Thursday, November 12, 2009

Children’s Defense Fund, Washington, D.C.

By Jennifer Cormier

As a high school student in Boston, Massachusetts, I often visited the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. One afternoon, I attended a civil rights panel at the Library and discovering an inspiring duo of speakers: Peter and Marian Wright Edelman. I was captivated by their stories about the civil rights movement and their dedication to public service.

Years later, I remembered that afternoon when I made the decision to enroll at Georgetown University Law Center. I chose Georgetown because of its commitment to social justice – and because I dreamed of working one day for the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), the advocacy organization founded by Mrs. Edelman.

This past summer, I fulfilled that dream when I served as a Legal Intern within CDF’s Child Welfare and Mental Health Division. The position combined my two passions: child advocacy and mental health. I prepared for my first day eager to immerse myself in the work of the organization that I had long admired from afar.

Just two blocks away from the Law Center campus and a stone’s throw from Capitol Hill, CDF is housed in a small brick building on E Street. While the façade is unassuming, the office is filled with talented, passionate advocates who transform children’s lives every day. I was proud to meet and learn from the three staffers who comprise the Child Welfare and Mental Health Division: MaryLee Allen, Beth Davis-Pratt, and Stefanie Sprow.

During my tenure, I prepared legal memoranda to brief Mrs. Edelman about relevant juvenile justice and special education cases decided by the Supreme Court. I also helped to research and edit testimony of Mrs. Edelman’s when she was invited to testify at a hearing for the Youth PROMISE Act in the House of Representatives. Finally, I conceptualized and wrote content for a new section of the CDF website dedicated to children’s mental health advocacy.

CDF is based on the idea that children have rights but no voices – they cannot vote, lobby, or advocate for themselves. I am grateful to the Equal Justice Foundation and its generous donors for giving me the opportunity to amplify CDF’s voice for children during this summer of a lifetime.

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