The Center for Children, Law & Policy, along with the Southwest Juvenile Defender Center (SWJDC), has advocated on behalf of at-risk youth and youth in trouble with the law since 1997. CCLP's advocacy efforts have included direct legal services, resource development for children, families, and attorneys, training, and mentoring.
Our current programs all aim to ensure that children get quality representation in schools, delinquency centers, the child protective system (including long-term foster care), and the immigration system.
8,358 children were abused and neglected in Houston in 2012 alone. Through no fault of their own, these children entered into a scary and complicated child protective system (CPS) that all too often ends with children being taken from their homes and parents’ rights being legally terminated in court.
While child abuse and neglect cases are pending, children are provided with a lawyer to advocate on their behalf. However, when a parent’s rights are terminated and the case is "over," the State of Texas becomes the child's legal guardian. Incredibly, when a child needs an attorney the most, the child loses the right to counsel and often becomes totally reliant on overloaded CPS caseworkers to find a safe foster home, locate an adoptive family, and make sure the child’s educational, health, and emotional needs are met.
CCLP's Child Advocacy Lab Program, launching in January 2014, will represent Houston children in long-term foster care who currently have no one to turn to for help. Law students, under the supervision of CCLP Director Ellen Marrus and supervising attorneys, put skills learned in the classroom into practice by zealously advocating on behalf of their clients.
Concurrent enrollment in Children and the Law is required.
A child's first contact with the juvenile system can be confusing, intimidating, and frightening. Children rarely understand all of the moving parts of the juvenile delinquency system, or how important it is to maintain good relationships with probation officers, defense attorneys, prosecutors and judges. Children also rarely comprehend the rights they are afforded in detention. If rights are not fully explained in a child-friendly way, children may unnecessarily provide information they had a right not to disclose.
CCLP's "Introduction to the Juvenile Justice System," launching in November 2013, empowers young people new to the Harris County Juvenile Detention Center (JDC) with information that helps them understand their rights. Law student volunteers, intensively trained by CCLP, visit new entrants to the JDC and break down complex concepts in one-on-one meetings. Students provide children with information on what information should be shared with JDC staff and what need not be shared, how to avoid prolonging detention with misbehavior, and where to go for help.