Our Stories

We're Helping Mothers with Their Lives, not Just the Law


Public Counsel's Christine Khalili-Borna with SHIELDS for Families case manager Daney Moore

Daney Moore knows how hard it is for mothers who struggle with substance abuse. As a case manager at SHIELDS for Families, a clinic in the South Los Angeles area, she sees how women’s legal issues can snowball into stress and torpedo their recovery.

“There’s just something about hearing the advice from a lawyer that makes them feel more comfortable,” she said. “They can clear up a ticket, talk to their DCFS social worker, and it helps them have more confidence.”

It’s the result of an innovative medical-legal partnership started in November 2010 between Public Counsel, SHIELDS for Families and St. John’s Well Child and Family Health Center.

Women of childbearing age in South Los Angeles and their children are at extremely high risk for health problems. The partnership provides free legal advice to women facing an uphill climb to sobriety and health. Many face court fines from traffic tickets or past criminal convictions that are still standing in the way of their future. 
 
Treating Women Like 'Real People'

“People come in with one legal issue on their mind, and before they leave we’ve identified three other legal issues and strategies to help them resolve these issues,” said Public Counsel Staff Attorney Christine Khalili-Borna.

One program participant, Gloria, had a 2-year-old child with special education needs. Knowing that this was an issue particularly relevant to the clients, Public Counsel’s Children’s Rights Project conducted a training for the SHIELDS Healthy Start clients and case managers.

Armed with the information, Gloria put a plan in place for her 2-year-old.  When she came into the legal clinic for a separate issue, she was able to report that she was well on her way to addressing the problem on her own – taking a step toward self-sufficiency for her family.

Daney and other case managers are enthusiastic about the MLP because “instead of having to refer clients out to other legal services, where there is often a lag time of 30 days before the client can be seen, now my clients can start addressing their legal issues right away.”

Daney says the partnership helps to give clients a sense of dignity “because it helps them to feel ‘I’m real, I’m here, I can talk to someone and be treated like a real person.’ ”

“Now the clients feel like they have hope.”

Read more at www.SHIELDSforfamilies.org