Expanding Services, Sustaining Innovation:
HOME FOR GOOD initiatives: CFR’s housing and public benefits, immigration and criminal defense practice areas
Child welfare involved families do not experience problems in neat silos. Indigent parents at risk of losing their children to foster care often confront several interrelated issues, rooted in poverty, such as homelessness or unstable housing, interruptions in public benefits or other financial insecurity, criminal charges, or immigration problems. Most of the time, these are the result of their family court involvement or related to it. For example, a mother living in public housing who loses temporary custody of her children to foster care, risks being evicted from her apartment, as her occupancy needs are deemed to be reduced. A parent who is accused of neglecting her child by leaving the child with an inappropriate babysitter may also find herself accused of endangering the welfare of a child in criminal court. These collateral issues have the potential to undermine a family’s success.
These issues often need to be resolved in other legal venues, beyond family court—in housing court, in immigration court, criminal court, and in complicated and bureaucratic administrative proceedings that can be difficult to understand and hard to navigate, without ready access to legal representation or other advocacy. Before we started our Home for Good initiatives CFR’s clients had to access attorneys or professionals in other organizations, who typically lacked knowledge of the child welfare case and often unwittingly undermined the family’s ability to avoid or shorten foster care. In 2015, following a survey with staff and clients, CFR launched our Home for Good initiatives to better serve our clients with holistic, interdisciplinary legal representation and social work advocacy. Home for Good serves our family court clients that fit one of three criteria: they need targeted housing and public benefits assistance; they need targeted immigration assistance; and/or they have a collateral criminal matter that is related to their family court case.
The purpose of Home for Good is to provide more services, more quickly and efficiently, and in a more coordinated way, to reduce the instances where children enter foster care and to reduce re-entry into care. Building on the relationship our child welfare teams have with our clients, we can easily identify and efficiently rectify collateral issues, insure they are integrated into the child welfare case, and minimize the extent to which clients have to access critical services elsewhere.