Host: Public Counsel
Gina’s project seeks to ensure, through representation in Family Court and New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) administrative hearings, that indigent parents in Manhattan do not lose custody of their children due to housing instability.
The convergence of the housing crisis and the rising number of child neglect proceedings brought in New York City has created a perfect storm for indigent families. The overwhelming majority of parents facing charges of child neglect or abuse in New York County Family Court are poor women of color. The Center for Family Representation (CFR), which represents such parents, reports that 34% of its clients experience issues related to unstable housing and homelessness, and over 7% of CFR’s cases include neglect allegations of inadequate shelter directly leading to children being removed from their parents’ care. Being homeless or otherwise precariously housed can create significant obstacles to a family’s ability to comply with court-mandated services and contributes stress exacerbating other problems at the heart of the child protective case. Conversely, studies show that receiving housing-related services increases a family’s chance of reunification and decreases the incidence of repeat involvement in the child protective system. While the cost to the state of providing direct housing services to families is generally much less than the costs associated with foster care, few families receive housing support at this pivotal time of intervention, feeding a pernicious cycle that separates children from their parents without addressing the underlying issue of housing instability.
Through her exposure to both child welfare and housing law, Gina deeply appreciates how critical the need is for attorneys in each area, but especially at their intersection, which is why a project that bridges clients’ needs as both tenants and parents is so important.
Gina plans to provide direct representation, participate in citywide task force meetings addressing the needs of child-welfare involved clients who are also homeless, and compile a toolkit of model motions, briefs, and available services for use by all CFR attorneys in Manhattan and Queens within the first six months of her Fellowship.
Host: Public Counsel
Host: Lone Star Legal Aid
Sponsor: Texas Access to Justice Foundation
Host: Children's Law Center of DC
Sponsor: Crowell & Moring Foundation
Host: Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice
Sponsor: Chicago Council of Lawyers