Children's Legal and Educational Resource Centre Society (CLERC)
Our Story Why We Exist
Hi my name is Josh. I’m sixteen but my life is not like most of my friends'.
My parents divorced, which is pretty common, but the divorce was awful. I ended up living with my Mom which was not a good thing. She hated my Dad and to make it worse, she drank a lot. Living with her was hard. I ended up having to take care of her most of the time. Thankfully, I got to spend time with my Dad and my soon to be ‘step-Mom’, they were engaged. They cared about me and I actually felt safe with them. They wanted me to do well in school and I got to do other fun stuff too.
I felt bad for my Mom but I decided I wanted to move in with my Dad and step-Mom when I turned 16. Just before my birthday, my Dad was in a car accident and he died. I felt like my life was turned upside down. I was at my Mom’s house surrounded by relatives who couldn’t care less about me and what I was going through. I loved him, he was my Dad and he had just died. My Mom was drinking even more too. I couldn’t talk to her or anyone. I felt so sad and hopeless; I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I didn’t want to be there.
I tried to figure out a plan, but I had no idea how to do it. I had so many questions; I felt confused and alone. Could I live by myself and not with my Mom? Would I get in trouble? How would I register for school? Could I just leave home when I turned 16? Could I live with my step-Mom and have her take care of me? Would my Mom call the police and report my step-Mom if I went to live with her? Would anyone I lived with be arrested? All I really wanted was to move in with my step-Mom. I had already spent so much time with her and my Dad that I felt close to her – closer to her than my Mom.
I decided to search on the net and found CLERC. I sent them a message explaining my situation and all my questions. They answered me right away and it seemed like they could help me. That gave me hope. The lawyer from CLERC met with me and she was able to answer all my questions and give me advice. It felt good to know that I could tell her anything and that she had a duty to be loyal to me and not tell anyone what I told her unless I gave her permission. I finally felt like there were things I could do to change my situation for the better and that CLERC would help me. It was cool that my step-Mom was able to be involved in the process. Eventually, CLERC represented me in court which was scary and not at all like on TV. I felt relieved when my lawyer walked me through it step-by-step.
My lawyer really cared about me – it was amazing! She heard and understood me and did everything she could to help. In the end, my step-Mom was awarded guardianship and I was able to move in with her. It was great to be able to be with her, someone who loved my Dad and could understand how I felt. We helped each other face the death of my Dad, grieve and move on with our lives.
At 15 years old, Victoria had already endured a troubling past.
When her mom passed away, she went to live with her father where she was viciously assaulted by her brother. Her father was removed as her guardian and she was sent to live with her aunt and uncle only to suffer sexual abuse by her uncle who later went to prison for his actions.
In December 2015, Victoria was finally placed with Tom and Nancy Green and their three children. Things were stable for Victoria and she became a part of the Green family. Then, without warning, Victoria experienced a serious medical issue. Tom and Nancy were not her legal guardians and found themselves helplessly unable to make decisions about her care. In order to be able to make decisions regarding Victoria’s health and treatment, the Green’s decided they needed to become her legal guardians. Victoria was referred to CLERC by the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate in early 2016, after a judge decided that her interests needed to be represented independently as part of the Green’s application to obtain legal guardianship.
A CLERC lawyer met with Victoria and discussed the situation with her. She expressed that she felt loved and accepted by the Green’s and for the first time in her life, finally felt safe and happy. CLERC conveyed Victoria’s consent to, and desire for, the Green’s to become her legal guardians to the Court and the Green’s application was successful. Tom and Nancy expressed their gratitude to CLERC for “saving Victoria’s life” by helping put an end to the repeated trauma she had endured in the past and giving her the chance at a normal childhood with their three other children who “embraced Victoria as a sister and were already developing a healthy and supportive relationship with her.”
Our Impact What We Do
We Are: We are the only registered charity in Western Canada providing specialized legal support to vulnerable children and youth. We are committed to improving the lives of vulnerable young people through our legal work.
We Aren’t: We do not provide legal support on criminal matters or to children involved in child protection proceedings. Those young people are referred to government agencies: the Youth Criminal Defence Office of Legal Aid Alberta and the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate, respectively.
Our Mission: To provide legal advice and representation directly to vulnerable children and youth while building our community’s capacity to protect their legal rights by providing information, education and training.
WHAT WE DO FOR KIDS
Information: We answer questions about civil law matters and engage in public education.
Advice: We help young people deal with matters related to:
- Visitation/Child Support
- Independent Living
- Forced Marriage
- Immigration and Cross-Cultural Issues
- Landlord/Tenant Issues
Representation: Our lawyers represent young people 19 years of age and under who do not otherwise have access to legal services or assistance.
Our Programs How We Do It
Our programs increase knowledge about the legal issues and rights facing young people and strive to reduce family conflict and future developmental harm, while improving outcomes for children in circumstances that require legal intervention by alleviating some of their exposure to chronic and serious early stressors.
We Care! Pregnancy, Parenting & Prevention: We work with both the Calgary Board of Education (Louise Dean Centre), and the Calgary Catholic School Division (Kara Life Program), as well as Highbanks Society, to assist young women who are pregnant or young people who are parenting with custody and access, wills, guardianship, child support and completion of their taxes.
Youth Wellness In Action: In order to reach young people, help them stay in school and contribute to their overall wellbeing, we offer ongoing legal clinics in the City of Calgary at locations such as Forest Lawn High School.
Young Voices, Healthy Lives: Our lawyers provide representation and advice to young people caught up in their parents’ high-conflict divorce/separation.
“Ask A Lawyer” Online Youth Legal Clinic: Our youthlaw.ca website provides young people with the opportunity to get legal advice directly by email. FAQ’s provide information to the public about Alberta civil law topics affecting youth.
Pro Bono Training & Opportunities: As specialists in child representation, we have developed extensive family law training materials for lawyers to represent young people in custody and access/parenting matters. We also provide pro bono opportunities to engage lawyers who wish to give back to the community.
For more information on any of our programs, please contact us at 403-207-9029.
Our Requests What You Can Do
You can make a difference in the lives of young Calgarians. An increased demand for our services has made it challenging for CLERC to meet the needs of every child who needs our help. The waitlist for young people requiring our assistance is currently at 12-18 months.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
DONATE - Help us meet our $85,000 goal to eliminate our waitlist for services
Your donation will help CLERC:
- Reduce wait times for children desperately requiring legal assistance
- Buy more lawyer time (a $1,000 gift translates to $6,000 in volunteer lawyer hours)
- Hire a volunteer coordinator to fulfill our goal of adding 50 more volunteer lawyers to our volunteer base
- Expand our school outreach programs in local high schools
If you are a lawyer or paralegal professional and are looking for pro bono opportunities, we'd love to hear from you!
- Our volunteer lawyers are our biggest asset. We are dedicated to increasing the number of specialized lawyers with the exceptional knowledge and experience required to represent children.
If you are not a lawyer, we could still use your help, especially for event support at our annual gala.