Prerequisites: Completion of 56 course credits, the courses in Evidence and Professional Responsibility. Preferred: Child Abuse and Neglect. Recommended: Family Law, Juvenile Law and Children and the Law.
Exclusion: Students may not simultaneously enroll in the law school's Externship Program and the Child and Family Advocacy Clinic without permission of both supervising professors. Students may not enroll in another law school clinic and the Child and Family Advocacy Clinic. All students taking this clinic must be in good academic standing. Academic and disciplinary records will be verified with the Dean of Students.
Special Note: In addition to class sessions, students in the course must also be available at times other than the scheduled class hours to attend hearings (approximately 3-4 times per semester), and meet with clients, classmates, the supervising clinical attorney and other interested parties in the case(s) at the law school or other locations. As a result, students must have some flexibility in their schedules, particularly during business hours, to permit them to accommodate these additional time demands.
This course focuses on the skills needed to represent clients, ethical issues that arise in cases, and roles of counselor and attorney. Under the supervision of clinical professors who are licensed to practice in New Jersey and experienced in child dependency law practice, students will represent children in child abuse and neglect cases in Family Court in Camden. Students may also represent children in administrative hearings and proceedings regarding public benefits, education, immigration, medical and mental health issues. Through advocacy in court and other venues, students will help ensure that the child welfare system is sufficiently addressing the safety, permanency and well-being needs of the clients. The ultimate goal for most, if not all, clients will be to help make sure each client has a loving, safe, and permanent home.
Students work with a partner and, in some cases will collaborate with social workers, to undertake all steps necessary to prepare for court hearings. Students will interview clients, review court and other documents from related cases or prior proceedings, prepare direct and cross examination, make strategic case decisions, and draft documents. Students will often engage in substantial writing in their case work, such as preparing motion packets or briefs, normally with very short deadlines. Those situations provide students with an additional and valuable learning experience about the realities of trial practice from a research and writing perspective. In New Jersey, third-year students may appear in court under the New Jersey Third Year Practice Rule, and students in the clinic make all necessary court appearances.
Children who have suffered physical abuse, sexual abuse or neglect need zealous advocates to protect their legal rights. These children are vulnerable, confused and usually require intense counseling from their attorneys. Specialized training and supervision is provided to help students understand the intricacies involved with representing minor clients in this context.