Child Advocacy Clinic
What We Do
The Child Advocacy Clinic (CAC) is part of the St. Vincent de Paul Legal Program. It is a 4-credit, one-semester, in-house clinical program available to students who have successfully completed their 1L year. The Clinic handles a variety of legal matters relating to children including Family Court abuse, neglect, custody and guardianship cases; immigration removal proceedings and status applications; foster parent fair hearings, education and disability advocacy; international child abduction cases under the Hague Convention; and more.
The Child Advocacy Clinic (CAC) is part of the St. Vincent de Paul Legal Program. It is a 4-credit, one-semester, in-house clinical program available to students who have successfully completed their 1L year. The Clinic handles a variety of legal matters relating to children including Family Court abuse, neglect, custody and guardianship cases; immigration removal proceedings and status applications; foster parent fair hearings, education and disability advocacy; international child abduction cases under the Hague Convention; and more. Clinic students learn essential lawyering skills, practical legal knowledge and professional responsibility while serving needy children throughout the greater New York area. During a typical semester, students will:
- Appear in Family Court and Immigration Court hearings and conferences on behalf of children from 0-21 years of age,
- Interview clients, witnesses and family members,
- Work with teachers, social services professionals, mental health providers and others ensuring client well-being,
- Conduct factual investigations,
- 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 social workers, subject area specialists and other consultants, and
- Conduct all aspects of pre-trial, trial, and post-dispositional proceedings in family court.
Students will also work 14 hours a week in addition to attending a weekly 2-hour seminar (with assignments). The seminar teaches the essential lawyering skills required for successful and ethical client representation as well as substantive areas of law through lectures, simulations, class activities, roundtable discussions, and other experiential learning activities.
Child Advocacy Clinic
St. John’s School of Law, Room 2-26
8000 Utopia Parkway
Queens, NY 11439
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. Clinic students may represent children and youth in Family Court, Immigration Court and USCIS applications, administrative hearings, Surrogate's Court, and other tribunals, as needed. The clinic assists children in custody, guardianship, neglect and abuse cases, immigration removal proceedings, USCIS applications, education and specail education challenges, international parental child abduction (Hague Convention) cases, and more.
While there are no pre- or co-requisites for the CAC, students may find Family Law, Poverty Law, Evidence, Administrative Law, Immigration 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 other commitments. Outside employment should be considered carefully, as CAC students should be able to be flexible, when necessary, in prioritizing clinic clients (within reason) above other commitments.
All CAC students must complete pre-semester paperwork and a first assignment prior to beginning the course. Students also take a weekly, two-hour seminar class and complete weekly reading/writing/research assignments. In addition to participating in the boot camp before the course begins, and a weekly seminar class, CAC students set and maintain a minimum of 14 office hours each week, three of which may be outside of normal business hours. Field trips, court observations and other off-site obligations such as client home visits are scheduled, to the extent possible, to avoid conflicting with students’ other commitments, however, students are reminded that children and youth have school and after school commitments, and so it is often necessary to visit clients in the evenings or on weekends. (Time spent on those trips or meetings are credited toward each student's weekly office hours commitment.) Students keep track of their office hours by submitting bi-weekly time sheets.
How to Apply as a Candidate
Students can apply for the Child Advocacy Clinic during the spring semester for fall of the following academic year and in the fall semester for the following spring semester of the same academic year.
Attend a Virtual Clinical Information Session which is held for All Clinics for one day in April and in October.
- Next Date: October 21, 2023, 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Submit an online application
- Application URL: https://tinyurl.com/SpringClinics23
- Upload the following within the online application:
- Cover Letter stating interest in the clinic
- Current Resume
- Unofficial Transcript printed from the Academic Record screen in UIS
“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.”