Founded in 1992, the Children and Family Justice Center (CFJC) is a comprehensive children's law office and part of the Bluhm Legal Clinic at Northwestern University School of Law. At the CFJC, attorneys and law students work together to promote justice for children, adolescents and their families through direct legal representation, policy advocacy and law reform.
Providing access to justice for unrepresented youth is a core mission of the CFJC. Each year, CFJC faculty, staff and students represent young people on a wide range of matters, from delinquency to immigration and asylum to cases addressing harsh sentencing practices or the collateral consequences youth face after coming into contact with the law. Oftentimes, the CFJC gives its young clients access to a lawyer when they otherwise would not have one.
The CFJC also actively collaborates, both locally and nationally, on key policy and law reform initiatives affecting children and adolescents. CFJC attorneys forge deep connections—from the grassroots level all the way up to major government entities—to develop fair, effective and lasting strategies for systems reform.
As a teaching institution, the CFJC trains over 20 law students each year in critical lawyering skills such as interviewing, counseling, investigation, legal writing, negotiation, and oral advocacy. CFJC professors encourage their students to step into the role of lawyer and take ownership over their cases and projects, while providing intensive supervision and regular feedback. In the process, CFJC students have the unique opportunity to develop both the skills and the confidence they need to become effective lawyers. As a holistic children’s law center, the CFJC additionally serves as a field placement for training Masters-level social work students.
Whether advocating in front of judges, legislators, policymakers, the Prisoner Review Board, or the classroom, the CFJC always strives to advance the notion that youth matters, and that our justice system must keep the unique characteristics, needs and capacities of children and adolescents in mind when determining how they should be treated under the law. The CFJC also seeks to reduce the disproportionate criminalization of youth of color, and to reduce the over-incarceration of youth by expanding the use of community justice alternatives.
Fitness to Stand Trial
CFJC staff recently participated in efforts to revise the laws that govern how children are evaluated for fitness to stand trial. Senate Bill 1443 was introduced in February, 2013 and is currently being considered by the Illinois legislature.
A Fresh Start with Expungement
CFJC aims to make the "second chance" promise of juvenile court a reality by helping formerly court-involved youth truly get a fresh start upon becoming adults. CFJC students and attorneys work with past clients, community members, and other advocates to expand opportunities for young people to have their criminal records expunged.