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In an effort to settle the case promptly, the defense team requested a court conference where they explained to the agency attorney and caseworker, as well as Eduardos court-appointed lawyer, what transpired since the petition was filed. Before she left, the defense teams social worker called the caseworkers supervisor requesting that she be permitted to remain in the conference because the x-ray results were due in another half hour. How U.S. Policy Has Failed Immigrant Children: Family Separation in the Obama and Trump Eras, Wolves in Sheeps Clothing: How Religious Exemption Laws for Discriminatory Private Agencies Violate the Constitution and Harm LGBTQ+ Families, American Bar Association Effects of an Interdisciplinary Approach, supra note 1, at 45. 4. Dir., Brooklyn Defender Serv. See N.Y. County Law 722-c (allowing judges to authorize counsel assigned through the 18-b panel to engage social workers to assist in the representation of indigent clients); N.Y. Cty. Instead, the judge told Ms. Anderson that it would be in her interest for her to agree to undergo a mental health evaluation and to cooperate with the agency over the coming weeks. New York law does not require that the agency prove how certain injuries were sustained.71 Instead, when the injuries appear to be the result of abuse, it is sufficient for the agency to allege that the child sustained an injury that most likely was the result of child abuse, creating a rebuttable presumption where the parent may present evidence either proving how the injury was sustained or why the parent should not be held legally accountable for the injury.72 When a petition alleges no direct evidence of abuse, but rather that the nature of the injury is such that it must have been the result of abuse, parents and attorneys are placed in a difficult position. In many cases when parents are well-represented at the administrative level, what happens in court is anti-climacticthe outcome of all that went before at the agency meetings. To be eligible for assignments from the panel, lawyers must have a certain number of years of experience in the field and apply to be placed on the panel by a committee that reviews applications. See Understanding the Effects of an Interdisciplinary Approach, supra note 4, at 56. Rts., Your Rights While Pregnant, Breastfeeding, or Caregiving: A Report on the 2019 Commission Public Hearing on Pregnancy and Caregiver Discrimination 14 (2019), https://www1.nyc.gov/assets/cchr/downloads/pdf/publications/Pregnancy_Report.pdf. In exchange for Ms. Anderson consenting to a finding that she neglected her child, the parties agreed to what is known in New York as an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal.81 The parties agreed to a settlement order that ensured that Ms. Anderson would have custody of her daughter and be subject to supervision for nine months on the understanding that the finding of neglect would be vacated and the petition dismissed in nine months unless the agency could show that Ms. Anderson placed her daughter at risk in the interim. Appreciating the likelihood that the agencys failure to hear this information in person would, at minimum, severely delay a resolution of the case, the defense teams social worker requested that the surgeon write a letter to the court explaining that, although he recommended that Eduardo have the surgery, the surgery was not medically necessary and Mr. Sanchezs preference to give nonsurgical treatment one more try was an appropriate exercise of parental discretion. John B. Mattingly, Safety Planning for Newborns or Newly Discovered Children Whose Siblings Are in Foster Care: Child Safety Alert #14 (Revision), N.Y.C. None of this work is possible when parents are assigned panel attorneys who work as solo practitioners on their cases. Simultaneously, Ms. Greens attorneys and the social work staff worked closely together to help Ms. Green navigate the agencys service and visitation policies. 40592/88, 1989 WL 1715714 (N.Y. Sup. Even when the defenders were unsuccessful in preventing a case from being filed in court, the defender office was already familiar with the facts of the case and had a relationship with the parent. 30+ days ago. Commn on Hum. & Youth Servs. Many of those changes need to happen upstream from the time and place children are reported to child welfare officials as being at risk of harm. Contacting a BDS Staff Member . The offices help parents negotiate all aspects of the process throughout the life of the case. Brooklyn, NY 11201. The study was the first of its kind ever conducted, although two previous studies were undertaken in Washington State that compared cases in which parents were represented by a new Parent Representation Program with the outcomes of cases in which parents were represented by traditional parent lawyers. Once again, Ms. Barrows defense team went into action. Martin Guggenheim, New Study Shows Providing Parents with Multidisciplinary Legal Representation in Child Welfare Cases Furthers Everyones Interests, 20 Child.s Bureau Express no. Effects of an Interdisciplinary Approach, supra note 1, at 43. . In late 2016, Ms. Barrow, the parent of a ten-year-old child and a one-year-old child, was charged in family court with neglect resulting from her struggle to manage the challenges of mental illness and a cognitive disability.68 The petition was filed shortly after she was discharged from a short-term hospitalization for mental health treatment. BDS is a public defense office that represents low-income New Yorkers in criminal, family, immigration, and civil legal matters. But, arguably even more importantly, there is an administrative process that, in many cases, begins before the court proceedings and, in all cases, continues on a separate path during the court process. Alice received her J.D. At her conference, Ms. Anderson was accompanied by a parent advocate who had lived the child welfare experience and a social worker from the defender office who carefully laid out the details of the efforts Ms. Anderson had undertaken in recent weeks. Email Us. 205 were here. Our staff of 300 includes 180 attorneys as well as social workers, investigators, paralegals, re-entry specialists, jail liaisons, education, community organizers and policy specialists. 262(c); Merrill Sobie, Practice Commentaries (McKinney 2020). Id. This Article is dedicated to the outstanding professionals who work in the family defense practices at the Bronx Defenders, the Brooklyn Defender Services, the Center for Family Representation, and the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem. See Id. Ct. It is impossible to wholly disentangle the many interrelated factors that affect how many children are in foster care at any given time, but there is little doubt the outstanding work of the family defenders, both in the courtroom and at high-level policy meetings, has contributed to the continued shrinking of New York Citys foster care population. My professional experiences in New York City include founding and co-directing the Family Defense Clinic at New York University School of Law; serving as a Founding Board Member for the Center for Family Representation; being a member of the Board of Advisors for the New York City Administration for Childrens Services from 1996 to 2013; and, most recently, since 2017, serving as a member of the New York State Commission on Parental Legal Representation. Agencies too often offer parents little help or guidance in obtaining services, commonly doing little more than providing a parent an address and expecting the parent to find the service, make the appointment, and wind his or her way through a maze of confusing requirements. Senior . These case summaries were provided by the professionals employed by various family defender offices in New York City. First, the social worker went to the home to assess for herself the conditions in the apartment. Approximately 20 percent of the Brooklyn Defender Services Family Defense Practice clients are immigrants, and many do not speak English as their first language. . 71. This is among the distinguishing characteristics of this kind of daily defense advocacy these offices employ. 70. 10. 13. Whether it is the removal of children, incarceration, deportation, eviction or houselessness, the people we represent face long periods of forced family separation. Where reunification is not possible, we work to achieve the most favorable resolution possible to preserve the familys bond whenever possible for the benefit of the parent and the child. Brooklyn Defenders provides a wide range of services, including assisting people who are facing an investigation, providing legal representation to people who are brought to court and helping to clear the records of people from databases that impact employment. Instead of the family being reunited, the case might have resulted in a termination of parental rights. Unless otherwise noted, the discussion in this Article concerning the history and practice of parental representation in New York City is based on my own experience and knowledge from almost fifty years of working in this area as a litigator, clinical professor, scholar, policy advocate, and board member and advisor for government agencies and nonprofit organizations. The parent advocate from the defense team working with Ms. Greens case provided an invaluable role in buffering the relationship with the caseworker, acting as a bridge and facilitating communication between the two. from the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law where she was a Graduate Fellow, participated in the Defenders clinic and interned with the Capital Habeas Unit at the Federal Defenders of Philadelphia, the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem's Family Defense Practice, the Brooklyn Defenders . Each of the four family defender offices in New York City has created specialized projects of one sort or another. Noran attended and graduated from CUNY School of Law where she worked with CLEAR to counter post-9/11 policies . In this case, the office was assigned to represent Carlos Sanchez, after a petition was filed by the local child welfare agency accusing him of neglecting his son by failing to consent to what the agency asserted was necessary surgery. Director of Brooklyn Defender Services' Family Defense Practice. After hearing these positive developments, the judge set a hearing to be held in one month, signaling that if things continued to go well, the judge would likely return the child then. Effects of an Interdisciplinary Approach, supra note 1, at 5253. Brooklyn, NY. The hospital then called Ms. Green and asked her what she could tell them. To provide even a sense of the breadth of this work, the Brooklyn Defender Services Family Defense Practice litigates more than forty emergency hearings each month (or about 500 a year) to keep children home or have them returned from foster care sooner than the agency is prepared to allow. The units signal distinction is making sure that someone from the defense team is present at the hospital when the baby is born and is available to participate in all meetings the agency will arrange to discuss the plan. The Family Defense Practice at Brooklyn Defenders has been representing parents and other caregivers in Family Court since 2007. Very commonly, abuse petitions involving physical injuries to children are filed in the absence of direct evidence concerning how the injury was sustained. Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS) is seeking Entry Level Attorney Candidates for the Family Defense team. For most panel lawyers, if a matter is continued on the court calendar for six weeks, the lawyer is able to put the case in a folder and reopen it one or two days before the next court date. 23. This program, known as City FHEPS, is administered by New York Citys Human Resources Administration. Along the path of the case, courts typically order that parents perform various services63 and ultimately order that children be allowed to remain with their families or be placed in another arrangement. The previous studies limited their focus to quantitative outcomes achieved at court or to reporting the views of stakeholders focused on the differences between the two kinds of representation made available to parents in New York City.58 This Article starts where the prior two articles left off. The active family defender community cannot take full credit for this this dramatic shrinking of the foster care population. Ct. 30+ days ago Full Time. 98. But the defender community maintains meaningful pressure on the system to live up to this rhetoric. Even though Sophias injury was an accident, court calendars are so backed up that it takes many months from the date of a filing to get to a trial on the facts. In addition, they must be reviewed periodically and formally retained to remain active members of the panel. At this point, the court appointed one of the family defender offices to represent Mr. Sanchez. Serv. Easily apply. Ms. Barrow disclosed to her defense team that she was pregnant. When parents lawyers are entirely uninvolved in shaping these plans, the fate of children and families is left to the skill and ability of the agency alone to identify correctly the critical needs of the family. See Commn on Parental Legal Representation, Interim Report to Chief Judge DiFiore 1215 (2019), http://ww2.nycourts.gov/sites/default/files/document/files/2019-02/PLR_Commission-Report.pdf (discussing history of parental representation in New York State). Davis. Our team of attorneys, paralegals, advocates, social workers and administrative staff provide a broad range of family defense representation, advocacy and support. They specify the steps an agency must undertake to reunify a family and the tasks the parent must perform as the condition for keeping or regaining custody of his or her child. Emma S. Ketteringham et al., Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies: A Reproductive Justice Response to the Womb-to-Foster-Care Pipeline, 20 CUNY L. Rev. Because of Ms. Barrows concern that continuing her medication during her pregnancy was dangerous for the fetus, she stopped taking the medication that was court-ordered. One such example involves what should happen when a parent is required to perform a certain service that is covered by Medicaid or other programs when the service provider will not commence the service until the funds are made available to it. make applications for investigators or other experts where appropriate . . Ignoring them as part of the defensive strategy is only a tiny step away from ignoring the case conferences. Our Medically Complicated Team defends parents facing allegations that stem exclusively from a medical opinion. Ms. Barrow was assigned a family defender office. Mr. Sanchez took his son to Mexico and completed the treatment. In child welfare cases, victories often prove to be short-lived. In re Ella B., 285 N.E.2d 288, 290 (N.Y. 1972). In this sense, family defenders make child welfare work better. This Article is designed to bring to life the proactive nature of the multidisciplinary practice. On the judicial side, petitions are filed in family court and the allegations in the petitions are (sometimes) resolved through contested evidentiary hearings. See id. & Fam. That knowledge commonly results in the offices achieving better, faster results for their clients than the child welfare agency is capable of, with considerably less disruption of the family, eliminating or significantly shortening the time children are forced to live apart from their families. It added over the years an immigration practice and, in 2007, with this new contract, a family defense practice as well. from Columbia Law School and graduated from Amherst College summa cum laude with a B.A. Instead, she would have met her lawyer for the first time minutes before her first hearing, and that lawyer would have to make the argument for the return of her baby knowing only what could be learned in that short time. In these cases, the agency has never met the mother and is brought in to begin a fresh investigation. They also develop training materials to enrich and support the Family Defense Practice. See Will ACS Take My Child?, N.Y.C. FAMILY DEFENSE. In 41 cases, the children were placed with one of their parents, and in 17 cases children were placed with relatives of their parents choosing. The strategy worked even better than expected. There is no question that the in-court advocacy engaged in by the family defender offices is of a much higher order than that practiced by the panel lawyers, as the qualitative study attests. 26 days ago. Even worse, when parents are unrepresented, the plans may fail to identify services the agency should be providing for the particular needs and circumstances of the family. See Effects of an Interdisciplinary Approach, supra note 1; see also Understanding the Effects of an Interdisciplinary Approach, supra note 4. One such case involved the representation by one of the family defender offices. $68,640 a year. Without the offices housing advocacy, Ms. Barrow would have had no home for her newborn to return to. Each office was expected to accept approximately half of the new case assignments to represent parents charged with abuse or neglect of their children (what this Article calls child welfare cases).18 The remainder of the filings were to be assigned, as before, to panel attorneys. Legal Services of New York was awarded the contract in Brooklyn. When the conference took place one day after the babys birth, the defense teams social worker and parent advocate attended with Ms. Barrow. His son, Eduardo, suffers from a genetic hip disorder and, as a consequence, he is highly prone to injury. In response to persistent advocacy, the agency agreed to permit the visits to take place in a more hospitable environment so long as the visits were supervised by Ms. Greens mother. They provide the opportunity to enter a field with an ambitious social justice vision.62. The goal was to secure evidence from an independent, well-respected therapist that Ms. Green possessed the temperament and capability of raising her child safely. [or] ensure that clients receive necessary services and prepare appropriate service plans .

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