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A Day In The Life

Reuniting Families as an Equal Justice Works Fellow

As an Equal Justice Works Fellow in our Juvenile Rights Practice, Loretta Johnson is dedicated to reuniting children and families who have historically been over-policed by the child welfare system.

Loretta Johnson got her start at The Legal Aid Society in the Juvenile Rights Practice as an Equal Justice Works Fellow sponsored by Kramer Levin LLP, pioneering a new project called the Family Reunification Project. The project provided legal representation to children in the child welfare system and developed a model around avoiding unnecessary removals of children from their homes and shortening the amount of time children linger in foster care.

Children in foster care who have been separated from their families are often left out of the conversation about their own future.

As a Fellow, Loretta implemented this project to address the targeting of minority and low-income families which are over-policed by the child welfare system. To that end, she’s offered training on her model to colleagues within our Juvenile Rights Practice and Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP. Looking ahead, she hopes to build reunification teams within every borough office to better support family reunification across our city.

“Children in foster care who have been separated from their families are often left out of the conversation about their own future, even when they have the best understanding of their family situation and are most affected by the determinations of the court.” For Loretta, this project has been an opportunity to change that. Even in the short time that Loretta has been working on the Family Reunification Project, the results of her advocacy empowering the child’s voice have been outstanding. Out of 102 clients, she has reunited 55 of them with their families. What’s more, the total number of children removed from their homes in her caseload has been cut in less than half because of her work, reducing removed children from 86% to 38%. Loretta strives to “bring the child’s voice to the forefront of reunification advocacy and keep families together.”

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Every donation helps us offer essential legal services to thousands of vulnerable New Yorkers, helping people buy food, pay rent, and care for themselves and their families.

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