The JustChildren Program is Virginia’s largest children’s law program. We rely on a range of strategies to make sure the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable young people receive the services and support they need to lead successful lives in their communities.
Our strategies include individual representation, community education and organizing, and statewide advocacy. From our Charlottesville, Richmond, and Petersburg offices, we provide free legal representation to low-income children who have unmet needs in the education, foster care, and juvenile justice systems. We produce popular training materials for lawyers, parents, and other service providers to help them become informed and skilled advocates.
JustChildren’s attorneys and organizers also seek local and statewide reforms to improve the systems that our children depend on. Through coalition building, policy advocacy, and litigation, we make lasting improvements for all children in Virginia.
Our lawyers and advocates:
• Help our clients enroll in school, stay in school, and obtain services to help them finish school;
• Prepare and distribute educational materials for youth, parents, attorneys, and service providers and train them to be effective advocates for themselves and for young people;
• Support parents and community leaders in calling for improvements to the local and state systems that provide services to youth in poverty; and
• Promote public policies and systemic reforms that keep children in school and living successfully in their communities.
JustChildren Accomplishment Timeline (Click to Enlarge)
- Helping You Help Your Child: A Focus on Education (2014)
This handbook for parents covers tips for successful self-advocacy, as well as plain language guidance on complicated areas of education law such as special education, enrollment, student discipline, access to ESL services, and more.
- Ayudandole a Ayudar a Su Hijo: En Enfoque en Educacion (2015)
Esta guía para padres de familia incluye información que les ayudará a abogar directamente para sus hijos, tanto como orientaciones sobre áreas complicadas de la ley educativa, como la educación especial, la inscripción a la escuela, la disciplina estudiantil, el acceso a servicios de ‘inglés como segunda idioma,’ y más.
- Prevention v. Punishment: Threat Assessment, School Suspensions, and Racial Disparities (2013)
The University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education and the Legal Aid Justice Center have partnered on a new report documenting the scope of racial disparities in school suspension in Virginia. The report also unveils the results of a new study demonstrating that use of the Virginia Student Threat Assessment Guidelines(VSTAG) is associated with lower rates of school suspensions, including a smaller racial discipline gap.
- Educate Every Child: Promoting Positive Solutions to School Discipline in Virginia (2011)
This Policy Brief discusses the negative impact of school exclusion in Virginia and makes recommendations for making our schools safer, stronger, and more conducive to learning for all students.
- Unlocking the Truth: Real Stories About the Trial and Incarceration of Youth as Adults in Virginia (2010)
Featuring a Foreword by R. Dwayne Betts, this Report tells the untold and often overlooked stories of the youth who have been tried as adults and how it impacts them, their families, and their communities.
- Don’t Throw Away the Key: Reevaluating Adult Time for Youth Crime in Virginia (2009)
This Report meticulously examines the policy and practice of trying youth as adults, debunks five myths about the Commonwealth’s transfer system, and ultimately calls for reform.
- Juvenile Collateral Consequences in the State of Virginia (2010)
JustChildren authored the Virginia section of the American Bar Association’s Juvenile Collateral Consequences Project, Think Before You Plead.
- In School, The Right School, Finish School (2007)
A Guide to Improving Educational Opportunities for Court-Involved Youth. JustChildren is one of the authors of this publication by the The National Children’s Law Network.
- Juvenile Rights Handbook (2006)
Developed by the Virginia State Bar Young Lawyers Conference and JustChildren, this Handbook provides a helpful guide to the laws that most impact Virginia’s youth. Young people can find information about their rights to an education and their rights in school, when interacting with the police, and in the Virginia juvenile justice system in this Handbook.
In addition to the generous support from numerous individuals, the JustChildren Program of the Legal Aid Justice Center has received support from the following funders: The Atlantic Philanthropies, Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, Cameron Foundation, Freddie Mac Foundation, John Randolph Foundation, Open Society Institute of the Soros Foundation Network, Community Foundation Serving Richmond and Central Virginia, Virginia Law Foundation, Legal Services Corporation of Virginia, Robins Foundation, Public Welfare Foundation, Memorial Foundation for Children, Skadden Fellowship Foundation, and the University of Virginia School of Law.
- Advancement Project
A multi-racial civil rights organization. “Ending the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track” project aims to eliminate harsh school discipline and other practices that lead to the criminalization of students.
- Campaign for Youth Justice
A non-profit organization geared towards preventing the transfer of juvenile offenders to the adult criminal justice system. The website provides information on advocacy efforts and recommendations on how to start your own advocacy campaign.
- Center on Children’s Law and Policy
A public interest and policy oriented organization that promotes juvenile justice reform and advocates for adequate recognition of juveniles’ rights. The website includes information about juvenile justice reform initiatives around the country.
- Child Advocacy Clinic at the University of Virginia School of Law
JustChildren attorneys supervise students in the Law School’s Child Advocacy Clinic, which represents low-income children statewide who have problems with the education, juvenile justice, and foster care systems.
- Children’s Defense and Education Rights Clinics at the University of Richmond School of Law
Richmond offers two clinical programs serving the needs of at-risk children and adolescents.
- NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
An education docket that fights to remove barriers to educational access and opportunity.
- RISE For Youth
RISE for Youth is a nonpartisan campaign in support of community alternatives to youth incarceration. RISE began as a program of the Legal Aid Justice Center and transition to an independent organization in 2018.
- Southern Poverty Law Center
Juvenile justice and education reform projects in several southern states.
- Special Education Advocacy Law PELE Clinic at the William & Mary Law School
Assists special-needs children and their families with eligibility or Individualized Education Program meetings, discipline matters, mediation, and administrative hearings.
- Voices for Virginia’s Children
Supports research, policy, and coordinated efforts to advocate on behalf of children in the areas of early care and education, foster care and adoption, health and mental health, and more.