Center for Children’s Advocacy is the largest children’s legal rights organization in New England.

How We Started

The Center for Children’s Advocacy was founded in 1997 on a $2,000 budget, in loaned office space over the boiler room at UConn Law School.

In the 25 years since, CCA has grown to an organization with 25 staff and a nearly $3 million operating budget.

CCA is now the largest children’s legal rights organization in New England, with offices in Hartford, New Haven, and Bridgeport, and projects in Waterbury, Hamden, and Norwalk. Our Mobile Legal Office breaks down barriers to legal services by traveling to meet youth in their home communities.

Our Impact

Since our founding, we have provided individual legal services to over 5,000 children and youth. Over 20,000 children and youth have been impacted by our systemic advocacy. We also brought about significant legislative reforms that have benefited many more:

  • A redesign of the state’s system for runaways and truants, transforming it from a punitive to a treatment model;
  • Expanded visitation for older children in foster care;
  • Changes to camps and other programs so children with disabilities can participate in those programs;
  • Increased number of youth living in family settings;
  • A Settlement Agreement in Sheff v. O’Neill, which has dramatically increased Hartford children’s access to high quality, integrated schools;
  • An overhaul of the state’s alternative school system to create equity in education resources; and

An improved support system and access to shelter for homeless youth.

Racial Justice Project

CCA provides legal representation to youth of color to address policies and practices that result in racial disparities in educational achievement, health and juvenile justice involvement. We lead Racial and Ethnic Disparities Reduction Committees in Bridgeport, Hamden, Hartford, New Haven and Waterbury to reduce disparities in juvenile justice involvement, we advocate for statewide systemic reforms to improve outcomes for children and youth of color, and we help youth facilities replace punitive behavior management systems with restorative justice practices.

Child Welfare Project

CCA provides legal representation to children alleged to have been abused and neglected, and advocates for legislative and policy changes to advance the interests of youth and families involved with the state’s child welfare system. Our attorney training program and website impact

Medical Legal Partnership Project 

CCA partners with medical providers to improve children’s health outcomes by improving their access to health care
and reducing non-medical conditions that are harming health. We provide legal rights training and consultation to pediatric providers and parents, and we represent children with chronic health conditions and disabilities in legal matters like housing conditions, benefits, and rights of children with disabilities. We have legal offices at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Yale New Haven Hospital, and the Yale Child Study Center.

Right Direction: Homeless Youth Advocacy Project

CCA provides legal services to adolescents who are homeless and on their own, or at risk of homelessness. We address issues that include domestic violence, LGBTQ issues, access to physical and mental health supports, aging out of DCF care, and employment discrimination. Our Mobile Office travels the community to reach youth who need help to resolve legal issues.

Educational Success Project 

CCA’s legal representation helps students stay in school and learn by addressing inappropriate school suspensions and expulsions, school bullying, and access to appropriate educational services for children with special education needs. Our legal clinic on-site at Bridgeport’s Harding High School provides legal services to youth on issues including education, abuse and neglect, domestic violence, homelessness and special education needs.

Youth Justice Project

CCA provides legal representation for at-risk and justice-involved youth to increase access to education and remove
barriers to successful reentry from confinement. We represent at-risk youth with disabilities to increase their access to critical educational, mental health and social services that can prevent justice system involvement. For youth who have been arrested, our reentry legal services model helps attorneys establish relationships with reentering youth before they are discharged so they can provide early legal intervention to remove barriers to successful reentry.

Immigrant Children’s Justice Project

CCA helps immigrant children who have fled to the U.S. and live in fear of deportation to life-threatening conditions. Our legal services protect immigrant children from exploitation, help them access health care and appropriate education, and help them secure an immigration status that protects them from deportation. We train and oversee our network of pro bono attorneys who increase our representation of immigrant children.

SpeakUp Initiative

CCA supports youths’ abilities to advocate for themselves and their communities. Our trainings teach youth about their legal rights and advocacy strategies. We advance the voices of youth struggling against inequities by helping groups of youth learn to identify systemic problems, design solutions, and develop and implement advocacy campaigns to promote systemic reforms.

Generating System Reform

CCA’s systemic advocacy improves the response of the education, juvenile justice, health and child welfare systems to the needs of children and youth. Our work has improved conditions in juvenile detention, decreased the number of teens “pushed out” of school, and increased availability of treatment services for at-risk children. Class action lawsuits, such as Sheff (educational equity), allow CCA to improve educational opportunities for thousands of children. Legislative advocacy influences state laws that reform systems to reflect the needs of vulnerable children.

Learn more about the Center’s Work