A Full-Service Approach to Fostering Stability for Children
In the fraught world of child welfare, the 30-year-old Alliance for Children’s Rights has always found a way to discover something resembling normalcy for children and youth who have experienced abuse or neglect.
For Jenniffer, now 26 years old, the Alliance was there when she struggled through school, and then again when she was homeless, sleeping in her car with her two children.
Throughout, the Alliance’s attorneys and social workers helped her navigate her education, secure housing for her and her family, learn life and parenting skills, obtain health care for her children and get mental health support.
“Everybody says you need a village to raise kids, but I also needed a village to raise myself,” Jenniffer said. “The Alliance, they’re my village.”
Before the expansive support that the nonprofit law firm now offers, the Alliance was laser focused on the thousands of children languishing in Los Angeles’ foster care system (the largest of its kind in the nation), awaiting adoption.
In 2000, the Alliance teamed up with local and national players in child welfare to launch National Adoption Day, on which children are adopted out of foster care on the Friday or Saturday before Thanksgiving. Over the years the effort has resulted in over 80,000 children nationwide being adopted by their forever families. But the Alliance realized that it had to expand its work to help children and youth find success across all aspects of their lives. This includes helping with education, public benefits, and transitioning to independence to ensure these children and young adults stay stable – and get what they need to thrive.
“We really believe in addressing all of any child’s needs,” says Alliance for Children’s Rights President and CEO Jen Braun, an attorney who first joined the Alliance as its legal director following stints in government, legal services and private practice. “In both our legal advocacy for our young clients, and our work to improve systems, if we are going to be child centered, the approach has to be holistic.”
The Alliance is now focused on lessening the devastating impact of COVID-19 on these children, many of whom have fallen further behind in their development and studies.
“More than half of kids in foster care, for example, have identified special needs and many have struggled to learn remotely during the pandemic,” Braun said. “Young children have missed out on therapies like speech and occupational therapy and need to be caught up.” Ensuring their clients have stable housing is also a top concern today.
“The barriers to both economic and educational opportunities, which are critical for all young people, have just been exacerbated in such an extreme way,” Braun said. “Those kids are really struggling, and we need to step up to clear those barriers for them.”
Racial justice is also at the forefront of the Alliance’s work. Two in five kids in L.A. County’s foster care system are Black, yet they make up about 10 percent of the total child population. Fourteen percent of American Indian children experience foster care by the age of 18 compared to four percent of White children and 12 percent of Black children.
The Alliance co-hosted a virtual policy summit in February that brought some 400 professionals, youth, parents, advocates and caregivers together to brainstorm ways to create a more equitable system. The campaign includes proposed policy changes, such as clearing the way for children who have been removed from their parents’ homes to be more easily placed with relatives or family friends in their own communities. As of July, many of those with past minor offenses unrelated to child safety, including Black communities who have bore the brunt of biased policing, were excluded from taking in children.
“Families in the Black and American Indian communities can be the best placements for these children to whom they are related,” Braun said. “We know kids’ placements are more stable when they are placed with their family and friends.”
A $100,000 Goal
Philanthropy is the lifeblood that makes it possible for the Alliance to provide legal and social services free of charge to children, young adults and families affected by foster care.
The pandemic, systemic racism, and economic disparities have deeply impacted these families.
To boost its efforts in 2021, the Alliance is seeking $100,000 total in donations from the community so they can provide additional hours of free services to help kids and families emerge from the pandemic.
The funds will expedite the backlog of cases the Alliance is now working through as a result of agency, school and court shutdowns, and make a deep, lasting impact with reforms to make our child welfare system more equitable and just.
(213) 368-6010 ext. 115
Chief Development Officer: Kerri Seibly
Our mission is to protect the rights of children in poverty and those overcoming abuse and neglect by delivering free legal services, supportive programs, and systemic solutions.
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We know you care about where your money goes and how it is used. Connect with this organization’s leadership in order to begin to build this important relationship. Your email will be sent directly to this organization’s Director of Development and/or Executive Director.
The Alliance was a blessing to me. There aren’t many people who would go out of their way to be there for you in the middle of the night, and be in your corner when you don’t know what to do. I had never experienced that kind of care before. People think that if you’re in foster care, you’re an outcast. But really, we’re special. We’ve been through a lot, and we come out the other side somehow – we are strong. We know what it means to survive. Every day, we heal and do our best to give back love.
Board of Directors
Alan J. Epstein
James P. Clark
Yasmine Delawari Johnson
E. Martin Estrada
Susan F. Friedman
Andrew D. Garelick
Clifford W. Gilbert-Lurie*
Mitchell T. Kaplan
Steven A. Marenberg*
Alex G. Romain
José F. Sanchez
Toni M. Schulman*
Chris B. Walther*
Robert J. Woolway
*Former Board Chairs