Israel is making the case for children in need. As a Brooklyn native, Israel knows the impact that our work has on the children and communities we serve. Now, as a staff attorney for our Juvenile Rights Practice (JRP), Israel is taking steps to protect the rights of children in need and give a voice to those who are struggling in silence.
For Israel, the work he does for JRP is personal. “As a child, I could have easily been a client of JRP.” A high school dropout, Israel has firsthand experiences with the challenges and frustrations that many of his young clients face, but recognizes that his privilege kept him out of the systems that his clients are forced to navigate. Later Israel earned his GED, went to college, and ultimately law school. Throughout, Israel was committed to helping other vulnerable youth. Even from early in his career, he “always wanted to represent children to make their voice heard.” Now, as an attorney, Israel uses his expertise to make equal justice a reality for underserved New Yorkers.
Israel is proud to work alongside his colleagues in JRP. As he puts it “we are always on the cutting edge of protecting children’s rights.” Even now, Israel finds himself on the frontlines of an important fight for his young clients. Israel has recently been working to change a decades-old policy that criminalizes runaway foster children. For years, some Family Court judges have issued arrest warrants for youth absent from their foster care placement, “even though an arrest warrant does absolutely nothing to help find these children.” Israel explains that, instead of following the comprehensive regulations issued by New York State, which would help locate and return children running away from foster care, “government officials have been treating these youth in foster care as criminals. This practice further alienates traumatized youth in foster care from their casework and clinical teams.” Israel is taking a stand for these vulnerable children, trying to overturn this devastating policy. This summer, Israel appealed two of these warrants, and obtained two emergency orders from the Appellate Division staying enforcement of these warrants. He is hoping to obtain a final ruling early next year.
Decriminalizing New York’s Youth
Israel and his colleagues are changing the way our justice system treats children. In the end, Israel works towards a simple goal: that “children should be viewed as children; not criminalized and not prosecuted by the people who are legally serving as their parents.” Israel understands that his clients are often dealing with the traumas of poverty, neglect, and violence, and that a child’s acting out is a product of their suffering. “We cannot insist that in order to help children we must control them. Instead, we must recognize that a child’s acting out is a consequence of numerous traumas.” Israel is fully committed to asserting and defending his client’s rights. His clients know that he will zealously fight for them, including now challenging unwarranted criminalization of youth in foster care accused of no crimes. Israel’s goal to ensure that every child’s experience in foster care is therapeutic, and enables them to heal from trauma, and resolve underlying issues, before it causes long-term damage. With his help, these young children will have the tools they need to build a bright future.
Want To Join The Fight?
With your help, Israel and his colleagues can make equal justice a reality
for even more New Yorkers in need.