Innovation in Action—Family Defense Teams
At CFR, we sincerely believe that every family matters.
Regardless of their circumstances, every family deserves the chance to raise their children safely and without unnecessary government intrusion. And all parents no matter their income level, have the right to expect meaningful and equal justice, should they find themselves accused in a court of law. Too often, poor families find that their children enter foster care under unjust circumstances or in situations where children could have stayed at home, with supportive services in place. No child should have to leave family, school, and friends unless absolutely necessary, and children who spend extended time in foster care tend to fare poorly—with higher rates of homelessness, unemployment, incarceration and mental health issues as adults.
Our mission is to help impoverished families raise their children safely and to prevent or minimize the time any child must spend in foster care. If parents find themselves facing a protective investigation or an accusation of maltreatment in family court, CFR provides an attorney, a social worker and the support of a parent advocate for every family. Our parent advocates have actually had the experience of losing their children to foster care and then regaining custody of them—we were the first agency in the country to integrate parents, who truly understand our families’ experience, into our legal team.
Starting with just a handful of staff, our first family defense teams rigorously tracked data on the outcomes of the families we assisted. Because our clients’ children spent less time in foster care than children not served by the model, the City of New York eventually awarded CFR two contracts to offer our services on a large scale. We now provide 2000 parents annually in Manhattan and Queens with high quality legal representation, skilled social work services and the unique mentoring support of parent advocates.
The CFR attorney litigates any and all proceedings in family court. The social worker helps families access stabilizing services, such as housing, mental health services, healthcare, drug treatment, or domestic violence counseling. Finally, the parent advocate provides emotional support and helps the client stay engaged in services, attending important meetings with the clients and working intensively with clients when children first come home.
In addition to protecting the rights of families and helping them achieve stability, the model has saved taxpayers millions in foster care costs and has made CFR a leading national expert in family defense and child welfare.