Breaking the Foster Care Cycle, One Young Family at a Time
The Children’s Law Center of California is the nation’s largest nonprofit law firm exclusively representing children – including those who are part of Los Angeles County’s complex and intimidating dependency courts, where judges make life-altering decisions. The firm represents a mind-blowing 35,000 children and youth.
CLC’s skilled lawyers represent children in some of the highest stakes proceedings in American jurisprudence, such as whether or not a child will be severed from or reunified with his or her biological parents.
Since its launch in 1990, CLC has expanded its work beyond straightforward representation, pioneering the concept of “multi-disciplinary advocacy teams” that include clinicians, social workers, peer advocates, and educational and mental health specialists to ensure that the children, youth and families the firm serves are wrapped with the support they need.
“Rather than a child welfare system that keeps children from their families in the name of ‘protection,’ we envision one that strengthens families and communities so children can remain safely in their homes with their parents. That is what is best for our clients, their families, and society at large,” says CLC’s veteran Executive Director Leslie Starr Heimov.
CLC was also among the first, if not the first, law offices in the nation to hire former foster youth to serve as peer advocates. They help older kids still in the system with critical life tasks such as filling out financial aid forms, locating housing or getting a job.
The specialized Child Advocacy and Resource Effort Program, or “CARE” teams, serve hundreds of high-need foster care youth who are victims of trafficking, have been arrested, are parents themselves, or have complex mental health needs. Their attorneys have greatly reduced caseloads and work alongside survivor and peer advocates, case managers and mental health experts.
“It’s an extremely expensive service delivery model, but if we want to be successful with the kids that have the most challenges in front of them, we have to put the resources into them so that they can heal and move forward,” Heimov says.
CLC’s CARE Team for Expectant and Parenting Youth (EPY), which began as a pilot program two years ago, seeks to break the multi-generational foster care cycle. Half of children born to mothers in foster care will enter the child welfare system by their second birthday, according to a 2018 study in the Journal of Pediatrics.
“That’s not because they are bad parents,” Heimov stresses. “It’s because every move they make is scrutinized by someone, and they do not have access to the same resources, tools and support that other parents do.”
When Jewell, a new teen mother, met CLC’s attorneys and case managers at the age of 16, she was “going through a lot.”
“I didn’t really have anything so the Children’s Law Center helped me get the things that I needed for me and my daughter as well,” she says.
Today, with that support, Jewell is attending college, provides for her daughter and calls her new outlook “amazing.”
With the odds stacked against young parents in foster care, CLC realized it needs to invest in them with love, support and supplies before and after the birth so that they can become the family they desire.
“It really is an investment in the next generation, it’s breaking the cycle and it’s extremely effective,” Heimov says.
Development Manager: Stephanie Talavera
Children’s Law Center of California (CLC) provides legal representation for children and youth impacted by abuse and neglect. We advocate for our clients by supporting families; fighting for reunification, permanence, educational opportunity, health, and mental health wellness; and empowering and strengthening children, families, and their communities. Our informed approach to advocacy makes us a powerful voice in local, statewide, and national child welfare system reform.
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As a CLC case manager, I often advocate for my clients in spaces where they are not heard – the hospital, at school, or in the courtroom. For CLC, it is about a strength-based, people-first model to support each client in achieving their goals as young adults and parents. I’m proud of the innovative work CLC does every day to break the cycle of dependency and build stronger families.
A $2500 Gift Helps Create Stable, Healthy Homes for Former Foster Youth Who are Expectant or Current Parents
Children’s Law Center of California’s multidisciplinary advocacy enables the nonprofit law firm to protect and promote the well-being of its clients, especially those in need of urgent involvement. CLC offers intensive care and support for young parents and those about to become parents in foster care. Through relational legal advocacy, its new prevention project can address obstacles that may arise for a young parent. From securing diapers and blankets to helping parents set up childcare or other support, CLC strives to prevent more children and families from entering the foster care system. As of July, this project served nearly 170 clients. Your gift of $2,500 would help CLC expand this vital program, helping to break the foster care cycle, one young family at a time.
American Business Bank
Benjy Grinberg and Ellen Goldberg
California Community Foundation
Chay and Kim Lapin
Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
Dara and Conan Barker
In-N-Out Burger Foundation
Joseph and Jean Mandel
Neal Kaufman, MD, MPH
Pritzker Foster Care Initiative
Ralph M. Parsons Foundation
Roland and Sally Kelly
Samuel and Helene
The Barry and Wendy
The Durfee Foundation
Tyler Childs and Caitlin Youngs