Children and Family Advocacy Clinic Information

Under the direct supervision of Washington University Law faculty, student attorneys in the Children & Family Advocacy Clinic (CFAC) serve as lead counsel in the representation of children, teens, parents, and other kin in a variety of legal proceedings affecting the individual and family rights and interests of children parents.

As lead counsel, student attorneys take responsibility for all aspects of a client’s case. CFAC faculty and students may also work with courts and the legislature on court improvement and policy formation.

The CFAC also serves as a field concentration placement site for social work students in which they work as part of interdisciplinary teams in support of the legal objectives and social needs of our clients.  Both law and social work students may also work on improving law and policy on behalf of children and families.

The CFAC affords students the opportunity to actually engage in direct client representation, learn effective lawyering and social work skills both in and out of court, grapple with ethical issues as they arise in the practice, and develop the fundamental skill to learn from experience. Through this client-centered advocacy, students play an important role in protecting the rights of children and families while seeking to improve the juvenile and family justice systems.

Most importantly, in addition to providing high quality and hands-on legal education for students, the CFAC provides legal representation that takes seriously the rights and wishes of our child and adult clients.  Through these practices, CFAC contemplates systemic reform through modeling, affirmative and defensive litigation, policy advocacy, and social and legal research in the areas of children’s and parents’ rights, adoption, foster care, and community resources.

The St. Louis County and City Juvenile and Family Courts are the primary locations of our child and family advocacy. These courts may appoint CFAC to represent children or their family members in child protection litigation, domestic violence, paternity, custody, guardianship, and adoption matters. In addition, we represent children and family members who directly seek our assistance.

In these matters, students may serve as guardian ad litem, attorney for children, or attorney for parents or other relatives. Consistent with our commitment to holistic representation, students are likely to have other advocacy opportunities including involvement in domestic violence, paternity, custody, guardianship, adoption, termination of parental rights, and other domestic relations proceedings and appeals.

The CFAC also serves as a concentration field placement for second-year social work students. Social work students likely will be part of the legal team and have the opportunity to serve in one or more of these capacities:

  • advocating for clients as part of a legal team; 
  •  consulting with student lawyers regarding the client needs and services; 
  • helping clients and the legal team identify and navigate social service resources;
  • advocating for clients; 
  • identifying and critiquing social science literature relevant to client or policy matters in the clinic; and
  • researching best practices in applied social work.

The CFAC also includes a classroom component in which students and faculty explore legal and social science literature relating to child and family defense, practice skills, and reflect on how the justice and social systems serve their constituents. 

Need Additional Information?

Professor Annette R. Appell
Washington University Law School | One Brookings Drive, Campus Box 1120 | St. Louis, MO  63130-4899
arappell@wulaw.wustl.edu | t: 314-935-7912 | f: 314-935-5171
SSRN author page