Improving the response of the state’s child welfare, health, mental health, and education systems to protect Connecticut’s most vulnerable children.
The Center’s Child Abuse Project provides quality legal representation for abused and neglected children. Our attorneys dedicate the time needed to build a relationship with each child we represent to assure that the child’s voice is heard. We need to know what children need to feel safe and secure. We closely monitor the child’s progress to ensure that necessary supports are in place, seeking court intervention when necessary. The Center takes a holistic view of the unique needs of each child, providing advocacy for special education, health and mental health services, as needed.
The Center’s attorneys often identify systemic issues through their work with individual children. Systemic advocacy benefits children throughout the state, changing policy and introducing legislation to ensure that the best interests of children are foremost in the decision-making process. These efforts include negotiation with state leaders, administrative and policy advocacy, broad remedies to individual cases, and class action lawsuits.
The Center improves the quality of legal representation of children statewide through training, mentoring and technical advice to attorneys who represent children in child abuse and neglect cases. We work closely with interdisciplinary teams at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center and University of Connecticut Health Center to provide legal expertise that contributes to positive health and mental health outcomes.
Leo is talking about killing himself. His father died this year and Leo feels the trouble and sadness that surround his family each day.
Leo’s mother is struggling. She has three young children to care for – and she is completely on her own. Leo’s youngest brother was born with health problems that require frequent medical care and hospitalization. The middle brother has mental health issues that require his mother’s constant supervision.
Leo feels alone. His father is gone; his mother often does not have the capacity to devote the time and attention a young boy needs. He is bullied at school and he cries a lot. He is often not clean and his classmates tease him.
Despite his young age, Leo has been hospitalized for depression and mental health issues.
The Center for Children’s Advocacy was appointed by the court to represent Leo when the Department of Children and Families received a report of neglect from Leo’s school. Recently, Leo was hospitalized again for suicidal thoughts. He was about to be discharged and sent back to his home without any support services in place. How would Leo’s depression progress? Who would work with him and talk with him and care for him? How would he get to school and who would look out for him when he got there? Who could communicate with Leo’s mother to help her understand Leo’s needs?
The Center intervened, placing an emergency call to administrators of one of Connecticut’s outpatient mental health services. We are fortunate to have relationships with the agencies that provide services for Connecticut’s most vulnerable children, and we were able to secure community-based therapy and intervention for the family. We called the Department of Children and Families to help Leo’s mother secure a bus pass to make it easier for him to get to school. When they turned us down, we got a court order to secure the pass.
We worked with the school to have Leo tested, and represented him at a PPT to address his educational needs.
Leo’s life is still hard – but he is better. We keep up with Leo’s progress and make sure his mother gets him to appointments. Leo feels a little better about school, receiving academic support services and talking with teachers and school aides when he feels alone and overwhelmed.
The issues that Leo faces are not unique. There’s a shortage of outpatient mental health clinicians and it can be difficult to get therapeutic support services. We are working with the Department of Children and Families to emphasize the need for attention to issues that are critical to the well-being of Connecticut’s poorest and most vulnerable children.
Challenged by developmental delays, neurological problems and constant anxiety, Elena grew up in foster homes and group homes all over Connecticut. When one living situation didn’t work out, the state moved her to another. Elena never had a family she could think of as her own.
When Elena turned eighteen, DCF transferred her care to Connecticut’s adult mental health system. Elena had no place to live, had not finished school, and had no practical skills that would help her find a job. She needed a support network to help her become self sufficient.
Elena is a bright young woman. She told us that she has just three wishes in life: to be a better person, to find out where her mother is and know she is okay, and to have a friend so she’d always have someone to talk to.
We worked with Elena to get support from DCF through their young adult program. We helped create a plan that addresses Elena’s needs: continuing education, job skills training, housing, mental health services and community support. As a result of our intervention, Elena finished high school and has a mentor who is carefully monitoring her progress. Living in a supervised apartment, Elena is enrolled in a culinary arts program for young adults with learning disabilities, working toward a job in the food service industry. She is a determined young woman and is becoming an independent, self-sufficient adult.
Here’s what she wrote in a recent email to the Center: “You gave me hope to believe that I can succeed no matter how difficult things are around me. Thank you for always being in my life. Your caring makes me stronger.” – Elena