The Center’s Child Welfare Project provides quality legal representation of children about whom the Department of Children and Families has made claims of neglect or abuse. Our attorneys build a relationship with each child we represent to assure that the child’s voice is heard. We need to know what children need so we can help them feel secure. We closely monitor the child’s progress to ensure that necessary supports are in place, seeking court intervention when necessary. CCA 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, legislative initiatives, broad remedies to individual cases, and class action lawsuits.
CCA improves the quality of legal representation of children statewide through training, mentoring, and technical advice to attorneys who represent children in abuse and neglect cases. We work closely with interdisciplinary teams to provide legal expertise that contributes to positive outcomes.
Seven year old Leo struggles to cope.
Leo’s father died this year and Leo feels the trouble and sadness that surround his family. His mother is struggling.
Leo feels alone. His mother often cannot 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.
Center for Children’s Advocacy was appointed by the court to represent Leo when DCF received a report of neglect from Leo’s school. Recently, Leo was hospitalized for suicidal thoughts. He was about to be sent home without any support in place. How would Leo’s depression progress? Who would work 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 help Leo’s mother understand his needs?
CCA placed an emergency call to an outpatient mental health agency. We are fortunate to have relationships with agencies that provide services for very vulnerable children and were able to secure community-based therapy and intervention for the family. We called DCF to ask for their help so Leo’s mother could 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 his progress and make sure his mother gets him to appointments. Leo feels a little better about school, receiving academic support and talking with teachers and aides when he feels alone and overwhelmed.
The issues Leo faces are not unique. There is a shortage of outpatient mental health clinicians and it can be difficult to get therapeutic services. CCA is working with DCF to emphasize the need for attention to issues that are critical to the well-being of Connecticut’s poorest and most vulnerable children.
Elena’s parents left one at a time.
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 of 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 she has 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 have someone to talk to.
We worked with Elena to get support from DCF through their young adult program and 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 CCA intervention, Elena finished high school and has a mentor who is 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 determined to become an independent, self-sufficient adult.
Here’s what she wrote in an email to the Center: “You gave me hope to believe 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