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Volume 4 Issue 2 Fall/Winter 2013


The Docket- The Children’s Law Center

Inside this issue 3 Note from our Executive Director

15 A Differential Response for Child Protection

3 Welcome to our New Board Member

16 Learning Beyond Our Cases

4 A Sixteen Year Odyssey

18 Learn and Connect

8 What is the Child Parent Security Act

19 After the CLCNY Volunteer Experience

10 SSES Impact Over Its First Two Years

20 Reflections: Legal Outreach/CLCNY Volunteers

11 Child Welfare Court Improvement Project

21 Around CLCNY

13 Case Study: High Conflict Custody Cases

23 Events Calendar

14 My Broken Adoption Missive

Thank you to St. Ann’s School students for their beautiful paintings and volunteer work with our clients. 2  CLCNY Fall/Winter 2013


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s we marvel at the beauty of autumn and approach the winter holiday season, I want to welcome you to our fall/winter edition of The Docket. September 2013 marked my 5th year with The Children’s Law Center. CLCNY continues to be an exhilarating place to work. My staff and managers are amazing and our clients energize me with their insight and resilience in often difficult circumstances. Our goal is to represent the outcome that our client seeks. Our impact is providing the child’s voice when the family is at its most vulnerable point and looking to the court for help. Founded on the belief that children deserve skilled, zealous advocates in the court system, we provide comprehensive and holistic representation to children in custody/visitation, domestic violence, guardianship, paternity, and related child protective cases. Zealously and effectively representing children during each courtroom appearance is at the heart of what we do every day at CLCNY. In addition to our court work in both Family and the Integrated Domestic Violence Parts in Supreme Court, we continue our mission with our developing Reflective Advocacy Practice (RAP). Some of our RAP projects include our Securing Seamless Education Services (SSES) Project and our Broken Adoptions Project. Staff involved in RAP, along with direct representation, actively look at policy and practice implications impacting children involved in the court and other community systems in order to educate ourselves or others about any actual or potential impact to the children we serve. Additionally, in collaboration with our social work and support team one of our core values is to offer a continuum of client management services once the case is transitioned from the courtroom back into the community.

In my 5 years with CLCNY, I am inspired by the positive ways we impact our clients every day. I am equally excited to mention our internal and external working groups exploring, ways to improve the practice and marshal community resources to assist children and families. We also have a core committee of staff and managers who are presenting at the city, state, and national level on issues that impact child advocates across the country. I am pleased that our team, including our Board of Directors and managers, provides the structure to handle our direct trial and appellate work while also developing our staff as a voice in many forums for our clients. A team member at CLCNY means being part of a group which ensures that our mission to give a child a strong and effective voice in a legal proceeding that had a critical impact on his or her life is achieved. In this edition I want to share the work that the court is also working on that we are and active stakeholder. Thank you to Frank Woods for permission to reprint from the Child Welfare Court Improvement Project, an article on Promoting Continuous Quality Improvement Through “Collective Impact.” See page 11 in The Docket. I wish you an enjoyable fall and winter. Karen P. Simmons, Esq. Executive Director

Welcome to CLCNY

Welcome to our new board member, Linda Gerstel, Esq. who is of counsel at Anderson Kill, based in the firm’s New York and Stamford offices. Ms. Gerstel is a general commercial litigator and also practices in the area of alternative dispute resolution. She serves on various court mediation and arbitration panels and recently taught a clinic at the Catholic University in Ghana.

Linda Gerstel Esq. and Janet Neusteatter Esq. at 2013 ERVA event

She represents individuals, small and middle market companies as well as non-profit institutions. She serves on various other nonprofit boards directed to women’s issues and education. She is “AV “ rated, a top peer rating by Martindale and has been listed by various publications among New York Woman Leaders in the Law. Fall/Winter 2013 CLCNY  3 


The Docket- The Children’s Law Center

A Sixteen Year Odyssey Barbara H. Dildine, Esq. 4  CLCNY Fall/Winter 2013


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reating an organization takes fortitude and vision. After over twenty years of representing children, including 14 years as the supervisor of the Appeals Bureau at the Juvenile Rights Practice of The Legal Aid Society, I was familiar with developing and supervising a writing unit in a large and growing practice. In 1997, I began my journey in shaping writing in the practice at The Children’s Law Center. The core vision at CLCNY has always been to have our client’s voice heard in custody, visitation and related proceedings to which we are assigned. In 1997, I also had a vision about the development of writing as fundamental to advocacy on behalf of CLCNY’s clients and the hope that the staff would eventually include attorneys specializing in writing, who would not only handle appeals but, in collaboration with trial attorneys, create documents to be submitted in lower courts that were on par with the best appellate writing. The vision was that Family Court custody/visitation practice would develop from a principally “oral” culture, with little motion practice, into a forum where important issues were written about, as well as talked about, where new and developing legal issues could be explored, and where the course of a case could be guided, with the assistance of writing, to serve the client’s interests and lay the best foundation in the event of a future stay application or appeal. In 1999, two appellate briefs were filed on behalf of CLCNY clients. At that time, there were 11 CLCNY staff attorneys, two managers and one office. In 2000, five briefs were filed, and the wide range of issues with which CLCNY’s appellate practice would deal began to emerge, including issues such as relocation, vacatur of a custody order entered on default, paternity by estoppel and an interim appeal from an order paroling children to a parent, following a hearing pursuant to F.C.A. § 1028. The path of a growing motion practice was unfolding and CLCNY’s initial journey to the Court of Appeals was around the corner. Clara C. v. William L., 96 N.Y.2d 244 (2001)—CLCNY’s first case in the Court of Appeals—concerned a “compromise” agreement pursuant to Family Court Act § 516—a statute enacted before the development of sophisticated blood and genetic testing—that allowed mothers and putative fathers, without a determination of paternity, to enter into a contract to provide limited financial support for a child in a lump sum or at a fixed, unchangeable rate. Such agreements contrasted sharply with child support orders in cases of married parents or where paternity has been adjudicated, which must comport with child support guidelines Fall/Winter 2013 CLCNY  5 


The Docket- The Children’s Law Center

and always are subject to modification based upon the needs of the child and the circumstances of the parents. Compromise agreements were rarely, if ever, in a child’s best interest, as they left a child fatherless and receiving less (sometimes far less) financial support than s/he would receive if the man was adjudicated the father and compelled to pay under child support guidelines. Twelve years after the mother in Clara C. signed an agreement pursuant to F.C.A. § 516, waiving future support and paternity proceedings on behalf of the parties’ son, the Family Court dismissed her child support petition, ruling that she was required to abide by the contract she had made. The Court of Appeals reversed and reinstated the petition, on the grounds that the agreement did not receive adequate judicial review at the time it was approved, and that the child was not represented by an attorney. Three dissenting justices would additionally have declared F.C.A. § 516 unconstitutional, as an antiquated statute eclipsed by the reliability of genetic testing and by modern paternity law that focuses upon the benefit to out-of-wedlock children of having an adjudicated father and, ideally, becoming part of an extended paternal family. Upon remand to the Family Court, a finding of paternity was entered, as well as an order requiring child support commensurate with William L.’s earnings. Although the Office of Court Administration had recommended the repeal of F.C.A. § 516 for years, without success, the Court of Appeals opinion in Clara C., which drew from CLCNY’s Brief on Behalf of the Child, finally sounded the death knell for the statute, which was subsequently repealed. The creation of a robust writing unit had a circuitous route. In order to 6  CLCNY Fall/Winter 2013

handle the increasing volume of briefs and motions, CLCNY hired a part time attorney to do writing in December 2000 and did not hire a full time writing attorney until June 2002. By 2001, CLCNY was filing motion papers “virtually every week,” meaning almost 50 carefully developed documents per year. In 2004, we reached and substantially exceeded the landmark of 100 motions in the wake of published articles and seminars questioning the methodology of courtordered forensic evaluations as based upon an unreliable “soft science” and transgressing evidentiary standards pertaining to expert testimony. Although both trial and appellate courts ultimately re-affirmed the value of well-crafted mental health assessments in making determinations as to custody and visitation, much litigation was spawned in the interim. Some improvements in the standards of Family Court practice arose from this controversy, including shedding light upon the methodologies used by forensic evaluators and the process through which they arrived at recommendations, as well as curtailing questionable practices such as ex parte communications between attorneys and forensic evaluators.

filed was comparable to 2005. In 2006, CLCNY filed its second brief in the Court of Appeals. In Shondel J. v. Mark D., 7 N.Y.3d 320 (2006), the Court of Appeals upheld the doctrine of equitable estoppel as a statutory exception to the right to genetic testing in paternity and child support proceedings. The Court held that although a child has an interest in learning the identity of her biological father, the child “also has an interest—no less powerful—in maintaining her relationship with the man who led her to believe that he is her father.” Id. at 329. The Court rejected the argument that Mark D. was defrauded, insofar as genetic testing confirmed that he was not the child’s biological father, noting that “the case turns exclusively on the best interests of the child,” and the doctrine is applied for the benefit of the child, who had no role in misleading him. Id. at 330. The Court advised that, if a man has doubts about biological paternity, as Mark claimed he had from the time the mother told him of her pregnancy, he should address them early in the child’s life “before initiating a parental relationship.” Id.

“We will continue to use written advocacy t0 achieve favorable outcomes for our clients”

In 2005, 155 motions and 20 briefs were filed. As of August 2006, the Writing Unit was staffed by four parttime staff attorneys (the equivalent of two full-time lines) and the Deputy Director for Appeals and Training. The number of briefs and motions

In 2007, 26 appellate briefs and 160 motions were filed by CLCNY. The filing of briefs and motions seemed to stabilize in 2008, but began to grow again in 2009. By the fall of 2008, the Writing Unit had expanded to three staff attorneys and the Deputy Director. In 2009, the milestone of 200 documents per year was passed (five years after the milestone of 100 documents), with 37 briefs and 164 mo-


tions filed. The number of briefs filed in 2010 was the same as in 2009, but the number of motions jumped 13%, to a total of 185. Given the ever-expanding writing caseload accompanying such growth, in 2010, the position of Supervisor of the Writing Unit was created, and Janet Neustaetter, who had been a prolific member of the writing team since January 2004, assumed that role. The milestone of 50 briefs per year was achieved in 2011, and the number of motions that year was approximately 200, thus exceeding by 25% the overall number of documents filed only two years earlier. Given the sharp increase in the number of documents filed in the lower courts, as well as our value and commitment to develop our staff, a new protocol was initiated in 2011, in which some motions were prepared by trial attorneys, under the supervision of their trial supervisors, without involvement of the Writing Unit. This initiative relieved the Writing Unit and further strengthened our team approach at CLCNY.

CLCNY to continue to raise that bar. As this article demonstrates, the Writing Unit’s statistics have steadily climbed every year since the inception of CLCNY and are not a function of the number of petitions filed in the trial courts, but rather result from other factors. In 16 years, CLCNY has handled hundreds of appeals and is approaching two thousand filings in the Family and Supreme Courts. Many decisions rendered in these cases have had a substantial impact on the law pertaining to custody, visitation, guardianship, paternity, domestic violence and other areas of child welfare. Going forward, we will continue to use written advocacy to achieve favorable outcomes for our clients and to shape the law. Additionally, we hope that our developing Training Manual, periodic Practice Pointers on a wide array of topics, and internal and external trainings will continue to enlighten CLCNY staff and other stakeholders who practice in this area.

In 2012, 43 briefs and 265 motions were filed, and the milestone of 300 documents per year was reached, only three years after the 200 document milestone. The number of summations in 2012 (17) was nearly double that filed in 2011 (9). Factors contributing to increased writing assignments in recent years include the effects of budget cuts and earlier court closing hours, resulting in more issues that cannot be resolved following courtroom colloquy. The vision of raising the bar in trial court practice through high quality writing has been achieved and it is our goal at

The 2013 Writing Team

Fall/Winter 2013 CLCNY  7 


The Docket- The Children’s Law Center

What is the Child Parent Security Act ? Susan Cordaro, Esq. CLCNY’s Working Group on Legislation, Court Rules, and Polices that Impact Our Practice and Our Clients has been discussing the Child-Parent Security Act, which has been introduced in the New York State legislature. Although the bill did not advance when it was introduced last year, indications are that there may be movement regarding the bill when it is reintroduced in the new legislative session.

1. Summary of the Proposed Legislation

§

This bill can be divided into two main components. First, the bill authorizes entry of a “judgment of parentage,” that legally establishes the child-parent relationship for an “intended parent” of a child born through assisted reproduction or artificial insemination, or pursuant to a gestational carrier arrangement. The judgment can be used to obtain a birth certificate in conformity with the court order. The legislation defines “intended parent” as an individual who manifests the intent as provided in the Act to be “legally bound as the parent of a child resulting from assisted reproduction or collaborative reproduction.” This portion of the Act is intended to address the fact that, in New York State, children and the people raising them can be legal strangers where there is not a biological connection, a second-parent adoption (which involves a prolonged and expensive process), or a marital-type presumption of parentage. Thus, many have advocated for this type of legislation in order to protect children born to same-sex couples, where one or more parent(s) is/are not biologically related to the child. However, the cases also can involve opposite sex couples, to whom the legislation would be equally applicable. In addition, the portion of the bill that concerns reproductive technologies also would authorize gestational carrier agreements in New York State, and permits reimbursement and reasonable compensation of donors and gestational carriers. According to the Empire State Pride Agenda, New York currently is one of only five states that explicitly prohibits third-party reproduction through a surrogate, unless the arrangement is “not commercial.” Due to the ban, New York couples and individuals who wish to have a child via surrogacy must engage 8  CLCNY Fall/Winter 2013

the help of a surrogate who lives out of state—often having to travel across the country to do so. This is time-consuming, expensive, and makes it more difficult to forge a relationship with the surrogate, and be present for the birth. In addition, same-sex couples are further limited because many states do not protect their relationships and families under the law in the same ways that New York does. Second, the proposed legislation authorizes entry of a judgment of parentage establishing legal parent-child relationship between a child and a de facto parent, formed after the birth of the child. This portion of the Act permits a court to make a determination of parenthood for a child where an individual, who was an “intimate partner” of the child’s parent, can demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that:

• The parent of the child

consented to the formation of a parent-child relationship with the child, as expressed in written form, including a signed letter agreement, an executed contract, birth announcement, a religious ceremony document, or a school or medical record;

• The person resided in the same household with the child for a length of time sufficient to have established a parental relationship with the child;


• The

person performed parental functions to a significant degree; and

• The person formed a parent-child bond with the child. The legislation provides that such a de facto parent cannot be a grandparent, or an individual whose relationship with the parent is based on payment by the parent, or any person who was not an intimate partner of the parent. The legislation has been proposed because, as we often see in our practice, children can form a strong tie with an individual who has functioned as a parent to them, such as a stepparent, or a long-term same-sex or opposite-sex boyfriend or girlfriend of their own parent. If the relationship ends between the child’s parent and this individual, and no biological parent-child or adoptive relationship exists, the child may be deprived of all contact with him or her, and of the caregiving that he or she provided to the child. This is because New York law permits only siblings and grandparents to file a petition seeking visits with a child over the objection of his/her parent, not other individuals. See Alison D. v. Virginia M., 77 N.Y.2d 651, 654-655, 569 N.Y.S.2d 586, 587 (1991) (finding that petitioner, the former samesex partner of the child’s biological mother, “a biological stranger” to the child, and determining that she did not have standing to seek visitation with the child under Domestic Relations Law § 70, despite her “established relationship” with the child, who called both her and respondent “mommy,” after the parties separated when the child was two-and-a-half years old, and the respondent began restricting the child’s contact with petitioner when he was approximately six years old). Moreover, the law in New York provides standing for a custody application to the court in a litigation between a parent and a non-parent only where the non-parent can demonstrate that “extraordinary circumstances” exist, which is an extremely difficult legal burden to meet. Thus, legislation of this nature has been proposed for years, so that children, and their de facto parents, are not denied the opportunity to obtain a court order that continues a relationship that has been central in the children’s lives.

agency authorized by law, or (5) the representative of a deceased/incapacitated person who otherwise could maintain a petition. Proceedings under the Act may be brought in Supreme, Family or Surrogate’s Court, except proceedings for a de facto parent which may be brought in Supreme or Family Court.

2. Ongoing Discussions Regarding How the Child-Parent Security Act Would Affect Our Practice? As we all know from first-hand experience, CLCNY has had many cases where the provisions of this bill could come into play. The Working Group will continue to track and discuss the legislation. Also, the bill presently does not include a specific provision in the legislation that requires a petitioner seeking a de facto judgment of parentage to demonstrate that such an order is in the child’s best interests. Although “best interests” is an amorphous concept, it is one with which Family Courts are very familiar and can apply based on the facts of a particular case. Thus, the Working Group will continue will continue to gather examples from our practice that may be relevant to how the bill is crafted, particularly in terms of ensuring our clients voice is considered and heard in this legislation. For those who have additional feedback or cases that are relevant to the proposals, please feel free to reach out to me or Melanie Tharamangalam West in the Brooklyn office, as we are gathering examples of cases in our practice that are relevant to the Working Group’s discussion of the bill.

A judgment of parentage under the bill’s provisions may be sought by a petition of (1) a child, (2) a parent, (3) a “participant,” which includes the intended parent, (4) a support/enforcement agency or other governmental Fall/Winter 2013 CLCNY  9 


The Docket- The Children’s Law Center

SSES Impact Over Its First Two Years Michael Mastrangelo, Esq.

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ell, CLCNY, it’s been a little over 2 years since the Securing Seamless Education Services Project, SSES Project (pronounced Success Project) came into existence. This 2nd birthday marks the official end of SSES’s existence as an Equal Justice Works Fellowship Project, as well as the beginning of a new phase for both the project and myself. And as I make this transition, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on SSES’s impact over these exciting two years. In two years, SSES has worked with over 150 clients and their families to ensure access to educational opportunities and positive academic outcomes. Over this time I attended many IEP meetings, visited schools, helped parents fill out the required paperwork to have their children evaluated, assisted with school enrollment, facilitated numerous trainings for attorneys, social workers, students, and parents, and represented clients in Family Court and at DOE suspension hearings. A few of our clients are now going to private special education schools completely paid for by the DOE. Two clients, previously undocumented and with little hope for an educational future, now have green cards and are enrolled in college. Many of our clients who were not receiving the special education services that they were entitled to, are now receiving them and making progress. Parents of our clients now understand how to advocate at their next IEP meeting. And I’ve learned A LOT about the challenges holding our clients back from educational success.

are too frequently more involved in school discipline than school psychologists and/or social workers. Many children whose families are destabilized by lengthy and contentious family court proceedings have a classified disability and an IEP.   Early childhood trauma has a direct negative impact on development and educational outcomes.   Parents involved in family court proceedings disagree with each other for the sake of disagreeing, sometimes at the expense of their child’s education.  Standardized tests cause too much anxiety for children, parents, teachers, and administrators.  Schools and parents that are willing to cooperate with each other truly do have the best interests of children in mind. Too many NYC schools are severely under-resourced.  A lot of dedicated lawyers, educators, judges, and advocates are working hard to ensure that the state of NYC public school education is vastly improved upon. Positive change is possible when people work together. As I move into my third year at CLCNY, with a lot more experience and a larger case load, I look forward to improving how SSES ensures that our clients have access to opportunities for educational success. I look forward to impacting the lives of our clients. And, I look forward to working with all of CLCNY’s inspiring, dedicated staff to give each of our clients a voice.

I’ve learned (in no particular order) that: It often takes longer than it should to have a child evaluated for special education services. Some parents often don’t know where to begin when they detect a potential disability in their child. Some parents would rather let the system take control of their child’s education than stepping up to the overwhelming challenge.  Some parents don’t trust the system and challenge everything. Only 31% of students with disabilities graduate in four years. Non-English speaking parents frequently feel lost in their children’s education.  Children with severe behavior challenges are too often treated like criminal outcasts and are too often excluded from the classroom.  School suspensions in NYC disproportionately impact black boys with disabilities. Police officers 10  CLCNY Fall/Winter 2013

Securing Seamless Education Ser vices


N E W Y O R K S TAT E U N I F I E D C O U R T S Y S T E M

CHILD WELFARE COURT IMPROVEMENT PROJECT PROMOTING CONTINUOUS QUALITY IMPROVEMENT THROUGH “COLLECTIVE IMPACT” The Child Welfare Court Improvement Project (CWCIP) is a federally funded initiativei of the New York State Unified Court System. The mission of the CWCIP is to support the Family Court's mandate to promote the safety, permanence and well being of children who are the subject of abuse, neglect, foster care, termination of parental rights and adoption proceedings. Currently the CWCIP, in collaboration with the state executive branch Office of Children and Family Services, is developing a data-driven, continuous quality improvement (CQI) process focused on improving practice at the intersection of the legal/ judicial and child welfare systems in New York City and the 16 largest jurisdictions outside the city. Our approach is based on the premise that courts can't make significant progress in improving the legal/judicial processing of child welfare matters solely thorough unilateral action. Nor can child welfare agencies achieve all their objectives unless legal/judicial processes improve. Instead, efforts to improve practice at the intersection of these complex, interdependent systems are most effective when we strive to marshal the commitment of all the important actors to a common agenda. Intervention at the Point of Intersection Between Interdependent Systems

Interdisciplinary

Legal/ Judicial System

“Enhanced Practices”

Child Welfare System

Collaboratives

This approach to systems change is described in an article entitled “Collective Impact,” which appeared in a recent edition of the Stanford Social Innovation Reviewii. In their article, authors John Kania and Mark Kramer describe five conditions that are typically the hallmarks of successful collective impact initiatives: a common agenda, shared measurement systems, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication, and a backbone support organization. The authors argue that when these conditions exist they together have the potential to produce true alignment and lead to powerful results. The definition of each condition (excerpted from “Collective Impact”) and our efforts to nurture the conditions is discussed below: 1) Common Agenda Collective impact requires all participants to have a shared vision for change, one that includes a common understanding of the problem and a joint approach to solving it through agreed upon actions. The state’s Family Court Leadership and the leadership of the Office of Children and Family Services has articulated the following statewide goals: • Increase the proportion of children who are maintained safely in their homes • Increase the proportion of children who reach appropriate permanency within ASFA timeframes • Decrease the proportion of children who re-enter out-of-home care or experience repeat maltreatment Local collaborative groups are encouraged to develop and implement evidence-based strategies and promising practices aligned with these goals. Having local groups develop specific strategies that are responsive to local needs helps ensure broad consensus and a truly “shared vision” regarding direction and proposed action steps. 2) Shared Measurement Systems Developing a shared measurement system is essential to collective impact. Agreement on a common agenda is illusory Fall/Winter 2013 CLCNY  11 


The Docket- The Children’s Law Center without agreement on the ways success will be measured and reported. Collecting data and measuring results consistently on a short list of indicators not only ensures that all efforts remain aligned; it also enables the participants to hold each other accountable and learn from each other’s successes and failures. The interdisciplinary CQI initiative is supported with regular data reports provided to each of the 21 counties participating in our Enhanced Child Welfare Practices Initiative. These reports are based on the Child Welfare Court Data Metrics and the Foster Care Data Packets promulgated by OCFS. Each county will develop measurable outcomes that align with the aforementioned statewide goals. The data reports (as well as local sources of data and information) enable monitoring of progress towards achieving those outcomes. 3) Mutually Reinforcing Activities Collective impact initiatives depend on a diverse group of stakeholders working together, not by requiring that all participants do the same thing, but by encouraging each participant to undertake the specific set of activities at which it excels in a way that supports and is coordinated with the actions of others. Practice improvements are designed and implemented by interdisciplinary stakeholder groups in each county. Improvement strategies and activities include both joint initiatives as well as intra-organizational practice improvements that have the potential to impact mutually-defined outcomes. 4) Continuous Communication Developing trust among nonprofits and government agencies is a monumental challenge. Participants need several years of regular meetings to build up enough experience with each other to recognize and appreciate the common motivation behind their different efforts. They need time to see that their own interests will be treated fairly, and that decisions will be made on the basis of objective evidence and the best possible solution to the problem, not to favor the priorities of one organization over another. Local interdisciplinary child welfare stakeholder groups have been meeting regularly for years. At a minimum the groups include representation from the bench and bar, local child welfare agencies, foster care agencies and service providers. In some instances, health care and educational system actors are also included. Layering a data-driven CQI process onto the work that is already underway provides additional impetus to that work, but also requires a renewed commitment to ongoing communication. 5) Backbone Support Organization Creating and managing collective impact requires a separate organization and staff with a very specific set of skills to serve as the backbone for the entire initiative. Coordination takes time, and typically none of the participating organizations has any to spare. The expectation that collaboration can occur without a supporting infrastructure is one of the most frequent reasons why it fails. The work of the CWCIP is implemented by a centrally administered team operating in offices around the state. Staff members are co-located in key family courts to support implementation at the local level Staff is specifically charged with supporting system change efforts. They provide logistical support for collaborative work, organize training programs, and support the consumption of data and information. These staff, in partnership with our colleagues in the Office of Children and Family Services and with technical assistance from the National Resource Center on Organizational Improvement,Casey Family Programs, Chapin Hall and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges form the necessary backbone support organization to sustain our CQ/effort. For more information on the work of the CWCIP please visit our web site : nycourts.gov/ip/cwcip i Funding for the Child Welfare Court Improvement Project is provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, “Children’s Bureau. ii “Collective Impact”, John Kania & Mark Kramer, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Winter 2011.

12  CLCNY Fall/Winter 2013


Case Study: Utilizing Mediation and Negotiation in High Conflict Custody Cases Dawn Post, Esq., Saira Wang, Esq., Michelle Grasso, LMSW

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e recently presented at the American Bar Association Conference on Children and the Law in July 2013 and the National Association of Counsel for Children Conference in August 2013. Our topic was the use of mediation and negotiation techniques to resolve custody and visitation cases and we used as a case example a closed high profile family court case. The case involved the death of the mother in a shooting that authorities said was arranged by her husband. Our clients were ages five and three, and one witnessed the tragic event. As a result of CLCNY’s efforts, an interim agreement was reached within thirty days of CLCNY’s assignment. In order to develop the interim agreement, our holistic team conducted numerous interviews and observations and had many in person contacts with our clients, relatives, and other collaterals. The final resolution to the case occurred nine months after CLCNY was assigned and less than a year after the murder. For a case this complicated and given our volume of cases in court, achieving the final settlement in under a year from filing is not something that is readily obtainable. However, the use of mediation and negotiation allowed us to do it. Advocates active in the litigation assuming the role of mediator and negotiator? This may seem outlandish to those who believe in a win or lose mentality and that a trial with competing adversaries before a judge is the best method to reach a resolution in a case. However, as part of our mission with the use of a holistic team including the attorney, social worker, paralegals, and interns, we believe it is critical for us to be the voice of reason and to convey our client’s feelings and preferences to the adults, the very people who should willingly hear them before settling into a protracted legal battle that feels like it is designed to maximize the pain that people sometimes can cause one another. Children are very aware of the conflict and typically express considerable sadness over the conflict.

of legal, social work and culture. In this case study, the family involved in the litigation was Muslim. Culture was perhaps the most important consideration. In this highconflict case study that we presented, we understood that cultural norms dictated that the elders were the head of the family. We accordingly directed all queries regarding the family’s overall concerns and position to the head of the family, even if the head of the family was more of a figurehead. Similarly, both families had their male family members acting as the point. Thus scheduling appointments, forwarding family access time proposals, and addressing concerns were all directed primarily to the designated men, even if other family members were part of the decision-making. When discussing child rearing issues, however, the women governed. We were also cognizant of cultural norms regarding the parties’ living situations. In understanding the dynamics to work with this family and achieve the outcome for our clients we had to really understand the family that would ultimately assume primary caretaking responsibility for them even while we worked toward the families developing a partnership to co-parent. We learned that in this family and many families in the Islamic culture that the wife becomes part of the husband’s family, and will thus reside with the husband and his family. Multi-generational homes are quite common in many cultures such as in these families, and are sometimes viewed as the preferred method of living. There is also a sense of a patriarchal

Our presentation focused on how our holistic team employed bringing in the families’ voice through participation to achieve interpersonal respect and to establish trust to mediate a settlement using the three perspectives Fall/Winter 2013 CLCNY  13 


The Docket- The Children’s Law Center

divide in a family following marriage. Therefore, there is a presumption that children born of the relationship will also remain with the paternal relatives. When a couple divorces, children stay with the maternal family until they reach a certain age, and then go to reside with their father. Accordingly, in our high-conflict case, there was the presumption by the paternal family that the children would remain with them, simply based on the fact that they had always resided with them. In addition, many cultures have different class systems or socio-economic divides which can impact family dynamics. Within any culture, there can be a vast socioeconomic divide that is related to both wealth and education, which tend to be interrelated. We learned that there are underlying cultural assumptions that come along with wealth, education, and level of religious observance and the impact these factors have on the perceived ability to raise children. Similarly, within many cultures there are competing views on traditional versus modern approaches to raising children. In our high-conflict case, both sides argued that they could provide a better home for the child. Their arguments focused on the economic status of the other party, their respective educational backgrounds, and their degree of religious observance. We had to be very sensitive to these issues and respect the families’

priorities, while also attempting to explain that, under the framework of our statute, economic status was one of many factors looked at in assessing what living environment was best for the children. Our clients loved and wanted their parents who disappeared from their lives abruptly. They loved their maternal and paternal relatives and had limited knowing, voluntary and considered judgment to help develop their voice in the proceeding. So in order to achieve a resolution that did not have our clients lose more familial relationships, we had to balance their families’ cultural priorities with our own concerns regarding the children’s general well- being. Ultimately, we shared in our presentation that we used the tools of mediation and negotiation to forge communication and applied the outcomes of those two mediums to address the legal, social work and cultural needs of this case and our clients. With this framework, the families were able to bridge their differences to and learned to coparent the children despite how emotionally charged the case was. We were also able to avoid the impact of a long protracted trial for our clients who are now with family that love them and can help them move forward in their lives. That is an outcome that we all want to achieve in each case.

My Broken Adoption Missive By Sarah McCarthy, Kirkland & Ellis Fellow I’m so excited to begin my legal career by working on a social justice issue that impacts many children: broken adoption. This has been an ideal time for me to begin this project since several media outlets in the past month have published articles about this issue, specifically focusing on international adoptions. Since I started in September, I have reached out to those journalists in order to further the conversation and to share information about the disturbing prevalence of domestically adopted children returning to family court. I have worked on some reflection and opinion pieces for publication that will be sent to the Board President for review in order to bring further attention to the issue.  I also had my first meeting to connect to other youth-serving organizations. Along with Dawn Post, Esq. and Karen Simmons, Esq., I attended a meeting with the legal directors of Covenant House. Our goal is to collaborate and begin to collect data about how many homeless youth are homeless due to broken adoptions.  In addition, I have some cases to work on. I am so excited to be part of The Children’s Law Center team and I look forward to sharing more about my work on the fellowship as the year progresses.

14  CLCNY Fall/Winter 2013


A Differential Response for Child Protection Teresa Grogan, Esq.

I

attended a symposium on the Family Assessment Response (FAR) also referred to as “differential response” or “alternative response.” The theory behind these programs, which are being enacted across the country, is to have child protective agencies respond to allegations of child protective issues differently than the historical investigative and often adversarial response. New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services FAR program incorporates many of the different terminology and perspectives used in other programs. In NYC, if a case is FAR eligible there is an “assessment,” not an “investigation.” ACS calls to make an appointment to visit the family but does not come to the home unannounced.  A focus is put on meeting families in their own environment instead of the ACS offices.  If the case is deemed eligible and the family accepts the program, there will never be a determination of whether the allegations were unfounded or indicated.  The family is presented with “areas of concern” instead of confronted with “allegations.”  Families are not labeled as “resistant.”  Instead, the caseworker identifies their “anxieties” about the process.  Caseworkers are trained to listen instead of taking a traditional directive stance.  The focus is to capitalize on the strengths of the families instead of repairing the weaknesses.  ACS and the family work as partners and share the responsibility for the proposed plan of action for each family.  New York is one of approximately 31 states with differential response statutes. New York State enacted SSL w§427-a, “Differential response programs for child protection assessments or investigations”, effective August 1, 2007.  That law was made permanent on June 1, 2011.  In June 2012, The Office of Children and Family Services approved the NYC ACS application for a FAR program.  On January 14, 2013, ACS rolled out its program by creating four Child Protective units in Queens dedicated to FAR.  Those units covered specific neighborhoods and Community Districts in Queens Zone B.  In July of 2013, ACS expanded the neighborhoods/districts covered by the program.  On July 29, 2013, however, the number of units dedicated to FAR was reduced from four to three.  As of the date of the symposium, 208 families had been assigned to the FAR program, amounting to 9% of the new cases received by ACS in the Zone B designated neighborhoods.  Out of those 208 cases, 173 successfully completed the program and 35 were

re-routed to the traditional investigative track. Despite the differences in terminology and perspective described above, one of the caseworkers said that there really is no difference between the traditional child protective work and the FAR work because the focus remains the same, child safety. She said that the real difference is how you approach the family.  Another worker said he felt that the FAR training just built on what he had already learned at ACS and took it to a new level.  I also thought it was interesting to hear from one caseworker who was in the unit and reassigned from FAR back to Child Protective.  He said that he still uses some of the techniques he learned in his FAR training in the investigative cases and has seen positive results.  The caseworkers identified themselves more as helpful facilitators instead of investigators and prosecutors.   While acknowledging the divergence from the traditional investigative model, the speakers were all very emphatic about the continued focus on safety and child protection.  The FAR units are still responding to reports within 2448 hours.  The process includes an initial safety assessment.  The ideals behind the NYC FAR program were quoted on the four placards standing on each table at the event:  “Family Focused,” “Strengths Based,” “Engagement,” and “Child Safety First.”  When asked what they would do to change the program for the future, the caseworkers were unanimous in asking that the criteria be expanded so that they can take on more cases and expand the program.  Overall, everything presented was very supportive of the program.  It was acknowledged that there is a whole school of thought which advocates against differential response programs, but that viewpoint was not presented at this symposium. 

Fall/Winter 2013 CLCNY  15 


The Docket- The Children’s Law Center

Learning Beyond Our Cases Heather Kalachman, Esq., Simon Daillie, Esq., Genevieve Tahang-Behan, Esq., Casey Benavides, LMSW

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n May 2013, the Children’s Law Center of New York (CLCNY) sent four staff members from across the legal and social work disciplines to attend the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts’ (AFCC) 50th Anniversary Annual Conference, which was entitled Riding the Wave of the Future: Global Voices, Expanding Choices. The AFCC Conference focused on current trends and expected changes in the Family Court and how they might affect custody litigation practice for the next 50 years and beyond. Presentations and themes at the conference included the impact of media technology on children and families, the crisis of the self-represented litigant, the dilemma of the incarcerated parent, and the rising trend of co-parenting. The Self-Represented Litigant New York State seems to have partially avoided the major crisis of selfrepresented litigants in American Family Courts. In contrast, we were surprised to learn that in California in custody and visitation and some other family court matters, indigent parents and children are often left unrepresented. Pro se litigants on average tend to have fewer resources and to be less educated, yet in many states they are essentially practicing law, potentially to the detriment of their children’s interests. Andrew Schepard, Professor at Hofstra University School of Law, presented the problem of the self-represented litigant in Family Court as a massive

16  CLCNY Fall/Winter 2013

community problem that requires an overhaul to the legal education system and new models for delivering legal services. Incarcerated Parents While California is not particularly generous in providing legal representation to Family Court litigants and children, there is a non-profit organization in Los Angeles that does provide free representation to formerly incarcerated parents attempting to regain a role in their children’s lives. During its presentation, the Harriet Buhai Center for Family Law also strongly advocated for visitation between incarcerated parents and their children while they are still in correctional facilities as positive for the child’s psychological development and supportive of the parent’s reentry into society upon release. The upward trend of incarceration nationally has had significant consequences for the children of those imprisoned, and the Harriet Buhai Center is attempting to address those effects as counsel for parents. In New York, the Osborne Association is a leading organization working with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated parents and their children to stay connected.

moving towards encouraging at least shared parenting time, if not joint decision-making. Several vendors were pitching their Internet-based products for assisting parents with the communication needed to co-manage the raising of a child. However, we know as attorneys for children, parents coming to court to litigate issues of custody and parenting time are often too acrimonious to be able to make joint decisions that are in the best interests of their children. Furthermore, we know all too well the financial constraints of parents in our community, and although these Internet-based products may seem valuable to the process, they are not financially feasible to most. The concepts to help parents communicate are good ideas, and we often suggest to parents or counsel for parents if they are represented by counsel, a shared communication book, sharing a Gmail account for their communication about their child, or texting to communicate. In providing children with legal representation, it’s especially important that we value the impact we can have, not only in litigation, but in children’s lives, as we consider the strong voice we can give them in these proceedings.

“it’s especially important that we value the impact we can have, not only in litigation but in children’s lives”

Co-Parenting The importance of co-parenting was emphasized across the conference, and it was noted that some courts are

Media Technology and Children One of the most thought-provoking moments came from an insightful keynote address by James Steyer, the CEO and founder of Common Sense Media, who spoke about the


A Sesame Street program called Little Children, Big Challenges shared a DVD and pamphlet that could help parents and young children through separation and adjusting to visiting the non-custodial parent in their new home. The program also provides child-friendly material and ideas for communicating honestly and adjusting to a blended family. While the pamphlet may not be the perfect resource for all situations our clients’ families are involved in, it at least

What struck us as CLCNY attorneys and social worker as an area we need to focus on more in our practice and engage in a dialogue with other stakeholders is how parents can develop tools through their time in court to communicate concerning the children without turning it into an argument or fight. Parents often leave court only to return countless times looking to the court to solve scheduling and communication issues. At the AFCC conference, one company had pamphlets describing their services as a “middle man” in sending texts or e-mails back and forth. The company intercepts the e-mails going back and forth between parents and edits them. They would remove disparaging language and edit it down to what is actually productive in communicating. Many of the businesses who tabled at the conference seemed to be looking toward the future to see how technology can improve or at least facilitate communication between parents in conflict. To stem the volume of supplemental cases, all stakeholders need to look at the possibilities of technology. The AFCC continues to bring together professionals from a cross-section of fields who are willing to exchange ideas with the goal of creating progress in our family courts. It allows practitioners to learn from the experiments, failures, and advances made in other jurisdictions. Representing children allows us to impact the cases that we are assigned, by providing our clients’ voice. Developing lowcost tools to help parents move past court to co-manage and co-parent are strategies that need to be explored.

legal proceeding that has a critical impact on his or her life.

Also noted around the conference was the role of technology in family life through communications via text message and email; as well as posts on Facebook, Instagram, and other social networking sites, which are becoming evident in family court litigation. Parents need to be cautious in how they communicate with each other and of what they post online themselves. Consider how it could negatively affect a child to be exposed to a parent’s degrading rant of another parent on social media sites. Technology was not only mentioned as potentially problematic, but as we identified in the prior section, also as a possible tool to improve communication between parties or to help children through the challenges litigation brings.

provides ideas for parents to help their small child through big family changes.

Our Mission is to give a child a strong and effective voice in a

impact of technology on children. He warned that the impact of social media on children has yet to be explored and that we are doing children a disservice when we allow them open access to social media websites, not knowing what damage may occur to them in the long run. Simply put, there have been no studies conducted researching the impact of social media on children. Steyer’s remarks implored parents to parent and not rely on social media to entertain their children.

Fall/Winter 2013 CLCNY  17 


The Docket- The Children’s Law Center

Learn and Connect Ashley Lane, Esq.

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attended the National Association of Counsel for Children (NACC) Conference in Atlanta, GA from August 26-28, 2013. The focus of the conference was child welfare and child protective cases, as opposed to custody and visitation issues. However, as there is overlap in these areas, many of the sessions discussed issues that we often see in the CVO practice. In general, I found it to be a rewarding experience to interact with practitioners and jurists from other jurisdictions. It was gratifying to have discussions with other conference attendees about their jurisdictions and hear the panel speakers talk about things that are already being implemented here in New York City. For example, on the second night of the conference a documentary was shown called “From Place to Place,” which follows the lives of three teenagers who grew up in the foster care system and their efforts to lead reform of the foster care system, particularly in the area of extending foster care placement until the age of 21. The main point of the film is that many teens age out of foster care ill-equipped to live on their own. Here in New York, there is already a system in place where teenagers can opt to remain in foster care until they turn 21. I am glad we have the system, but there are some challenges with it and that is where our AFC advocacy is impactful. In addition to learning about big issues that impact the practice of child welfare law, I found the most beneficial aspect of the conference to be the practical tips that are learned from interacting with other practitioners. During Lauren McSwain and B.B. Liu’s presentation on practical ways to work with the family court population, one practitioner shared that she uses Google Voice, a free service from Google, in order to communicate with her clients via text message so that she does not have to share with them her personal telephone number. I found this to be a great tip because a lot of litigants and clients ask for us to communicate with them via text. Another session I attended was A View from the Bench, where three judges from different jurisdictions, including Hon. Erik Pitchal, a Bronx County Family Court Judge, spoke about their experiences on the bench. Judge Pitchal discussed what he called “core values” that he looks for in the attorneys that appear before him. His values are: 1. Respect for litigants, 2. Family Court is a real court and even though it is fact intensive, case law should still be used; and 3. Be knowledgeable and prepared. 18  CLCNY Fall/Winter 2013

Hon. Amy Pellman, a Family Court judge from Los Angeles County, tailored her remarks specifically to the role of the AFC in a case. Some of the advice she offered was that the AFC should be the expert in asking a child questions when a child is in court testifying; the AFC should give the court a realistic view of the child’s capabilities;, and that it falls to the AFC to alert the court as to how a child defines and understands certain words and concepts. Judge Pellman also discussed the use of psychotropic medication, noting that children in foster care are prescribed drugs more often than children in the general population. Due to that, AFCs should be informed as to the type of medication, the prescribing doctor, and intended purpose of the medication to make sure that a child’s medication continues, even if their placement changes. What I took from Judge Pellman’s comments is that the AFC should be an advocate for their client in all aspects of the client’s life, not just what is happening in court. While her remarks were specific to child welfare cases, all of what she offered could be applied to a CVO case, as children often have to testify in open court and not in camera in Family Offense hearings and many of our CVO clients have mental health diagnoses and are prescribed medication. Overall, I enjoyed the conference and feel that I learned a lot to bring back to my colleagues and implement in my practice.

Our Client Values Communicate our client’s voice High quality of representation

Integrate legal representation with social work Listen to our clients

Develop the client’s sense of participation


What Happens After a CLCNY Volunteer Experience? Tanisha McKnight, Esq.

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or most of us who have forged a path to CLCNY, at one point in our journey we have been an intern or a volunteer and part of a company’s internship program. In crafting CLCNY’s internship program, I wondered what was going to be the after intern experience and relationship moment that I could cultivate. I don’t think anyone within this organization, including myself, could’ve imagined the speed and volume with which our volunteer program grew over the past 5 years. When we launched our official internship program in February 2009, recruitment of interns was slow to say the least. However, by the time we were ready to launch our first official summer program we anticipated hosting upwards of 30 students ranging from high school freshmen to undergraduate students to rising 3rd year law students. Under the leadership and guidance of our Executive Director, Karen Simmons Esq., small goals and expectations were set for the volunteer program which was to provide our interns with a true sense of what it is like to represent children in high conflict family law matters, the daily operations of a not-for-profit law firm and, hopefully, a lifelong mentor to help them navigate his or her career. What I didn’t fully embrace was that my charge was to develop a well-developed volunteer program that is the fulcrum for future generations of lawyers, social workers, administrative staff and hopefully the second generation work force for future child advocates. As we bring the 5th year of our volunteer program to a close, the after intern experience is starkly before my eyes. I am seeing a number of our former interns and volunteers return to CLCNY in various forms. Some who have transitioned from high school interns to college interns and former law students are now CLCNY staff. I have an alumni database that sends out updates about CLCNY and I send along information that may provide career information for our alums. Keeping the connection is a key component and one I cherish since I get to hear about the success of the volunteers who have been with us. Also our alums know our work and our program and are recommending CLCNY’s volunteer program to others!!!

organizations first Equal Justice Works Fellow, Michael Mastrangelo Esq., who would partner with us and implement our very first education project, entitled: Securing Seamless Education Services Project, SSES (pronounced Success) from September 2011 thru present and now he is the SSES Coordinating Attorney. I would also like to share that we’ve had a fair amount of former interns and volunteers join the ranks of our CLCNY team including: Heather Kalachman, Esq., Bx. Attorney former writing intern Cassandra Celestin, Esq., Bx. Attorney former volunteer Ashley Lane, Esq., Bklyn. Attorney former volunteer Jeffrey Colt, Esq., Bx. Attorney former post graduate fellow Cecily Castle, Bx. Paralegal former paralegal intern Taisha Chambers, Esq., Bx. Attorney former pro bono volunteer Saira Wang, Esq., Bklyn. Attorney former BLS clinic student Marquita Simon, Esq., Bx. Attorney former pro bono volunteer Eva Stein, Esq., Bklyn. Attorney former pro bono volunteer

As I reflect on the success of our volunteer program, I am now beginning to acknowledge, understand and embrace the impact CLCNY and its phenomenal mentors has had and continue to have on the volunteers that walk through our doors. We are shaping the way our volunteers embrace the role of the attorney for the child, not only by teaching the law surrounding this role, but more importantly how it is implemented from a legal, social work, paralegal and administrative perspective through zealous, caring and thoughtful advocacy. I look forward to continuing to have a “critical impact” on the lives of the volunteers that CLCNY takes under its wings!

But what is also exciting to share is reflecting on that first class of 30 interns in 2009. For example, unbeknownst to us, within the mix of our first summer class of interns we were impacting the professional development of the Fall/Winter 2013 CLCNY  19 


The Docket- The Children’s Law Center

During the week of July 22-26, 2013, two rising sophomores from Legal Outreach interned with Children‘s Law Center. The CLCNY interns were Sherece Laine and Adenique Lisse. Be­low are some of their thoughts on the week.

I set a new goal for myself after interning at Children ‘s Law Center this week. I am deter­mined to be more driven and to work harder with any task before me, regardless of whether I think it is important or not. I’ve picked up these goals because of my mentor, Sena. She shared her story with me and told me that she worked extra hard to be where she is today. Sena taught me that you never know the out­come of something so I should treat everything with importance. This is an important goal to reach because it’s essential in everyday life, especially if you want to be successful. Being driven and working hard are key in a successful career.

Sherece Laine

Adenique Lisse

I really learned a lot about the law this week . This week I learned about visitation, guardian­ship, and custody and the differences between them. Only certain people have a legal right to visitation but guardianship can be given to any­one. They do not have to be related to the child. I learned about the different types of custody such as, joint custody, physical cus­tody, and shared custody. My mother was really impressed when I was able to share all this information with her. I felt like I am capa­ble of understanding the material that will help me to become a successful attorney one day. I am so grateful for this experience. May teen­agers will never have this opportunity.

Former CLCNY intern and current college student, Brittany Moore, reflects on her 2009 internship experience.

Currently, I am a sophomore at Hampshire College, where my in­tended majors are Urban Education and Vocal Music. This past sum­mer I retuned to Legal Outreach to intern as a College Advising Coach. My internship experience at Children ‘s Law Center taught me that I was capable of working in the same atmosphere as experienced law­yers. It was an empowering experience for me. Through the Summer Internship Program I learned that I can thrive in any environment as long as I work hard and learn from my mistakes. I appreciated the doors that Children’s Law Center opened for me at such an early age I am determined to continue on my path to success.

20  CLCNY Fall/Winter 2013

Brittany Moore


Around CLCNY Congratulations!!! - On October 10th we held our 6th annual Employee Recognition and Volunteer Appreciation (E.R.V.A.) celebration. CLCNY Board President Stephen Rinehart, Esq. opened the celebration by welcoming all attendees and honorees. Judge and fomer CLCNY employee Hon. Llinet Rosado gave remarks in honor of the hard work and dedication that the entire CLCNY staff gives to our clients and mission. Honorees were given certificates of appreciation for their five and ten years anniversaries while volunteers were highlighted for their contributions to CLCNY. Additionally included in the celebration was a honrable mention to our senior staff. Staff, volunteers and guests shared laughs and delicious food during this event on a well deserved night. Thank you to all who attended the event and to the BAR Events Committee for organizing this great event.

E R V A CLCNY Staff Members Contribute to the 2013 Fashion Collision Genevieve Tahang-Behan, Esq. Early this Spring CLCNY’s BAR (Balance and Renew) Events Committee coordinated a “Dress Drive” to help make a young women’s dream of attending their prom come true. Items were donated to L.A.C.E. Leadings Ladies, a not for profit organization based out of Brooklyn who give young women all across the city, who are less fortunate, an opportunity to collect a free graduation or prom dress. CLCNY staff contributed an array of dresses, suits, shirts, shoes, and accessories. There were even a few ties and dress shirts for the young men as well! Your generosity was overwhelming. Here are some pictures of what was collected! The items we collected were distributed at the Fashion Collision event hosted by L.A.C.E. on Saturday, May 4th at C.S. 21 located at 180 Chauncey Street, Brooklyn, New York. This event was open to all high school young ladies and young men. A special thank you to BAR Events Committee members Charles Simpson (City), Rhonda Albright (Bronx) and Natasha Wollaston Stewart (Bronx) who helped to organize the event.

Fall/Winter 2013 CLCNY  21 


The Docket- The Children’s Law Center

Teen Day

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he Bronx and Kings Family Courts, including agencies and court stakeholders, held their annual “Teen Day” on October 10th and 22nd. Teen Day is an event aimed at educating and empowering teenagers in foster care. Teen Day featured representatives from various government agencies and nonprofit organizations who gave short presentations, manned tables or met individually with the youths. Financial planning educators, representatives from the CUNY college system, job preparation professionals, and representatives of government social programs participated in this wonderful event. The goal is to provide a conduit that will be an educational resource and linkage so these teenagers are aware of the various services available to them as they prepare to live independently for the first time. Teen Day is designed to help these teenagers plan for being full time students or employees and often both in order to support themselves when their time in foster care comes to an end. Both CLCNY clients and staff participated. In the Bronx, we want to acknowledge all the Bronx CLCNYer’s for their participation at Teen Day and the numerous donations of personal care products to Connie’s Closet. In Brooklyn we are excited to acknowledge the hard work that

Martha Pollack, Esq. and Cathy Kolcun, LMSW, our holistic team did to make the Brooklyn Teen Day a success. The highlight for the teens was that two Kanye West tickets were donated and raffled. The 17 year old who won the tickets burst into tears, crying with joy, saying “you just don’t know how much I love Kanye.” Everyone cheered for her. The ticket winner will soon be 18 and is college bound. Her caseworker, also crying with emotion, came up and shared with us “that this couldn’t have happened to a better kid who has been through so much.” This is a great annual event and both days were wonderful and inspiring.

Serena Rosario, Esq., Patricia Martin Gibbons, Esq. & Martha Pollack, Esq. on Teen Day in Brooklyn Family Court

Connie’s Closet, a great program created by Connie Belnavis was on hand in both the Bronx and Brooklyn. Connie, a data entry specialist at the Juvenile Rights Practice, receives donations of infant, toddler, children and teen clothing and supplies. She makes these available at a moment’s notice to the Manhattan Family Court for any child or family in need. Everyone was so appreciative to have this great program be one on the highlights at Teen Day.

Friends and Family Day 2013 On July 26th we held our second annual Friends and Family Day. Staff, volunteers and families gathered together at Central Park on a beautiful day to take a break and have a some summer fun. Thank you all for participating in this great event!!

22  CLCNY Fall/Winter 2013


Events Calendar Brooklyn November Staff Meeting 11/12 1:30pm - 2pm SSES Cocktail Reception Celebration 11/13, 5:30pm - 7:30pm Bronx Office Thanksgiving/Hanukkah Celebration 11/15, 5pm -7:30pm Bronx / Queens & Staten Island Office Staff Meeting 11/21 1:30pm - 1:30pm - 2:30pm CLCNY Annual Holiday Gathering 12/13, 5:30pm - 7:30pm Child Protective Training 12/18 12pm - 2pm Bronx Office Holiday Gathering 12/20 5pm -7:30pm Holiday Donations Drive 12/1-12/20

ANNIVERSARIES September - December

Helen Singh Catherine Ennesser Karen Simmons Saira Wang Barbara Dildine Alexandra Cira - Campbell Cara E. Simmonetti- Anderson Natasha Wollaston - Stewart Nora Miata Genevieve Tahang - Behan Ashley N. Lane Michael Mastrangelo Susan Cordaro Elizabeth Wilder Catherine Brito Melanie West B.B. Liu Jason Peralta Lauren McSwain Martha Schneiderman Jasmine Amor Rebecca Beard Sheryl Haith Carrie Wallace Simon Daillie Sheneeza Ally Mary Cheng Tosha Foster

6 Years 3 Years 5 Years 2 Years 16 Years 6 Years 1 Year 4 Years 7 Years 6 Years 3 Years 2 Years 2 Years 6 Years 6 Years 1 Year 4 Years 2 Years 2 Years 12 Years 4 Years 16 Years 10 Years 2 Years 2 Years 7 Years 4 Years 8 Years

BIRTHDAYS

September - December Mary G. Cheng Lauren McSwain Melanie T. West Stephanie Pearl

09/04 09/07 09/11 09/24

Rhonda Albright Jason Peralta Cecily Castle

10/08 10/15 10/18

Marlen Rebollar Tosha Foster Barbara Dildine Yolanda A. Martindale Ebony Johnson Rose Bracconier Michael Mastrangelo

11/08 11/09 11/10 11/12 11/13 11/16 11/17

Marquita Simon Hilarie Chacker Alexandra Cira-Campbell Sena H. Kim-Rueter Deborah Gould Irene Angelakis Martha Schneiderman Caitlin Prior Martha Pollack

12/04 12/05 12/07 12/20 12/21 12/25 12/25 12/29 12/31

Fall/Winter 2013 CLCNY  23 


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