July 11, 2017 — The University of Houston Law Center's Juvenile & Capital Advocacy Project (JCAP) was recently awarded a $100,000 grant from The Simmons Foundation to support its record-sealing program and to develop a program for dual-status youth.
Dual-status youth -- often referred to as "crossover youth" – are children who are simultaneously involved in the juvenile justice system and foster care system; they suffer from histories of abuse and neglect. Without appropriate and targeted interventions and specialized legal representation these youth are at increased risk for mental health concerns, educational problems, occupational difficulties and public health and safety issues.
"Many months ago we saw a real need for a program to address the needs of dual-status youth, and we came up with the idea of training law students to serve as guardians ad litem (GAL) for these children," said Katya Dow, the legal program director of JCAP and a professor of practice at the Law Center.
Dow noted that dual-status youth are poorly served by the existing system because of a lack of meaningful and regularized communication between the courts with jurisdiction over the delinquency matters and those with jurisdiction over foster care matters. JCAP's newly-established program aims to correct these problems by training law students to address the issues these juveniles face holistically.
"In the existing system, these children and young adults often simply fall through the cracks, and JCAP's dual status representation program aims to help fill those cracks," Dow said.
"The record-sealing program we operate in partnership with the Houston Bar Association and the Harris County Juvenile Probation Department, while enormously important to the juveniles, is also enormously time-consuming," Dow added. "Consequently, without this grant from the Simmons Foundation, JCAP would simply not have had the capacity to add the GAL program to its operations.
"JCAP is grateful to the Foundation and honored by its confidence, and looks forward to serving this new and deserving constituency of dual-status youth."
The Simmons Foundation is a philanthropic organization that partners with other groups to provide support to women, youth and families, among many other vulnerable members of the population.
JCAP was established at the Law Center in 2014 by Professor David R. Dow, longtime death penalty attorney and founder of the Texas Innocence Network. The project seeks to reduce juvenile delinquency and improve life outcomes for economically and socially disadvantaged youth through the provision of legal, educational and social support services.