How to become a child advocate lawyer

How to become a child advocate lawyer

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A child advocacy lawyer is concerned with the legal aspects of children’s rights and protection. Both your pre-law major and your juris doctor degree specialization are essential for a career in children’s advocacy. But, to become a child advocacy lawyer you not only require a J.D. degree; you also require field experience and an intimate familiarity with constitutional principles, state and national laws, children’s development issues and rights, administrative law and much more.

Psychology Major

Majoring in psychology in your undergraduate program will help you understand human behavior and motivation, aspects that are pertinent in matters concerning family law, criminal law and child law. A child advocacy lawyer’s job entails dealing with issues such as child delinquency, neglect and abuse, child support, health, special education and victim’s rights. These fields require a thorough understanding of the child’s behavior during representation. A background in psychology is necessary to represent the child’s best interests. Relevant pre-law classes for psychology majors include Social Psychology, Learning and Behavior, Counseling Psychology and Theories of Personality.

Child and Family Development Programs

A pre-law degree in child and family development offers students an understanding of child literacy and education, children’s early development, as well as the social and emotional development of children. A background in child and family development is necessary when advocating for the child’s rights in cases of delinquency, adoption, foster care, special needs and education, and immigration. Different programs have different requirements for core courses under their child and development degree. However, some helpful classes to take include Human Development, Child and Adolescent Development, Cognitive Development, Social and Emotional Development, Developmental Psychology and General Psychology.

Social Work Degree

A bachelor’s degree in social work exposes you to complex issue of intervention for children in troubled families, adoption, foster care, criminal justice, rehabilitation and therapy. The core of a social work degree is fieldwork where students gain practical experience with the social service system, application of administrative law, and finding and assisting child victims under the supervision of certified social workers. Within your pre-law social work program, some essential classes to study include Human Behavior, Social Environment, Alcoholism and Chemical Dependence, Child Welfare, Social Work and Health Care.

Concentrations in J.D. Programs

Although all law schools in the U.S. share a primary curriculum, others offer concentrations and electives for students who want to specialize in a specific area of law, such as child law. Other law schools also offer dual-degree programs such as a bachelor’s in social work and a juris doctorate degree, to expand career options for their students. Choose a law school that offers electives and speciality courses that are relevant for a career in child advocacy. Some common concentrations within J.D. programs include child and family law and child rights, with suitable electives including Children in Law, Gender and Justice, Family Law, and Juvenile Offenders and the Law.

Child Advocacy Clinics

Child Advocacy Clinics provide a hands-on experience for students interested in child advocacy. As part of the core curriculum in a J.D. degree, clinical education requires students to be involved in the representation of real children, adolescents and their families who face special issues ranging from negligence, disability, foster care, poverty and health-care concerns. By acting as the legal guardian for victim children, students sharpen their advocacy skills, gain a practical understanding of state, federal and constitutional laws, and recognize the intricacies of the social care system, adoption, and criminal justice. Most law schools require students to dedicate at least 20 hours each week, for an entire semester, to the Child Advocacy Clinic.

  • American Bar Association: A Career in Children’s Law
  • Baylor Psychology and Neuroscience College of Arts and Sciences: Law
  • Princeton Review: Major; Child Development
  • TSU College of Science and Engineering Department of Psychology: The Major in Child Development
  • Texas State University: What Can You Do With A Degree In Social Work
  • University of Missouri – Kansas City: Child and Family Law

Maria OCadiz has been writing professionally since 1982, most recently publishing for various websites on topics like health and wellness, and education. She holds a Master of Arts in Education. She is a former university professor, curriculum facilitator and teacher.

How to become a child advocate lawyer

How to become a child advocate lawyerChild advocacy is an important field of work that focuses on protecting and promoting the rights of children. Fortunately, there are many degrees and career options associated with this line of work. Below explains how you can successfully become a child advocate.

What Exactly is Child Advocacy?

Child advocates are dedicated to caring for children in different ways. This field combines different aspects of law and social work. Certain child advocates work with victims of trauma, neglect and abuse. They provide critical legal and emotional support. Other child advocates work with foster children to meet their needs, find appropriate placements and possible adoptive parents. They also help teenagers who struggle with drugs, homelessness and criminal issues. Additionally, they work with teens experiencing both mental and physical health problems. Therefore, they act as advocates, counselors, legal help and social workers all at the same time.

Where Else Do Child Advocates Work?

Not all child advocates work face-to-face with clients and perform case management. Certain child advocates rarely have direct contact with children and families. Instead, they focus on modifying the current legal infrastructure to become more supportive for children. For example, they may act as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C. to push for more protective policies for children. This may involve pushing State governments to adopt higher standards than the federal Adoptions and Safe Families Act of 1997. Finally, other child advocates may legally represent children in court through filing lawsuits on their behalf to protect their client’s rights.

What Degree Programs are Best?

Becoming a child advocate is possible with different degree types. For example, a degree in Health and Human Services will teach students about social work, health services and public safety and policy. Additionally, a degree in education will prepare the student to advocate for children in public and private schools. Of course, a psychology degree will cover a broad array of applicable topics, such as social and behavioral problems.

Finally, a law degree is one of the best degrees for any student interested in becoming a legal advocate for children.

What are Typical Job Titles?

There are many possible career options for a child advocate. For example, a student interested in pursuing a law degree could work as a mediator, public defender or child welfare attorney. Those interested in being a social worker could work as a Child Protective Services (CPS) or Permanency Case Worker. CPS workers are tasked with responding to neglectful or abusive environments, legally removing the children and placing them in foster care. On the other hand, Permanency social workers deal with children and teens placed in permanent foster care. They are tasked with finding long-term placements or adoptive parents for their clients.

How to Start Advocating for Children?

The National Children’s Advocacy Center (NCAC) is a great place to start learning about how to be a child advocate. The NCAC is dedicated to stopping child abuse and operates more than 900 Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) around the U.S. They offer training, conferences, online learning programs and plenty of resources.

The Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) group is well-known through the country as being special advocates for abused or neglected children. In fact, there are almost 1,000 community based organizations that work with State Child Welfare agencies and local non-profit communities to protect and advocate for children in foster care. Volunteering at CASA is one of the best ways to start advocating for children.

Overall, being a child advocate is a very rewarding and meaningful job. Students have different academic options available and have excellent career options. There is always a high need for competent professionals dedicated to child advocacy.

How to become a child advocate lawyer

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What Is a Child Advocacy Lawyer?

When a child must face a legal battle, a child advocacy lawyer is hired to assist the child. Their responsibility is to guarantee that the child’s legal rights are protected by serving as their voice in the courtroom. A child advocacy lawyer will represent a child in the following circumstances: neglect or abuse, custody proceedings, adoptions, terminating parental rights, visitation and court proceedings for juveniles. These attorneys may work for the government in a state or local capacity, with various nonprofit organizations, at a law firm or independently.

Job Description

There are numerous situations in which children may need a lawyer, and therefore there are a variety of jobs available to work as a lawyer for kids.

A Guardian ad Litem is the formal name for a lawyer who represents either the best wishes of the child or relies on their own expertise to represent what is best for the child. When working in this capacity, a lawyer must be informed and familiar with issues such as child abuse and neglect while having an understanding of the necessary procedures in family court and juvenile court.

Lawyers who chose to represent child welfare agencies, at a local or state level, work to ensure a child’s safety in their home or in the community. They also focus on abuse and neglect, but in addition they may work on cases that involve terminating a parent’s rights, foster care and child support. These lawyers for child welfare will litigate cases, attend administrative hearings, review contracts and correspond with caseworkers.

A prosecutor and a public defender will try cases where the child is a victim of a crime or where the child committed the crime. For children who are victims, the lawyer will work to ensure that no further harm will come to the child and that there isn’t further trauma during court. If a child committed the crime, then they work to make sure the sentence is appropriate.

Education Requirements

To become a child advocate lawyer, you must have a college degree and then earn a Juris Doctor, commonly referred to as JD, degree from a law school that is accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). After law school, you must study for and pass the bar exam, a test that each person much pass in order to be admitted to that specific state’s bar and receive their license to practice law. While some states respect the bar admittance of several other states, most require you to pass the bar in their state in order to legally practice.

Even though a lawyer has passed the bar, their educational requirements are not yet complete. Lawyers are expected to know about new rulings and developments related to their practice. In order to maintain their license, states require all lawyers regularly participate in continuing legal education courses, referred to as CLE. The amount of courses and time varies by state, ranging from annually to every three years.

Industry

While the majority of states do not require lawyers to have any additional training, it is helpful to have studied family law, domestic violence, children and the law, criminal defense and even criminal investigations while in law school. However, there are several states that do expect these lawyers to become certified. The National Association of Counsel for Children (NACC) does provide this certification, providing attorneys the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge in order to become recognized as a Child Welfare Law Specialist.

To receive certification from NACC, lawyers must have practiced law for at least three years. During that time at least 30 percent of their work must have been related to child welfare. In addition, they must also has taken least 36 hours of continuing legal education courses that relate specifically to child welfare law. And finally, they must be able to prove their knowledge in this area. The certification will allow them to work for the government, with nonprofit agencies, in private law firms or as an independent lawyer.

As a child advocate lawyer, you will be required to do a variety of things on the children’s behalf. You will investigate issues, which requires studying all records for both the children and parents. You may also need to request hearings, regardless if you request the hearings for they are requested by somebody else, your role is to advocate for the child and make recommendations to the court as to what is in the child’s best interest. Some child advocate lawyers may also be charged with collecting child support payments.

Years of Experience

A juvenile lawyer’s salary will vary, depending on your location and on your years of experience. In general, as of May 2017, lawyers have a median annual wage of $119,250, which means half earn more than this amount while the other half earn less. The highest 10 percent earned more than $208,000, while the lowest 10 percent earned less than $57,430.

The salary also varies, depending on your employer. In May 2017, attorneys who worked for the federal government earned a median wage of $141,900, while those who worked for legal services earned a median wage of $120,280. Additionally, the median salary for local government attorneys was $93,020; for the state; the median was $85,260. Typically, lawyers who choose to practice independently make less than those who work for a law firm.

The projected job growth for a lawyer is 6 percent between the years of 2014 and 2024. This is considered in line with the national average.

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Office of Governmental Accountability Office of the Child Advocate

Most Popular

  • About us
  • Recent Annual Reports
  • Resource list

OCA Public Health Alerts

  • Suicide Prevention PHA 2020
  • Suicide Prevention PHA Spanish
  • Scald Burn Flyer
  • Scald Burn Flyer (Spanish)
  • 2020 Summer Safety
  • Keeping Babies Safe
  • Keeping Babies Safe (Spanish)
  • 2019 Drowning Data and Prevention Strategies
  • Prevent Suicide Campaign
  • Gizmo 4 Mental Health

Legislative Advocacy

  • Affordable Daycare Position Statement
  • Legislative Testimony 3-20
  • Legislative Testimony 2-25-20
  • Legislative Testimony 2-18-20

Recent Reports

  • OCA Investigation of Conditions of Confinement for Youth in Department of Correction Summary
  • OCA Investigation of Conditions of Confinement for Youth in Department of Correction Report
  • OCA Investigation of Waterbury Public Schools
  • Incarcerated/Detained Youth – An Examination of Conditions of Confinement, January 16

Child Advocate: Sarah Eagan, JD

About Office of the Child Advocate
  • About Us
  • Job Opportunities
  • Policies and Notices

Contact

Office of the Child Advocate

18 – 20 Trinity Street
Hartford CT 06106
Phone Number: 860-566-2106
Toll-Free: 800-994-0939
Fax: 860-326-0569

    Language

Office of Governmental Accountability Office of the Child Advocate

Most Popular

  • About us
  • Recent Annual Reports
  • Resource list

OCA Public Health Alerts

  • Suicide Prevention PHA 2020
  • Suicide Prevention PHA Spanish
  • Scald Burn Flyer
  • Scald Burn Flyer (Spanish)
  • 2020 Summer Safety
  • Keeping Babies Safe
  • Keeping Babies Safe (Spanish)
  • 2019 Drowning Data and Prevention Strategies
  • Prevent Suicide Campaign
  • Gizmo 4 Mental Health

Legislative Advocacy

  • Affordable Daycare Position Statement
  • Legislative Testimony 3-20
  • Legislative Testimony 2-25-20
  • Legislative Testimony 2-18-20

Recent Reports

  • OCA Investigation of Conditions of Confinement for Youth in Department of Correction Summary
  • OCA Investigation of Conditions of Confinement for Youth in Department of Correction Report
  • OCA Investigation of Waterbury Public Schools
  • Incarcerated/Detained Youth – An Examination of Conditions of Confinement, January 16

Child Advocate: Sarah Eagan, JD

About Office of the Child Advocate
  • About Us
  • Job Opportunities
  • Policies and Notices

Contact

Office of the Child Advocate

18 – 20 Trinity Street
Hartford CT 06106
Phone Number: 860-566-2106
Toll-Free: 800-994-0939
Fax: 860-326-0569

With the support of Volunteer Attorneys, Child Advocates represents more than 1,100 children who have experienced abuse and neglect each year. As the caseloads increase every year, our need for skilled volunteers is critical. When you become a Child Advocates Volunteer Attorney, you receive ongoing training and join a highly-skilled team including a masters-level social worker and a consulting staff attorney. Through your valued pro bono service with Child Advocates, you apply your legal skills to amplify the voices of your child clients and make a real impact in their lives.

Volunteer Attorneys at a Glance

  • LARGE LAW FIRM – 37.50%
  • MEDIUM/SMALL LAW FIRM – 23.81%
  • SOLO PRACTITIONER – 11.31%
  • CORPORATION – 10.71%
  • OTHER – 7.74%
  • GOVERNMENT OR PUBLIC INTEREST – 6.55%
  • EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTION – 2.38%

Why Volunteers Take Our Cases

What to Expect

Requirements

After you attend our “How to Handle a Child Abuse Case” training, there are a few more steps to complete before you are assigned a case. You will need to observe court proceedings with one of our staff attorneys, submit your background clearances, and then accept our call! Click “Next Steps” below for more details.

Responsibilities

As a Child Advocates Volunteer Attorney, you develop a relationship with your child client. Side-by-side with a Child Advocate Social Worker, you stand with your clients as counsel and guardian ad litem to represent them in court to ensure their safety, healing, and well-being.

Time Commitment

The time commitment for our cases vary depending on the needs of the child and the status of the child’s case. A typical case lasts approximately two to three years and we estimate that most volunteers spend approximately 30 to 50 hours a year representing a child.

Training & Support

We provide initial training and ongoing support to all our Child Advocates Volunteer Attorneys. Our Center for Excellence in Advocacy is licensed to offer CEUs and CLEs and our masters-level social workers and consulting staff attorneys will work with you side-by-side throughout the duration of your case.

Workplace: Cozen O’Connor

Practice Area: Litigation, specializing in Cybersecurity and Insurance Coverage

Child Advocates Volunteer Attorney Since 2000

Matt Siegel believes that lawyers have “an obligation to serve the needs of the community.” Matt chooses to serve as a Child Advocates Volunteer Attorney because he believes strongly in the agency’s mission “to advocate for victims of child abuse and neglect with the goal of securing safety, justice, well-being, and a permanent, nurturing environment for every child.” He feels the mission “isn’t just tucked away in an annual statement,” but defines the organization and everything Child Advocates Volunteer Attorneys do on behalf of their clients. Matt dedicates himself to his pro bono work with Child Advocates to carry out the mission and “help ensure that Philadelphia’s children in need have a voice and an advocate.” He knows that “these children need someone who will stand up for their rights when their parents, or teachers, or the system at large has let them down.”

In one of his most memorable cases with Child Advocates, Matt was there to see his client graduate high school and attend the young man’s graduation party. Matt recalls that he was welcomed by the client’s family and felt that they were truly happy to have him there, both at the party and in their lives in general. He appreciates that the family understood his role in helping them achieve unity and stability. Recently, Matt learned that this client is now a working and successful professional. He found it gratifying to watch this young man succeed, and reach a point of stability.

Matt feels that a positive aspect of being a Child Advocates Volunteer Attorney is providing clients with opportunities to have improved lives and identities that are their own. His piece of advice for new and potential Child Advocates Volunteer Attorneys is to “stick with it. The work can be challenging and can be depressing, but keep working with the faith and knowledge that you are making a difference in your client’s life. And, ask yourself, if you hadn’t stepped up to help this child, who else would?”

The three words Matt uses to describe his Child Advocates clients are, “resilient, inspirational, everyday kids.”

In addition to serving as a Child Advocates Volunteer Attorney, Matt also serves as a member of the Child Advocates Volunteer Committee and is a former Child Advocates Board Member. He received the Child Advocates Distinguished Advocate award in 2006.

Jodi E. Schatz, Esq.
Director of Intake and Pro Bono Services
267-546-9228
[email protected]

Child Advocacy Practice Groups

Child Advocates Volunteer Attorneys often work across different departments within the same law firm. Child Advocacy Practice Groups gather attorneys to meet, discuss their cases, and support each other with ongoing support from Child Advocates staff members.

How to become a child advocate lawyer

What Is an Advocate?

The term “advocate” refers to someone who advocates on the behalf of another party. Specifically, advocates usually work within the legal system in some capacity, although they may also work outside its parameters in some cases.

Areas That Require Advocacy Jobs

Advocacy jobs are available everywhere and take on a number of different areas, including children’s rights, family negotiations, accident or crime victims’ needs, and so on. Every area of the legal profession needs advocates to work on victims’ behalf.

Requirements of Advocacy Jobs

Most formal advocacy jobs require that you have a least some legal experience or that you’re in law school and in the process of becoming a lawyer. Oftentimes, law students help tenants settle disputes with landlords. Others may even undertake cases involving individuals who have been wrongly convicted of crimes in the hopes of proving the innocence of these wrongly accused individuals. In such cases, of course, the students are supervised by a law professor and take on the cases as part of the students’ training and education to become lawyers.

Depending on the scope of the work required, advocacy jobs may start at relatively modest pay (sometimes very modest pay). It can be quite easy to become an advocate, though. If you’re willing to volunteer, for example, you can advocate in any number of areas for any number of individuals, including battered women, abused children, tenants, and so on.

In some cases, volunteer advocacy jobs can lead to paid advocacy jobs based upon experience. These jobs are not necessarily listed in any central location; rather, they’re part of a network whereby those who have become legal advocates move into paid positions after a time spent volunteering.

Some areas employ legal advocates specifically to act as mediators in disputes, rather than utilizing lawyers and judges. Oftentimes, for example, advocates work to mediate and resolve legal disputes that may not have the substance go to trial. Lawyers and judges, meanwhile, are often significantly overbooked such that using legal advocates for lesser cases is both cost-effective and time-saving. Minor disputes, for example, that might otherwise have to wait for months or longer to be resolved in the traditional legal system can be resolved far more quickly through mediation instead.

Because advocates work on behalf of someone, advocates always work in partnership with other people. An advocate’s job is to work on someone’s behalf as his or her representative. However, the advocate also works in tandem with that person so that he or she can determine what needs are to be met and what the person he or she is advocating for wants. For this reason, advocates do not stand alone in making decisions. Rather, they stand with their clients and ultimately must do what their clients want.

What Can an Advocate Expect to Earn?

Advocacy jobs are as varied as the legal system itself. In some cases, you may become involved as an advocate on a purely volunteer basis. For example, if you volunteer at a homeless shelter to help clients find lodging, your volunteer status may be because the organization doesn’t have the money to pay a formal advocate. In such cases, experience requirements are usually much lower, and the job itself can even be learned through on-the-job experience alone.

If you are interested in becoming an advocate, it may be helpful to volunteer first in the area that you are most interested in. From there, volunteer advocacy jobs can often become paid jobs. Some advocates, too, eventually find a niche they are particularly interested in, and go to school specifically to become lawyers in that particular area.

Conclusion

Advocacy jobs are far-reaching and are involved in many different areas of the legal system in some capacity. Everything from advocating for children to advocating for environmental concerns can be accomplished by those who function as advocates. Some advocacy jobs are formal and require a law degree, while others simply require a passion and knowledge for the subject at hand and a willingness to learn. If you’re interested, find an area that interests you and begin by volunteering. Being an advocate can be a very rewarding experience.

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Foster care should be temporary, not a way of life.

Kids Matter CASA is an organization of volunteers that advocates for abused and neglected children in Milwaukee County Children’s Court. A Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteer is an everyday hero like you appointed by the court to independently investigate the cases of these children and advocate for what is best for each child with the goal of a loving, safe and permanent home.
Kids Matter CASA is a member of the National CASA Association and Wisconsin CASA Association.Click here to sign up to volunteer.
Kids Matter CASA was established in 2001 and has trained hundreds of volunteers serving children in the child welfare system. Kids Matter Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteers work with child protective services, the legal system and community resources to serve as the child’s advocate in court.
How to become a child advocate lawyer

Becoming a CASA Volunteer

Through Kids Matter CASA, community volunteers are trained to be advocates for children in foster or kinship care. Appointed by the Children’s Court judges and commissioners to one case at a time, a Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteer monitors the child’s situation, identifies community resources and participates in the court process to accomplish the goal of moving the child to permanency.

The Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteer gathers information by talking to the child, family, case managers, teachers, attorneys and others who are involved in the child’s life. A written recommendation is made in a court report that is prepared for each court hearing. This court report is independent of the case manager’s and attorney’s reports and is often read first by the judge. A CASA volunteer will remain on a case until permanency is reached. On the average, the length of a case is a year.

Training

Court Appointed Special Advocate volunteers are required to go through a thirty-hour training over several sessions. This training covers the roles and responsibilities of a CASA volunteer, the history and laws of child abuse, cultural awareness and understanding families and children. A court observation of child abuse and neglect hearings is also required. At the end of the training, a Children’s Court Judge formally swears in the CASA volunteers. Click here to see our training dates.

Volunteer

Our volunteers are everyday people from all walks of life with a variety of professional, educational and ethnic backgrounds. What they have in common is a desire to make a difference in a child’s life. Would you like to make that difference? Call Kids Matter Inc at 414-344-1220 to learn more.

Mission Statement

The mission of the Kids Matter CASA program is to be a voice for abused, neglected and exploited children who are under legal protection of the Milwaukee County Circuit Court, Children’s Court Division. Kids Matter CASA advocates for the rights of these children to grow up in safe, nurturing and permanent homes.

History

Frustrated over making decisions about abused and neglected children’s lives without enough information, a Seattle judge began to use trained community volunteers to speak for the best interests of these children in court. This Seattle program was so successful that soon judges across the country began to use volunteer advocates. The Victims of Child Abuse Act of 1990 guaranteed every abused child someone to speak on their behalf. Today more than 900 CASA program offices are in operation across the country with over 70,000 volunteers.

CASA and Community

There is no greater gift than the gift of self. The creation and growth of Kids Matter CASA would not be possible without the help of our extraordinary partners. The commitment of the Junior League to “building better communities” has supported an expanded CASA program and the creation of a safe haven for kids and volunteers.

The ongoing support of the Racine Dominican Mission Fund is an inspiration. We are reminded daily of their mission, “Committed to the Truth, Compelled to Justice.” The Elizabeth A. Brinn Foundation and the Charles D. Jacobus Family Foundation, share their founders’ faith in children and the sweat equity of volunteers. Their early support helped us grow from an idea to a community of volunteers.

Every dollar donated to Kids Matter CASA is matched by $10 of volunteer time. We are grateful to the West Metro Optimists, the Jewish Women’s Endowment Fund, the Jack and Lucy Rosenberg Foundation, the Kappa Alpha Theta Milwaukee Alumni Chapter, National CASA Program, the Jane Bradley Pettit Foundation and the many individual donors who made this partnership with the community possible.