Brooke Weston Sixth Former Advone Katsande is helping shape courtroom justice for her peers as part of her role with the Children and Family Court Advisory Service.
CAFCAS represents children in court cases to make sure their voices are heard and decisions are made in their best interests.
It is a useful grounding in the law as Advone, who is studying philosophy, history, English literature and French, has plans to eventually become a lawyer.
She first began working with CAFCAS when she was 15 years old. She was selected from 30 other applicants and now works on a board with 50 other young people.
Advone said: ‘As part of the Family for Justice Young People’s Board we cater for the needs of over 60,000 children in England who are dealing with private or public divorce proceedings. I work with mediation centres, judges, social workers and courts and ensure that in these proceedings the child’s voice isn’t lost. That’s our main goal.
When I go to the Family Justice Board I represent the Young People’s Board so I have to stand up for young people’s views, especially as in divorce proceedings people can overlook the views of children and courts may not be child friendly. CAFCAS’s work is important when parents get divorced there is another life involved. That child should have a voice and be heard.’
Avone, who is in Year 12, has to fit in her commitments with CAFCAS around her school work and she has both a Family Justice and board meeting coming up soon as well as the annual Voice of the Child conference. She wanted to get involved as she is passionate about the rights of children:
‘All of the young adults who work at CAFCAS have experienced first hand what these children are going through. If I can help other people going through the same thing then it can only be a good thing and they won’t feel so alone. People underestimate the effect that divorce proceedings can have on children. It can lead to depression, anxiety and, in some cases, people not having their own relationships when they are older because of what they have experienced as a child.
‘I love working with CAFCAS and plan to make the most from this experience. It is a great networking opportunity to make connections with people including Ministers and Judges. It gives you a chance to develop as a person and realise that there are genuinely so many people that go through exactly the same. Children really do understand a lot and the more decisions you involve them in the better. The moment you try to hide things or manipulate them you are just going to mess them up.’
Advone is now planning a career in the justice system: ‘I really want to get into Law and I think Family Justice is a nice stepping stone. I would like to study at UCL or Oxford and get into commercial and family law..
‘One of my goals is to open a children’s orphanage in Zimbabwe because if we look a little deeper into the hearts of society we can really benefit each other. As a generation if we don’t help and understand each other we will create more animosity. If we create organisations and children’s homes and help children with the basics of English, maths and science we will all help each other develop as a community.’