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Creation Date

3-17-2016

Description

The Preble Street Teen Center (PSTC) is the "hub" of services for homeless and runaway teens in Portland, Maine. These kids often face serious legal issues, yet they have limited means or access to help. And so, every week student attorneys from the Cumberland Legal Aid Clinic's (CLAC's) Juvenile Justice Program (in partnership with KIDS Legal), along with their faculty advisors, go to the PSTC to provide free legal aid. Through this "Street Law" program, CLAC students help kids with a wide variety of legal issues including criminal charges, family issues, immigration, employment, social security/public benefits, domestic violence, guardianship, and emancipation. This legal help can make a very positive difference in the teens' lives. The Street Law program is also an amazing opportunity for CLAC students. At the most practical level, student attorneys get to practice their skills and apply the law they are learning in the classroom to real problems. The students draft motions and letters on the kids' behalf, and stand by their side as their advocate in court proceedings. But, the student attorneys also get a chance to interact with an interesting and often insular community who can be very skeptical of the overtures of adult strangers. And so another important part of the job of a Street Lawyer to is find the right way to communicate with the kids that encourages trust but is not too "lawyerish." These practice and client skills will help the student attorneys long after they graduate, regardless of the area of law in which they find themselves. Many of the teens at the PSTC, have been primarily responsible for their own care for years and been struggling to survive. The legal problems they face may be potentially life altering barriers that prevent them from achieving healthy and hopeful futures. The Street Law program can help to bring these kids one step closer to realizing those futures. (please note: Bre Kidman is co-presenter)

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