Since June 2014, the One Child a Year campaign encourages Probono.Org’s network of legal professionals to take on at least one child-related cause a year. These cases require patience, commitment and a creative approach to the multifaceted challenges that arise, so the legal professional is required to manage the entire court process, maintain contact with the child and their family, while ensuring the case is finalised to the benefit of the child. The legal representative can function as a protector, an upholder of rights, a mouthpiece, mediator and guardian of the child’s affairs. In return, ProBono.Org offers attorneys and advocates who sign up for the campaign further training, access to mentors and ongoing assistance and support.
Unfortunately the state and private structures that should offer protection, security and speedy justice to children, often fail to do so. The processes re-traumatise children and these have lifelong ramifications, including the continuing cycle of violence and abuse. For this reason it has become increasingly clear that legal representatives are needed to play invaluable role in finalising cases or accelerating the progress in others.
Since inception, ProBono.Org has signed on 15 lawyers, representing 61 children in 53 cases. The results have been very gratifying. Children have been placed in safer environments with proper support structures to nurture and safeguard them. Police officers, hospital staff, court officials and social workers are already overburdened, under-resourced and fatigued before a case starts. So, once a lawyer becomes involved and reduces their workload, it has the knock-on effect of improving the judicial system and increasing access to justice for vulnerable groups, especially children.
When Probono.Org’s capacity increases through boosted funding, more legal professionals can be recruited, more cases can be monitored and more advocacy for systemic change can take place.