As a BHRC Summer Fellow, I spent the summer of 2010 interning at the National Association of Counsel for Children, a national non-profit child advocacy and professional membership association dedicated to providing high-quality legal representation for children. Working at the national office in Denver, I had the opportunity to become involved with almost every aspect of its work advocating for the rights of children, particularly those in the child welfare system.
Throughout the summer, I worked on numerous projects that revolved primarily around conducting legal research on historical and recent child welfare law and presenting the information in an effective way for child welfare advocates across the country. Some examples of this work include the creation of an educational curriculum for a three-day state court improvement project for child welfare, the preparation of an amicus curiae brief for a recent case, the writing of articles for the NACC's Guardian newsletter, and the analysis of state laws to determine in which states and in what capacity the NACC's Child Welfare Law Specialization could be extended to attorneys for the child.
The capstone of my internship with the NACC was an extensive research assignment investigating the ethics of using mediation for child abuse and neglect cases. The practice of Child Protection Mediation, as it is often referred to, is taking the nation's juvenile court systems by storm. The practice offers numerous advantages, as it provides a timely, non-adversarial setting wherein families, child protection workers and attorneys can work together to plan for the child's future. However, it is growing in popularity faster than its own rules and regulations can keep up, and this is problematic for many advocates across the field. After months of reviewing the literature, researching various dynamics and interviewing many of those at the forefront of CPM, I culminated the findings in a paper presenting the strengths and weaknesses of CPM as well as recommendations for the future of the practice – most notably, the need for well-established guidelines. This paper was presented to the NACC board of directors to assist them as they determine their position on the practice of CPM and begin to draft a national policy statement. In a different form, my paper is now in the process of being published by the University of California at Davis Journal of Juvenile Law and Policy.
Overall, working at the NACC was a phenomenal experience that educated me about the legal history, recent trends and nuances of child welfare law. I am incredibly thankful for the BHRC Fellowship's support of my endeavor to research and advocate for children's rights.