Tag 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.


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 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.

Federal appeals court refuses to toss Md. foster care plan

A federal appeals court has refused to throw out an agreement to improve Baltimore’s foster care system. Last week, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously upheld a lower court’s decisions in the 27-year-old case.

Baltimore foster children, at that time represented by Maryland Legal Aid, filed a class-action lawsuit in 1984 alleging abuse and neglect. A consent decree spelling out an improvement plan was entered in 1988 and modified in 2009 to address ongoing problems. (Due to Congressional restrictions banning class-action lawsuits by federally funded legal services programs, Legal Aid dropped out of the case.)

The Maryland attorney general’s office claimed a subsequent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in an unrelated case eliminated the legal bases for the consent decrees, but U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz and the appeals court disagreed.


Mitchell Mirviss, a lawyer with the Baltimore law firm Venable LLP who represents the children pro bono, described the appeals court ruling as “a watershed decision” he hopes will focus resources required by federal law on foster children.

Foster teen gets wish granted

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.

Top court weighs child v. parent interests

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.