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South Royalton Legal Clinic

Children First! Legal Advocacy Project

Children First! Legal Advocacy Project provides a voice in the legal system for children in families with a history of domestic violence or whose parents are so embroiled in bitter disputes that the courts appoint independent advocacy.

A Children First! Case Story
Terry*, age 16, definitely had her work cut out for her. She was able to overcome a severe hearing impairment only with difficulty, and with the help of an assistive device. The extra time she needed to do her schoolwork was not to be found, however—the relatives with whom she lived placed on her young shoulders the job of caring for several siblings, including an infant. Each morning, she fed and dressed the older children and got them ready for school. When she returned from school herself, the adults in the household would simply go to bed, leaving her to care for the children through the evening, including feeding, bathing, and putting them to bed. She also had to do the laundry and clean the house. Many days, Terry had to stay home from school to care for the infant. In less than a school year, she was absent nearly 50 days.

Terry, who's bright and independent, dreamed of becoming a veterinarian, but she saw those dreams slipping away. She started staying with one of her teachers, and another teacher brought an action for an involuntary guardianship. The South Royalton Legal Clinic's Children First! Legal Advocacy Project was appointed to represent Terry. One of the Children First! student clinicians became close to Terry, representing her in court, explaining her rights and options and doing other tasks, including retrieving Terry's service dog from a shelter. Finally, a close relative of Terry's consented to a temporary guardianship and Terry was able to remain in the home of her teacher. Since then, Terry has missed little school, and she finished near the top of her class last year.

*All client names are pseudonyms