Saying Goodbye to Lawyers For Children (For Now)

I can’t believe my summer at Lawyers For Children has come to an end! Working with foster care youth in New York City has been an eye-opening experience. Before I started the internship, I aspired to learn more about the interaction between law and social work and what sort of balance between the two produces the best results when working with underprivileged populations. Working at LFC taught me how important it is for Foster Care attorneys and social workers to work collaboratively with one another.

After attending several meetings for clients with several different agencies and organizations present, I noticed that LFC provides a comforting presence in every child’s life that other governmental agencies and nonprofits do not. This is because the fundamental element of LFC’s philosophy is that each child has an attorney and a social worker that work together as their advocates.

Although other organizations and agencies work hard to provide youth with the services they need, they often do not develop as in-depth relationships with the youth because they only see the child’s situation from one perspective. Other nonprofits serving foster care youth assign a social worker to as little as 15% of their cases. LFC recognizes that every child, regardless of the ‘severity’ of their situation, needs a social worker because social workers have different skills than attorneys and can provide a unique perspective on their case and how to best serve the child.
IMG_5031My career goal was to gain experience in a legal/social work setting that advocates for human rights and social policy. I gained more ‘social work’ than ‘legal’ experience at LFC after working alongside a social worker all summer, but I did get to observe clients’ cases in court which gave me insight and a diverse perspective on how the legal side works.

This internship has definitely solidified my desire to work as an advocate in the public interest field, but I am unsure as whether I’d like to fulfill that role as an attorney or social worker. I did learn that I enjoy being out in the field more than I do sitting at a desk which directs me toward the field of social work.

A personal goal for this summer was to gain a better understanding of the social issues the foster-care population in large cities like New York City faces. Sadly, these issues were much more prevalent than I could have imagined. The greatest issue that caused me the most frustration is the stigmas foster care youth face, whether in school, the community or among agency workers whose job it is to help them.

I highly recommend Lawyers For Children as an internship destination, whether it be the legal or social work side. The internship gives interns the opportunity to see the various tasks each side is responsible for which can help solidify a future career path. I would also advise anyone interested in social work and human rights to consider an internship at Lawyers For Children because it exposes interns to the dire human rights issues that often go unnoticed in their own communities.

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intern workroom

This summer I am most proud of helping clients realize their potential when it comes to applying for jobs or brainstorming future academic goals. Unfortunately many foster care youth are not viewed as capable of achieving the kind of goals the rest of us may have and they themselves start to believe that stigma. I learned that consistent support and affirmation goes a long way.

Lawyers For Children’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/LawyersForChildren

About interning at Lawyers For Children: http://www.lawyersforchildren.org/internships

First Week at Lawyers For Children

Monday morning was almost as frantic (if not more) than my first day at Brandeis. I am not an experienced subway-rider, so figuring out which direction the train I was told to take actually goes in was a challenge; let’s just say it’s a good thing I left 45 minutes early! Luckily I arrived early to Lawyers For Children, where I will be spending the majority of my time throughout the next nine weeks. I’d always dreamed of living in New York City, but to be able to live in New York City and do work that I’m passionate about, I couldn’t have asked for more! Before coming to college I knew I was interested in psychology and wanted to pursue a career in which I am able to help people, but I had no idea which direction that goal would take me. A mixture of psychology, sociology, and legal studies courses I’ve taken at Brandeis lead me to aspire to go into law, but with a desire to advocate for those whose voices may not be as strongly heard.

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This is the corner of where my office is located. Photo belonging to kurokatta.org

 

Since I was little, I’ve loved solving mysteries; putting together the pieces of a puzzle. Law allows me to continue that passion. I have to gather my evidence, establish the rule, and present my case. Social work adds a both meaningful and challenging component to that hobby. I never envisioned myself in social work, until interning last summer at a nonprofit that helps low-income and impoverished adults obtain housing, jobs, resources for their family, whatever it may be based on a particular individual’s needs. Before that experience, I never realized how difficult of a challenge it was to navigate (internally) the various governmental institutions that are supposed to help those in need. Who knew it was actually extremely difficult to acquire the benefits that the government rightfully owes you? With this work came immense challenges, however the reward, when achieved, is immeasurable. That’s when I knew, law with an emphasis on public service was my true calling.

That discovery lead me to Lawyers For Children: a legal firm that provides free legal and social work services to children in foster care. Lawyers For Children is unique from other organizations in that an attorney as well as a social worker is assigned to every child, ensuring that each child get the best, most effective and integrative representation and advocacy possible. Attorneys and social workers are trained differently, and therefore have different insights and perspectives to offer on each case, and you know what they say, two heads are always better than one. LFC mostly handles cases of voluntary placement: instances where parents voluntarily place their children into the system, not where the child was removed from the home against their will. To get a better understanding of what that looks like, read this New York times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2000/09/01/nyregion/despondent-parents-see-foster-care-as-only-option.html

I am a social work intern at LFC and will shadow a social worker (as well as various LFC attorneys) to get a better understanding of how the two professions come together in the field of child advocacy. I will attend meetings between various agencies working with a specific child, make field visits to their respective placements, attend those children’s cases in court, assist in writing up the result of those meetings, field visits, and court cases, and assist with generating plans-of-action and connecting children with further resources to best help them achieve their goals. Lawyers For Children prides itself on its focus on really listening to the child, thereby providing them with a space where they feel safe and respected. LFC also aims to advocate and educate the public about the many difficulties several groups, such as LGBTQ youth in foster care face. This article by the Wall Street Journal highlights the added difficulties experienced by LGBTQ youth, specially in foster care: http://www.wsj.com/articles/counting-new-yorks-gay-and-transgender-youths-in-foster-care-1433550187

 

 

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New York County Family Court. Photo by Mark Fader

 

This summer, I hope to learn more about the interaction between law and social work and what sort of balance between the two produces the best results when working with underprivileged populations and to gain experience in a legal/social work setting that advocates for human rights and social justice. Finally, I hope to gain a better understanding of how the social issues that several minority groups face, like the foster-care population, effect youth in large cities like New York City.

The End to an Amazing Journey

M.A.S.O’s Banner

It is so crazy to think that I have finally completed my internship with Massachusetts Survivors Outreach. This will have to go down as one of the hardest summers of my life because of the high expectations and short turn around time to get all the work done. I met so many incredible people this summer who I will continue to connect with even though we are all leaving back to school. Within the span of three months, M.A.S.O has taken huge strides. We have become a non profit organization, fundraised over $5,000, and even secured an office space in Quincy. M.A.S.O has gone from a small organization into a huge Non-Profit organization that is recognized by other organizations such as Dove.

The Interns at the State House

This experience will help me throughout my Brandeis career because M.A.S.O has showed me first hand how hard work can trump over all other factors. Brandeis has taught me to question all things, even how straight forward the concept and this has made my experience with M.A.S.O much more fulfilling. Combining these two life long lessons, I feel, is an ideal that people strive to learn but never get the chance to learn first hand but I have.

After completing this internship however, there is so much more I want to look into and learn. I want to become more familiar with the court proceeding process in all kinds of courts. Since I spent all my time in family court and working with victims of domestic violence, my experience with with diverse kinds of victims and proceedings is limited. I want to know how criminal and juvenile court proceeding work as well.  I also want to try and complete my research that I started with M.A.S.O on the Economic Strain Within the Family Court System and maybe even write a thesis. All of the knowledge that I have soaked-up through out the summer makes me want to write it all down. I guess all of these Brandeis courses have drilled that kind of process in my head so where I actually want to write a long paper. HA HA!

The best advice that I would give a perspective intern is to be open to new ideas and get as many jobs you can handle during your internship. It will make the experience so much more fulfilling at the end of it all. I was hired as the pre-health intern but I did not only do research. I worked with the Business and Law students and helped them out as much as I could and from that experience, I was able to utilize not only my pre-health knowledge but also work on other areas that I could be interested in.

One of the main things that I have learned this summer is that action, even for a good cause, starts with one person. Just because you do not have the big following or the recognition that you expected, you must keep moving forward. I did not understand the concept of good organizations that help fight for great causes failing before it gets started. No matter how good your cause, you must keep fighting for it even when you think everything is going to be okay.

– Johnny Wilson ’13

Midpoint Evaluation at Family Violence Law Center

Working with Family Violence Law Center has certainly been a tremendous experience thus far. Not only have I had the opportunity to learn about California Family Law, but this kind of work inherently includes a constant reminder for personal reflection. When working with individuals in crisis, it is imperative that one puts aside one’s own personal biases or primary reactions. If a client says their partner is physically abusive but they do not want to leave the house they share, it is not my job to tell them that they’re wrong, but rather to safety plan and meet them where they are emotionally. I can offer to help them find a domestic violence shelter or a program that will help them financially to relocate, but ultimately their subsequent actions are solely their decisions. This can be frustrating, but it also fuels a fascinating internal dialogue that I have noticed emerge not only in myself but also in my coworkers: that which we say aloud and that which we wish we could say. Occasionally the two diverge when a client decides to take part of one of our services (restraining orders, counseling).
Answering crisis calls!
My position entails taking them through these first steps towards recovery, by removing the client from contact with their abuser (e.g., restraining orders). In my learning goals, I had included a wish to challenge myself, which I have certainly found here. Each client provides a different unique challenge, with each challenge posing a new entanglement that keeps everyone on their toes. I can see my own growth by virtue of how others in my office treat me. My supervisor has been increasing my workload; other co-workers let me answer the crisis hotline without supervision; they have begun to give me new volunteers to train, who shadow me on the hotline or when doing legal screenings (intakes).
One of our past clients sells tacos to the entire office building every Wednesday. She’s lovely and a wonderful chef!
My coworker/professor of the hotline arts Becki, enjoying tacos!
I am most proud that I can actively feel myself learning how better to help others in traumatic situations. In the past month, I have begun to rely less on advice of other advocates in the office because I am able to problem-solve given the facts available. Clearly I still have a lot to learn, but it’s exciting to be in this relatively fast-paced environment of California family law and I am excited for the opportunity to continue growing in this field.
Ashley Lynette, ’13

Mid-way at Centro Presente

Hi All!!!

I can’t believe it’s been four weeks already since I started my internship at Centro Presente. Time has gone by so fast!!! In these four weeks, however, I have learned so much  and participated in so many activities that I feel I have exceeded my expectation for this internship.  During these four weeks, we have been working in many different events. One of these events was to inform people about the deferred action that President Obama gave to the Dreamers.  The rest of the events have been more concentrated to inform people about the Secure Communities Program implemented in Massachusetts since May 15, 2012.

Two weeks ago, we went to the State House to present the statewide commission to monitor the implementation of Secure Communities.  At this event, we had people from many different organizations in Massachusetts who support the creation of this commission. We had the presence of Somerville Representative Denise Provost, who told the stories of so many children who are being separated from their families because of secure communities and how there is need to stop the implementation of this program in our state. This past Friday, we went to Waltham where we talked to people about the effects of this program and how people can protect from it.

 

My days at Centro Presente have been different every day, something that I really enjoy.  Some days I spend time doing translations and planning events including creating the fliers, contacting people to reserve the place, and calling allies and members to invite them to the events. Other days, I spend time organizing the events that we have for the week.  Occasionally, I am in charge of the reception where I answer the phone and help the people who have appointments for the day.

Something that I feel very proud of is the time I have been teaching English to adults in Centro Presente.  Teaching is something that I thought I would never be able to do, however, when I was asked by the organizer of classes at Centro Presente to teach, I did not hesitate to say yes. This experience has taught me how hard a teacher’s job is since they have to spend so much time outside of teaching time to prepare classes. I think teachers deserve more value than what society gives them.

Reflecting on the goals that I set for this summer, I feel that I have been able to accomplish them thus far. Working with people and listening to their stories, I have been able to give them a different perspective. I think that because I have taken Psychology and Sociology courses, I am more able to listen to people and to find way to assist them in the best way that I find suitable.  Another goal that I have been able to accomplish is to acquire more work experience. Being a full-time intern at Centro Presente has been a way for me to learn what it is like to be in a work setting; experience that I did not have before so I am very thankful to the WOW committee for this opportunity.

I. Moreno, ’13

 

 

First Week at the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild

I just finished my first full week as an intern at the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIPNLG) in Boston, MA, which is a national non-profit organization composed of a network of legal professionals who provide legal assistance and support to immigrant communities and their legal practitioners and advocates. The NIPNLG seeks to promote justice and equality by both defending and advancing the rights of immigrants. We focus on assisting five major categories of immigrant communities: those facing criminal charges with consequences of deportation, survivors of crimes and domestic violence, those facing raids or immigration enforcement action, non-citizens who want complete freedom of political expression, and non-citizens living with HIV/AIDS. Our mission is to provide immigrants and their attorneys the support and guidance they need in defending their rights. The legal process can be very confusing and daunting for non-citizens who cannot afford attorneys’ fees. The organization’s success depends on the dedication of its staff and members who provide crucial technical assistance. Our role is to provide useful information and set up connections between attorneys and immigrants.

My responsibilities will include assisting both the Director of Development and Communications and the Staff Attorneys on various administrative, legal, and development projects throughout the summer. My first project is creating a program book for an upcoming reception at an American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) conference which honors one of our members who has done outstanding work to defend immigrants’ rights within the past year. Click here for the story of one of the immigrants whom he represented and successfully defended. Another component of my experience at the NIPNLG will be communicating with immigrants who are currently detained in prisons all over the country who are looking for a pro bono attorney or legal advice. As we receive these letters, the staff splits them up, and everyone is responsible for responding to detainees with the resources they have requested. Through this ongoing project, I hope to better understand both the legal aspects of immigration and the areas in which our legal system does not support immigrants’ needs and rights.

I found and secured this internship with the tremendous help of a Brandeis professor and colleague of an NIPNLG member. Through this connection, I contacted the Director of Legal Advocacy and set up an interview before I went abroad for the spring semester. Though they usually only take law student interns, they created a unique position for me that both fit their needs and my summer learning goals. I feel very welcomed and needed in the office, and I am very excited to continue to learn about how a small non-profit functions and how it contributes to the greater picture of advancing immigrant rights. I also hope to explore options for graduate school and/or a possible future legal or non-profit career having to do with social justice.

Here is a picture of my desk: I already feel like a contributing member to the important work that the staff does. They really try to include me in the office culture. I look forward to contributing to the NIPNLG’s goals.

– Jonna Cottrell ’13

First Week at Centro Presente

Hi! My name is Ivonne Moreno and I am an intern at Centro Presente located in Somerville, MA. Centro Presente is a member-driven, state-wide, Latin American Immigrant organization dedicated to the self- sufficiency of the Latin American immigrant community of Massachusetts.  Centro Presente struggles for immigrant rights and for economic and social justice. Through the integration of community organizing, leadership development and basic services such as youth programs, adult education, and legal services, Centro Presente strives to give its member voice and build community power.

During this summer, I will be working in the legal department at Centro Presente, which provides legal services, educational trainings on immigrants’ rights to the Latino Community and works closely with politicians, religious groups and other community organization. This first week, we have been focusing on organizing the next educational training called “Citizenship Fair”, the main goal of which is to educate Latino immigrants that qualify for citizenship about the process of becoming a US citizen and the importance of voting.  My main responsibility has been getting in touch with immigrants who have come to the Centro and have said to be interested in becoming citizens and invite them to come to the next citizenship fair and how to sign up for the upcoming class to take the citizenship test.

One important event that has a big impact at Centro Presente has been President Obama’s announcement on June 15th giving opportunity to undocumented young people who qualify to obtain a two year permit to stay in the US legally and obtain a work permit to be able to work called deferred action. This announcement has been a joy and an achievement for the immigrant community and especially for those young people who have been in the United States since they were kids and have been unable to get jobs and go to college because of their immigrant status.  This week, we have been receiving a lot of calls from people asking about the deferred action and how they can apply if they qualify. In the weekly meeting staff, the Centro decided to do something like a forum and invite the community to give them all the information we have on the deferred action. I think it is very important to do since they are people who are trying to take advantage of this situation by asking people for money to apply for this permit when there is not even an application process and the ICE has 60 days to organize the application process.

In the weekly staff meeting, I was introduced to the people who work at the Centro Presente and the work they do. I was really impressed by the work they do and how passionate they are about fighting for the rights of the undocumented community. From this short period that I have been at Centro Presente, I feel that I will gain a deep understanding of the US immigration system as well as the many issues that undocumented people face in the United States. It has been great to also have a different working experience that I did not have the opportunity to get before.

– Ivonne Moreno ’13

 

 

From Brandeis to the Big Apple

This summer I am interning at an organization called Lawyers For Children (LFC), a not-for-profit law firm located in the heart of New York City. LFC’s mission is to provide free legal and social work advocacy to children who are in dire need of such services, such as children who have been abused and/or neglected by their parents, children who are in the midst of custody disputes, children who are in the process of finding adoptive homes, as well as a host of other complex issues. One of the unique aspects about LFC that distinguishes it from similar organizations is the staff’s steadfast dedication to empowering the children whom they represent. One such way that this is evidenced is by LFC’s practice of assigning not only an attorney but also a social worker to each and every client of the firm. This comprehensive approach ensures that each child has both someone who can advocate on their behalf in the legal system and also a knowledgeable liaison who is dedicated to making sure that they receive the social services that many of these children so desperately need. With both a lawyer and a social worker fighting to bring their clients’ wishes to fruition, the children whom LFC represents can be sure that their voices truly are being heard.

 

I first learned of the LFC summer internship program from an email sent out by the Hiatt Career Center in November. After reading about LFC and all of the admirable work that they do, I knew that LFC was the type of organization from which I could learn a great deal so I decided to submit my application. After waiting to hear from them for 3 months I gradually came to the realization that I simply had not been selected for the program. But then in March I got a call from Sue Greenberg at LFC, offering me an interview. The next week I was on a bus to New York City and the rest is history.

 

As a social work intern at LFC, I have been assigned to a social worker who I will, essentially, shadow this summer. This entails me accompanying my supervisor on home visits as well as court appearances.  I will also be responsible for observing client interviews and assisting with the preparation of reports for court. In my capacity as an intern at LFC, I hope to gain a more broad insight into not only the intricacies of the legal system but also the impact that legal decisions can have on actual people’s lives. I am hopeful that attending court proceedings and also participating in the work that goes on outside of court will allow me to learn a great deal about the nexus between the law and real life.

My first week has mostly consisted of orientation events, such as various trainings and social mixers. Everyone at the office seems to be genuinely nice and passionate about their work. I look forward to providing a more detailed update in the coming weeks.

– Aaron Bray ’13