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Social Work and the law merge at the “Child’s Day in Court” mock trial event

By Alicia Blackwell-Pittman, Program Coordinator, N.C. Child Welfare Education Collaborative

On Saturday, Oct. 31, 2015, the UNC School of Social Work and the UNC School of Law hosted its annual Mock Trial and Courtroom Training. This event, co-hosted by the N.C. Child Welfare Education Collaborative and the UNC School of Law’s Child Action Committee, is designed to prepare social work students entering the child welfare workforce for court testimony, and help prepare law students for practice in the family courtroom.

The event included a mock trial where UNC law students served as parent or social services attorneys. Collaborative students from universities across the state served as child welfare social workers, offering testimony related to realistically scripted case scenarios. Both social work and law students received professional guidance in their respective roles.

Attorney Sydney Batch, a UNC School of Social Work and Law School alumna, provided coaching to law students participating in the event. In addition to having current practicing attorneys provide professional guidance, the Honorable Judge Beverly Scarlett presided over the mock trial. Judge Scarlett ensured the process was realistically structured, and also provided invaluable individual feedback to each student.

The day-long event also included informative workshop sessions. Assistant Appellate Defender Wendy Sotolongo provided a comprehensive “Courtroom 101” workshop explaining the foundation of courtroom and legal procedures for child welfare matters. Attorney Sotolongo also served as a coach to law students during the mock trial.

UNC School of Social Work Clinical Assistant Professor Jodi Flick provided a workshop entitled, “Client Violence: Keeping Yourself and Other’s Safe.” This workshop provided important information about how social workers can keep themselves safe during high conflict conversations and activities with clients.

Students also enjoyed a workshop hosted by SaySo youth, who shared their experiences as former foster youth. SaySo (Strong Able Youth Speaking Out) is a statewide association of youth aged 14 to 24 who are or have been in the North Carolina based out-of-home care system. SaySo youth work to improve the substitute care system by educating the community, speaking out about needed changes, and providing support to youth who are or have been in substitute care.

Child Welfare Collaborative students from the 15 participating Collaborative programs had an opportunity to participate in this unique multidisciplinary event. Both social work and law students expressed their gratitude for this unique opportunity to practice their courtroom skills and further their understanding about the legal aspects and experiences that children and families endure in the child welfare system.

For more information about the N.C. Child Welfare Education Collaborative, contact Alycia Blackwell-Pittman at