(Made possible by the generous support of the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, the Bernard F. and Alva B. Gimbel Foundation, the Sirus Fund, our individual donors and previous funding from Equal Justice Works.)
LFC launched the Education Advocacy Project in 2008 in response to the consistent and dramatically high number of children in foster care for whom educational issues are a paramount concern, and the lack of targeted services for this population. The Education Advocacy Project enables Lawyers For Children to identify, assess and address the educational issues affecting youth in foster care, by providing legal and social work advocacy in the NYC Family Courts and administrative hearings, and education related expertise and guidance to LFC's clients and professional staff.
Like all young people in foster care, LFC’s clients are over-represented in the special education population, lack continuity in their school placements when they enter foster care, and often fail to receive timely Individual Education Plans or benefit from the proper implementation of those plans. Our clients’ individual educational issues are addressed in a focused manner that is only possible when these young people have the benefit of experienced individual advocates. LFC’s professional staff is able to identify the specific underlying foster care placement issues that are often at the heart of our clients' poor school attendance or underachievement. When these issues are identified, LFC can develop and help implement the appropriate foster care and educational plans and services that will transform failure into success.
The Education Advocacy Project employs an attorney-social worker team with expertise in the areas of education and child protection laws, regulations and services. This team handles individual cases and acts as Lawyers For Children’s in-house experts, providing consultation and training for our professional staff of attorneys and social workers. In this way, the expertise of our Education Advocates is leveraged in order to insure that LFC’s entire professional staff is fully prepared to provide every client with the highest quality education advocacy.
In the past year, the range and breadth of the advocacy provided by the attorney and social worker who staff the Education Advocacy Project was extraordinary. They insured the development of timely Individualized Education Plans; obtained tutoring in subjects that included math, chemistry, Spanish and test prep for Regents Examinations and SAT exams; accessed college application assistance; and, provided BOCES, GED and VESID information and referrals. The project staff also focused on specific educational issues faced by children placed at residential treatment centers (RTC), such as insuring the availability of neighborhood-based school opportunities and, when appropriate, the continuity of education at RTC campus schools after transfer to another placement. During this same period, LFC clients were supported as they prepared applications and/or were enrolled in alternative High School programs for pregnant teens and colleges and universities throughout New York City and State. Our clients also benefited from the generosity of New Yorkers For Children’s back to school packages. The following is just one example of the impact the Education Advocacy Project can have on the lives of children in foster care:
As soon as Carla’s parents discovered that she was pregnant, Carla was locked out of her home and left to live on the street. LFC was assigned to represent Carla when she was residing in a mother-child foster care program with her new baby. Carla told her LFC attorney that she hated the idea of raising her child in an institution, and that her program staff routinely dismissed her requests for assistance with childcare and refused to help Carla pursue her education. A family friend, Ms. Johnston, was eager to open her home to Carla and was already a certified foster parent. However, despite her willingness to be re-certified by Carla’s agency, the agency failed to respond to Ms. Johnston’s efforts to initiate that process. Carla’s LFC team was determined to break through this bureaucratic logjam. Her LFC social worker made dozens of calls to insure that the agency responded to Ms. Johnston and began the re-certification process. Carla’s LFC attorney obtained a court order to expedite the certification and require the agency to immediately enroll Carla in a school program for parenting teens. After Carla moved in with Ms. Johnston, she called to say how happy she was to be back in school and raising her baby in a real home with a loving family.
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* In order to protect the privacy of our clients, all children’s names referenced on this web site are fictitious.