2014 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Beth Kurtz

Beth Kurtz

Name of Host Organization: Children’s Law Center
City, State: Washington, District of Columbia
Issue area: Disability Rights, Children/Youth
Sponsors: The Morrison & Foerster Foundation

The Project

Beth advocated through legal and administrative systems to connect at-risk children in Washington, DC with timely, community-based, well-coordinated, and effective mental health services.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
Almost one in five children has a diagnosable mental illness, and the incidence of mental illness is even more common in communities where children are likely to face trauma due to living in poverty, witnessing violence, or facing persistent neglect. Yet children with mental health issues in DC—particularly those in foster care—have long faced obstacles in obtaining the care they need to address these issues as the District has failed to meet its legal obligations. Ultimately, undetected and undertreated mental health issues spur children toward academic failure, involvement in the juvenile justice system, unnecessary interaction with the child welfare system, or institutionalization. The tides are changing and the District has an opportunity reform the way it addresses the mental health needs of at-risk children. Through direct representation in family court and administrative proceedings, attorney training and outreach, and legislative advocacy, this project was designed to help kids get the care they need.
Fellowship Highlights: 
In the past two years, Beth has:
• Represented children with mental health needs in abuse and neglect proceedings as Guardian ad Litem
• Represented parents seeking public benefits or educational services necessary to support children with mental health needs
• Consulted with and trained attorneys to be effect mental health advocates
• Created and assembled training materials and led numerous trainings on child welfare, children’s mental health, and legal advocacy pertaining to the rights of mental health service consumers
• Advocated for the reduction of barriers to accessing high-quality mental health services through policy work
Where are they now?: 
Now that the Fellowship is complete, Beth plans to:
• Continue advocating for children and teens with mental health-related disabilities
• Defend the civil rights of youth and families involved in the child welfare system
• Empower and amplify the voices of those in traditionally disenfranchised or vulnerable communities through legal advocacy

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