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Dale Margolin: Youth Advocate

Dale Margolin: Youth Advocate

About

What I do:
I am the Interim Director and Teaching Fellow of St. John's Law School's Child Advocacy Clinic.  The Child Advocacy Clinic is a live, in-house law school clinic that represents children who are the subjects of abuse and neglect proceedings in New York.  Each semester, I teach and supervise eight students. The students are assigned to the Clinic's cases and perform all of the duties of a lawyer, including appearing in court under my supervision.

Our Clinic is particularly focused on adolescents, because of the obstacles and injustices they face as they "age-out" of the foster care system.  The Clinic is also involved in policy work, and I am currently organizing a national Symposium on the housing crisis facing youth discharged from foster care.

Previously, I represented New York City's pregnant and parenting teens in Foster care as a Skadden Fellow at the Juvenile Rights Division of the Legal Aid Society of New York.

Why I do it:
I felt that the best way for me to try to help foster children was to become a lawyer.  It most suits my skills and personality. Although I never thought of myself as a teacher, I am enjoying this new, additional role, and it is making me a better advocate!

Typical day:
Each day is unique. When I am in the Clinic office, I am responding to student questions about their case work and to any emergencies that arise. Other days the students and I are in court, or we are making home visits to see our clients.  Once a week, I also teach a two-hour seminar to my students, and have a formal meeting with each one to review their case work. 

In addition, on my off-hours, I am engaged in scholarly research and writing on family law and child advocacy issues (I currently have a law review article placed for publication).

How I got here:
I became interested in foster care through an internship at a social services agency in New York following my freshman year at Stanford. I was shocked to learn about how many kids were in foster care and how poorly they were treated.  After that summer, I felt that I couldn't not try to make things better.  My experience at Legal Aid post-law school was invaluable; but when I was offered the opportunity at St. John's to continue representing young people while at the same time teaching and, hopefully, inspiring, other new lawyers to pursue this work, I could not pass it up.

Career goal:
I hope one day to open my own foster care agency that only serves teenagers and is sensitive to their individual needs.

What my Urban Studies major has done for me:
Like many Urban Studies students, I got involved with the Public Service Scholars program.  I wrote an honors thesis on the teen court system, an experience that was extremely encouraging and one of my best. The interdisciplinary course offerings of the Urban studies program were extremely relevant and a perfect foundation in the issues for working with the underprivileged.