Changing the System
Our direct service work with indigent families informs all of our policy work. CFR’s groundbreaking approach means that we have a place at the table, within task forces and coalitions, and with decision makers at all levels of government. CFR uses these opportunities to make recommendations on policy and program initiatives for both the child welfare and the family court systems to ensure that parents and their children have access to the best legal services and opportunities to keep their families intact.
Recent Highlights of CFR’s Policy and Advocacy Work:
- In 2015, CFR joined the Administration for Children’s Services and other organizations that represent parents and children in Family Court to work on systematic reform issues. The nine different committees (of which CFR co-chairs two) address a wide range of issues including housing assistance, strengthening Family Court Legal Services, case conferencing, and improving placement stability. These workgroups have continued into 2017.
- CFR’s Executive Director, Michele Cortese, sits on the New York State Permanent Judicial Commission on Justice for Children and served on the statewide “Better for Families” Advisory Board to the New York State Child Welfare Improvement Project, which focused on families impacted by addiction.
- CFR’s Special Counsel, Susan Jacobs represented CFR at a convening in Denver, Colorado in July 2016 on the Role of Legal Representation in Child Welfare: Spreading High Quality Representation of Parents and Children. The 1.5 day meeting was sponsored by the American Bar Association’s Center on Children and the Law and Casey Family Programs, The purpose of the convening was to bring together national experts on parent and child representation along with researchers to strategize about how to best shape practice nationally. The consensus nationally is that multi disciplinary models are an important tool in this work. The group agreed on a consensus statement which is: Every child and every parent will have quality legal representation when child welfare courts make life-changing decisions about their families.
- CFR staff has also been sought out to provide guidance around the New York City Council Young Women’s Initiative, the creation of the Office of the Civil Justice Coordinator, and the expansion of Family Treatment Court statewide.
- The New York State Bar Association selected CFR to receive its 2015 Award for Promoting Standards of Excellence in Mandated Representation, noting that CFR “exemplifies and defines the highest professional practice standards, is a recognized innovator in parent representation, and is a tireless advocate for legislative and policy reform.”