Language & Immigration

Wah Ding was a caring mother to her sick child when he was taken from her. Without the right interpretation services, she could not defend herself.

Building a New Life

New York City is home to millions of immigrants. One fifth of CFR’s clients are foreign-born and this number is growing every day. Our teams help poor immigrant families navigate court cases complicated by language, culture, and citizenship challenges, keeping families safely together as they adjust to life in a new country.

The Right Translation

Many families come from countries where there is no child welfare system and may not understand the charges against them. Parents who speak little or no English may not receive information in their native language before meeting with CFR staff, as family court literature is only printed in English, Spanish, and Mandarin. Furthermore, the court only provides translation for actual court proceedings—not for meetings with ACS, service providers, schools and others with whom the parent must communicate.

In order to fully understand the facts underlying a client’s case, CFR employs a diverse, multilingual staff and utilizes high quality private translation services. To ensure a parents’ engagement in services, we advocate for clients to receive services in their language, helping to prevent foster care placement or speed reunification. If children must be in foster care, the CFR attorney advocates for placement in a home that speaks the same language as the family, reducing the trauma of separation.

Cultural Sensitivity

Cultural disparities often come to light in the courtroom. For example, domestic violence can be experienced as shameful and may make a woman hesitant to seek help. CFR teams help parents understand how the court views their family’s situation, explaining the requirements they must fulfill and connecting them with culturally sensitive services. CFR teams strive to find programs sensitive to their particular ethnic or cultural group. Waiting lists may be very long, however, so CFR attorneys advocate for families to reunify while parents are still in services, ensuring children do not spend a prolonged time in foster care.

Help with Immigration Status

Parents who lack legal documentation may be wary of speaking with government officials, so we work hard to assure them that our work on their case and relationship with them is confidential. We often refer parents to immigration attorneys so they will not risk future separation due to citizenship issues after their family court case is completed.

Many programs require insurance to participate, but obtaining Medicaid or insurance is next to impossible for an undocumented client. CFR seeks out programs that will take undocumented clients on a sliding scale of payment. Paying out of pocket may also be difficult for parents who must work below minimum wage due to their legal status.

Many immigrant parents are employed, but often have unpredictable working schedules and no job security, making it difficult to attend conferences, court dates, and visits with children. CFR teams meet with immigrant parents outside regular working hours and advocate to the judge for court dates and visits that accommodate their schedules. With the help of CFR and culturally sensitive partner agencies, immigrant families can overcome many difficult obstacles in order to keep their families safely together.