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Equal Justice Foundation Report - Monika Dobbs
DeKalb County Child Advovcacy Center
This summer I had the opportunity to work for the DeKalb County Child Advocacy Center (DCCAC) in Decatur, GA. The mission of the DeKalb County Child Advocacy Center is “to represent the best interests of abused and/or neglected children who are in need of the protection of the DeKalb County Juvenile Court.” DCCAC is the first child advocate office to be independent from the juvenile court. This is important because it allows child advocate attorneys to represent their client without influence from the court.
The office is comprised of child advocate attorneys, paralegals, investigators and interns. My summer began with a four-day training on child welfare at Emory University’s Barton Child and Law Policy Center. The training covered topics including juvenile delinquency, sexual abuse, physical abuse and deprivation proceedings.
As an intern in the office, my day usually began with calendar call in the courtroom. I was able to spend time in all four courtrooms at the DeKalb County Juvenile Court, which means I observed four different styles and approaches to juvenile law. When I was not in court, I visited child clients with attorneys and investigators as they conducted interviews, wrote reports on the child’s well being for the court, conducted research, and wrote memos. I interacted with judges, the juvenile district attorney, juvenile public defenders, case managers, and attorneys for parents and DFACS on a daily basis. In addition to my regular duties, I was assigned two summer projects. For my first project I created a pamphlet for foster parents of special education students advising them of their role in their foster child’s education. My second project involved researching case law for emerging issues within the office and tracking legislative updates.
Child advocate attorneys play an important role in the life of a child who is under court protection. The child advocate is the only person guaranteed to speak for the child. There is a child in the midst of every battle between DFCS and parents. It is important to have someone stand-up and speak for the child, the person whose life and well-being is at stake. Throughout the summer I heard stories from children who were dropped off at the courthouse because their parents didn’t want them anymore, children physically and sexually abused by their own parents, and children who had no idea why they couldn’t go home. Yes, there were hard days, but when you think of what the child has gone through and their ability to still smile, your only choice is to keep going. Child advocate attorneys ensure that children get what they need while they are in DFCS custody.
I was exposed to deprivation proceedings as a CASA prior to this internship. Since this internship, I am even more interested in working in deprivation proceedings. It is no surprise that many foster youth also have delinquent charges. I was also able to observe juvenile delinquent proceedings and gain exposure to the juvenile delinquent field. This internship has affirmed my desire to work in the juvenile field.
I am grateful for the support of the Equal Justice Foundation. The fellowship I received allowed me to cover my travel from Athens to Decatur everyday and eased the financial burden of working a non-paid internship. I would have been unable to accept this position without the support of the Equal Justice Foundation.
Monika M. Dobbs
DeKalb County Child Advocacy Center, Summer Intern 2010
University of Georgia School of Law, 2011