This destroys the fabric of multiple lives and leaves long-lasting effects on children, parents, spouses, grandparents and siblings. Although the courtroom remains an important site for excellent representation of parents in child welfare cases, no less important legal work needs to occur elsewhere. 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. After the baby was born, the agency convened the anticipated child safety conference. None of this work is possible when parents are assigned panel attorneys who work as solo practitioners on their cases. Because the agency caseworker failed to attend this medical conference, however, the agency continued to insist in court that the surgery was required and assert that the surgeon considered Mr. Sanchezs refusal to consent to the surgery as placing Eduardo at serious risk of harm. Until such assistance is available, the CPS or case planner must ensure that appropriate services are provided, including payment for such services. N.Y.C. Admin. The clogged courts calendar, however, meant that the court could not conduct the evidentiary hearing immediately. The family defender offices in New York City do not settle for inadequate plans, nor do they encourage their clients to engage in services that are unlikely to ameliorate the barriers to regaining the custody of their children. Ms. Barrow and the defense team jointly developed a new plan for her that included referring her to a therapist, a psychiatrist who was able to prescribe new medication, and a medication management provider. Def., (last visited Sept. 19, 2020). 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. Once again, Ms. Barrows defense team went into action. See Family Defense, NDS: The Power of Pub. By now, two additional months had passed, and the surgeon thought it wisest to order a new series of x-rays before making any decision that day. Commn on Hum. 41. Part I provides a brief history of parental representation in New York. for Child.s Servs., (last visited Oct. 6, 2020). In 2003, a New York State Supreme Court Justice found that the payment rates for assigned counsel resulted in a shortage of panel attorneys and deprived litigants of effective assistance of counsel.12 Panel lawyers would rarely engage the services of a social worker and have their fees paid by the court.13 These lawyers spent virtually their entire professional time in the courtroom, waiting either for a new assignment or for their cases to be called.14 As a result, they were rarely available to their clients out of court.15 Half of court-assigned lawyers billed for less than five hours of out-of-court work in family court proceedings.16. Schreibersdorf & Shapiro written testimony, supra note 24, at 5. 61. Because the qualitative study focused so much on what the new family defender offices did in court, the case descriptions that follow focus on the out-of-court work that is crucial to the holistic model employed by the offices. 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 . In addition, the social work staff helped Ms. Green coordinate and expand visitation. 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. Even these remarkable efforts would have been insufficient. Serv. Succinctly summarizing the advantages of the multidisciplinary offices to clients, Chris Gottlieb wrote: For clients, being represented by organizations rather than solo practitioners means having a team on your side: an advocate you can reach on the phone when your lawyer is in court; another lawyer from the office available to step in when yours is on leave or stuck in a different courtroom; the benefit of a brief bank so your lawyer doesnt have to draft every motion from scratch; and office space where your kids can play while you meet with your lawyer. Chris Gottlieb et al., Discovering Family Defense: A History of the Family Defense Clinic at NYU School of Law, 41 N.Y.U. Ct. Apr. View job. They then returned to their permanent residence in New York. 60. Law 409-e(2) (McKinney 2020) (mandating preparation of case plans by the social services district in active consultation with the childs parent or guardian). The teams social workers worked with Ms. Anderson to identify what she needed to support her child and advised her on what the agency and family court judge would want to see. But those studies included comparisons between counties (some of which had the program and some of which did not) in addition to comparisons within counties (pre- and post-implementation of the new model). Several days after Ms. Barrow was permitted to bring her baby home with her from the hospital, the agency removed the infant and placed her in foster care after a caseworker visited the apartment and found it to be excessively dirty and filled with cockroaches. for Child.s Servs. 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. of 12th graders in Family Foster Care graduated high . is a public defense office that provides outstanding representation and advocacy to people facing loss of freedom, family separation and other serious legal harms. If you are arrested, face deportation, or your children are threatened with the foster system, you can rely on us to fight for you. Then the team strategically planned with Ms. Barrow how to share the information with the agency and the court. One day, Ms. Green noticed a bump on Sophias head that concerned her. for Child. 97. 91. At the end of the six months, the case was dismissed. When the doctor requested more x-rays, the caseworker explained that she could not remain for the conference after the tests came back. . We serve the Brooklyn community by providing individual services to thousands of people each year, holding clinics and educational programs in our community office and online, and supporting fellow community organizations. . 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. This sometimes happens when the mother has no prior involvement with the child welfare system but behaves at the hospital in a manner that leads hospital personnel to call in a report of suspected child abuse. Similar to the agencys response at the pre-court conference, Ms. Andersons advocates were unable to persuade the judge to order the babys return to Ms. Anderson. The teams successful representation of Mr. Sanchez began with a careful, nuanced interview with him allowing the social worker, who was fluent in Mr. Sanchezs native language, to grasp that he never was unalterably opposed to the surgery but merely wanted one more opportunity to see if it were preventable. The Bronx Defenders was awarded the contract in The Bronx. 30+ days ago Full Time. 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. 69. The family defender office assigned to represent Ms. Green handles many of these cases each year and has become expert both in cross-examining medical experts called by the agency and at engaging and communicating with knowledgeable physicians able to provide their expert medical opinion on whether an injury is more likely to be the consequence of abuse or an accident. The first was that Ms. Barrow was in jeopardy of being evicted from her apartment. What follows are case examples of how the offices achieved great success for their clients.67 They are offered both to bring to life how the offices do their work and why everyone committed to a better-functioning child welfare system should want offices like this practicing throughout the country. at 14. Within nine months, Ms. Green had completed both the anger management and parenting class, all while working full time and finishing her GED. In these cases, the agency has never met the mother and is brought in to begin a fresh investigation. Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS) is one of the largest public defense providers in the United States. Apply to Staff Attorney, Family Medicine Physician, Project Supervisor and more! 81. Our Medically Complicated Team defends parents facing allegations that stem exclusively from a medical opinion. Rev. 205 were here. Despite agreeing to attend the meeting, however, the agency caseworker never came to the meeting. Livingston St / Smith St. In most of these cases, the mother is already represented by a lawyer. Social hold is a colloquial term used to describe the practice of a hospital separating new parents from their child immediately following birth while a report to the State Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment or an ACS investigation is pending. See Will ACS Take My Child?, N.Y.C. The last 15 months have taken a toll on all of us. As defenders, we represent people accused of a crime, parents threatened with child removal, immigrants facing deportation, and students, workers and tenants whose education, employment and housing are at risk due to legal cases. 1012(f). BDS attorneys, social workers, paralegals, investigators and administrative professionals have an unwavering commitment to the people we represent. We work alongside people harmed by unfair systems to fight injustice and change things for the better. Effects of an Interdisciplinary Approach, supra note 1, at 53. They also prepared for the birth of the baby, finding a trauma-trained doula and helping Ms. Anderson to set up her home with all the essentials for a baby. When these errors are not revealed, the official record supports the erroneous conclusion that a child was removed from a parents home for a substantial reason. Wholly apart from holding conferences during the time a case is being prosecuted in court, an even more critical component of the administrative process is ongoing. Instead of the family being reunited, the case might have resulted in a termination of parental rights. Full-time. Homicide Unit Mitigation Social . Since the family defender offices opened in 2007 in New York City, the community whose children have been wrested from poor families has had a collective voice in the form of lobbying efforts by the newly created family defender advocates. The team successfully persuaded the agency to agree to release the newborn to Ms. Barrows care with court-ordered supervision. He explained that even though the surgeon recommended that Eduardo undergo surgery to repair the hip, the surgeon also acknowledged the risks associated with the surgery. In those cases, the parent would not have had anyone to attend the child safety conference with her at the hospital. It added over the years an immigration practice and, in 2007, with this new contract, a family defense practice as well. The parties agreed to a settlement, where Ms. Andersons daughter would be returned to her care immediately. 3 TO PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE. Because the bump did not immediately appear on Sophias head, Ms. Green could not be certain how the injury was sustained. The leading characteristic of the offices method of representing parents is to participate actively in the case conferences held at the agency where the case plan for each case is established.65 These plans set the stage for all that follows and are often the single most important factor in a cases outcome. In Queens and Richmond County (Staten Island), no change to the legal representation landscape occurred at that time. $68,640 a year. See In re Philip M., 624 N.E.2d at 172. The petition alleged that the skull fracture could only have been the result of child abuse and Ms. Greens failure to provide a sufficient explanation for the injury justified placing Sophia in foster care. The father abused her after the babys birth and the agency brought a case against Ms. Anderson for failing to protect her child. Commn on Parental Legal Representation Pub. Services Provided:NA Specialties: Other Address: 195 Montague Street, 5th Floor, is Brooklyn, is New York 11201 Phone: (347) 592-2500 Email: . Ct. Among the reasons it is crucial that parent defenders actively participate in these conferences is that when an inappropriate case plan is developed, that plan may be in place for many months even before a court might review it. On the judicial side, petitions are filed in family court and the allegations in the petitions are (sometimes) resolved through contested evidentiary hearings. Most importantly, the team also began planning for the Initial Child Safety Conference that the agency would certainly convene when the baby was born.70 Unfortunately, the New York City child protection agency would not conduct the conference before the child was born (because New York does not recognize fetuses as within the purview of child welfare law). Brooklyn Defender Services is a public defense office whose mission is to provide outstanding representation and advocacy free of cost to people facing loss of freedom, family separation. 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. One might reasonably suggest they are much more important than what happens in the courtroom itself. The office added one of its attorneys with expertise in housing court to the case. Judges, Improving Parents Representation in Dependency Cases: A Washington State Pilot Program Evaluation (2003), (presenting results of an earlier study of pilot programs in two juvenile courts in different settings and locations). from Columbia Law School and graduated from Amherst College summa cum laude with a B.A. Martin Guggenheim, New Study Shows Providing Parents with Multidisciplinary Legal Representation in Child Welfare Cases Furthers Everyones Interests, 20 Child.s Bureau Express no. Mr. Sanchez further explained that he did not rule out giving his consent to the surgery, only that he wanted one more time to see if it could be avoided by securing alternative treatment. Homicide Unit Mitigation Social Worker . Unlike the other two offices, which were part of larger organizations that secured income from multiple sources, CFRs only work was in parent representation. Ms. Shapiro oversees an interdisciplinary staff of over 90 attorneys, social workers and administrative staff and directs the litigation and policy activities of the practice. Since it began, the Brooklyn Defender Services Family Defense Practice has represented nearly 11,000 parents involving more than 20,000 children.24 The Center for Family Representation represents approximately 1,300 new clients each year in child welfare cases and between 2007 and 2018 has represented more than 7,000 parents with more than 15,000 children.25 Between 2007 and 2017, the Bronx Defenders represented more than 11,000 parents and, as of 2018, had a staff of more than 50 attorneys, social workers, and parent advocates. for Family Representation, at 1). Undeterred by failing to achieve success at the conference, the defense team looked toward the first court appearance as a new opportunity to argue for the newborn to remain in Ms. Andersons custody as well as the first opportunity to leave the judge with a positive impression of the mother. Moreover, the amount of time the lawyer put on the case was a minor fraction of the time and attention the social worker gave the case. 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. Without the surgeons letter, the case almost certainly would have ended with the court ordering the surgery in a legal proceeding that would have lingered for months. Admin., The CITYFEPS Rent Supplement Program Fact Sheet, 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. 24. Generally, two of the most important factors in securing the return of a child to parental custody are participation in agency-recommended services and favorable foster care agency reports about parent visits with the child. The final order terminating her parental rights was entered a mere six weeks before Ms. Anderson, now in the late stages of her pregnancy, met with social workers at the unit. 675(1). 2 (updated July 2019),; see also Martin Guggenheim & Susan Jacobs, Providing Parents Multidisciplinary Legal Representation Significantly Reduces Childrens Time in Foster Care, Child L. Prac. If Mr. Sanchezs lawyer had been a very good solo practitioner from the court-assigned panel, he would have advised Mr. Sanchez to get the surgeon to write a letter saying that Mr. Sanchezs preference to take his son to Mexico for another try at nonsurgical treatment was reasonable. As the qualitative study revealed, solo practitioners who were interviewed explained that they do not work with their clients out of court and, if matters involving their service plan ever arise, they will speak with the ACS attorney to look into the matter.86 When one solo practitioner was asked, is there any other type of out of court support you provide to your clients, like talking to their landlords or helping them maintain childcare, the simple answer was No, to be honest, no.87, Two people who were the subject of child welfare proceedings in the New York City courts and were represented by several different panel attorneys over the course of several years testified before the New York State Commission on Parental Representation in 2018. The agency then filed a neglect petition in family court charging Mr. Sanchez with failing to provide his son with medically necessary treatment and seeking an order that the agency be granted permission to consent to the required surgery. 98. 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 supervisor denied the request, approved the caseworkers leaving the conference, and explained that the agency had all the information it needed. But, as the examples in this Article show, the offices undertake significant out-of-court work that dramatically impacts the child welfare practice in New York City. 79. Today, we are the primary provider of legal representation to parents facing the removal of their children to the foster system in Brooklyn Family Court. In the agency process side of the case, parents are obliged to meet with caseworkers, supervisors, and other employees of the agency responsible for monitoring the parents actions throughout the life of the case. Even when these lawyers are skilled courtroom advocates, their advocacy is too frequently hamstrung by antecedent deficits engaged in by the agency when, for example, it proposed and implemented an inadequate case plan. This catch-22 problem made preventing Ms. Barrows eviction vital on multiple fronts. Because Ms. Andersons parental rights to her older child had only recently been terminated, the agency took the position that it was premature to allow her to take custody of her newborn child. . The examining doctors asked Ms. Greens mother what may have happened to Sophia and her mother was unable to provide them with a satisfactory answer. But it simply could not have happened without an interdisciplinary team assigned to the case. This dedicated team works closely with parents to achieve family reunification even when their children have been in the foster system for a long time. Press Inquiries. Find A Defender; Get Help; Donate; en What do you need help with? 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. 93. Bronx Defenders began as an organization that only did criminal defense. make applications for investigators or other experts where appropriate . Hybrid remote in Brooklyn, NY 11201. Over the course of five months, Ms. Green fully engaged in therapy and her therapist wrote enthusiastic letters of support that her defense team was able to present in court. The office created a community intake program, allowing residents in the community to secure legal representation before they have been charged in court with neglect and before they are legally entitled to court-assigned counsel. 14. The national family defender movement is based at the American Bar Associations Center on Children and the Law under the leadership of Mimi Laver. L. & Soc. Hearing (Sept. 27, 2018) (written testimony of Ctr. We fight to protect New Yorkers from the trauma of separation from their loved ones and to reunite families as soon as possible. Each of the four family defender offices in New York City has created specialized projects of one sort or another. In fiscal year 2018, the office was assigned to represent more than 1,500 parents with approximately 3,500 children.26 The Neighborhood Defender Service has represented over 1,600 parents between 2014 and 2017.27, This arrangement, assigning a portion of new filings to a family defender law office and the remainder to panel lawyers, created an opportunity to study which kind of representation works best. Admin., The CITYFEPS Rent Supplement Program Fact Sheet, N.Y.C. But because she would be applying for shelter housing at a time when her children were not in her custody, she would be counted as a single person living alone and would be eligible only for a studio-sized apartment, unsuitable for children. 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. (June 5, 2008), Ms. Barrow disclosed to her defense team that she was pregnant. Since it began, the Brooklyn Defender Services' Family Defense Practice has represented nearly 11,000 parents involving more than 20,000 children. Special thanks go to Caitlin Becker, Michelle Burrell, Michele Cortese, Emma Ketteringham, and Lauren Shapiro for making it possible for this Article to have been written. Once these favorable reports were introduced, the team focused on settling the case instead of undergoing a highly contested trial focused on whether the original injury was sustained as a result of an accident. Lauren Shapiro has been working as a Managing Director, Family Defense Practice at Brooklyn Defender Services for 16 years. 63. It requires more professionals and more room than solo law practices. These factors included demographic characteristics of parents and children, family size, severity of allegations and types of allegations, judge, court borough, and prior involvement with the child welfare system. for Child.s Servs., Children in Foster Care by Borough/CD of Foster Care Placement, /content/aba-cms-dotorg/en/groups/family_law/publications/family-law-quarterly/volume-54/issue-1/how-family-defender-offices-new-york-city-are-able-safely-reduce-time-children-spend-foster-care, Preserving Families: Parent Representation, Immigration Reform, and LGBTQ+ Rights,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, Id. 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. 99. After three years, the agency successfully prosecuted a termination of parental rights case against her.

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