Mission and Program Areas

Nationally renowned child welfare expert Elizabeth Bartholet (Morris Wasserstein Public Interest Professor of Law) is the founding Faculty Director of Harvard Law School’s Child Advocacy Program.


The Child Advocacy Program (CAP) at Harvard Law School is committed to advancing children’s interests through facilitating productive interaction between academia and the world of policy and practice, and through training generations of students to contribute in their future careers to law reform and social change.  We are committed to a broad vision of advocacy, working both in and outside of the courtroom, as well as across disciplinary lines.


CAP provides:

  • Academic courses, including Child, Family, and State, designed to educate students about substantive legal issues important to children, and Family Law, taught in alternating years.
  • A policy workshop, Art of Social Change: Child Welfare, Education, and Juvenile Justice, designed to bring into the HLS classroom leading child advocates and policy-makers from different disciplines and practice settings (e.g., law, medicine, social science, academia, child welfare agencies, state and federal legislatures), engaging students in important debates as to how best to advance children’s interests, and exposing students to a range of career paths relevant to this work.
  • A law clinic, the Child Advocacy Clinic, designed to educate students about the wide variety of ways in which they can use their legal abilities to work for children. Students are placed with different organizations and agencies using various methods to advance children’s interests, including direct services, impact litigation, policy reform, administrative advocacy, and more. They bring their different experiences into the clinic seminar so that everyone can learn from the rich combination of fieldwork placements and debate the benefits and limitations of different approaches.
  • An academic research and writing seminar, Future of the Family, where students who are interested in delving deeply into an issue affecting children, and/or who are interested in policy work more generally, write an in-depth research paper, receiving extensive guidance and feedback on their work.
  • A center to:
    • Support students at HLS interested in children’s issues through various activities beyond the formal course offerings, including: speakers, panel discussions, and film events, and information regarding paid and volunteer opportunities for students during their HLS years, as well as career opportunities post-graduation.
    • Engage the larger community of academics and activists interested in children’s issues, through, e.g., conferences and cooperative work on law reform projects.


Program Areas

Our focusfor purposes of the academic, policy, and clinical courses, as well as other program activities, is on:

  • Child Welfare (abuse and neglect, foster care, adoption)
  • Education
  • Juvenile Justice


Additional Resources