Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Child Advocacy Program and the American Bar Association's Conference on Child Welfare

This past weekend Harvard Law School played host to hundreds of child advocates eager to share ideas, discuss pressing issues, and learn from each other. It was a wonderful opportunity for students, like me, to meet many child advocates who work on behalf of children in many different capacities. As a law student it is easy to think of child advocates only as attorneys that represent children directly or as members of think-tanks that try to push through major policy reforms. I often forget the numerous other types of child advocates -- the judges, the DAs, the probation officers, the social workers, the teachers, the doctors, and the parents who all dedicate themselves day in and day out to promoting the welfare of children.

I got to attend some very interesting sessions on a variety of topics. I got to sit in on a session about international adoption, about homeless youths, about gay parenting, and about new initiatives such as the medical-legal partnership.

I thought the information on the medical-legal partnership was particularly fascinating. These dedicated doctors and lawyers have found ways to join forces for the betterment of youths and their families. These programs are generally run through hospitals by lawyers who help to spot legal issues and to coordinate free legal services. Such programs are generally preventative legal help to ensure the safety and well-being of children. For example, if a family is having a hard time paying their utilities bill, then it is likely that stress will run high, the house will be cold and dark, and that the family may be evicted. If a pediatrician sees this child at a check-up and hears about the problems with the utility bills, then the pediatrician can pass along the referral to the attorneys. The attorneys can then represent the entire family in connection with trying to get the utilities set up on a reasonable payment plan or reduced fee schedule. In this way, the legal services kick-in at an earlier stage to benefit the child and the entire family.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to attend the conference. I only wish that the conference gave me more clarity on what I want to do in my career -- instead, it presented a lot of exciting options.


Blogger Bob Jones said...

i'm impressed with the conference on child welfare that you described . . . and, am pleased that students as yourself are getting interested in the rights of children and child advocacy.

i'd like to add another category of child advocates to your list . . . citizen advocates.

there are alot of us out there working actively as volunteers with programs like casa (court appointed special advocates). check out casa at casanet.org

also, i just started a blog on citizen advocacy for children at: http://bob-jones.blogspot.com/

5:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wondering if there is anyone out there that can give me advice on how to have a child placed with siblings even though the child needing to be placed was born after the siblings adoptions were finalized. I have read everything that states how important sibling bonds are. Need something to throw at dcf asap. any info can be emailed to cressa@midmaine.com

9:43 PM  

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