An expert in child welfare from Maryland Legal Aid in Baltimore was quoted in a front-page story in today’s Baltimore Sun about the drop in the number of children in the state’s foster care system.
“Joan Little, chief attorney for the Maryland Legal Aid Bureau’s child advocacy unit, applauded the state’s recent successes, including its emphasis on reducing the number of foster children in group homes,” wrote the Sun‘s Yvonne Wenger.
“But in some cases, Little said, the state has been too quick to reunify families that aren’t ready, especially because it’s so important for the state to get the decision right when a child’s safety is at stake,” the article continued.
“‘I think any time the state produces this kind of sweeping policy, there’s a risk,’ Little said.
“The situation could be improved if more resources, such as food vouchers or budget planning, were available to parents after they have been reunified with their children, Little said. ‘You’ve got parents who are truly struggling.’”
To read the article (behind a pay wall), click here.
A Maryland Legal Aid expert on foster children was quoted in a Baltimore Sun article, “Court-appointed volunteers advocate for foster children.”
“Joan F. Little, chief attorney in the Baltimore City child advocacy unit for Maryland Legal Aid, said CASAs can lead to better outcomes and help children exit the system more quickly,” the article said. ‘It really adds extra value to a child’s life,’ she said.”
Two Maryland Legal Aid lawyers were guests Sunday on WCBM-AM’s Insight on Disability talk radio show hosted by Mike Gerlach. The topic: Children with disabilities in the foster care system. Assistant Director of Advocacy for Children’s Rights Janet Hartge and Northeastern Maryland office staff attorney Nicole Jassie talked about their clients in foster care. “For children with severe disabilities, it’s easier for foster parents when the children are young,” Hartge said. “As they age, it gets more difficult for the parents. For example, they may not be able to lift them any more once they get to 70 or 80 pounds.
To download and listen to the show, click here. The interview starts around minute 18.
A 17-year-old Legal Aid client in foster care got her wish yesterday–the surprise present of a laptop computer for the aspiring visual artist and photographer to do her school work on. Adrienne St. Paul, who enters her senior year in high school this fall, is the first recipient of a computer from F.O.S.T.E.R.–Friends of Special Teaching and Educational Resources, a Frederick group collecting new laptop computers and digital cameras for children in foster care, the Frederick News-Post reported today.
“Ten weeks ago, St. Paul’s Legal Aid lawyer, Kathleen Hughes, told [Master Rick] Sandy the high school student needed a computer to do schoolwork,” the article said. “Working on library computers wasn’t always possible. Sandy called Hughes to the bench and ordered the formation of a committee to find funding for laptops.”
“We’re making history here today,” Sandy said to applause , and a few tears [in his courtroom yesterday], about the gathering, which was sprinkled with [judges], lawyers and social workings all in on the surprise.”
To read the article, click here.
The Maryland Court of Appeals heard arguments earlier this month whether a troubled mother can keep her parental rights in light of her seven-year-old daughter’s flourishing relationship with her foster parents, who want to adopt her, the Daily Record reported . The girl is represented by Maryland Legal Aid.
Joan Little, chief attorney of Legal Aid’s Child Advocacy Unit in Baltimore, argued that the girl’s loving foster parents can’t adopt her because the courts preserved the mother’s parental rights–despite her record of neglect.
The girl has been “sentenced to a life in foster-care limbo” because the lower courts placed the mother’s rights above her daughter’s interests, Little said, adding that “the issue is the best interest of the child, not the best interest of the parent.”
To read the article, click here.
Maryland Legal Aid’s Child Advocacy Unit in Baltimore (which represents abused and neglected children in the foster care system) raised a record amount of money this year–$5,125, nearly $1,000 more than last year–for its Holiday Giving Program, reported Legal Aid social worker Meira Shapiro. “We bought $40 gift food cards for 121 children in 50-some families,” said Shapiro, who managed the program. “We also bought additional things as needed to supplement families sponsored by Legal Aid employees, as well as giving gift food cards to families with last- minute emergencies.”
With the approach of the new school year only weeks away, Maryland Legal Aid and other legal advocates presented a training for lawyers and paralegals who will assist parents, guardians, and other caregivers with problems getting children enrolled in public schools.
“We know a lot of kids and their families will have problems enrolling in school,” said Sarah Morgan, a Legal Aid staff attorney who works on education issues. “Lots of kids are living with relatives, plus many kids in foster care have trouble enrolling in school when they change living locations. Also, homeless kids face unique barriers to enrollment and have special protections under federal law, including the right to stay in their old school if they move out of the school’s zone.”
The training for advocates, held earlier this month in Columbia, included presentations from lawyers from Legal Aid, the Public Justice Center (which produced a video on the rights of homeless students) and the Homeless Persons Representation Project.
In addition, a panel of Legal Aid lawyers reviewed some difficult school enrollment cases they’ve handled over the years.
“Every kid has the right to be in school,” Morgan said. “But often times they need a lawyer to help them through the bureaucracy and red tape. It’s critical that children not miss a day of schooling, especially at the beginning of the school year.”
Morgan also updated a brochure, “Enrolling Children in Baltimore City Schools: Know Your Rights,” that explains rights and procedures for parents, guardians and caregivers. For a copy, call Morgan at 410/951-7729.