Improving the Lives of New York's Children and Their Families
Keeping Families Together
Anaomi arrived at our Bronx Juvenile Rights office after being told that she could no longer live with her kinship foster parent, afraid that she would be placed at the Children’s Center or with strangers. Staff attorney Antoinette Kirwan immediately filed an emergency motion to return Anaomi to her mother’s care the same day, but the court demanded direct testimony from Anaomi’s mother. Paralegal Richard Asphall swiftly located our client’s mother and brought her to court in time for the hearing. As a result of these efforts, Anaomi was able to return to her mother’s care that night, where she has remained since.
I don’t think that I would have survived if I didn’t have the lawyers that I have. They work hard, they care, they show compassion. They make you feel like there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Reuniting Children and Families
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.
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.”
By the Numbers
The backbone of New York’s communities are the individuals and families who live in them. We empower the voice of children involved in Family Court and fight for children and individuals of all ages who have faced violence, abuse, and trafficking, as well as those fighting for access to an education, seeking a divorce, or freedom from an abusive partner.
Our Family Reunification Project in Manhattan Family Court has represented 124 children.
Our Family Reunification Project in Manhattan Family Court has successfully reunified 55 children with their families.
Juvenile Rights interdisciplinary teams of Attorneys, Social Workers, Paralegals, and Investigators amplified the voice of children in 70,000+ appearances in Family Court in 2018.
Challenging New York City's Failure to Plan for Youth Aging Out of Foster Care
Lisa Freeman and Karen Gutheil of JRP’s Special Litigation and Law Reform Unit partnered with Davis, Polk and Wardwell, LLP and Lawyers For Children to challenge New York City’s lack of discharge planning for youth aging out of foster care, resulting in many youth becoming homeless. As a result of the settlement, the Administration of Children’s Services has developed new policies, increased training to its contract foster care agencies, developed new tracking practices, and taken over supervision of youth discharged to independent living prior to their 21st birthday. A team from the Unit, including Jayne Cooper, Lena McMahon, Courtney Camp, and Gina Starfeld, closely monitored ACS’s compliance and continue to ensure that it maintains adequate systems so that youth transition to stable, permanent housing when they leave foster care, and that no youth “age out” to homelessness.