2024 Design-Your-Own Fellowship Applications are Open

Learn More & Apply

Photo of Kate Divasto

Kate DiVasto

  • Hosted by Youth Advocacy Foundation
  • Sponsored by Baker Botts L.L.P., Dell Technologies
  • Service location Boston, Massachusetts
  • Law school University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School
  • Issue area Children/Youth, Education/Special Education
  • Fellowship class year 2021
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Kate (she/her) provides client-centered legal representation and systemic advocacy to ensure adolescents in foster care can access personalized, comprehensive services for their transition into adulthood.

The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) consistently fails to provide the children in its care with federally mandated comprehensive services to support their transition into adulthood. This failure causes devastating harm to children who are Black, Latinx, and/or have disabilities, who are disproportionately separated from their families and placed into foster care. Adolescents in foster care have the lowest high school graduation rates of all student groups in Massachusetts and face increased risk of homelessness, poverty, and further trauma as adults.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

In the first year of the Fellowship, Kate has:

  • Provided ongoing full representation to 10 students leading to changes in school placement, avoidance or reversal of suspensions, increased supports and services in existing Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), and the obtainment of further educational evaluations of students to inform transition planning
  • Secured changes in school placement for three students and advocating for permanent change for two additional students currently attending new schools
  • Provided legal advice and referrals for over 90 additional students and families to address transition services, special education services and placements, bullying, and school discipline
  • Participated in coalitions working to enhance educational supports for students with special education needs and/or facing involvement with the DCF
  • Conducted trainings and provided support to local child- and parent- representing attorneys with cases with DCF involvement
  • Conducted training to increase pro bono capacity for assisting low-income students facing special education and/or school discipline issues

Next Steps

In the next year, Kate plans to:

  • Enhance the network in Western Massachusetts with community organizations, attorneys and professionals working with adolescents experiencing DCF involvement, and experts in special education evaluations
  • Continue providing direct representation and/or advising on educational rights to students
  • Provide community-based training for children and families on their special education rights, especially their rights to transition plans and services

It is essential to center the expert voices of young people in foster care when making decisions about their lives so that they will receive the resources, community supports, and self-advocacy skills they need to thrive as adults.

Kate DiVasto /
2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow

Meet Other Fellows Like Kate

View All

Christina Campbell

Host: Center For Educational Excellence In Alternative Settings

Sponsor: Greenberg Traurig, LLP

Paul Easton

Host: Children's Law Center of Massachusetts

Sponsor: Biogen, Mintz

Sarah Bellinger

Host: Advocacy, Inc.

Sponsor: Texas Access to Justice Foundation

Lee Robbins

Host: Equip for Equality

Sponsor: The Chicago Bar Foundation