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Melissa D. Carter

Clinical Professor of Law

Areas of Expertise

Child Advocacy, Children's Rights, Family Law


Child Welfare Law and Policy


Melissa Carter is the executive director of the Barton Child Law and Policy Center. Her work focuses on the legal rights and interests of children and youth involved with the juvenile court, child welfare, and juvenile justice systems. She has represented the interests of abused, neglected, and court-involved children in policy and legislative matters at the local, state, and federal levels, contributing to the drafting and passage of dozens of pieces of legislation, and in litigation through amicus curiae briefs submitted to the Supreme Court of Georgia and Georgia Court of Appeals. She is a frequent presenter on topics of juvenile law, has testified before several legislative and administrative bodies, and her work is covered extensively by the media.

Carter earned both a BS in psychology, summa cum laude, and a JD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Since law school, Professor Carter has served in various child law and policy positions, including a gubernatorial appointment as the state’s child welfare system ombudsman.

At Emory, Carter has led efforts to rewrite the state’s Juvenile Code, educated judges on various juvenile law and systemic reform issues, and advised state officials on the administration of psychotropic medications to children in foster care. She has also been appointed to statewide taskforces charged with making recommendations for improvements to the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

In addition to this work, Carter has given lectures and presentations on a wide variety of juvenile law issues around the country. She serves as a member of the board of several child advocacy nonprofit organizations, including Voices for Georgia’s Children, and sits on the advisory committee of the Supreme Court of Georgia Committee on Justice for Children. Carter directs the Barton Center’s public policy and legislative advocacy clinics and teaches Child Welfare Law and Policy.

Education: JD and BA, Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign