Juvenile Law Center
About the Organization: The center works on behalf of youth in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems, primarily through legal advocacy and research. It also works directly with a small number of youths in Philadelphia Family Court.
Her Job: Feierman focuses on cases that involve systemic juvenile justice issues, such as a recent case in which detention center staff strip-searched a girl who had been arrested for a curfew violation. Feierman also presents workshops to youth in Pennsylvania’s juvenile justice system on knowing their legal rights, trains other lawyers about the juvenile justice system and serves as guardian ad litem for a small caseload of youth in the foster care system, whom the city assigns to her.
Best Part: “Learning from and being inspired by young people who have brilliant insights, ideas and aspirations even though they face violence, poverty and injustice every day.”
Worst Part: “When I can’t convince the court to do what I think is best for my client.”
Memorable Moment: “I can’t give just one memorable moment. I love it when I’m giving a workshop to young people in the juvenile justice system and they teach me about how the law really works or give me ideas about how the system should change.”
The Big Problems: “The juvenile justice and foster care systems are supposed to help young people. But sometimes the systems don’t have the resources to give youth the opportunities they deserve. Other times, the systems don’t recognize how youth are different from adults: how they make decisions differently, learn differently and are at a different developmental stage.”
Learning Reality: “Sometimes you talk to youth about how the Fourth Amendment [prohibiting unreasonable search and seizure] works. And they say, well, that’s not how it works in their neighborhood.”
Value to Youth: “It’s useful to have the knowledge to know when their rights are violated, so they can seek help from adults. Youth in the system are dependent on adults, but adults who are advocating for them can’t [do so] if they don’t hear from them.