Michelle Dhunjishah and William Hubbard at Children's Law Center

A place to call home

Children’s Law Center moves into renovated facility that’s ideal for training

It’s been a long time coming, but the Children’s Law Center finally has a permanent home, complete with mock courtroom and crime-scene apartment for forensic training purposes.

Those two assets are vital to the center’s mission of providing training to more than 10,000 professionals in justice, law enforcement and child welfare in South Carolina.

“We already draw individuals from across the state, and I think our new facility could eventually become a training destination for professionals in the Southeast,” says center director Michelle Dhunjishah. The center’s new home is a converted former church building on Pickens Street, directly across the street from the School of Law, which launched the center in 1995.

Since its beginning, the center has provided training for child welfare professionals and later expanded its scope to include law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and others involved in serving children who have been or are at risk for being abused and neglected. That training will now take place exclusively at the center’s new location.

Our new dedicated space is an engaging learning environment and as the word gets out about it, I think we’ll have opportunity to serve even more professionals in this sphere.

Michelle Dhunjishah

“We’ve always had office space on campus but had to borrow or rent space for our training conferences,” Dhunjishah says. “Our new dedicated space is an engaging learning environment and as the word gets out about it, I think we’ll have opportunity to serve even more professionals in this sphere.” 

University Foundations purchased the former Church of Christ, Scientist building on Pickens Street in 2019. Since then, the 1920s-era building has been undergoing extensive renovations, which have converted the former sanctuary into a courtroom space that can also be used as an event venue or classroom. The downstairs basement features an apartment setup that can be staged as a crime scene to train forensic investigators.

“Think of the apartment as a simulation lab for presenting the kind of evidence investigators would look for in suspected cases of abuse and neglect,” Dhunjishah says. “I think there's nothing like putting an investigator in the actual environment, and we can now do that and even add forensic actors who can play the role of family members.

“We can do that forensic training in the basement level, then go up to the main floor to the mock courtroom and practice the skill of presenting the evidence in that environment. This is exactly what we’ve needed for years.”

A $1 million gift from law school alumnus Joe Rice, ’76, ’79 law, and his wife, Lisa, provided important funding for the renovations, and the center is continuing to raise additional funds for the project.

“We are deeply grateful to Joe and Lisa, and to all who have contributed to this important project that will greatly expand the center’s training capacity and protect the lives of South Carolina’s most vulnerable children,” says law school dean  William Hubbard. “This new space will also enable the law school to develop creative ways to enhance the learning experiences of our students who are studying children’s law.”