Gillian Schaps

The Project

Gillian used strategic legal representation and social science research to coordinate between child welfare courts, behavioral health services, and school systems with the goal of keeping young people with behavioral health and education needs at home in their communities instead of in congregate care facilities.

In 2018, 2,183 youth in Philadelphia spent time in a congregate care placement. Seventy-five percent of those youth are Black (while only 47% of youth under 18 in Philadelphia are Black). For decades, research has been conclusive about the harmful effects of congregate care facilities on young people’s therapeutic needs, education, connectedness to family and community, and overall success. Yet, Philadelphia still sends youth to these facilities as a solution for youth who need extra support.

Fellowship Highlights

During the two-year Fellowship period, Gillian:

  • Provided legal information and referrals to 276 clients and provided full representation to another 202 clients on behavioral health, education and congregate care
  • Gave four presentations on education and congregate care to attorneys, school district employees, case managers, behavioral health service providers, probation officers, and victim advocates, reaching a total of 190 individuals
  • Kept a 17 year-old client from being sent to a Residential Treatment Facility, a setting more restrictive than her needs require, which was also unable to provide her with an appropriate education
  • Advocated for clients in detention facilities and other congregate care institutions to return to or remain in their communities, instead of being exposed to COVID outbreaks and health risks in institutional settings
  • Advocated for community-based services to strengthen family relationships, build youth resilience, and improve educational outcomes, highlighting how youth with behavioral health and education needs are best served in their communities and in family settings

Next Steps

Gillian remains at the Support Center for Child Advocates as a staff attorney, where she is a member of the Racial Justice and Social Equity Committee, a co-founder of the Congregate Care Task Force, and a trainer on trauma-informed lawyering and congregate care.