Children's Rights

In the Children's Rights Project, we use a multi-disciplinary approach to legal advocacy with the trauma-informed and resiliency-focused tools of our social workers supporting the work of our legal advocates to remove legal barriers for children, youth, families, and communities of color most impacted by systemic racism and economic injustice. 

Adoptions

The Adoptions project provides representation to parents adopting children out of the foster care system.  The project, with the help of pro bono volunteers, completes adoptions for hundreds of children annually, ensuring the children enjoy a lasting family relationship.  Since the start of the project, staff and pro bono attorneys have secured more than 9,500 adoptions for children in foster care. In addition to completing the adoptions, staff and volunteers conduct a comprehensive assessment and advocate to meet any unmet needs for benefits, Regional Center services, special education, health care, mental health, and other services and supports to which the children are entitled. 

Advocacy for children with developmental disabilities

Public Counsel advocates on behalf of children who have developmental disabilities. Staff and pro bono volunteers assist adoptive families in navigating the systems of care to ensure that these particularly vulnerable children receive the specialized services and supports to which they are entitled. Public Counsel also engages in legislative and policy work to ensure that access to services and benefits are made easier and more equitable for disabled children involved in the dependency and juvenile justice systems.

Guardianship

Skadden, Arps Guardianship Clinic

The Guardianship team runs a pro per guardianship clinic at the Stanley Mosk courthouse in downtown Los Angeles, helping unrepresented litigants prepare pleadings in probate guardianship matters. Our clinic is currently operating remotely - please call (213) 385-2977, ext. 502 for assistance. Our clinic is the primary probate self-help resource for pro per litigants in Los Angeles County, completing over 3,000 services a year. The clinic also conducts screening for other legal needs related to guardianships, and takes on appropriate cases for legal representation and social work support.

Peace of Mind Program

For children of terminally ill parents, the Peace of Mind program provides legal assistance and intensive social work support to establish a joint guardianship between the parent and another adult.  Public Counsel attorneys support pro bono partners to represent the parent or co-guardian in probate court, and Public Counsel social workers support families during the final stages of a parent’s illness, helping to establish a vital supportive link between the terminally ill parent and the future caregiver, and help families access community services, counseling, and benefits. 

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

Public Counsel staff supports pro bono attorneys providing representation in probate court and in the subsequent immigration filings to vulnerable children who have been abused, neglected, or abandoned by their parents, to help these children obtain Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (“SIJS”) and Lawful Permanent Residence. Staff also provide support to children and youth as they navigate the guardianship and SIJS processes by ensuring they have services in place to be successful at home and in their communities. 

Education Advocacy

Direct Service

The Education-Direct Service team provides education advocacy for children and families, with a special focus on youth in foster care and the delinquency system and families in East and South Los Angeles, on a broad range of issues including the denial of appropriate and equitable school conditions and services; the failure to properly identify students with learning disabilities or to provide a free and appropriate public education under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act; the application of inappropriate and disproportionate discipline; discrimination against students on account of disability, race, sexual orientation, homelessness or any other protected status; and retaliation against students for asserting their rights.  The Education Advocacy project staff and pro bono attorneys use a range of strategies, including litigation and administrative actions, policy advocacy, community education, and coalition building.  The team also conducts trainings for parents and providers on education rights.

Statewide Education Policy

The Statewide Education Policy team draws from our direct service work to create community partnerships and legislative and policy change to create a model for education reform across California.  Our current goals include to: 1) reduce unnecessary and disproportionate school removals in school districts throughout the state, and bring about key policy changes at the School Board level to eliminate school pushout; 2) improve school climate and family and community engagement and increase the emphasis on prevention, community- and school-based interventions, and recovery; and 3) reduce school-based arrests and citations and replace police tactics that further the school-to-prison pipeline with supports for students and families.

Transition Age Youth (TAY) Project

The Transition Age Youth (TAY) team provides holistic legal and social work services to young people ages 14-24, primarily Black and Latinx, who are preparing to exit or who have exited the foster care or juvenile delinquency systems. We work to ensure access to housing, education, benefits, health care, mental health services, and fundamental rights without discrimination for system-involved young people with the goal supporting clients to successfully transition to adulthood and to address the collateral consequences of system-involvement. Our direct representation guides our policy work at a local and statewide level to challenge and change systems that perpetuate intergenerational system-involvement.  TAY also conducts outreach and training to transition-age youth and community-based organizations on legal issues impacting these youth.