2025 Design-Your-Own Fellowship Applications are Open

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Headshot of Leah Haberman

Leah Haberman

  • Hosted by The Legal Aid Society
  • Sponsored by The Morrison & Foerster Foundation
  • Service location New York City, New York
  • Law school Columbia Law School
  • Issue area Children/Youth, Police/Government Misconduct
  • Fellowship class year 2024
  • Program Design-Your-Own Fellowship

The Project

Leah’s (she/her) fellowship will help establish the first administrative appellate practice in New York to challenge abuses of agency discretion that deny youth their rights provided within the New York City child welfare system.

Currently in NYC, there are over 6,000 children in foster care. Article 78 hearings allow these youth to challenge Administration of Children’s Services (ACS )and/or the foster care agency’s discretion. ACS has immense discretionary power to dictate the core of a child’s quality of life – from where they live to whom they live with to the services they receive. Article 78s are the only legal recourse on agency action and take place in NYC Supreme Court, outside Family Court’s jurisdiction. While all children in child-welfare-related Family Court proceedings are entitled to counsel, no one is expressly funded to represent children in Article 78 proceedings.

Foster youth are often said to be “lost in the system,” but Leah has seen through personal and professional experiences that it is not as innocuous and passive as this. The voices of children and families are drowned out by the deference given ACS’s discretion, and she believes a robust Article 78 practice in New York City would help disrupt this.

Fellowship Plans

Leah will challenge the ACS’s abuses of discretion and overreaches of government power. She will provide direct representation to foster youth and youth in juvenile detention whose rights are diminished because of the deference given to ACS decision making. Leah will conduct trainings throughout the five boroughs for other attorneys for children, parent defenders, and community advocates to ensure administrative appeals are an accessible tool for all fighting to keep families together and children safe.

Meet Other Fellows Like Leah

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Maria Rodriguez

Host: Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)

Sponsor: Fish & Richardson P.C., Microsoft Corporation

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Tori Porell

Host: East Bay Children’s Law Offices

Sponsor: The Morrison & Foerster Foundation

Photo of Elizabeth Lincoln

Elizabeth Lincoln

Host: Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)

Sponsor: Microsoft Corporation, The Sidley Austin Foundation

Headshot of Tracie Johnson

Tracie Johnson

Host: Community Legal Services of Philadelphia

Sponsor: Greenberg Traurig, LLP