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Truancy Intervention Project

The Children's Law Center of Connecticut, Inc.
Melissa Stachelek
Program Manager
Legal Practice Area: 
Juvenile Justice and Truancy Intervention
Why is this assistance important to these clients? 
High school drop-outs have a higher incidence of incarceration and are more likely to be life-long victims of poverty than their graduating peers. Educators report that the best predictor for high school graduation is a student’s history of school attendance. Truancy is frequently an early warning signal of stress affecting a family, and also a child’s first encounter with the judicial system. The Project matches middle school-aged students with attorney volunteers who provide early intervention before truancy-related problems become intractable or a Family with Service Needs petition is filed in Juvenile Court.
What legal strategies do the pro bono lawyers use to assist the clients? 
Attorneys have three major roles:1) Advocating for the child in matters related to or affecting school attendance, including representing the child in any truancy related proceedings; 2) Problem solving to identify the root causes of the truancy and finding community resources to assist the child and family; 3) Serving as a role model for the value of education.
What are the outcome goals of this assistance? 
Improvement in the child's school attendance.
Give a short (1-paragraph) case example: 
Ana, age twelve, had 17 unexcused absences when she entered the Truancy Project. As her attorney volunteer got to know Ana and her family, it was discovered that Ana was responsible for waking herself up in the morning for school. Certainly not an unreasonable responsibility for someone her age, but there was no alarm clock, no clock radio and no person at home to wake Ana on time. Ana’s volunteer decided to touch base with her every day in addition to their weekly time together. So every morning the volunteer called Ana at 7 a.m. (to wake her up) wished her a great day at school, and through brief discussion encouraged her to make good choices (i.e. to get to school on time), and reminded her to take her medication (for ADHD). The arrangement had a profound effect on the child’s attendance.

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