CLC is appointed by the court to provide legal representation to children who are either wards of the state – “legal orphans” – or have been removed from their homes because they are in need of protection. CLC also represents foster children who request help. CLC provides this quality representation free of charge. Currently, CLC represents over 800 children per year.
Since 1995, CLC has trained over 1000 volunteer attorneys. With their help, CLC has represented more than 4000 foster children, and helped to promote systemic change and advocacy for vulnerable youth throughout Minnesota. When children are taken from abusive or neglectful parents, they need to know their legal rights. CLC provides a multidisciplinary team of volunteer and staff attorneys and a social worker to listen to the children and help them navigate the complicated systems that control their lives. These advocates help guide the children by empowering them to speak up for what they want. CLC advocates help children understand the system and help judges and other court workers understand what the children want.
CLC’s staff attorneys and social worker provide expertise and years of experience to volunteer attorneys to support their efforts in representing foster children, including knowledge about specific laws and services available for the children.
CLC also works closely with all stakeholders in the Minnesota Child Protection System (including Minnesota legislators) to ensure that Minnesota’s law are most favorable to our foster care children and youth. One recent example is McKenna’s Law – a law, which went into effect on August 1, 2017 will now ensure that every child who is the subject of a child protection petition and who is ten years of age or older, is timely and properly informed of their right to have an attorney represent them.
“Children’s Law Center of Minnesota promotes the legal rights and well-being of children and youth. CLC’s staff and volunteers provide direct representation of children and youth, primarily in the child welfare system, and advocate for changes in the systems that affect their lives.”
What is it like to be a child of foster care?
Imagine that you are 12 years old. You and your 14 year old brother have been neglected by your mother and sexually abused by her boyfriends. You are taken from your mother and her rights are terminated because she is chemically dependent and has been arrested for selling drugs.
You are now a ward of the state. This means, the state is now your parent. Do you know your rights? Do you know that you are entitled to an attorney? Do you know what services you are supposed to get and how to find them? Do you know that you are entitled to see your brother if you are separated?
Now you are placed in a foster home out of your school district. You have to switch schools again. Make new friends again. Try to figure out and get caught up in classes you have never been in before again. You go home to a foster parent that you are sure does not understand how sad you are that you have lost your mother. She may not have been a good mother, but she was yours. They don’t understand how much you miss your brother. He is the only one who has been there for you and understands what you have been through because he has been through it too.
You do not understand why you are angry all the time. Many times you do not even feel it coming….it just happens, when someone touches your journal with the photo of you and your mom in it, or when they don’t understand that you don’t like milk because it makes you sick, or why you cannot sit still. You are 12 years old, all alone……what would you do?