Children and Youth Law Clinic Fellow Receives the NACC Award

The National Association of Counsel for Children named Alex Cinney their Outstanding Law Student for 2022.
Children and Youth Law Clinic Fellow Receives the NACC Award
Alex Cinney, J.D. '22

Alex Cinney, J.D. '22, came to Miami Law because of her interest in family law and dedication to underserved children and families. The National Association of Counsel for Children award is just the latest accolade.

The NACC presents the Promoting Excellence Awards annually to individuals and organizations making significant contributions to the rights and well-being of children and families through excellence in legal representation.

"I am thrilled and humbled to receive this award, especially among the other incredible NACC honorees," said Cinney. "I am so grateful for the guidance and support I've received along the way from my mentors, Clinic co-director Kele Stewart, Mimi Laver, and Phyllis Strickland, who have taught me so much about what it means to advocate for families. This award marks the beginning of an exciting opportunity to support families by preventing removals in Miami as an Equal Justice Works Fellow at the Children & Youth Law Clinic at Miami Law."

As a student at the University of Miami School of Law, Cinney demonstrated her dedication to promoting excellence in child welfare law and pursuing justice for children and families, the NACC wrote.

Cinney participated as a student and then a Fellow at Miami Law's Children and Youth Law Clinic, representing children and young adults navigating various legal issues related to the child protection system. She documented parents' narratives during her internship with the American Bar Association. She developed a Race Equity Toolkit for the Family Justice Initiative, helping fill in gaps in knowledge in the field. 

Cinney was recently awarded an Equal Justice Works Fellowship to launch a project with the Children and Youth Law Clinic to provide legal services to prevent children from entering foster care. 

"I have learned through years of working with families who have been torn apart by the child welfare system that separation deeply harms everyone involved and does not address the systemic poverty and racism that led to the removal in the first place," said Cinney. "When given proper support, I have seen that children and their families can remain safely together and thrive." 

The Children & Youth Law Clinic is an in-house, live-client clinic that represents children in foster care and former foster youth in dependency, health care, mental health, disability, independent living, education, immigration, and other general civil legal matters, ensuring that they have a voice in court proceedings. Under the supervision of three Florida-licensed attorneys, approximately 24 second- and third-year law students each year assume primary responsibility for all aspects of a client's case. Students learn fundamental lawyering skills, substantive law, and professional ethics.

As the Equal Justice Works fellow, Cinney will advocate for Black parents and families in Miami to prevent unnecessary removals of children from their homes by providing civil legal services and collaborating with parent-led advocacy groups to empower families.

The Miami native's exploration of and commitment to supporting and strengthening families grew from her family's experience with her sister's adoption, though different from experiences of families entangled in the child welfare system.

Through her fellowship, she will work to prevent the unnecessary removal of children by providing direct representation to parents and caregivers before an investigation has taken place or before a petition for removal has been filed. She will advocate for families confronted with eviction, domestic violence, and public benefits matters, enabling them to continue caring for their children safely within their homes. She will collaborate with local parent-led advocacy groups to amplify community and parent voices within the child welfare system.

"Alex is a passionate advocate for impoverished families, with the experience, skills, intellect, and work ethic to make this project a model for diversion of at-risk families from further involvement in the foster care system," said Bernard Perlmutter, co-director of the clinic. "Through her project, housed in the Children & Youth Law Clinic, she will build on her prior experiences and familiarity with the 'players' in our local child welfare community and strengthen these families through direct representation, systemic advocacy, and community alliances to provide them a platform and voice as valued stakeholders in reforming this system."

Read more about the Children & Youth Law Clinic