Student Spotlight: Kelsey Brown ’24

Root-Tilden-Kern Public Interest Scholar

Tell us about your experience in the Family Defense Clinic.

Kelsey Brown
Kelsey Brown ’24

Working in the Family Defense Clinic this year has been the highlight of my law school experience. As student advocates, we work directly with parents whose children are in foster care, specifically focusing on defending them against state intervention, helping them reunify with their children, and ensuring their families get the resources they need. Along with another law student and social work student, I am responsible for all client contact, legal strategy, and case planning. Through this experience, I have advocated for my client in court, secured holiday visits for my clients’ children, and developed a cross examination of a witness for a permanency hearing and an upcoming trial. These are the tangible skills that I came to NYU for. The most rewarding part of the clinic is witnessing the resilience of these parents. Some of their kids have been in foster care for months or years; the parents have to deal with case workers and Administration for Children’s Services intervening and making decisions about their family’s life, and with the delays and confusion that define family court. Even still, they continue to fight for their children every single day.

What first inspired you to pursue a career in law?

Shortly after the Georgia legislature passed the 6-week abortion ban, I started interning at the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia in their Reproductive Rights and Justice Department. In the year that I was there, I led a community education program called Reproductive Justice Learning Hours. Every other week, I led a discussion among community members where we analyzed articles focused on issues like family policing, sex education, and mass incarceration through a reproductive justice lens. Each time we always came back to how the law was perpetuating reproductive oppression. Together, we thought about ways that the law can affirmatively protect reproductive and bodily autonomy. Those discussions just reaffirmed my passion for using the law to protect the rights of marginalized communities. 

You are co-president of the If/When/How Lawyering for Reproductive Justice organization at NYU Law. What is the most rewarding aspect of your involvement, and what are your hopes for the future of the reproductive justice movement?

The best part of leading If/When/How is interacting with other students who are passionate about advancing reproductive justice through the law. Together, we get to share our vision for what reproductive freedom looks like and delve into what it means to use an intersectional lens that uplifts and empowers all people in their pursuit of reproductive autonomy. I hope that people continue to see the utility and importance of the reproductive justice framework outside of abortion law. Abortion is a fundamental aspect of reproductive freedom, but there are so many forms of reproductive oppression that impede on people’s everyday lives, including the family regulation system. Along with the right to not have a child is the right to have a child and to raise that child in a safe and sustainable community. I see family defense and protecting parental rights as an integral part of reproductive justice. Ensuring that parents have the resources, support, and autonomy they need to raise their children is vital for a future dedicated to community care. 

Favorite place to relax in New York City?

My favorite place to relax is Prospect Park in Brooklyn! Sitting on a bench and reading a book is the best way to relieve law school stress.

What is one thing that instantly makes your day better?

Running into my friends on campus! School can be busy and sometimes my schedule doesn’t align with my friends. So anytime I get to give them a hug or say hi, even for a second, makes my day.