Veena Subramanian

  • Hosted by Open City Advocates
  • Sponsored by The Morrison & Foerster Foundation
  • Service location Washington, District of Columbia
  • Law school Yale Law School
  • Issue area Children/Youth
  • Fellowship class year 2019
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Veena provided trauma-informed, post-disposition representation to youth involved with the District’s juvenile legal and foster care systems, advocating for youth to remain in the community rather than detention facilities.

Youth in the deepest end of the District’s juvenile legal system suffer significant discrimination and frequently experience a loss of liberty, often without the assistance of counsel. A youth “committed” to the custody of the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) is subject to the agency’s placement and service decisions, with little to no court oversight. Crossover youth—or youth involved in both the juvenile legal and foster care systems—are significantly more likely to be placed in detention facilities than are other youth, and are particularly vulnerable to mistreatment and bias.

Fellowship Highlight

During her two-year Fellowship, Veena:

  • Provided legal representation to 15 young people in the juvenile and adult systems. Due to the relationships Veena developed with her clients, she was able to successfully advocate for reduced or no jail time in multiple cases
  • In one case, Veena highlighted a youth’s success in education and employment, and advocated for a term of probation rather than commitment to the District’s juvenile agency
  • In another case, Veena worked with a trial attorney in an adult matter to advocate for a probation sentence instead of a five-year jail term
  • Ensured a recently-decided right to post-dispensation counsel for youth in DC’s juvenile system was implemented and realized
  • Worked with partner organizations to support the establishment of the Office of the Ombudsperson for Children, the only District office with a specific mandate to focus on crossover youth

Next Steps

After her fellowship concludes, Veena will be joining the Children’s Law Center as an Education Attorney in the Healthy Together and Guardian ad Litem projects. Healthy Together is a medical-legal partnership between community health centers in the District and attorneys at the Children’s Law Center. The Guardian ad Litem program provides legal representation to children involved with the foster care system.

Once I met these kids, I knew I had found the right career. Even in the toughest of circumstances, their smiles, jokes, and aspirations make it incredibly easy to love them and commit to this work.

Veena Subramanian /
Equal Justice Works Fellow

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