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Advocates for Children of New York, Inc.

151 W. 30th St. 5th Floor
New York, NY 10001
Telephone: (212) 947-9779 / (866) 427-6033
Fax: (212) 947-9790
E-mail: [email protected]

100% Children's Law
Does Use Volunteer Attorneys

Advocates for Children of New York, Inc. (AFC) is a non-profit organization started in 1988 that provides a full-range of educational support, legal and advocacy services for parents, young people and professionals. AFC works in partnership with New York City's most impoverished and vulnerable families to secure quality and equal public education services for every public school child in New York City. AFC's program is carried out by a multi-racial, bilingual staff of attorneys, educational specialists, policy analysts and trainers. AFC utilizes a strong network of law firms to provide pro bono legal assistance for individual clients and for impact litigation.

AFC's five key program areas are individual advocacy, impact advocacy, workshops and training, public policy and informal dissemination. AFC has several programs that address different educational advocacy needs. Project Thrive, one of AFC's original programs, provides in-depth representation at the New York City Department of Education to New York City's low income families struggling to assure their children with special needs an appropriate education. Project Achieve works to ensure that children in or at-risk of placement in foster care receive access to the educational services and programs they need to succeed in the New York City public schools. The Foster Care Youth Project assures access to education services for youth transitioning out of foster care. The Project is supported by Morrison & Foerster LLP and the not-for-profit Equal Justice Works. The Immigrant Rights Project focuses on improving educational opportunities for immigrants and English Language Learner students. The Juvenile Justice Educational Advocacy Project provides court-involved youth and their families with advocacy, information, and referrals to help resolve their school difficulties and secure the educational resources to which they are entitled. Referrals come from probation officers, judges, or other juvenile justice service providers who identify an education issue that needs a specialist. The Out Of School Youth Project provides assistance to high school aged youth and young adults who have been pushed out of school. In 2005, AFC was awarded a grant from the New York Education Department to establish the New York State Technical and Education Assistance Center for Homeless Students, designed to build the capacity of school districts throughout the state to improve education of homeless youth and children.

Center for Children, Families and the Law

Hofstra University School of Law

121 Hofstra University
Hempstead, NY 11549
Telephone: (516) 463-0386
Fax:  (516) 463-4054

75% Children's Law
Does Use Volunteer Attorneys

Founded in 2001, the Center for Children, Families and the Law began as a collaboration between Hofstra University and the North Shore-Long Island Health System. The Center's mission is to provide interdisciplinary education, community service and research to benefit children and families involved in the legal system. Five entering JD students are selected each year as Child and Family Advocacy Fellows. Fellowships are awarded to students who intend to pursue careers in child and family advocacy. The Center also trains law students to serve as child advocates through the Hofstra University Child Advocacy Clinic. Students in the Clinic represent children in abuse and neglect cases, and special immigrant juvenile matters. Students advocate in New York City and Nassau Family Courts on behalf of children in cases where the allegations range from physical and sexual abuse to educational neglect, abandonment and inadequate supervision. Cases are referred to the clinic by the Juvenile Court. The clinic is run by one attorney and a psychologist, and they utilize students from non-legal disciplines such as social work or psychology in their work.

The Center promotes important interdisciplinary research and proposed reforms through the Family Court Review, a quarterly journal sponsored by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (AFCC) and edited by Hofstra law students. Court reform projects include participation in a tri-state alliance of institutions focused on developing more effective court services for dissolving families, and a program of research and development in cooperation with Nassau county courts and agencies to help divorcing and separating parents manage their conflicts over their children responsibly.

The Center houses the P.E.A.C.E. (Parent Education and Custody Effectiveness) Program, a court-affiliated, interdisciplinary education program for divorcing and separating parents (a P.E.A.C.E. Program and Curriculum Manual is available through the Center). Lawyers working on a pro bono basis assist local P.E.A.C.E. providers with the presentation of the program.

In collaboration with the National Institute for Trial Advocacy, the Center offers practicing lawyers two training programs: "Training the Lawyer to Represent the Whole Child," and "Modern Divorce Advocacy." The Center also organizes conferences to foster dialogue between academic disciplines, policy makers and the judiciary about how children and families are treated by the legal system.

Center for Family Representation, Inc.

40 Worth Street, Suite 605
New York, NY 10013
Telephone: (212) 691-0950
Fax: (212) 691-0951
Email: [email protected]

The Center for Family Representation seeks to strengthen parents through interdisciplinary advocacy so that families can stay together. CFR intervenes with families as soon as a risk to a child is identified, and works with foster care agencies, law guardians, and prosecutors, to assist families so that children do not enter foster care, or, if they do, are quickly reunited with their families. Legal teams include social workers and parent advocates, who are themselves parents who have been through the child protective system and were successfully reunited with their children. CFR also trains attorneys, caseworkers, judges, and service providers to enhance the systems' ability to build on best practices in a coordinated way. CFR also does policy advocacy at the city, state and national level.

The Community Advocacy Teams (CAT) program provides a full cycle of services by offering families the assistance of an attorney, a social worker and a parent advocate. After a successful pilot program between 2004 and 2006, CFR was awarded a contract by the City of New York to provide CAT services to 600 families a year and to focus on parents already brought before the court in the borough of Manhattan. While valuable opportunities to avoid foster care are often compromised when CFR can not intervene early (during an investigation), CAT continues to achieve results for the city's most vulnerable families that drastically outpace city and state outcomes. Children of CAT families spend, on average, 73% less time in foster care than children in the city and state and in 50% of CFR cases, children never enter care at all, but instead stay at home with the services needed to help them stay safe and thrive.

CFR utilizes pro bono attorneys to directly assist clients with appeals, and to assist staff with administrative hearings on behalf of clients or in the development of practice toolkits.

Family Defense Clinic

Columbia Law School

Morningside Heights Legal Services, Inc.
435 W. 116th St.
New York, NY 10027
Telephone: (212) 854–4291  
Fax: (212) 854–3554
Website:  Family Defense Clinic | Columbia Law School

100% Children's Law
Does Not Use Volunteer Attorneys

In the Family Defense Clinic, student attorneys defend families against intervention by the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) and the family courts by representing parents and other caregivers accused of neglecting or abusing their children. Student attorneys defend against those allegations, and advocate for supports and services to help parents reunify, for families to remain intact whenever possible, for prompt reunification when ACS or the court separate families, for the state to remove parents from the State Central Registry (so parents can obtain certain employment).

Child Advocacy Clinic

St. John's University School of Law

8000 Utopia Parkway
Jamaica, NY 11439
Telephone: (718) 990-2937
Fax: (718) 990-6696

100% Children's Law
Could Use Volunteer Attorneys

The Child Advocacy Clinic began in the fall of 2005. 16 to 24 students participate in the clinic every year representing children as law guardians in abuse and neglect cases. The clinic utilizes a multidisciplinary approach by collaborating with St. John's departments of psychology, human services and counseling, and fine arts. Staff consists of one attorney, one fellow, one health care professional and one education consultant. Clients are referred from juvenile court and the Legal Aid Society's Juvenile Rights Practice (Queens County). Law students also conduct "Know Your Rights" trainings for youth in the community. The clinic does not accept calls from the public but does accept calls from children seeking legal information.

The Clinic also offers a two-year clinical teaching fellowship to law school graduates and lawyers interested in a career in law school clinic teaching.

The Children's Law Center

44 Court St.
New York, NY 11201
Telephone: (718) 522-3333
Fax: (718) 522-7376

100% Children's Law

The Children's Law Center (CLC), incorporated in 1997, is a not-for-profit law firm composed of 30 lawyers, paralegals and social workers. CLC is appointed by the court to represent children in custody/visitation, guardianship and domestic violence cases in Brooklyn, NY, and handles over 3,000 cases as attorneys and law guardians. Volunteer lawyers are not utilized.

CLC does not accept calls from the public or from children.

Children's Law Clinics

New York University School of Law

Washington Square Legal Services, Inc.
245 Sullivan St.
Furman Hall 5th floor
New York, NY 10012
Telephone: (212) 998-6430
Fax: (212) 995-4031

100% Children's Law
Does Not Use Volunteer Attorneys

The Family Defense Clinic is a teaching clinic of the New York University School of Law which focuses on children who are in foster care or at risk of foster care placement. This includes abuse and neglect cases, voluntary foster care cases, extensions of foster care placement, foster care review proceedings, termination of parental rights cases, adoption, and post-termination issues. In addition, the Clinic handles matters connected with custody, visitation, and guardianship matters as well as representing clients in administrative proceedings in the areas of foster care, welfare, SSI and public assistance.

Each year, the staff of two supervising attorneys, one social worker, two graduate social work students, and twelve law students handle approximately 15 to 20 cases. Other professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists, and medical doctors are consulted when necessary. The Clinic has written materials giving an overview of foster care, additional collected readings on the subject, and teaching simulations. The Clinic does not handle impact litigation.

Students in the Children's Rights Clinic represent children, with a particular focus on LGBTQ youth. 10 law students participate in the Clinic each semester, and work in one of four different fieldwork sites: The Peter Cicchino Youth Project of the Urban Justice Center, The Door Legal Services Center, The Juvenile Rights Division of the New York Legal Aid Society, and Advocates for Children.

The Juvenile Defender Clinic provides fieldwork training to law students as part of the New York University School of Law's curriculum. Students receive academic credit for their participation in the clinic and take a substantive course which meets twice a week to provide relevant information and training. The delinquency manual prepared in 1990 is updated periodically. Law students work with staff attorneys and social workers of the New York Legal Aid Society to assist clients. The project began in 1975 and is staffed with three clinical teachers to supervise the students. Impact litigation is not handled at this time.

Children's Projects

Volunteers of Legal Service, Inc.

281 Park Avenue South
New York, New York 10010
Telephone: (212) 966-4400
Fax: (212) 219-8943
Email: [email protected]

15% Children's Law
Does Use Volunteer Attorneys

Volunteers of Legal Service (VOLS) works to increase pro bono civil legal services to New York City's poor. VOLS has a number of different projects for volunteer lawyers to serve vulnerable New York City populations, and to assist poverty law offices. There are two VOLS Children's Projects. The Hospital-based Children's Project is an undertaking by volunteer lawyers who work with doctors and social workers at local hospitals to improve health outcomes for poor children through the provision of free legal services. The Children's Project recruited seven law firms to be matched with seven participating hospitals. Hospital social workers refer cases directly to the contact person at the matched law firm. VOLS monitors the project by regular requests for case activity reports from each law firm. Current participating law firms include Cravath, Swaine & Moore; LeBoeuf, Lamb Greene & MacRae; Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; Patterson, Balknap, Webb & Tyler; Pillsbury Winthrop; and White & Case. Law firms interested in participating in the Children's Project should contact VOLS.

The School-based Children's Project pairs six law firms with six New York schools. The law firms provide legal services to children enrolled in the school (and their families if needed). VOLS arranges for training and mentoring for law firms involved in this project. Current participating law firms are: Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson; Debevoise & Plimpton; Simpson Thacher & Bartlett; WilmerHale; Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel; and Baker & McKenzie.

In addition to providing legal services, the project organizes workshops for the participating medical and social work teams to familiarize them with basic legal issues in the areas of housing, benefits and immigration law, thereby enabling them to be part of the advocacy process. Training sessions are also held for the volunteer lawyers on medical and social issues facing children and their families served by the project.

Children's Rights, Inc

330 Seventh Ave., 4th Floor
New York, NY 10001
Telephone: (212) 683-2210
Fax: (212) 683-4015

100% Children's Law
Does Use Volunteer Attorneys

Children's Rights, Inc. began in 1995 to continue the work begun by the Children's Rights Project of the ACLU, which was formed in 1973. Children's Rights, Inc. is at the forefront in the fight for the rights of poor children in the custody of child welfare agencies across the country. With an annual budget of nearly two million dollars, a staff of seasoned litigators, and a growing public policy department, Children's Rights combines the power of the courts and the assistance of expert partners to improve services for abused and neglected children.

Singularly focused on impact litigation, Children's Rights has won landmark cases improving child welfare systems in Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. Equally importantly, Children's Rights is drawing from its experience to evaluate the long-term effect and limitations of impact litigation, and, based on its own analyses and partnerships with experts, identifying new and more effective means of creating and sustaining long-term change. In all instances, Children's Rights recognizes that no one approach works everywhere and that the needs of children must come before those of any government bureaucracy or courtroom strategy.

Covenant House New York

460 W. 41st St.
New York, NY 10036
Telephone: (212) 613-0300
Fax: (212) 239-8781

100% Children's Law
Does Use Volunteer Attorneys

The Covenant House Legal Department provides direct legal services to the residents of the agency's homeless shelters in Manhattan, and to low income residents of the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn who are working with Covenant House non-residential programs. All of the clients in the agency's shelters are homeless, "push-out," and/or runaway adolescents. Typically clients are between the ages of 16 and 21. The majority of their legal problems pertain to family and immigration law matters. The Legal Department's domestic relations work includes child custody disputes and child support motions. The Legal Department's staff of three attorneys, one paralegal and several law students works with volunteers to handle 150 cases a year. Volunteer lawyers are recruited through the local bar association and law schools and trainings are provided as needed. Volunteers are utilized to provide direct representation, conduct research and work on policy issues. The Legal Department works with in-house social workers, health care professionals and psychologists.

The Advocacy and Legal Services Office also works on policy issues on behalf of kids, on a local, state and federal level. The staff and volunteers analyze bills and government policy, meet with officials regarding policies, and provide testimony on proposed bills.

Legal services are provided to youth involved in several Covenant House programs. For example, Covenant House runs school programs in seven schools which provide tutoring and academic services to youth. Covenant House also runs a crisis center and a transitional skills program. Participating in these programs allows these kids access to the Advocacy and Legal Services Office.

The Door—A Center of Alternatives, Inc.

121 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10013
Telephone: (212) 941-9090
Fax: (212) 941-0714

100% Children's Law
Does Use Volunteer Attorneys

The Door's Legal Services Center is part of a multi-service alternative youth center that opened in 1972. It provides direct representation and information to children and young adults about their rights under the law. In addition to the areas listed above, The Door's Legal Services Center is also involved in employment, foster care and housing issues, living wills, health proxies and guardianships. Clients are referred from the courts, social service agencies, schools, health care professionals and other attorneys. Volunteer lawyers are recruited through the local bar, law firms, law schools, and with the help of Volunteers of Legal Service, Inc. (discussed herein). Training is offered to volunteers four times a year and on an as-needed basis. Volunteers may work independently, or with the staff attorneys. The staff attorneys are assisted by a paralegal.

Volunteers handle cases, help train clients to handle their own cases, or hold legal trainings for social workers and other professionals who work with children. Legal Services has created a law-related education curriculum that is taught in high schools and GED classes. Volunteers are trained to conduct legal education workshops throughout New York City. The Door maintains an extensive, multi-lingual, library of instructional pamphlets to teach clients how to handle problems concerning immigration, benefits, education, family law and street law. Pamphlets are distributed throughout New York State and copies are available upon request to anyone. In addition to the legal staff, the project provides over 70 services including, complete health care, vocational and college counseling, intramural sports, a free weight room, creative arts classes, complete counseling services ranging from individual therapy to group workshops, GED and English classes, and a nursery. The project employs social workers, child development specialists, health care professionals, psychologists, and teachers.

Lawyers for Children, Inc.

110 Lafayette St., 8th Floor
New York, NY 10013
Telephone: (212) 966-6420 / (800) 244-2540
Fax: (212) 966-0531

100% Children's Law
Does Use Volunteer Attorneys

Lawyers for Children (LFC) provides free legal and social work services to children who come before the family courts of New York City in abuse, neglect, termination of parental rights, custody, visitation and foster care proceedings. AFC assists individual clients and does impact litigation and public policy advocacy. Pro bono attorneys can join the appellate panel, who work on appeals as the need arises. LFC also maintains a list of law firms who can support LFC in class action and other major litigation.

Attorneys and social workers at Lawyers for Children work to ensure that a child who must be placed in foster care finds a temporary home where he or she feels safe and wanted. And they reduce the time a child must spend in foster care by advocating for court ordered plans that will achieve permanency for children by helping them to return to their families or speed their adoption. Lawyers for Children employs a collaborative system of child advocacy. Together, our social workers and lawyers evaluate the background, needs and desires of our clients. Attorneys inform the court of a child's plight and plan the legal strategy that will insure that a child's rights are protected.

In addition to individual representation, LFC has several projects focused on specific groups of youth. The Child Sexual Abuse Evaluation and Education Project serves individual children in foster care who have been the victims of sexual abuse, as well as undertaking initiatives designed to benefit this entire group of historically unseen and underserved children. The Project on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Youth aims to identify the needs of LGBTQ youth in foster care and advocate for changes to the foster care system to meet those needs. The Domestic Violence Project provides specialized and comprehensive legal services to children in foster care who have been exposed to domestic violence. The Immigration Project for Youth in Foster Care files Special Immigrant Juvenile Status for immigrant youth in foster care. The Adolescents Confronting Transition Project focuses on providing the legal and social work services to assist adolescents in foster care access the community-based support they need to succeed as independent adults.

Juvenile Rights Division

The Legal Aid Society

199 Walter St., 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10038
Telephone: (212) 577-3300
Fax: (212) 577-3520

100% Children's Law
Does Use Volunteer Attorneys

The Juvenile Rights Division of The Legal Aid Society was established in response to a mandate issued by the New York State Legislature in 1962 that required children to be represented by counsel in the State's new Family Court, and provided that such services could be obtained by contract with a legal aid provider. The Division has approximately 131 attorneys. The Division represents 90 percent of the children who appear before the Family Court in New York City on child protective, termination of parental rights, PINS (person in need of supervision), and juvenile delinquency petitions.

Volunteers are increasingly an important part of this effort. Volunteers are recruited through law schools, seminars and by word of mouth. Training for volunteers is provided on an as-needed basis after which they are supervised by a staff attorney. CLE credit is available only for in-house staff training.

Volunteers are welcomed in all aspects of the Division's practice, but there are two areas in which volunteers are especially welcome. One is the Appeals Bureau Project which represents children in appeals from a variety of juvenile matters arising in the Family Court. Volunteers are provided with sample briefs and work closely with a senior appellate attorney. Secondly, the Division has developed a Post Termination Review Project through which attorneys represent children at post termination reviews which address the status of children who are freed for adoption but not yet adopted. The purpose of these reviews is to ensure that these children achieve permanence.

Children and Families Program

Mobilization for Justice

271 Madison Ave.
New York, NY 10016
Telephone: (212) 683-7999
Fax: (212) 683-5544
Website: Children and Families—Mobilization for Justice

100% Children's Law
Does Use Volunteer Attorneys

Mobilization for Justice provides advice and representation to low-income parents of students with disabilities seeking appropriate special education services and school placements from the New York City Department of Education. We represent parents at Individualized Education Program meetings, administrative due process hearings, and in appeals before the New York State Review Officer and in federal court. 

Mobilization for Justice also assists children with mental illness and their families through medical-legal partnerships with Bellevue, Kings County and Harlem Hospitals to obtain education supports for the children and to stabilize the families if they face government benefits, housing, immigration or other legal problems.

Lastly, Mobilization for Justice represents low-income kinship caregivers seeking legal custody, guardianship or adoption assistance, and links those it cannot help with private pro bono attorneys and trains these attorneys to represent families in court. We also assist kincare families in securing public benefits to which they are entitled, including immigration through Special Immigrant Juvenile Status.

Free to Be Youth Project

Urban Justice Center

123 William St. 16th Floor
New York, NY 10038
Telephone: (646) 602-5600
Fax: (212) 533-4598

The Free to Be Youth Project focuses on the particular needs of at-risk LGBT youth. To meet our clients’ pressing legal needs, our staff operates several legal clinics, utilizing a model unique among legal service providers. We go where homeless youth are likely to be – at drop-in centers and after school programs – to reach out to them and offer our help in stabilizing their lives. Because our clients are young and homeless it is nearly impossible for them to access traditional legal services, so we take our services to where they are. We believe that this is the best way to achieve real results for LGBTQ+ youth.