Adolescent Representation Clinic
The Adolescent Representation Clinic represents youth and young adults on collateral issues relating to their aging out of foster care or other institutional settings. Most of these clients range in age from 16 to 23. The issues involved extend across a broad spectrum of need and may include housing and homelessness prevention; teen pregnancy and parenting; health and health benefits; income and support benefits; education, tuition and financial aid benefits; financial planning; civil rights including LGBTQ issues; job training and career planning; identify theft and credit; and inheritance. Students paired in teams will represent clients referred from the Juvenile Rights Practice of the Legal Aid Society, Lawyers for Children, foster care agencies and community-based organizations.
The clinic has four components:
Seminar in Representing Adolescents: a weekly seminar will focus on the unique attributes of adolescents and young adults as viewed from multiple disciplines including medicine, law, sociology, and psychology. In addition to law students enrolled in the clinic, graduate students from other disciplines may enroll in the seminar portion of the clinic in order to explore adolescence from multiple perspectives. Guest lecturers include advocates, family court judges, youth in foster care, and mental health professionals.
Class and Simulation Exercises to prepare for casework: students will participate in intensive simulation practice, being introduced to basic lawyering skills including interviewing and counseling, case development and strategy, complex problem solving, and preparation for negotiation or litigation.
Client Representation: students will begin to represent clients following an intensive introduction to representation. Students will be teamed in pairs for casework. Each team will meet weekly with Professor Spinak for case supervision. Once case representation begins, some portion of the classes devoted to case preparation will be structured for case rounds so that students will be aware of and learn from their colleagues. Once casework has begun, students should expect to devote at least 20 hours per week to clinic-related activities.
Law Reform, Education and Policy Work: For several years, students have been addressing housing stability for aging out youth. Clinic students researched and wrote a report published in 2016 on housing instability for youth aging out of foster care with the goal of developing solutions for policy and lawmakers to reduce housing instability and homelessness. This report was based on the recent experiences of clinic clients and our advocacy on their behalf. Students have used the report to serve as the basis for systemic advocacy in collaboration with other groups. All enrolled students will participate in continuing this advocacy campaign, which is expected to include policy, lobbying and legislative components.
Read our housing report, Aged Out/Cast Out here.
Read about our recent housing activities, Speaking Out for Foster Care Youth, here.
Students with a wide range of backgrounds and/or ultimate career interests are encouraged to apply. Graduates of the clinic enter public service and private practice careers, frequently using their clinic experience to develop pro bono opportunities in the private sector. Students will focus on their own professional goals for the year, identifying specific skills or professional attributes they would like to develop or enhance in preparation for making the transition into the legal profession. The clinic will encompass professional responsibility and ethical practice issues as well as explorations into the role of law and legal practice in a just society.
Student Highlight: Ademisola Ijidakinro
“I participated in the Adolescent Representation Clinic because I’ve always been interested in working with youth populations. Becoming an effective advocate takes commitment and dedication to learning things outside of your comfort zone. The clinic prepared me to think critically and creatively about resolving issues, skills I know will be crucial in my future practice.”
- Ademisola Ijidakinro ’18
Faculty Highlight: Professor Jane M. Spinak
Jane M. Spinak is the Edward Ross Aranow Clinical Professor of Law at Columbia Law School. A member of the Law School faculty since 1982, Spinak co-founded the Child Advocacy and Family Advocacy Clinics. She currently directs the Adolescent Representation Clinic, which represents adolescents and young adults aging out of foster care. For more information please visit the Faculty Contacts page.