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Mary Kate Kalinich

2015, Equal Justice Works Fellowships, Mary Kate Kalinich

Mary Kate Kalinich

Name of Host Organization: Women Against Abuse
City, State: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Issue area: Domestic Violence, Children/Youth
Sponsors: Greenberg Traurig, LLP

The Project

Mary Kate will improve outcomes for child and adult victims of domestic violence through Department of Human Services’ (DHS) training and policy review and legal representation for victims in custody and protection from abuse (PFA) cases where domestic violence and child abuse co-occur.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project
About 15.5 million children in the U.S. grow up with domestic violence in their homes. Domestic violence is a major factor in 25-50% of contested custody cases. Further, abusive parents successfully obtain custody 70% of the time, despite research showing they are likely to abuse the child or children. DHS addresses allegations of child abuse in Philadelphia. Because of the co-occurrence of domestic violence and child abuse, it is essential that DHS effectively responds to domestic violence. DHS workers often assume that victims and their children can be adequately protected through pro se petitions in protection from abuse and/or custody court. However, victims are left to navigate these complicated systems on their own and all too often, lack of legal knowledge and attorney representation leads to negative court rulings. With unprecedented support from Philadelphia’s DHS, the timing is right for this urgently needed project.
The Right Person For This Project
Mary Kate is the right person for the project because:
• She was first motivated to attend law school after working as an advocate for domestic violence victims filing for protection orders in Wilmington, Delaware
• She believes in fierce advocacy while still always holding true to client-centered lawyering
• Her work with the Montgomery County Public Defender’s office helped her gain an understanding of the needs of low-income, vulnerable clients
Plans For First Six Months of Fellowship
In the first six months, Mary Kate will:
• Review current DHS policies and make recommendations about the extent to which policies enable staff to identify the incidence of violence in the home, accurately capture information about power dynamics, and make appropriate referrals
• Identify national best practices and models for children and youth services agencies making a positive difference for victims of domestic violence
• Design printed materials and a training guide for DHS workers on the intersections between domestic violence and DHS services