Jessica Heldman '04 (JD) Child Rights Professor-in-Residence Presenting at Juvenile (In)justice Symposium

Confronting Racial Disproportionality, Disparity, & Bias Against Children of Color


SAN DIEGO (March 16, 2021) -  University of San Diego (USD) School of Law Children’s Advocacy Institute (CAI)’s Jessica Heldman, Fellmeth-Peterson Professor in Residence in Child Rights, is presenting at Juvenile (In)justice: Confronting Racial Disproportionality, Disparity, & Bias Against Children of Color symposium on Friday, March 19, 2021, presented by Loyola University Chicago School of Law’s Children’s Legal Rights Journal.

This year’s symposium will bring together scholars, practitioners, and youth to address current issues impacting racial inequity in the juvenile justice system. Distinguished speakers will examine the intersection of race and justice-involved children, specifically among dual-status youth and students. The symposium will also address Illinois’ leadership in juvenile justice reform. Lastly, a panel of speakers will discuss possible solutions and best practices for reducing racial disproportionality and disparity in the juvenile justice system.

Professor Heldman will be speaking as one of the featured speakers in a segment entitled, An Examination of Racism and Racial Discrimination Impacting Dual Status Youth, focusing on how youth of color continue to be disproportionately affected by the racial inequities, disparities, and racism in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Furthermore, youth of color in the child welfare system are shown to be at significantly greater risk of juvenile legal system involvement, despite research suggesting that they do not engage in more delinquent behavior. Referred to as dual status youth, children who are brought into the dependency system and later enter the juvenile justice system are at higher risk of experiencing a variety of negative outcomes.

The presentation will review existing research on the scope of disproportionality within the dual status youth population, and suggests that the juvenile court system has yet to come to terms with a root cause of this circumstance—the racism embedded in the system itself. Professor Heldman and her fellow presenter will dissect dependency and delinquency decision-making, policies, and procedures that can reflect institutional racism and individual bias, and will offer strategies for constructing a more just system.

If you would like more information or are interested in registering for this symposium, click here. This program has been approved for 2.5 hours of General MCLE credit. CLE is complementary this year.

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 premier 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

Each year, USD 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 22nd 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
(619) 260-4806


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