Headshot of Jilisa Milton

Jilisa Milton

  • Hosted by Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program
  • Sponsored by Alabama Civil Justice Foundation
  • Service location Tuscaloosa, Alabama
  • Law school University of Alabama School of Law
  • Issue area Children/Youth, Disability Rights
  • Fellowship class year 2019
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Jilisa protected the rights of children with disabilities in Alabama’s Black Belt through individual and systemic advocacy with juvenile courts, the state’s Medicaid system, and local school systems.

Alabama’s Black Belt counties are part of a larger, national Black Belt region that stretches from Texas to Virginia. This region derives its name from the rich soil for which it is known. Although it has a history of plantation use, the region has also been the site of significant advances in the struggle for civil rights. Issues affecting the region include declining populations, a primarily agricultural landscape with low-density settlement, high unemployment, and significant lack of access to education and medical care. The Black Belt Disability Justice Project (BBDJP), a project created by Alabama Disability Advocacy Program (ADAP), aimed to protect the rights of children with disabilities in Alabama’s rural Black Belt through individual and systemic advocacy with juvenile courts, the state’s Medicaid system, and local school systems.

Jilisa, an Alabama native, is the University of Alabama’s first joint JD/Master of Social Work graduate. She drew from her work in civil rights litigation, mental health treatment, criminal justice reform, and community engagement to implement and execute this project. Jilisa previously worked with children who have severe emotional disorders and was a staff supervisor at an inpatient treatment facility for children with severe emotional disorders.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship period, Jilisa:

  • Successfully garnished the support of district court judges in the Black Belt Disability Justice Project in their courts, including being appointed as guardian ad litem for children with disabilities and presenting training for defense attorneys, guardians ad litem, and juvenile probation officers about court advocacy for children with disabilities involved in the school to prison pipeline
  • Outreached to dozens of community organizations, stakeholders, agencies, public figures, and parent groups
    Provided technical assistance to youth with disabilities and their families to secure appropriate academic and functional supports in schools
  • Monitored several residential treatment facilities in order to gather existing information pertaining to abuse, neglect, or other rights violations
  • Assisted in addressing issues presented by the COVID-19 pandemic relating to children with disabilities in schools, in detention and therapeutic facilities, and in the court system

Next Steps

Jilisa has been selected as a State Policy Fellow through the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. She will be working at Alabama Arise, a statewide, member-led organization advancing public policies to improve the lives of Alabamians who are marginalized by poverty and racial injustice. She will be working on state budget and tax policy (economic policy), including in the area of education funding.

Securing Resources for Children Living with Disabilities

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