Loretta Johnson

  • Hosted by Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Practice
  • Sponsored by Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel
  • Service location New York, New York
  • Law school Columbia Law School
  • Issue area Children/Youth
  • Fellowship class year 2016
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Loretta empowered low-income children and families by providing direct representation to children in child welfare proceedings where reunification is the goal, while building a practice model focusing on collaboration with parents’ attorneys to avoid unnecessary removals, speed up the reunification process and keep families together.

New York City has approximately 9,000 children in foster care. Many of these children are removed from their families due to circumstances that stem from poverty. National studies have shown that children in foster care are at high risk for academic failure, violence, drug abuse, delinquency, teen pregnancy, and mental and physical illness. This project creates a practice model to shorten children’s stay in foster care by preventing initial removals and speeding up family reunification rates in order to improve life outcomes for children involved in the system and empower children and families.

Fellowship Highlights

In the past two years, Loretta has:

  • Provided direct representation to 124 clients
  • Successfully reunified 51 children with their families
  • Won or settled 16 emergency removal hearings on behalf of her clients permitting them to return home
  • Successfully reunified 35 clients by means of trial/final discharge or applications to modify dispositional orders
  • Successfully dismissed 3 cases at trial, 2 of which by prima facie applications

What’s Next

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Loretta plans to:

  • Work as a staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society, Juvenile Rights Practice (JRP)
  • Continue representation of child welfare clients
  • Conduct trainings for new hires and JRP attorneys, social workers and paralegals on reunification advocacy
  • Help senior management establish permanent reunification teams in each borough
  • Represent delinquency clients as part of the new Raise the Age Legislation

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Sponsor: Greenberg Traurig, LLP, The Florida Bar Foundation

Lauren Zack

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