Children's Rights Litigation

District of Columbia

ABA Center on Children and the Law

American Bar Association
1050 Connecticut Ave. N.W., Suite 400
Washington, D.C. 20036
Telephone:     (202) 662-1720
Website:          https://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_interest/child_law/

Funded by the ABA Young Lawyers Division in 1978, the ABA Center on Children and The Law’s Mission is to promote access to justice for children and families. The Center’s team of attorneys and core staff work on a diverse portfolio of national, regional and local projects in the children’s law field throughout the country. Center projects are unified by two complementary goals: improving legal representation and improving the legal systems that impact children and families.

No direct representation of clients is undertaken by the Center. The Center also houses the National Welfare Resource Center on Legal and Judicial Issues. This Resource Center provides free or low-cost training, technical assistance and consultation to agencies and courts on all legal and judicial aspects of the child welfare system. 

Center staff provides technical assistance and consultation to attorneys, judges, and child protection professionals, produces a wide range of publications and scholarly policy studies, has an extensive training program and holds a bi-annual national conference on children and the law. Topics addressed by the center include: abuse and neglect, adoption, child support, custody disputes, delinquency, family preservation, guardian ad litem, HIV-positive children, kinship care and foster care, law guardian, parental child abduction, and permanency planning.

The Center works with state child welfare agencies to train attorneys and social workers, and has conducted extensive child welfare policy studies to assist states updating their child welfare laws and procedures. After performing a policy study, the center can recommend and help implement changes – including drafting legislation, court rules, and policy standards, and preparing attorney and caseworker training based on new laws, policies and practices.

Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law

1101 15th St., NW, Ste. 1212
Washington, DC 20005
Telephone:    (202) 467-5730
Email:              requests-for-help@bazelon.org
Website:         http://www.bazelon.org/

Since 1972, the Judge David L. Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law has advocated for the civil rights, full inclusion and equality of adults and children with mental disabilities. The Center was pivotal in expanding the civil rights movement to include fighting discrimination against, and segregation of, people with mental disabilities. Today, the Bazelon Center accomplishes its goals through a unique combination of litigation, public policy advocacy, coalition building and leadership, public education, media outreach and technical assistance.  The Center focuses its efforts on the following areas:  Education, Mental Health Systems and Criminal Justice.

Break the Cycle

P.O. Box 66165
Washington, D.C. 20035
Telephone:  202.849.6289 ext. 1
Email:             legalservices@breakthecycle.org
Website:        https://www.breakthecycle.org/legal-services

Break the Cycle provides legal services to young survivors of dating abuse in Los Angeles, CA, and Washington, DC. Its legal services are free and are available to young people who are: 

  • 12 to 24 years old
  • Living in the Los Angeles County or Washington, DC metropolitan area
  • Seeking help because of dating abuse, domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault

Break the Cycle attorneys assist survivors of abuse with the following legal issues:

  • Protection or restraining orders
  • Violations of protection orders
  • Child custody
  • Visitation
  • Child support; Divorce
  • Criminal case advocacy
  • Title IX (school) advocacy

Break the Cycle attorneys also work closely with clients to ensure that their non-legal needs are met through safety planning and referrals to local domestic violence and social services.  Break the Cycle has no income eligibility requirements. We will provide bilingual help or interpreters at no cost to clients as needed; immigration status is not relevant to determining client eligibility.

Center for Children’s Law and Policy

1701 K St., NW, Ste. 1100
Washington, DC 20006
Telephone:   (202) 637-0377
Fax:                 (202) 379-1600
Email:             info@cclp.org
Website:        https://www.cclp.org/

The Center for Children’s Law and Policy (CCLP) is a public interest law and policy organization focused on reform of juvenile justice and other systems that affect troubled and at-risk children, and protection of the rights of children in those systems. Staff members include lawyers and former juvenile justice professionals with extensive expertise in creating a more equitable and effective juvenile justice system. CCLP’s staff members are on the ground in over a dozen states, in addition to engaging in national advocacy. The organization has played a central role in major foundation-funded juvenile justice initiatives in the United States, including the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change initiative and the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI).

Center for Juvenile Justice Reform
Georgetown University

3300 Whitehaven Street, NW, Suite 5000
Washington, DC 20057
Telephone:  202-687-4942
Website:        https://cjjr.georgetown.edu/

The Center for Juvenile Justice Reform at Georgetown University supports and educates leaders across systems of care to advance a balanced, multi-system approach to improving outcomes for, and promoting the positive development of, youth at risk of juvenile justice involvement.

Housed at the McCourt School of Public Policy, the Center is in a unique position to provide strong and sustained national leadership in identifying and highlighting the research on policies and practices that work best to reduce delinquency and achieve better outcomes for this nation’s children. A particular focus of the Center is on youth known to both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, also referred to as “crossover youth.”

The Center works to focus the nation’s juvenile justice and related systems of care on the key principles embodied in an evidence-based juvenile justice reform agenda, utilizing a multi-system approach. These include:

  • An effective balance of prevention and intervention services
  • An individualized system of justice for youth
  • Implementation of proven and effective practices
  • Strong linkages to the community
  • Significant public engagement and building of public and political will

Beyond providing information on these key principles the Center also provides guidance and instruction on how to implement this reform agenda through the adoption of sound policy and practice. In this regard, the Center supports the development of stronger leaders in the juvenile justice and related systems of care and helps them to achieve better outcomes for the young people in their care.

Center for Law And Education

7011 8th Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20012
Telephone:    (202) 986-3000
Email:              Cle@Cleweb.Org

105 Chauncy Street
6th Floor, Suite 3
Boston, MA 02111
Telephone:    (617) 451-0855
Email:              Clebos@Cleweb.Org
Website:         http://www.cleweb.org/

The Center for Law and Education (CLE) strives to make the right of all students to quality education a reality and to help enable communities to address their own education problems effectively, with an emphasis on assistance to low-income students.

As a national support center, CLE developed enormous expertise about the legal rights and responsibilities of students and school personnel as well as about key education programs and initiatives, including Title I, vocational education programs and school to work systems, and special education for students with disabilities.

Children’s Law Center, Inc.

501 3rd Street NW
8th Floor
Washington, DC 20001
Telephone:     (202) 467-4900
Website:          https://www.childrenslawcenter.org/

100% Children’s Law

Does Use Volunteer Attorneys

The Children’s Law Center Began in 1996 and provides free legal services to at-risk children, their families, and foster and kinship caregivers in the District of Columbia. The Center’s mission is to improve the lives of low- and middle-income at-risk children and their families by providing direct legal representation and advocacy and by offering training and technical assistance to the public and to other professionals. Clients are referred from juvenile courts, social service agencies, schools, health care professionals and other attorneys.

Volunteer attorneys and law students are recruited through local law firms and schools. pro bono attorneys are trained and then teamed with staff attorneys or experienced volunteer attorneys.

Volunteers are also utilized in corporate and employment matters for the Center. Besides individual representation, the Center has initiated class action suits in the areas of foster home licensing and adoption subsidies. Children’s Law Center also coordinates the health access project by maintaining a full-time lawyer at Children’s National Medical Center to work with low income patients of the hospital on issues related to health.

Criminal Justice Clinic

Washington College Of Law, American University
4801 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20016
Telephone:       (202) 274-4223
Website:            https://www.wcl.american.edu/academics/experientialedu/clinical/theclinics/criminal/

33% Children’s Law

Does Not Use Volunteer Attorneys

The Criminal Justice Clinic (CJC) is designed to teach student attorneys about the theory and practice of advocacy in the criminal and juvenile justice systems with the knowledge that these skills apply to lawyering in many other settings. The clinic practices in Maryland and offers opportunities for second and third year students to participate in either defense or prosecution.  Students in the CJC-Defense section represent adults facing misdemeanor charges, juveniles, and individuals serving life sentences without parole for offenses that occurred when they were juveniles. The CJC accepts defense cases on referral from the Montgomery County Public Defender's Office only. Students in the CJC-Prosecution section take the accompanying seminar at WCL, but they perform their field work at Maryland State's Attorney's Offices in Montgomery, Prince George's, and Anne Arundel Counties.

Juvenile and Special Education Law Clinic

David A. Clarke School of Law, University of The District of Columbia
340 Connecticut Ave. NW, Room 301
Washington, DC 20008
Telephone:     (202) 274-7438
Website:          https://www.law.udc.edu/page/Juvenileclinic

UDC Law students and faculty supervisors in the Juvenile and Special Education Law Clinic represent children and parents (or guardians) primarily in special education matters. Since it began, the clinic faculty pioneered and developed a nationally-acclaimed approach to addressing the problems of delinquency by supplementing traditional delinquency representation with, where appropriate, advocacy to address the special education needs of the children who are the subject of those delinquency proceedings.

Essentially, by arranging for children to receive needed special education services, clinic professors and law students ensure that the delinquency system responds appropriately to the children's needs for care and rehabilitation. In a large number of cases, the clinic is able to protect children from punitive responses or to extricate children from the delinquency system altogether.

Since January 1995, the clinic has applied a similar strategy in neglect cases, exploring in appropriate neglect cases what special educational services the children might need. The results have been similar to those achieved in the delinquency context: the clinic professors and students are obtaining better services and better results for their clients by combining educational advocacy with neglect advocacy.

Second- and third-year students who are court-certified are responsible for the overall management of at least three special education cases. Students draft documents, develop and implement case plans, negotiate, and handle administrative hearings and courtroom representation. The Clinic produced a special education manual (.pdf) that provides a narrative explanation of special education law, as well as chapters describing and exploring the parallel advocacy approach of seeking special education remedies for delinquency clients. This manual complements the materials that the Clinic faculty have developed and handed out over the years. 

Juvenile Justice Clinic Georgetown University Law Center

600 New Jersey Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20001
Telephone:  (202) 662-9590
Email:            lawjjc@georgetown.edu
Website:       https://www.law.georgetown.edu/experiential-learning/clinics/juvenile-justice-clinic/

100% Children’s Law

Does Not Use Volunteer Attorneys

The Juvenile Justice Clinic began through a grant in 1973 and provides training to 14 law students a year as part of the law school’s curriculum. Students receive academic credit for their participation in the clinic and handle approximately 50-80 children’s law cases each year. The Clinic is staffed with two to three attorneys. law students are teamed with staff attorneys to assist clients referred from juvenile court, social service agencies and other attorneys in the community. The clinic also retains social workers, child development specialists and psychologists as paid consultants when needed. 

Kids In Need Of Defense, Inc. (KIND)

1300 L St. NW, Suite 1100
Washington, DC 20005
Telephone:    (202) 824-8680
Email:              Info@Supportkind.Org
Website:         https://supportkind.org/

Kids In Need Of Defense (KIND) is a non-profit organization founded by Microsoft Corporation and actress Angelina Jolie in 2008. Its mission is to assist unaccompanied children in the immigration system. KIND helps children with all types of immigration cases, including those in which the child is likely to be deported. KIND provides assistance with Asylum, Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, U or T Visas, VAWA Petitions, Family Based Petitions, and other forms of protection from deportation.

KIND works to find pro bono lawyers to represent these unaccompanied children. KIND has partnered with many law firms and corporations who have committed to providing pro bono support. KIND hosts trainings to teach attorneys about the immigration process and legal remedies available to children. KIND also provides comprehensive assistance and mentorship to the pro bono attorneys who take on cases. KIND is also partnering with NGOs with expertise in working with unaccompanied children. KIND provides fellowships for attorneys and paralegals at NGOs to dedicate their time and talent to exclusively represent unaccompanied children.

National Juvenile Defender Center

1350 Connecticut Ave., NW, Ste. 304
Washington, DC 20036
Telephone:     (202) 452-0010
Website:          https://njdc.info/

Created in the 1970s as a part of the ABA, the Center is now a free standing nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting justice for all children by ensuring excellence in juvenile defense. Through community building, training, and policy reform, the Center provides national leadership on juvenile defense issues with a focus on curbing the deprivation of young people’s rights in the court system. NJDC’s reach extends to urban, suburban, rural, and tribal areas, where they elevate the voices of youth, families, and defenders to create positive case outcomes and meaningful opportunities for children. The Center also works with broad coalitions to ensure that the reform of juvenile courts includes the protection of children’s rights—particularly the right to counsel.

National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty

1411 K St., NW, Ste. 1400
Washington, Dc 20005
Telephone:    (202) 638-2535
Email:              Info@Nlchp.Org
Website:         https://nlchp.org/

35% Children’s Law

Does Use Volunteer Attorneys

The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty was established in 1989 as the legal arm of the movement to end homelessness, with an emphasis on protecting the rights of homeless children and youth. The Center focuses on children’s civil rights, government benefits, and the education rights of homeless children and youth (The Mckinney-Vento Act). As part of its mission to end homelessness, the Center works to ensure that all homeless children and youth have access to a free, appropriate public education and a real opportunity for academic success. The Center can provide legal and practice information to practicing lawyers, as well as technical assistance and support for cases, opportunities to become involved in education issues on behalf of homeless children and youth, amicus briefs, connection to pro bono assistance from law firms, a membership network, and other assistance and support as needed. The Center has numerous publications available on the education rights of homeless children and youth. Calls are accepted from the public and from children seeking legal information.

The National Technical Assistance Center for the Education of Neglected and Delinquent Children and Youth American Institutes for Research

1000 Thomas Jefferson Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20007
Telephone:     (202) 403-5000
Website:          https://neglected-delinquent.ed.gov/

Does Not Use Volunteer Attorneys

The National Technical Assistance Center for the Education of Neglected or Delinquent Children and Youth (NDTAC) was established in 2002 through support from the U.S. Department of Education (ED). NDTAC serves as a national resource center to provide direct assistance to States, schools, communities, and parents seeking information on the education of children and youth who are considered neglected, delinquent, or at-risk. The education of youth involved in the juvenile justice system is a primary focus of the Center. 

NDTAC works with State and local administrators and service providers of the Title I, Part D program

Open City Advocates

4202 Benning Road NE
Washington, DC 20019
Telephone:  202-678-9001
Website:       https://www.opencityadvocates.org/

Open City Advocates provides legal representation and mentorship to juveniles after they have been sentenced in juvenile court and continues to represent them as they are re-integrated into society after their sentence.

School Justice Project (SJP)

Contact: Claire Blumenson
1805 7th Street NW, 7th Fl.
Washington, DC 20001 202-618-1247
Telephone:   202.618.1247
Email:             info@sjpdc.org
Website:        http://www.sjpdc.org/

SJP uses special education law to ensure that older, court-involved students with disabilities can access a quality education. SJP's special education attorneys work with their clients to protect and enforce special education rights. Through individual representation and systemic advocacy programs, SJP aims to spark a system-wide overhaul, changing the educational landscape for older court-involved students with special education needs who are involved in DC's juvenile and criminal justice systems.