Moritz College of Law The Ohio State University
This Month @ Moritz

Class of 2004 First Eligible for Certificate in Children Studies

A Columbus native, Melissa Callais ('04) attended the University of Notre Dame, well known for its public service climate. During summers, she worked as a youth development volunteer for Boys and Girls Clubs of Columbus and ventured to Washington, D.C. to assist attorneys prosecuting child abuse and neglect cases, and draft related legislation. She was hooked. "Child advocacy," says Melissa, "encompasses so many areas of the law and lies at the intersection of intriguing criminal and constitutional issues."

Melissa was drawn to Moritz by the reputation of the Justice for Children Project headed by Professor Katherine Hunt Federle. Approaching Professor Federle as a first-year student, Melissa subsequently worked for her, researching Second Amendment law and Supreme Court juvenile cases.

Melissa with children
Melissa spent the summer of 1999 working with children in the Rosemont Center Day Care in Columbus

Melissa completed the core children studies courses: Children in the Law, Family Law, and the Justice for Children Practicum, where she represented a young man in a delinquency case. In addition to this core, Certificate students are required to complete five hours in pre-approved courses offered at Moritz, and five hours in graduate-level courses offered at The Ohio State University. Melissa says, "The Certificate is a great way to focus your classes in an area you're interested in. It is a unique program that demonstrates your interest to prospective employers."

Her extracurricular activities were equally focused. As a second-semester 1L, Melissa volunteered as a guardian ad litem for the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of the Franklin County Court, representing two minors in a dependency case which resulted in securing in-family custody for two minors. She served on the executive board of Advocates for Children, a student-run organization promoting quality child advocacy. One of the group's recent speakers was Yvette McGee Brown '85, president of the Center for Child and Family Advocacy at Children's Hospital. Again, Melissa approached a potential mentor with the same result. Melissa spent the summer of 2003 attending the University of Michigan's prestigious Bergstrom Fellowship child welfare law training program and worked with the Center for Child and Family Advocacy.

Melissa with child
Melissa with one of her favorite kids during the summer of 2001

At the Center, Melissa worked with two Franklin County Prosecutors on sexual abuse cases, and researched hearsay exceptions in sex abuse cases. Melissa found work at the Center interesting."I liked the approach and especially working with doctors and professionals in law enforcement, mental health, and social work. Because it is a new organization, I got to see how they are developing their systems and protocols, and I even participated in the team building workshop," she says.

Melissa, like other Certificate students, is on the ground floor of a movement within the legal profession to require that courts and bar associations certify lawyers to represent children. Says Professor Federle, "We are committed to insuring not only that children are represented by lawyers, but are represented by the best possible lawyers. Melissa and the other Certificate students exemplify that commitment." Once again, Moritz and its students are at the forefront of positive change within the profession. Visit the new Certificate in Children Studies pages for more information.