing and able to prioritize clinic clients (within reason) above other commitments.
All CAC students must complete paperwork and a first assignment prior to beginning the course. Students also take a weekly, two-hour seminar class and complete weekly reading assignments. In addition to participating in the boot camp and seminar class, CAC students set and maintain a minimum of 14 office hours each week, four of which may be outside of normal business hours. Field trips, court observations and other off-site obligations are required and will be scheduled, to the extent possible, to avoid conflicting with students’ other commitments.
Students keep track of their office hours by submitting weekly time sheets. All work done on cases counts towards the office hours requirement, including work at the Clinical Office, field visits, court visits and other offsite activities. Students must adhere to their office hours schedules, unless case developments and emergencies require otherwise. When this is the case, students receive credit for work done outside office hours and the minimum office hours for that week are reduced accordingly. Students will also submit weekly memos on their course work (“Lawyering Memos”).
Attend a Clinical Information Session. It is held for one day only in October and in March.
Submit an online application
Upload the following within the online application:
“The Clinic brings students in to advocate for abused and neglected children-but little do you know coming in that the world you are being lead into is difficult, harsh, and intricately complicated. Of course, you expect to get cases and interview clients and appear in court, but you certainly don’t anticipate the poverty, the lack of resources, the brutality, and the reality that a lot of families in New York City endure everyday. As a law student, I am truly grateful for this experience, but as a person, I am even more thankful because it has brought an awareness that I never would have had in any other clinic or law class.”
At this point I’d like to say that my heart was pouring out for her, but my mind was more racing about what to do next. I don’t think I consciously felt anything. I was too busy thinking about how to help her. I ended up getting down on the floor in front of her (we had been sitting on a bed and she was sitting on a little chair in front of us) and telling her it was ok, and that we were there to help, and I understood she loved and missed her mom - but I also asked her if she was scared to go home, too. Then I waited. She eventually nodded and kept crying. I suggested to her different options – she ended up emphatically selecting the choice of not going home until mom got better. After that her guard was back up, she was little Ms. Tough again, but she answered our questions truthfully. And she was thrilled when I gave her my card, and I smiled as she programmed my number into her defunct cell phone.
I have sat through some difficult interviews thus far in my life, rapid-fire OCI interviews as well as marathon callback interviews at firms, and I can honestly say I’d never had a harder interview in my life. To step back and realize I was able to connect with a 9-year-old who had been beaten literally for as long as she could remember is just a proud moment for me and a testament to the strength of this clinic because when I didn’t know what to do or how to proceed, I fell back on everything I learned here (“tell me more,” focus on the child, instructions so they answer truthfully, rapport building, pausing for children to think and answer and the “we can’t tell your mom” approaches) and it worked. Further, she was happier, she kept talking to me the rest of the time we were there, she thought we had made a connection as well. It was very rewarding. Later, I felt the emotion of the situation hit me. And actually, even more so now that I’m thinking about it and writing about it.”