Juvenile Law Center

Lara Bazelon

Director of the Project for the Innocent and Visiting Associate Clinical Professor of Law
Loyola Law School, Los Angeles



Summer Intern, 1999

Lessons Learned

My fondest memory is of working closely with the tight-knit staff, who were always willing to answer questions and talk through complicated issues. The key lesson I learned was the importance of providing an opportunity for the most powerless people in our society to have a voice and, to the extent possible, decide for themselves. I watched a hearing in dependency court in which the state had moved to terminate a teenage mother's parental rights. Her baby had been born with drugs in his system and was immediately placed into foster care with a loving older couple. After three years, the couple wanted to formally adopt him. The biological mother had sought drug treatment and done her best to get her life together, working a minimum wage job and taking two buses to visit her son on the weekends. Nonetheless, the state wanted a formal finding that she was unfit. The cross examination of the biological mother was difficult to watch as she was forced to admit, over and over again, that she could not provide for her son in the way that his foster parents had and could. At one point, the judge halted the proceeding. He asked the mother, "What is it that you want?" There was a long pause and then the mother answered, "For it to be my decision." "What decision?" the judge asked. "To give him up," she replied.

Impact on my Career

My time at Juvenile Law Center profoundly impacted my career. Children are innocent and vulnerable. As a society, we so often fail to provide them with the advocacy and protection they deserve or, of equal importance, the tools to advocate for themselves one day. Juvenile Law Center is one of the foremost champions of children in the country.

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