2020 PFIG Recipient Natalie Abbey

Jessica Meyers


I am beginning my internship with Child Justice, located in Silver Spring, MD. I will be working as a legal intern remotely. I have worked with another organization supporting survivors of domestic violence, and I sought out this opportunity to continue some of the work I have been a part of previously. I want to be a part of empowering and supporting survivors, fighting for their rights and protections as a reaffirmation of their dignity and right to respect. My hope is to serve them through absorbing some of the chaos related to the legal affairs so that they can focus on the healing process.

As circumstances pertaining to the pandemic allow, I have laid out three goals for myself oriented around my primary focus of serving and contributing to the empowerment of children subject to abuse or neglect. In terms of skill development, I hope to 1) better understand the emotional and psychological aspects of this particular field of legal work, 2) apply and improve my critical thinking, legal research and writing abilities, and 3) learn more about legal processes. In working towards these goals, I hope to become better equipped to serve survivors of domestic violence and be engaged with other social justice work like it in the future.

Much has changed due to the pandemic, including virtual court hearings, Zoom staff collaboration, and priorities in terms of offering protection. Children who are abused by parents or anyone who lives with them are particularly vulnerable in lockdown, and providing protection and a way forward has become increasingly complicated with the stay-at-home order. We will see what the future holds as the DMV shifts to Phase 2, but the increased centrality of the home has proved to be increasingly dangerous for abused and at-risk children.


In my internship, I have been tasked with the creation of a manual detailing all business processes including conflict checks, intake, distribution of cases, and follow up. However, the organization has undergone a significant expansion in the past year, and the infrastructure is needing a significant overhaul to match the new capacity to the demand for services, which has also grown significantly with the increase in abuse due to quarantine and the much more home-centric “new normal”. Because this is such an essential need of the organization, I have been able to take on significant responsibility, and in cases, even more than is appropriate for an intern in the average organizational structure.

In a powerful partnership with another intern, I have been soliciting input from all levels of the organization and developing new systems for various aspects of the organization’s functionality. It has been our responsibility to gather information and needs, write processes to make all the pieces of the puzzle fit together, and make recommendations to supervisors, which has been both an honor and incredible growing opportunity. In the course of our work, the other intern and I have come to the conclusion that the installation of new business processes will be ineffective without a greater degree of consideration of vision, mission, and strategy by the Executive Director, Legal Director, and Board Members. In light of this revelation, we are currently preparing a worksheet to guide and stimulate a nuanced reconsideration of our organizational goals and how we can leverage our assets to achieve them. In a sense, we are making our project the impetus for a new season of strategic planning by key decision makers. It is an unusual but well-received position for us to put ourselves as interns, the lowest on the organizational hierarchy directly addressing and (respectfully) pushing those at the top into a more thoughtful consideration of our infrastructure.


As an intern at Child Justice Inc. (CJI), I was able to take ownership for and complete two sizable deliverables: one 40-page section of the new CJI Operations Manual and a 25-page Strategic Planning Worksheet designed to aid the Board in ongoing discussions about big picture shifts and strategy implementation. We were given very little direction and a lot of freedom in the preparation of these documents, and, according to the rest of the team, exceeded their expectations. Overall, I learned a lot about the value of diplomacy and boldness in the workplace, because we had to take initiative and at times, push the general boundaries of what is deemed acceptable for interns, which was welcomed.

I also learned valuable skills about adaptability in the workplace, project management, and collaboration. From this internship, I am now more confident analyzing, developing, and implementing business processes. I have also grown in my competence as a Legal Assistant and supporter of survivors of domestic violence.