Jessica Weidmann

  • Hosted by Center for Family Representation
  • Sponsored by ALM
  • Service location New York, New York
  • Law school Columbia Law School
  • Issue area Family Law
  • Fellowship class year 2012
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Jessica worked to break the foster care cycle for young parents who themselves lived in foster care. She represented young parents with mental health conditions in child protective proceedings, conducted outreach and education, and advocated for systemic change.

Young parents who have been in foster care often face legal challenges to their parental rights stemming from their poverty and high rates of mental health diagnoses. More than 50 percent of foster care youth have mental health diagnoses labeled moderate to severe. The Administration for Children Services (ACS) frequently seeks to introduce mental health diagnoses and treatment records as evidence of inadequate parenting ability. Without appropriate support, young parents who have mental illness may struggle to meet their children’s needs, but mental illness is not a per se barrier to successful parenting. Young parents in foster care or transitioning out often lack the positive social and familial relationships correlated with positive outcomes for them and their children. They need appropriate support services as they grapple with issues such as housing, education, employment, forming healthy relationships, and psychological trauma while raising their children.

Fellowship Highlights

During her Fellowship, Jessica:

  • Advocated for young parents in child protective proceedings to keep families together, helping to obtain appropriate support services when needed
  • Developed a resource guide of quality services for young parents and connected clients with mental health care providers and parenting education to meet their unique needs
  • Advanced legal arguments to combat the assumption that young parents with mental health issues cannot care for their children
  • Trained staff on special issues in representing young parents
  • Presented on parents’ rights, legal obligations, and the child welfare system to young mothers residing in emergency shelter and mother/child foster care placements

Next Steps

Jessica remains at the Center for Family Representation as a Staff Attorney, where she represents her Fellowship clients and advocates for their children’s safe return from foster care.

My commitment is to provide holistic representation to clients, sensitize the legal system to social complexities, and ultimately empower individuals, families, and communities.

Jessica Weidmann /
Equal Justice Works Fellow

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