Equal Justice Works Strikes Again!

Meet Tori Porell–EBCLO’s newest Equal Justice Works Fellow sponsored by The Morrison Foerster Foundation!  What will she be up to at EBCLO?

Project Description:

Provide early intervention representation to Alameda County foster youth ages 0-5 in special education, school discipline, and developmental services, ensuring they start school with the support they need.

Need Addressed by Project:

Foster youth have some of the worst educational outcomes of any student population. More than 75% of foster youth perform below grade level, 83% are held back by the third grade, and 46% do not complete high school. Research shows that high-quality early educational interventions are associated with long-lasting benefits for all children, but many foster youth are not able to access preschool programs due to developmental, behavioral or mental health needs.  When these students are not successful in early childhood education, or are subject to discipline like suspension or expulsion, they are more likely to continue to get in trouble at school, and get lower test scores.  They even have a higher likelihood of criminal justice involvement, a phenomenon known as the “preschool to prison pipeline.”  By intervening earlier, stabilizing younger students in school, identifying potential developmental or special education needs, and connecting children to services, it is possible to prevent problems from worsening and improve academic outcomes for these youth.

Tori is the Right Person for this Project Because:

  • In law school, Tori completed internships with a number of youth-serving legal organizations in the Bay Area.
  • As the leader of the Foster Education Project at Berkeley Law, Tori trained other students to serve as educational rights holders for youth in foster care.
  • In college, she volunteered teaching an early literacy curriculum in Head Start centers in Boston.

Plans for First Six Months of Tori’s Fellowship:

  • Represent EBCLO clients in school discipline, special education or developmental services proceedings.
  • Develop a school readiness plan for EBCLO clients and internal referral protocol for children’s attorneys and education team.
  • Outreach to 10 local organizational partners to collect information about resources and gather an understanding of priority areas.
  • Begin advocacy with the Social Services Agency on screening for developmental and early education needs and the reporting of these results to the juvenile court.

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Caregiver Resiliency Conference in LA this month!

East Bay Children’s Law Offices is a proud partner of Parents & Caregivers for Wellness.  It’s a project of the Mental Health Services Oversight & Accountability Commission striving to ensure that families are able to obtain the mental health services they need.  All types of caregivers are welcome.

For more information click here: Caregiver Resiliencey Conference

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EBCLO Lauded in Recognition of Court Adoption & Permanency Month

The Judicial Council hosted former EBCLO client and his adoptive parents when they proclaimed that November is Court Adoption and Permanency Month.  The Rockafellows’ ten minute presentation celebrates their new family, the tireless advocacy of Drew’s EBCLO attorney, Rob Waring, and even suggests they want to do it again.

To read more and watch the presentation click here.

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Calling all caregivers–a survey for you!

East Bay Children’s Law Offices is part of a Mental Health Services Oversight & Accountability Committee grant working with parents & caregivers statewide to improve services and support families and strengthen the voices of parents and caregivers in the process.  Are you a caregiver?  Please fill out this survey:


If you are interested in getting more involved, please contact Jessie Conradi at Jessie.Conradi@ebclo.org.

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Sky Ranch Foundation Awards $15,000 to EBCLO

Many thanks to the Sky Ranch Foundation for their continued support of East Bay Children’s Law Offices.  We were honored to have Sky Ranch Foundation Board Vice President Mike Donohoe join as at the Juvenile Justice Center today.  Formed in 1961, and building on more than 56 years of tradition, Sky Ranch Foundation is committed to giving at-risk youth a second chance by identifying and offering grants to efficient and effective programs focused on improving the quality of help available to these youth.  We are grateful for their partnership.

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Meet Barrie Becker–EBCLO’s New Executive Director

EBCLO’s Board of Directors is pleased to announce that Barrie Becker begins as East Bay Children’s Law Offices’ new Executive Director today. She follows Interim Executive Director Susan Walsh, who ably led EBCLO during the search period after EBCLO’s founding Executive Director, Roger Chan, was appointed to the San Francisco Superior Court as Judge last July.  “The Board’s focus for hiring a new Executive Director was to locate a candidate with strong non-profit management experience and successful fundraising experience,” says Board President Kathy Siegel.  “Ms. Becker excels in both these areas.  Those who know her well describe Barrie as brilliant, talented, dynamic, incredibly innovative, hard-working and passionate about working to improve the lives of traditionally underserved children and youth.”

Becker, an attorney who herself helped launch a non-profit called Legal Community Against Violence in 1993, a San Francisco-based organization (now called the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence) and served as its Executive Director for 7 years says, “following Roger Chan, the founding ED, and then Susan Walsh, is a responsibility I do not take lightly.”  Becker says she feels supported in that “extremely talented founding senior leaders are staying on, along with a dedicated group of social workers, attorneys, operations professionals and board members . . . I am very fortunate to join this team and build upon such a strong foundation.”

Barrie sharpened her skills as a social entrepreneur by engaging lawyers in drafting and defending local firearm safety ordinances, and partnering with law enforcement leaders to spread training of police on implicit bias and fair and equitable decision-making. Prior to joining EBCLO, Becker served as California Director, for Council for a Strong America and its project Fight Crime: Invest in Kids.  One of her proudest accomplishments was helping to create and lead a coalition of advocates who drafted and successfully advocated for new state laws preventing suspensions and expulsions of California students, prioritizing instead strategies to address underlying needs while keeping youth in school. Barrie has guest-lectured on non-profit management and advocacy topics at U.C. Berkeley and University of San Francisco, and is a recipient of The Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation Non-Profit Leadership Award. Barrie earned her B.A. at Yale University, her J.D. at University of California Hastings College of the Law, and her L.L.M. in Taxation from Golden Gate University.

Becker notes that “innovative collaboration between child-serving agencies, community-based and governmental, leads to better outcomes for children and youth. Alameda County courts and agencies serving children, youth and families are often at the forefront of innovation, and I look forward to learning about how EBCLO can bring additional value to this rich mix of providers of critical supports and services for our most vulnerable young people.”  Her commitment to advocacy for disadvantaged children and youth stems in part from her experience as a parent of two children who are now heading to college. “My kids had strong support, especially my son, who is legally blind; his educators, special education teachers, medical team, and community support system helped ensure that his disability didn’t limit his self-confidence and dreams for the future.  Every child deserves such support, and EBCLO helps ensure that the children and youth of Alameda County get the love and support they need to thrive.”

Becker pledges to focus on continuing to grow, at EBCLO, a culture of trust and transparency, both internally and in partnership with external organizations.  “The most valuable asset an organization has is the commitment of a talented team, and my job will be to help unlock the full potential of this already thriving team of professionals.” Siegel adds, “Ms. Becker is ideally suited to work with our extraordinary staff of committed attorneys, social workers and case managers to continue to do the important work they do every day to meet the needs of the children, youth and families we represent in Juvenile and Probate Court.”

The Board thanks Jacqueline Janssen and her staff at Janssen Non-Profit Recruiting for leading us to Ms. Becker.

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The Therapist/Patient Privilege and Foster Youth

By: Emma Connolly, EBCLO Summer Intern 2017
In 2016, EBCLO attorney Rob Waring decided to file a writ of mandate in the California Court of Appeal on behalf of his client N.S. Because preparing all the necessary briefs involves many days of preparation on very short timeframes, he partnered with lawyers from Bay Area Legal Aid. This strategy paid off: our client’s writ was granted and the decision was published earlier this year. The decision, N.S. v. Superior Court, has important implications for many of EBCLO’s clients, who, like N.S. struggle with mental health issues.
A longtime EBCLO client, N.S. entered foster care at the age of 11 where she remained upon reaching adulthood. Thanks to the AB12 extended foster care program N.S. was able to continue receiving services after turning 18. N.S. was homeless and struggling with drug addiction, and desperately needed continued access to foster care services. Luckily, in 2015 the county recommended that N.S. be found eligible for extended services in light of her mental health issues.
Unfortunately, a year later the county sought to dismiss N.S.’s case from extended foster care.  At a trial the county called N.S. to testify, and she spoke to her understanding of her eligibility for extended foster care services: N.S. stated that she was told she was eligible in light of her mental health. The county later called N.S.’s therapist to testify as to N.S.’s mental health diagnoses. She refused, citing therapist-patient confidentiality.  The judge agreed with the county that N.S. put her mental health at issue and ordered the therapist to testify. EBCLO attorney Rob Waring, wary of what this would mean not only for N.S. but other EBCLO clients and their therapists, asked for a stay in order to file a writ seeking appellate review of the trial court’s order.
The Court of Appeal agreed with EBCLO and issued a stay. It ordered the trial court to vacate the order requiring N.S.’s therapist to answer the county’s questions. The appellate court found that N.S. had not independently placed her mental state at issue, because she discussed her mental health only in response to the county attorney’s questions. Further, N.S.’s testimony as to her eligibility was informed by the county’s own recommendation, made in 2015, that she be found eligible for services in light of her mental health needs. N.S. had not put her mental state at issue by testifying to the county’s prior recommendation.
This appellate ruling is not only important for N.S., but for all of EBCLO’s clients with mental health issues and those similarly situated throughout the state. It takes talented therapists to build trusting relationships with EBCLO’s clients, who often have traumatic backgrounds. These therapeutic relationships begin with a therapist’s promise that what our clients discuss in therapy will be kept private. With that promise therapists open up lines of communications that not only help our clients heal from their experiences, but also help them build trusting relationships with other adults. Thanks to this recent decision, our clients and their therapists know that EBCLO will go the extra mile to protect the private nature of the work they do together.
To read the entire opinion, see: N.S. v. Superior Court (2016) 7 Cal.App.5th 713
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Now Hiring: Probate Guardianship Attorney

We are now hiring an attorney into our Probate Counsel for Children program.  Looking for someone with at least three years experience representing children.  Please see attached job description.

Probate Attorney Job Description 6-5-17

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Now Hiring Dependency Attorney

EBCLO is hiring a new dependency attorney.  Applications due June 9, 2017 at 5 p.m.

EBCLO Dependency Attorney Job Announcement May 2017

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Sacramento Bee Op Ed: Dependency Funding Falls Between Cracks

“Last week, 50 local chief judges sent a letter to Brown and legislators seeking – actually begging – for this relatively tiny appropriation.”  Read the full op ed article about the need for adequate dependency funding here.



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