Haley Schwartz

The Inspiration

The Project

Appeal for Youth, seeks reform in Georgia through the holistic appellate representation of youthful offenders in our juvenile and criminal justice systems. By increasing the number of appeals from adjudications of delinquency, we hope to end the unwritten policies and practices that result in youths being sent to juvenile detention facilities. Similarly, by providing post-conviction representation to youths who were tried and convicted as adults, we hope to decrease the number of youthful offenders who languish in Georgia’s prisons.

The Project

My project is designed to assist low-income, chronically ill or disabled children with their education issues. My project has three goals. First, I will provide direct legal representation to my clients. Second, I will educate those who work and interact with my client population regarding the rights these children have in the school system. Third, I will advocate for policies in the school system that help my client population get the services and understanding from schools that they are entitled to. <a href=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7astbR2MW-c target=_blank><b>Learn more about my project on YouTube</b></a>.

The Inspiration

The Project

The Legal Educational Advocacy Project (LEAP) will improve the educational achievement of Fulton County’s court-involved youth. First, LEAP will represent children in educational proceedings and form relationships with other stakeholders in the child law community; second, LEAP will file motions to ensure educational stability for children in foster care; third, LEAP will create a training program for Atlanta attorneys to take LEAP cases on a pro bono basis.

The Inspiration

The Project

Kristen helped unemployed and underemployed homeowners in metro Atlanta avoid foreclosure by accessing relief under HomeSafe Georgia and the National Mortgage Settlement.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project

The Atlanta metropolitan area has been hit especially hard by the ongoing foreclosure crisis. The current wave of foreclosures is driven by a dramatic increase in formerly middle class homeowners thrown into financial distress by layoffs or reduced wages. Until recently, very little assistance has been available to this group. In 2011, Georgia launched the HomeSafe Georgia program using funds received as one of 18 states “hardest hit” by the foreclosure crisis. This and other programs available to Georgians offer mortgage payment assistance for unemployed and substantially under-employed homeowners, but have been widely underutilized to date.

Fellowship Highlights

During their Fellowship, Kristen has:
• Represented 49 clients at risk of foreclosure and advised an additional 172 homeowners about their rights and options
• Helped clients access more than $650,000 in HomeSafe Georgia assistance
• Advocated for program changes that expanded access to the HomeSafe program in February 2014 and August 2015
• Built strong relationships with HomeSafe staff at the GA Department of Community Affairs
• Launched a pro bono project and referred two pro bono HomeSafe cases to attorneys at FordHarrison LLP
• Conducted trainings on loss mitigation attended by approximately 50 housing counselors and 25 mortgage company employees
• Presented information on preserving homeownership to approximately 380 future homeowners at 19 homebuyer education classes

Where are they now?

Now that the Fellowship is complete, Kristen has transitioned to a Staff Attorney position in Atlanta Legal Aid’s Home Defense Program and continues to represent homeowners suffering from temporary hardships while expanding her work to assist homeowners with a broader range of mortgage-related issues.

The Project

Ross represented low-income people in child support proceedings, and advocate for child support reform, in order to end cycles of incarceration, impoverishment, and forceful separation of families.

Federal law requires courts to assess parents’ ability to pay before setting child support orders and levying consequences for nonpayment, but Georgia frequently demands amounts that parents cannot afford and then harshly punishes them for falling behind.  Particularly for families with an incarcerated parent or a parent with record-based employment barriers, child support debt punishments criminalize poverty and, instead of supporting children, leave them abandoned. By suspending driver’s licenses, garnishing wages, jailing parents for inability to pay, and continuing to impose debt during and following incarceration, the system unjustly separates children from their parents and solidifies poverty for the next generation.

Fellowship Highlights

Ross assisted over 35 incarcerated and formerly-incarcerated parents to modify unaffordable child support orders and reinstate driver’s licenses so they could obtain stable employment, reconnect with their children, and support their families—socially, emotionally, and financially.  He represented and secured the liberty of four parents who faced incarceration solely because they were too poor to pay off court-ordered child support debt, successfully arguing for the release of one man who had been incarcerated for over nine months because of his poverty. Ross provided advice and/or referrals to an additional 215 individuals. With the help of Georgia Justice Project’s social workers and other attorneys, he supported parents to expunge records and obtain employment so they could stabilize their lives and strengthen their families. He also co-wrote draft legislation and formed a working group of advocates committed to reforming child support debt policies, beginning a campaign that will continue until Georgia law is more just and effective for poor families.

Next Steps

Ross has stayed on at Georgia Justice Project, continuing his work advocating for the end of criminalization of family poverty through child support debt punishments. Part of his work includes representing low-income people in criminal defense cases and criminal record expungement cases, fighting alongside individuals and families as they seek freedom and restoration.

Media

How COVID-19 Lays the Groundwork for Child Support Debtor’s Prisons