For two years, staff in the Child Advocacy Unit at Maryland Legal Aid in Baltimore have been a part of a rotation through the Division of Child Protection at the University of Maryland School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics, reported Joan F. Little, chief attorney of Legal Aid’s Child Advocacy Unit.
“This rotation is designed for resident pediatricians during their required three years of training,” Little said. “The doctors come to Legal Aid to be informed of the legal issues relating to child abuse and neglect. Emphasis is placed on areas where the medical and legal systems encounter each other.”
This rotation includes visits to important community agencies, such as Legal Aid and the Family Tree, as well as Child Protective Services and law enforcement agencies in Baltimore City. “At Legal Aid, the doctors are given a lecture and materials on the basics of the Child In Need of Assistance practice and have the opportunity to experience brief court observation in Baltimore City’s juvenile court,” Little said.
Dr. Howard Dubowitz, a professor of pediatrics at UM Medicine, said the visit to Legal Aid offers a useful glimpse of how the legal system works regarding abused or neglected children. “It also offers an opportunity to discuss pertinent legal issues,” Dubowitz said. “These visits have been a highlight of their rotation.” Added Little: “Legal Aid staff recognizes the importance of educating new members of the medical community in this field and sees this program as an opportunity to enhance services to Baltimore’s vulnerable children.”