Category Archives: foster care

Legal Aid’s Joan Little quoted in Sun article on foster care

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.


Maryland Legal Aid partners with pediatricians

For two years, staff in the Child Advocacy Unit at Maryland Legal Aid in Baltimore have been a part of a rotation through the Division of Child Protection at the University of Maryland School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics, reported  Joan F. Little, chief attorney of Legal Aid’s Child Advocacy Unit.

“This rotation is designed for resident pediatricians during their required three years of training,” Little said. “The doctors come to Legal Aid to be informed of the legal issues relating to child abuse and neglect. Emphasis is placed on areas where the medical and legal systems encounter each other.”

This rotation includes visits to important community agencies, such as Legal Aid and the Family Tree, as well as Child Protective Services and law enforcement agencies in Baltimore City. “At Legal Aid, the doctors are given a lecture and materials on the basics of the Child In Need of Assistance practice and have the opportunity to experience brief court observation in Baltimore City’s juvenile court,” Little said.

Dr. Howard Dubowitz, a professor of pediatrics at UM Medicine, said the visit to Legal Aid offers a useful glimpse of how the legal system works regarding abused or neglected children. “It also offers an opportunity to discuss pertinent legal issues,” Dubowitz said. “These visits have been a highlight of their rotation.” Added Little: “Legal Aid staff recognizes the importance of educating new members of the medical community in this field and sees this program as an opportunity to enhance services to Baltimore’s vulnerable children.”

Weinberg Foundation staff picks Legal Aid for grant

A staff member at the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation selected Maryland Legal Aid as a recipient of a $10,000 grant, The Baltimore Sun reported earlier this week. It’s one of a unique block of grants that turns 16 eligible Weinberg employees into grant makers by allowing them to give $10,000 to the nonprofit of their choice.

Marci Hunn, program director for workforce redevelopment, has worked five years for the Owings Mills-based foundation, which annually provides millions in grants to nonprofits that serve the economically disadvantaged,” the article said. “This marks the fourth year she has been eligible for the give-away program and her enthusiasm has not waned, she said.

“‘I am thrilled by it each time,'” Hunn said.

“In the past, she has chosen nonprofits that deal with jobs training. But this year, the mother of a newborn and a pre-schooler looked for an organization that assists children. She chose Maryland Legal Aid and asked that her grant be directed to Donna’s Place at the agency’s Baltimore city location. The space provides the agency’s youngest clients, who most often are in foster care, with toys, computers, books, puzzles, paper and crayons and other things to help them relax and learn, according to its website. For several weeks in the summer, staff devote three mornings to reading to the children and creating a craft project.

“‘We can choose any group within our guidelines,’ Hunn said. ‘When I looked around, I found so many gaps for children in foster care and really wanted to do something for them. Small things can really make a difference for these children. Donna’s Place is a sweet opportunity for these kids and gives them a respite from worry.'”

To read the article, click here.

Baltimore Sun quotes Legal Aid expert

After a mother stabbed her 8-month-old daughter at a social services office, The Sun interviewed Maryland Legal Aid chief attorney Joan Little, who runs the Child Advocacy Unit in Baltimore.

The nonfatal assault on the foster child  raised questions about safety issues “where tense, emotional meetings between parents and their estranged children are routine,” wrote reporter Peter Hermann.

“‘These are difficult situations,’ said Little, an attorney whose staff represents children in welfare and neglect cases. ‘We want to promote family visits. It is so tough when a security situation like this happens.

“‘Normally, everyone would be supporting more contact between children and parents, and not restrained contact.’ The idea, she added, is for the ‘mother-baby visit to be personal enough that it can support the bonding that is supposed to be happening.

“Little, whose attorneys visit the East Biddle Street building at least once a week, said it would be counterproductive for a security guard to attend each meeting,” Hermann wrote. “But she would support it when violence is a part of a parent’s history.

“Little said she feels safe in the building. She said there is a metal detector at the entrance, and she has seen guards going through purses and checking IDs, though not every time.

“‘It’s not like airport security . . . ‘ she said. ‘I don’t feel that it’s a dangerous environment. But certainly we’re dealing with parents who have significant mental health problems, and significant drug problems. On any given day, anything can happen.'”

To read the entire article (behind a pay wall), click here.

Legal Aid expert quoted in Sun article on foster care

An article in today’s Baltimore Sun about the state’s decision not to renew a foster care provider’s license to place foster care children–for allegedly  falsifying minutes of board meetings and failing to pay its foster parents and staff on time–quoted Maryland Legal Aid’s Joan Little, chief attorney of the Child Advocacy Unit in Baltimore.

Little said the state should move with “deliberate haste” to re-license the affected foster parents with new providers.

“She said the situation may create headaches for the parents, who may find that other providers have different requirements or pay different monthly stipend rates than Contemporary Family Services,” the article said.

“‘You might run the risk of someone being ruled out because maybe a background check gets done differently,’ Little said.

“Little said the situation is an opportunity for the state to evaluate the way it licenses foster care providers,” the article continued. “She would like to see the state devote more staff and resources to foster care so potential problems can be addressed quickly and seamlessly.”

To read the article, click here (behind a pay wall).

Legal Aid child advocacy expert in The Sun

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.”


Legal Aid featured on Insight on Disability

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.