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This work was made possible in part by a grant from the San Diego County Bar Foundation

Advocate with us

Children’s Legal Services of San Diego, Inc. (CLS) is a nonprofit, interdisciplinary legal organization that protects and defends the rights of children and youth in the juvenile dependency court system through quality and compassionate legal representation.


For many years, youth who turned 18 and aged out of the foster system suffered increased rates of homelessness, pregnancy, incarceration, or human trafficking.  Upon turning 18, these youth were considered adults and their foster support system ended; many had no permanent adult connections upon which to rely for guidance or life skills.  Effective 2012, Assembly Bill 12 extended foster care to provide support for these youth up to age 21 if they choose to participate and meet qualifying criteria.  This sub-group of juvenile dependent adults became known as Non-Minor Dependents (NMDs).      


In practice, we witness the challenges this vulnerable, underserved, young population of clients face, often resulting in legal issues beyond CLS’ expertise and beyond any remedy the juvenile court can afford them.  For example, when a client's landlord takes advantage of their young age and unfamiliarity with lease provisions; when their identity is stolen and they are unable to establish credit; or, when a young mother is at risk of losing her infant to the juvenile dependency system because she does not know how to obtain the restraining order she needs to keep herself and her child safe from harm. The unmet civil, criminal, and administrative legal needs of NMDs too often pose barriers to a successful transition to adulthood and independence.



CLS was awarded a grant from the San Diego County Bar Foundation to create the Non-Minor Dependent Pro Bono Attorney Panel.  The panel will assist NMD’s in resolving their unmet legal needs outside of the juvenile dependency system.


It is CLS’s hope that legal practitioners will donate their legal expertise to our NMD clients as they journey through adulthood from such a disadvantaged starting point.  One of our program goals is to recruit several pro bono attorneys per legal specialty to prevent from overburdening any one volunteer attorney.  Additionally, the referral process will allow for the pro bono attorneys to accept or pass on referrals when submitted. 



  • Attorneys interested in joining the NMD Pro Bono Panel will submit their application to the NMD Pro Bono Panel Liaison.

  • Once accepted to the panel, panel attorneys will be provided with a 90 minute training on Juvenile Dependency, Extended Foster Care, and the NMD Pro Bono Panel process.

  • When an NMD requests an attorney referral, CLS will contact the panel attorney to confirm that the pending legal issue(s) are within their expertise and that they are available to accept the referral. 

  • Panel Attorneys will confirm they are available to accept the NMD Referral within 5 business days of contact by CLS.

  • When the panel attorney accepts a referral, a formal referral form will be submitted to them with the NMD’s contact information and a brief summary of the pending legal issue(s), along with the NMD’s authorization for release of information.

  • Panel attorneys will inform CLS of the status of referrals and case developments, as authorized by the NMD.



Maria P. Diaz, Esq. is the NMD Pro Bono Attorney Panel liaison.  She can be contacted via email at or via telephone at 858-285-8995. 

Or download the application here

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