HCBF Grantee Spotlight: Children's Law Center of Minnesota

Children’s Law Center of Minnesota (CLC) was founded in 1995 with the mission to promote the legal rights and well-being of children and youth. CLC’s staff and volunteers provide direct representation of children and youth, primarily in the child welfare system, and advocate for changes in the systems that affect their lives.

CLC serves Minnesota’s at-risk and foster care youth through direct legal representation, systemic advocacy, education, and outreach efforts. CLC’s legal staff, working in tandem with our team of over 340 active volunteer attorneys, represent youth in court. CLC’s representation model ensures that our clients’ legal rights are upheld, their preferences are heard and that they receive appropriate placements and resources to address their trauma and future goals in order to help them move forward into their very best lives possible.

Volunteer and staff attorneys provide the legal counsel to ensure Minnesota’s most vulnerable children have a voice in the decisions affecting their lives. In 2019, CLC served approximately 900 children who had been removed from abusive or neglectful homes. This is a 150 percent client increase from 2010 and despite the challenges of COVID-19, CLC’s clients continue to have hearings and need advocacy.

CLC utilizes a multidisciplinary holistic approach to its representation. CLC attorneys and staff social workers listen to CLC’s young clients to help them navigate the complicated systems impacting their daily lives. CLC works together with its clients to understand their needs and commits to representing these youth for the life of their cases.

In Hennepin County, CLC is assigned to youth aged 10 and older when the child has become a ward of the state. Youth have a right to counsel, but often they—and even other adults in their lives— do not know they have this right. For many of CLC’s clients, their attorney is the most stable and consistent adult in their lives. In addition to training, CLC staff attorneys and social workers provide ongoing support to its volunteer attorneys. When CLC matches a volunteer attorney with a specific CLC child client, it also pairs the volunteer with both a CLC staff attorney and a CLC staff social worker. CLC seeks to accommodate the strengths of its volunteer attorneys when matching them to a CLC client.

CLC is appointed to approximately 350 cases in Hennepin County each year. CLC’s clients are primarily youth of color (84%) and most are represented in sibling groups (53%). In 2019, almost half of CLC’s closed Hennepin County cases were closed due to an adoption. It is the intentional work of CLC staff and volunteer attorneys that ensures youth impacted by abuse, neglect and trauma find their desired stable and safe homes.

By providing legal representation to youth, children are more likely to be heard when they voice their needs and desires, such as staying together with a sibling, securing transportation to their school of origin, visits with family members and implementing an independent living plan. Advocating for youth in the courtroom increases the likelihood of graduating from high school, pursuing post-secondary education, finding a job and staying out the juvenile justice system. Having an attorney also helps children feel empowered and part of their own destiny.

When asked why she has dedicated her career to representing youth in foster care, CLC’s managing attorney, Anne Tyler Gueinzius, stated “I am proud of the work CLC does and I am honored to work with such committed and talented colleagues. Our clients never fail to impress me with their courage and strength in the face of unimaginable adversity.”

CLC noted that financial support is always welcome and greatly appreciated. During the pandemic, CLC’s operating costs have increased due to the organization’s remote participation needs. “Anything that helps us do our work during this time is incredible,” Executive Director, Lilia Panteleeva, stated.

To get involved or for more information about CLC’s work, please contact Anne Tyler Gueinzius, Managing Attorney, at anneg@clcmn.org or 651-644-4438. To make a donation online, please go to www.clcmn.org/get-involved/donate.