Children and Youth Advocacy Clinic
About the Children and Youth Advocacy Clinic
Students in CAYAC work under the supervision of faculty to represent children and youth in the child welfare system as well as those who are experiencing homelessness. In addition to direct representation of clients in court, CAYAC students may engage in policy work, legislative advocacy and community lawyering. Students in CAYAC become skilled in trauma-informed interviewing and counseling, negotiating across disciplines, drafting statutes, memos and pleadings and appearing before the court.
Children's Right to Counsel
When children in the state of Washington are removed from their homes, a complex court proceeding begins that often lasts for years and regulates every aspect of their lives—from where they will live to who they will visit. Yet, they are also the only persons involved in the case without an automatic right to appointment of counsel. CAYAC is dedicated to changing this practice by establishing the child's right to counsel. We have advocated for this right in the courts, through research and, as part of a broader coalition, through legislative advocacy. Students in CAYAC file motions for appointment of counsel for children in the system. One of these cases, In re the Dependency of S.K.P., is awaiting decision in Div. II Court of Appeals. Meanwhile, CAYAC students are also working in Olympia with our coalition partners on this issue as well.
Child Welfare System and Homelessness
CAYAC also recognizes the many links between the child welfare system and homelessness. CAYAC students help youth who are aging out of foster care avoid homelessness by gaining access to the benefits due to them by virtue of their foster care experience. They also represent youth by removing legal barriers to safe housing. Finally, CAYAC realizes that sometimes the best way to assist a homeless youth is to help them find a home in the custody of a caring adult. In such cases, CAYAC assists caregivers who want to assume legal responsibility for youth at risk of homelessness or child welfare involvement.
Research and Policy Work
CAYAC's research and policy work also offers students an opportunity to meet their advanced writing requirement while making an impact in the community. For example, CAYAC students are researching the barriers that youth experience when seeking shelter. They are also gathering data about the intersection of child welfare involvement and homelessness. This research will inform the construction of better models of legal and social service delivery for homeless youth.
The Access to Counsel Systemic Advocacy Project
Students in the Access to Counsel Systemic Advocacy Project (ASAP) work to increase access to quality attorneys for young people involved in the foster care system through research, litigation, community outreach and legislative advocacy.
Read our 2016 report "Defending our Children."
Clinic students have contributed to the following reports:
- Defending Our Children: A Child's Access to Justice in Washington State (2016)
- Access to Counsel Project, Dependency Court Observation Preliminary Report (2015)
Publications from clinic faculty
- Alicia LeVezu, "The Illusion of Appellate Review in Dependency Proceedings," 68 Juv. & Fam. Ct. Jl. 1 (March 2017).
- Lisa Kelly and Alicia Levezu, "Until the Client Speaks: Reviving the Legal Interest Model for Preverbal Children," Family Law Quarterly (2017).
- Lisa Kelly and Kimberly Ambrose, Representing Youth: Telling Stories, Imagining Change, Carolina Academic Press (2017).