Fellowship opportunity – Legal Aid DC

July 25, 2016

            The Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia seeks applicants to sponsor for an Equal Justice Works and/or Skadden Fellowship. The Fellow will work in Legal Aid’s Domestic Violence/Family Law Unit on a project to keep low-income families intact by engaging in a range of advocacy and direct representation to protect and preserve parental custodial rights over their children in third party custody cases. Parents living in poverty too often lose custody of their children not because they have engaged in abuse or neglect or are otherwise unfit to care for their children, but because they lack access to legal counsel and the means to avail themselves of legal protections in defending against custody claims by third parties. This project seeks to increase family stability in low-income communities and give children an opportunity to grow up in a loving environment with their natural or adopted parents.

The Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia was formed in 1932 to “provide legal aid and counsel to indigent persons in civil law matters and to encourage measures by which the law may better protect and serve their needs.” Over the last 80 plus years, tens of thousands of the District’s neediest residents have been served by Legal Aid staff and volunteers. We currently work in the following four priority areas: housing law, family/domestic violence law, public benefits law, and consumer law. Legal Aid also has a nationally recognized appellate advocacy project. To learn more about Legal Aid, visit our website at www.LegalAidDC.org and our blog at www.MakingJusticeReal.org. Legal Aid has successfully sponsored both Equal Justice Works and Skadden Fellows in the past, and our staff includes numerous current and former fellows. Legal Aid will assist the applicant we select in formulating a project to present to the fellowship programs.

Although District law provides strong protections for natural and adoptive parents to retain and preserve their custodial rights over their children, many parents are unaware and therefore fail to avail themselves of these protections when they are most needed. In the midst of a crisis—loss of housing, death of a family member, unemployment—some parents, but particularly low-income parents, consent to custody arrangements with third parties like neighbors, grandparents, and friends that they intend to be temporary without invoking the legal protections to which they are entitled and which would ensure that the consent may be revoked. Parents are usually unaware that non-court options for temporary custody are available. As such, many otherwise fit parents end up permanently losing custody of children to third parties.

 Legal Aid is seeking a fellowship candidate to help low-income parent clients protect their custodial rights with the goal of keeping children with parents when possible. The fellow would represent individual parents in custody cases, provide advice to parents on the alternatives to legal custody arrangements (such as DC’s custodial power of attorney process), conduct community outreach to raise awareness about custody issues, and develop and disseminate self-help and legal information materials on third party custody. The fellow will focus on providing these services to one of two particularly vulnerable low-income populations, domestic violence survivors and/or those with limited or no English proficiency.
 Ideal candidates will be law students entering their third year or recent graduates who expect to complete a judicial clerkship in the summer of 2017. The successful candidate must have a commitment to public interest and a desire to work in a collaborative work environment. All persons regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, gender, gender identity, religion, sexual orientation, or disability are encouraged to apply. Candidates should identify in their cover letter which targeted population they believe they are well-suited to serve. Fluency in Spanish or another language commonly used by Legal Aid’s client community is a requirement for individuals who are interested in working with the limited or non-English proficient populations but would also be preferred for individuals who are interested in working with domestic violence survivors.

Applications will be considered on a rolling basis, so applicants are encouraged to apply early. Fellowship applications must be submitted in the fall of 2016. The fellowship, if awarded, will begin in the fall of 2017 and is anticipated to last two years

To apply, please send cover letter and resume by email to:

fellowsearch@legalaiddc.org

Attn: Fellowship Candidate Search Committee

Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia

 Additional information, such as writing samples, transcripts, and references, will be sought from those selected to interview with Legal Aid.
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