2014 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Alaina Varvaloucas

Alaina Varvaloucas

Name of Host Organization: Lawyers for Children
City, State: New York, New York
Issue area: Domestic Violence, Children/Youth
Sponsors: KPMG; The Sidley Austin Foundation

The Project

Alaina directly represented children whose cases involved domestic violence issues as Lawyers For Children’s (LFC) Domestic Violence Specialist at the Manhattan Family Court.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
Family Court cases involving domestic violence are unique and highly complex family law proceedings that involve a number of moving parts. There can be a lot at stake: physical danger; psychological and developmental harm; the separation of children from their families, sometimes permanently; and potential trauma in foster care. Given the delicate subject matter and the inordinate number of domestic violence cases in the Manhattan Family Court, these cases require specialized expertise and the provision of dedicated, focused services. This project established LFC’s only dedicated Manhattan Family Court Domestic Violence Specialist. Additionally, this project provided a model for children’s attorneys in other Family Courts.
Fellowship Highlights: 
In the past two years, Alaina has:
• Represented 183 children (131 families) on 284 dockets in the Manhattan Family Court. These cases included high-conflict custody, family offense, abuse and neglect, foster care, and termination of parental rights dockets where clients were victims of or exposed to domestic violence.
• Counseled clients and advocated for their wishes by interviewing clients and their parents, filing and defending motions, engaging in discovery and evidentiary objections, negotiating settlements, preparing for trial, referring clients for therapy and other services, and advocating at daily hearings and trials.
• Created a guide for LFC’s teenage clients addressing how to identify healthy and unhealthy relationships and how to access domestic violence resources.
• Designed and implemented a survey that captured, for the first time, the percentage of cases at the Manhattan Family Court that involve domestic violence. The survey will be used in future systemic reform efforts.
Where are they now?: 
Now that the Fellowship is complete, Alaina will:
• Continue as LFC’s Domestic Violence Specialist in Manhattan Family Court, which has been made a permanent component of LFC’s programs and services.
• Work with LFC’s older clients in foster care who have started dating and are in emotionally and/or physically abusive relationships.
• Use skills gained over the past two years to advocate for case management reforms and other systemic reform efforts.

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