34% of CFR clients have concurrent criminal case based on the same allegation that brought them to family court.
This means our clients have to appear in two courts, and most of the available criminal attorneys there do not work regularly with social workers. Even worse, too often, the criminal attorney lacks knowledge of the child welfare case and may unwittingly prolong the time in which a parent is prevented from visiting a child or give the client advice which undermines the parent’s ability to reunify their family quickly. Integrated legal and social work support for these clients is critical to good outcomes for their families, as the services (and family court orders) that help a client reunify his or her family from foster care are often the same ones that prevent incarceration in the first instance or help a client achieve better settlements in the criminal matter. So far, our Criminal Attorney staff has worked with over 80 clients and has had achieved a favorable outcome in all but 4% of the cases.
HOUSING & PUBLIC BENEFITS
24% of CFR staff identified lack of stable housing as a top reason why children re-enter foster care and 31% of clients identify as homeless.
For many parents, housing issues are at the center of the allegations against them in family court, or arise as collateral issues that make it likely a child will enter or re-enter foster care. And issues with public benefits, including those related to housing, are closely related. Parents can find themselves in rent arrears if they miss a public benefits appointment and see their shelter allowance temporarily disrupted. A parent who is a victim of domestic violence may exclude the perpetrator in order to keep her children safe, but that person may have contributed to the rent. Lost part-time employment makes missing rent likely. Parents in public housing, like NYCHA, also face particular challenges. Our Housing Attorney Fellow and Housing Specialist have worked with over 200 clients and helped prevent evictions and secure needed repairs to make our clients’ housing safe and stable. When relief was available, they have been successful 87% of the time.
Over 26% of CFR clients are immigrants.
These clients face multiple additional challenges beyond those of poverty and child welfare involvement. For example, it is often very difficult for these clients to have meaningful visitation with their children if they are in foster care, as their often unconventional part time work hours do not permit them to have agency-supervised visitation which occurs during business hours; family members are often unwilling to serve as visit hosts or kinship foster parents because they fear government involvement in their lives. Most services available require parents to pay some money out of pocket since they are not eligible for health insurance, and these payments can be difficult to manage. Services in Spanish are generally available, but services offered in other languages are hard to find. Our Immigration Specialist has worked with 82 clients, assisting them with status adjustment applications, accessing public benefits, and planning for necessary travel, including deportation.
FAMILIES IMPACTED BY MENTAL HEALTH
33% of CFR clients are impacted by a mental illness.
A bipolar disorder or diagnosis of PTSD should not mean that your child is placed in foster care. Yet, this is precisely what can happen if you are a parent with a mental health disorder who is accused in family court of putting your child at risk. CFR works to reverse this trend and de-stigmatize mental health disorder through our innovative team model. Many parents have inaccurate diagnoses, often assigned to them as teenagers, so our MSW staff conduct their own assessments, often with the help of independent psychiatrists we retain. If a parent needs services, our social work staff advocate for individually tailored treatment plans and regularly refer clients to high quality, culturally competent, trauma informed providers.
FAMILIES IN TRANSITION
Our track record demonstrates families can quickly and safely avoid foster care, or reunite from care if parents have effective representation in family court and are connected to meaningful, individualized services designed to build on their strengths and directly tackle the specific issues that brought them to the attention of the child welfare system. Our experience has also shown, however, that too often our clients’ children end up entering or returning to foster care if the family is in a particularly precarious time. A family court case almost always means new obligations for a parent: attending new services, possibly relocating (especially if the family is homeless), or enforcing an order of protection against an adult who used to reside in the house, while still caring for children. To assist with these issues, our Home for Good Senior Social Worker now focuses exclusively on a re-entry prevention caseload, providing assistance with referrals, attending trial discharge conferences and developing training and resource checklists for use by all staff with parents.