Insights into working with children and youth

“Working with Youth” was the topic of yesterday’s panel discussion among Alysha Clark and Brianna Shaw, both Temple Law students, and Liz Yeager, of the HIAS Immigrant Youth Advocacy Project. The panel was part of a Social Justice Advocacy Institute created by Rubin-Presser Fellows Paige Joki and Sela Cowger and supported by the Sheller Center.

Ms. Yeager discussed the challenges of representing children and youth in the stressful context of immigration proceedings. And Ms. Clark and Ms. Shaw, both of whom had had years of personal experience as wards of the child welfare system, spoke candidly about how it had felt to have lawyers, social workers, judges and others intervene in their lives.  Some key themes: really listening (too often, young people are talked at, or talked around); accountability – i.e., doing what we say we’re going to do, an especially important issue for young people who have experienced too many broken promises; and managing our resources as advocates so as to be able to help clients most effectively.

Alysha Clark commented: “Conversations like this are the perfect start to understanding what forms and methods of advocacy are effective with youth and which are not so effective. It is particularly excellent to have these conversations early in our legal careers.”  And Brianna Shaw put it this way: “It’s important for all attorneys to be knowledgeable about working with youth because it comes up in so many aspects of public interest work. Oftentimes, we take our own personal experiences as youth for granted — but a lot can be learned from situating yourself in the shoes of youthful clients.”