Mihal Ansik

  • Hosted by A New Way of Life Reentry Project
  • Sponsored by The Morrison & Foerster Foundation
  • Service location Los Angeles, California
  • Law school Harvard Law School
  • Issue area Criminal Records Relief
  • Fellowship class year 2017
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Mihal provided direct legal representation, educational tools, and movement-building support to Los Angeles families impacted by incarceration as they navigated the foster care system and overcame discriminatory barriers to family reunification.

Incarcerated parents face particular challenges in sustaining family connections from behind bars. As they work to reunite with their children upon release, they are confronted with seemingly insurmountable hurdles, including daunting reunification timelines, hostile bureaucracies, and costly programs. These hurdles are compounded by the trauma of separation, institutional racism, and the collateral consequences of having a criminal record. Even when incarcerated parents try to exercise agency over their child’s care, their choices are limited by biased practices, such as the summary exclusion of eligible family members as caregivers based on their old criminal records. These exclusions result in children being unnecessarily funneled into the foster care system, disconnected from those who love them, and subjected to the long-term destabilizing impacts of foster care placement.

Fellowship Highlights

During the Fellowship period, Mihal has:

  • Created a community lawyering project in Los Angeles focused primarily on advocating for formerly incarcerated mothers to reunify with their children after incarceration
  • Successfully supported more than a dozen mothers in their fight to maintain their parental rights and get their children out of foster care, and provided brief service to 40 individuals
  • Co-facilitated two cohorts of Women Organizing for Justice and Opportunity, a six-month organizing, leadership development, and legal rights workshop comprised of formerly incarcerated mothers who are mobilizing around issues of family separation
  • Developed training materials and presented eight trainings for community members, organizational partners, and advocates on best practices for supporting parents and their loved ones as they navigate family reunification during and after incarceration
  • Saw more than 20 children return to their family homes from foster care by helping their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other loved ones overcome criminal record barriers to approval as caregivers

What’s Next

Mihal will continue to work in collaboration with organizers and community members to support the movement to build a world without prisons.

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