Clinical Professor Lucy Johnston-Walsh has been a strong supporter of children's rights for years. Now, she's taken those energies and plays a pivotal role in the Children's Advocacy Clinic, which she helped found. Before embarking on this latest journey, Johnston-Walsh was the 2007 Pennsylvania Child Advocate of the Year. Established to recognize accomplishments of lawyers and judges who work to protect children on every level, this prestigious award is indicative of truly selfless efforts on the part of its recipients. Her ''rare combination of intellect, interpersonal skills and passion for public service'' has allowed her to work diligently for the rights of abused and neglected children. This comes as no surprise to those who know her well. Even before entering law school, her contributions were impressive and through her work, policies and procedures were changed in nearly every branch of Pennsylvania's state government. She is also a current member of the National Association of Counsel for Children and along with family law, focuses much of her attention to disability law.
The former state lobbyist now expertly divides her time between Penn State Dickinson Law School and the Children's Advocacy Clinic, also located at the Penn State Dickinson School of Law. She directs the clinic's operations as well as supports its mission to ''serve children and advocate for legislative issues related to children in the welfare system''. Under her guidance, law students and those students pursuing their educations in social services represent abused children, as well as though caught in the middle of contested adoption and custody cases. The clients run the gamut: from infants to teens to those up to age twenty one. ''We handle cases where the child is in the dependency system and placed in foster care due to abuse or neglect,'' says Johnston-Walsh during an interview for Penn State Outreach Magazine. She goes on to explain the clinic also works with older teens who are transitioning out of foster care into adult independence. This is crucial since many young people across the country face transition on their 18th or 21st birthdays with absolutely no support mechanisms in place.
It's a true win-win. The graduate students receive hands-on training in real world scenarios while the children are provided advocates who work solely for their benefit. It also allows students of medicine, psychology, sociology and education to come together in an effort of addressing real social problems and potential solutions for the youngest and most vulnerable in our society. It allows students across many disciplines to learn important procedures regarding confidentiality issues, counseling efforts for children, guidelines for proper gathering of evidence, insight into family and juvenile law, the responsibilities each has as professionals as well as addressing indigent clients. All these scenarios will prove beneficial as students reach the end of their educational careers and begin using the real world experience gained.
For these reasons, plus many more, Lucy Johnston-Walsh is our most recent Law Star addition. Her tireless efforts do not go unnoticed and her contributions to countless children and families have made significant and lifelong contributions to the well-being of both.