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Not Seen and Not Heard: Children Committed to Psychiatric Institutions

Carolyn Salisbury, J.D., University of Miami Law School

"I'm a child in a cage, locked in a mental hospital for being underage and not being on DCF's 'page', I'm property of the state and of workers earning minimum wage, I'm restrained and tranquilized like an animal on stage, I'm shut-up and shut-away but not allowed to feel rage, I'm just a child in state care growing up in a cage."

This workshop will present a model of legal advocacy for institutionalized children that successfully created systemic change in Florida. The state's supreme court recently held that dependent children are entitled to a lawyer and a hearing prior to involuntary committment to a psychiatric institution. We will explore how to apply the principles of therapeutic jurisprudence to help children's voices be heard and validated within the legal and mental health systems. The workshop will discuss the University of Miami Children & Youth Law Clinic's "Voice Project" and will show how advocates can launch similar multi-disciplinary collaborations.