Lucy Johnston-WalshFebruary 2021 — Prof. Lucy Johnston-Walsh, Director of the Penn State Dickinson Law Children’s Advocacy Clinic, contributed along with other experts in the field to a report entitled “Kinship Care in Pennsylvania: Creating an Equitable System for Families,” addressing the role of kin in the child welfare system. Several children’s advocacy organizations contributed to the report, including American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law; Community Legal Services; Juvenile Law Center; Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, and Temple Legal Aid Office.

The Kinship Care report provides research and makes policy recommendations to improve practice. The report has been shared widely including with the Administrative Office of PA Courts and PA Department of Human Services Office of Children, Youth and Families, which oversees the PA child welfare system. The goal of the report is to implement systemic change to increase kinship placements.

In contributing to the Kinship Care report, Prof. Lucy Johnston-Walsh drew upon her experience as Director of Dickinson Law’s Children’s Advocacy Clinic. The Children’s Advocacy Clinic receives court appointments to represent children in the child welfare system. Law students enrolled in the Clinic advocate for the clients under faculty supervision. Through the work of representing youth involved in foster care, students become acutely aware of the significance of maintaining kinship connections for foster youth. Research shows that compared with children in non-relative care, youth placed with kin experience better outcomes in several areas including placement stability; school stability and positive educational outcomes; increased likelihood of living with or staying connected to siblings; and greater preservation of race and cultural identity, including community connections.

Lucy Johnston-Walsh is a Clinical Professor of Law and founding director of the Dickinson Law Children’s Advocacy Clinic. Professor Johnston-Walsh’s research, teaching and service focus on juvenile law, specifically legal challenges of youth involved in the foster care system. She supervises law students in the legal representation of youth involved in the dependency system and her scholarship directly relates to systemic issues presented through the clinic cases, as well as interdisciplinary collaboration in the field of child advocacy. Her recent scholarship has been published in both medical journals and law reviews with forthcoming articles in Akron Law Review and Seattle Journal for Social Justice.