CAI Executive Director Robert C. Fellmeth’s OpEd on Legal Representation for Abused Children Published by The Hill

Robert C. FellmethRobert C. Fellmeth, Executive Director of the Children's Advocacy Institute

SAN DIEGO (June 11, 2019) – University of San Diego (USD) School of Law’s Children’s Advocacy Institute (CAI) Executive Director, Robert C. Fellmeth’s opinion editorial on legal representation for abused children was published by The Hill.

According to the editorial, children are the vulnerable parties in child abuse and neglect cases, with every aspect of their lives at stake when they face removal from their families or enter a courtroom.

Dependency courts dramatically shape a child’s future and have complete authority over the children in their custody. In child abuse and neglect cases, the judge is the legal parent, deciding who the children live with, where they will go to school, and what their relationships with their family will be. Judges consider the counseled positions of the state and parents through their attorneys, but in many states, the child has no attorney and their voice is omitted.

Quality legal representation is essential to protecting the basic constitutional rights and privileges of all parties, including children. Research indicates that legal representation for children is associated with better outcomes, shorter times in foster care or expensive group home settings, and cost-savings for states.

To read the full OpEd in the The Hill here.

About the Children’s Advocacy Institute

The Children’s Advocacy Institute (CAI), founded at the nonprofit University of San Diego School of Law in 1989, is one of the nation's premiere academic, research, and advocacy organizations working to improve the lives of children and youth, with special emphasis on improving the child protection and foster care systems and enhancing resources that are available to youth aging out of foster care.

In its academic component, CAI trains law students and attorneys to be effective child advocates throughout their legal careers. Its Child Advocacy Clinic gives USD Law students three distinct clinical opportunities to advocate on behalf of children and youth, and its Dependency Counsel Training Program provides comprehensive training to licensed attorneys engaged in or contemplating Dependency Court practice.

CAI's research and advocacy component, conducted through its offices in San Diego, Sacramento, and Washington, D.C., seeks to leverage change for children and youth through impact litigation, regulatory and legislative advocacy, and public education. Active primarily at the federal and state levels, CAI's efforts are multi-faceted—comprehensively and successfully embracing all tools of public interest advocacy to improve the lives of children and youth. To support CAI’s work, please visit

About the University of San Diego School of Law

Recognized for the excellence of its faculty, curriculum and clinical programs, the University of San Diego (USD) School of Law educates approximately 800 Juris Doctor and graduate law students from throughout the United States and around the world. The law school is best known for its offerings in the areas of business and corporate law, constitutional law, intellectual property, international and comparative law, public interest law and taxation.

USD School of Law is one of the 84 law schools elected to the Order of the Coif, a national honor society for law school graduates. The law school's faculty is a strong group of outstanding scholars and teachers with national and international reputations and currently ranks 36th nationally among U.S. law faculties in scholarly impact and 29th nationally in past-year faculty downloads on the Social Sciences Research Network (SSRN). The school is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. Founded in 1954, the law school is part of the University of San Diego, a private, independent, Roman Catholic university chartered in 1949.


Katie Gonzalez
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