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Most EBCLO clients are only ever represented by one attorney. Sometimes, however, a youth might have the opportunity to work with our specialty attorneys regarding education or emancipation issues. And then there’s the youth whose lawyer goes on maternity leave, or even vacation, and the youth meets another fabulous EBCLO attorney. “Rose” was one such client. Not only did she meet several of us, but she endeared herself to every single one of us. Rose had some fits and starts with school, but last year she sought out someone to become her foster family. With that support, she re-committed herself to school and found herself succeeding. The judge noticed and asked her about school. She invited him to her graduation. Though he couldn’t make it, he suggested that maybe Rose’s lawyer would like to attend. Indeed, Lisa Friedman did want to attend.
Rose made such an impact on every EBCLO attorney she met that they all pitched in to celebrate her high school graduation. Two former EBCLO attorneys, Bianca Bedigian and Jenny Yu, even made arrangements to personally sign Rose’s graduation card and contribute to a gift for her. And in the audience at her graduation in the central valley . . . her foster family, her biological family and EBCLO attorneys Dominique Pinkney and Lisa Friedman.
Congratulations to Rose and three cheers for her EBCLO Dream Team as well.
What a spring it was for 19 year old EBCLO client Julius. First he was MetWest High School’s Prom King. Then he earned his high school diploma, graduating with a 3.7 GPA. Having entered the school with less than a 2.0, his grit and great sense of humor, not to mention the incredible support of his school and his foster family, propelled Julius past the finish line.
Julius didn’t spend his entire high school career in foster care. Rather, two years ago when his caregiver was evicted and no one in his family would take him in, Julius found his own family. He describes that his former pediatrician and her family “had a soft spot for me, I guess.” With the help of EBCLO, the relationship was made official, but the support of Julius’ new family came naturally. “If I needed something, I knew I could ask them. . . even if it was ridiculous,” says Julius.
Two years later this delightful young man has accomplished a lot for himself-in addition to being Prom King and a high school graduate, he has a supportive family, a new job and plans to attend community college in the fall to earn a trade like auto mechanics or carpentry. He also has a new name thanks to his EBCLO attorney, Liz Aleman. Julius had wanted his name changed for at least 8 years, and Ms. Aleman wasted no time. Julius was able to enter adulthood officially using the name he’d informally used for so long. What’s Julius’ advice for other kids in the system? “Persevere through any situation even if you think you won’t make it out. You have to keep going because you never know what’s on the other side. And accept yourself; learn to love yourself. You have to be comfortable with who you are and have confidence.”
You may not all be basketball fans, but EBCLO is directly across the highway from the home of the Golden State Warriors. Needless to say, we’re Dubs fans. If you’ve seen any of the playoff games, you probably noticed the sea of yellow shirts with their motto Strength in Numbers. What’s amazing about the Warriors is their deep bench of talent and their ability to work together even when their star player is sidelined. EBCLO has shown its strength in numbers this spring. After education attorney Jenny Yu transitioned to Liebert, Cassidy and Whitmore, staff attorney Peggy Stone subbed in as education attorney for the past month. Later in May, staff attorney Haley Fagan will start as our new education attorney this month. Likewise, our Community-based Advocacy for Resources and Education (CARE) AB12 attorney Liz Aleman will join the starting lineup of attorneys in the Oakland dependency courtroom. In another late season trade, dependency staff attorney Collin Baker will join the CARE team as the new Transition Age Youth Services Coordinator. Even Board President Kathy Siegel is getting in the game, subbing in for staff attorney Amanda Sherwood who will be going on maternity leave. In late breaking news, Dan Richardson, one of EBCLO’s original staff attorneys, will be joining the California Judicial Council. EBCLO is now recruiting two staff attorneys and will soon be announcing new social worker recruits. It’s almost like the NBA draft. I am so proud of EBCLO’s strength in numbers as we continue to build the best team around.
This Mother’s Day, LaDawn has four more children. Actually, she’s had them since 2012 when they came to her as foster children. They stayed a week and went home. And then a few weeks later the call came that they needed a foster home again. All four of them-ages 6, 7, 9 and 12. Just days before, LaDawn and her husband had been asked to foster different children. Something inside told her not to take them. And so it was that she was able to take back the four children who had stayed with her just weeks before. This time, they stayed for good. There were 18 months of reunification services; countless hearings; a couple mediations; and always love. Lots of love. And lots of patience. LaDawn helped the children navigate their way through new schools, multiple social workers, visitation with their family, and just growing up. And then, on January 21, 2016, LaDawn and her husband made their family official. Our four clients were adopted. A heartfelt congratulations and a very Happy Mother’s Day to LaDawn!
Every May, we take the opportunity to recognize the many people who help children and youth find permanent homes and connections during National Foster Care Month. This year’s theme, “Honoring, Uniting and Celebrating Families” emphasizes the importance of reunifying families. Family Reunification is the most desirable permanency goal for youth in foster care. In 2015, 281 children in Alameda County were safely and permanently reunified with their parents. One of them was a 9 year old girl who was removed from her father because of his substance abuse when she was 7. Her dad took on the very difficult work of the reunification process with steadfast commitment. He was an active participant in the Family Drug Court, building a network of support from the treatment providers, fellow parents in the program, and the court. While his daughter was in foster care with relatives, he fought his addiction, and he and his daughter were ultimately reunited. He continues on his road of recovery with his daughter, with the support of their relatives and team, and our client is thriving and thrilled to be reunited with her father. They are a family to be honored and celebrated this month.
While her story of reunification is inspiring, many more of our clients remain in foster care. This month we also pay tribute to all of the wonderful relatives, foster parents, teachers, social workers, CASAs, therapists, and others who work every day to help foster youth thrive whether or not they are able to be reunited with their parents. We shine a light on these heroes this month for the inspiration, dedication and love they provide to children every day.
What can you do to help?
If you have a few minutes . . .
- Donate to an organization that helps foster youth, like EBCLO!
- Set your Amazon Smiles charity to EBCLO.
- Like EBCLO on Facebook and read about foster care issues in your news feed. Or follow us on Twitter or Instagram!
- Watch videos of foster youth’s real life stories.
- Support Sleep Train’s pajama, school supplies and toy drives (EBCLO receives these items to distribute to clients).
If you have a few hours . . .
- Learn more about California Youth Connection and support foster youth related legislation by contacting your legislator.
- Attend Beyond the Table on May 21–a fundraiser to support Alameda County’s emancipated foster youth.
- Read a book about a topic related to foster care from this list.
If you have a few months or more . . .\
- Mentor an 18-21 year old foster youth through Beyond Emancipation.
- Become a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA).
- Become a foster parent through Seneca.
Huffington Post Gay Voices published a wonderful article about an amazing family who has adopted a couple of EBCLO children. Our many thanks to Lara & Emkay for being just the family that our clients needed. For the entire inspirational article, click here.
EBCLO managing attorney, Susan Walsh, received the Women Lawyers of Alameda County’s Velvet Hammer Award at the Annual Judges’ Dinner on October 28, 2015 at Scott’s Seafood Restaurant in Oakland, California. A legendary former Public Defender, Susan now heads the Juvenile Defender Office at EBCLO where she continues to inspire and mentor young attorneys and provide an unfailing holistic defense to her clients. Susan gave an inspiring speech to the audience of judges, attorneys and keynote speaker Karen L. Dunn. She is pictured above surrounded by her EBCLO colleagues at the event.
The Charles Houston Bar Association, a non-profit organization, founded in 1955 representing the interests of African American judges, attorneys, law students, and the community throughout Northern California, has awarded East Bay Children’s Law Offices its Honorable Justice Clinton W. White Advocacy Award. EBCLO received the award at this year’s Annual Gala because of its dedication to the goals of equity and dedication to improving the lives of families and children. The Annual Gala took place on December 4, 2015 in Berkeley, California.
On November 4, 2014, EBCLO hosted the first all county conference about higher education for foster youth and debuted the Map to Higher Education. At EBCLO, we are always looking for new ways to serve our clients, and this year, higher education for our non-minor dependents became one of our focuses. In January, EBCLO received a grant from the Stuart Foundation to improve our AB12 advocacy for higher education needs. Liz Aleman, our AB12 attorney, hit the ground running by researching everything a foster youth would need to know to navigate the confusing road to and through college. She eventually wrote the content and developed the concept for what is now called, “The Map to Higher Education.” A map it truly is—folded like an accordion, just like a traditional paper map. In bright colors and clear language, the map contains comprehensive information on matriculation, financial aid, on campus support, and off campus support, all in one place! It also has a timeline, contact information for the local colleges’ financial aid and EOP/EOPS offices, and a work space for the youth to make a record of who in their life is on their college support team. Check out the PDF on our website, and email Liz to inquire about receiving a copy or copies for yourself or your organization. Liz.firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Liz’s process of understanding higher education in the world of child welfare, she decided Alameda County needed to have a convening to strengthen the network of professionals who share the same goal—helping foster and probation youth get to and through college. Liz put together a committee of local stakeholders who together planned a first-of-its-kind conference on November 4th. It was called, “Fostering Pathways to College: The Roadmap to and through Higher Education for Alameda County’s Foster Youth,” and took place at the California Endowment building in Downtown Oakland. Over 150 local advocates, college personnel, and service providers gathered to learn more about the unique road foster youth travel before and during college. The conference was well planned and well executed, providing training to child welfare workers and college personnel on intricate and important topics. Liz debuted the Map to Higher Education, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. We have no doubt that it will become a best practice tool in our county and contribute to more foster youth attaining a higher education. EBCLO couldn’t be more proud of Liz, for her accomplishment of creating the Map, and planning a fabulous conference, all while maintaining a caseload of non-minor dependent clients!
EBCLO is grateful for the other sponsors of the conference, California College Pathways, The John Burton Foundation, and Beyond Emancipation. It wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of those from Alameda County Foster Youth Alliance, Beyond Emancipation, Alameda County Office of Education, California College Pathways, and Alameda County Department of Children and Family Services.
EBCLO awarded its first ever EBCLO Ebbys at its Fifth Anniversary Party on October 16, 2014. All of the awardees played, and continue to play, an important role in AB12’s success in Alameda County. Allowing children to stay in foster care until age 21 was a groundbreaking and monumental change to the way California treated its transition age youth, and it took a village to make it so successful in Alameda County. Among the honorees was retired Senator John Burton whose foundation, John Burton Foundation for Children Without Homes, was instrumental in developing and passing the groundbreaking legislation. Then Bay Area Legal Aid’s Brian Blalock helped everyone on the ground understand the voluminous new law. The Morrison & Foerster Foundation sponsored Equal Justice Works Fellow Liz Aleman so that she could help EBCLO hit the ground running with this new population of clients. Faith Battles embraced the spirit and magnitude of the law on behalf of Alameda County Social Services, and Ann Whiting works with the kids the law is designed to benefit every single day, helping them make smoother and more successful transitions to adulthood.
Meet them all . . .
John Burton has been one of the most effective leaders in the State of California over the last 40 years. He began his career as a deputy attorney general before his election to the State Assembly in 1964. He was then elected to Congress in 1974 and returned to private life in 1983. In 1988, Burton returned to the State Assembly and then moved on to the State Senate in 1996, becoming President Pro Tempore in 1998 until his retirement in 2004.
The cumulative impact of his leadership is significant. While in the State Legislature, Burton focused on a range of issues including access to care, mental health and the prevention of violence and substance abuse. Examples of his leadership include championing legislation that provides health insurance coverage for California’s workers, improved care for the mentally ill homeless and strengthening the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) Supplemental Nutrition Program. Burton was a formidable force against budget cuts to health and welfare programs for the 750,000 blind, aged and disabled Californians who use Medi-Cal. A longtime supporter of violence prevention, Sen. Burton’s advocacy ensured that juvenile crime prevention programs received historic levels of support.
During his 40 years of public service, including terms in the U.S. Congress, the California State Assembly, and the California State Senate, Burton was a champion of California’s most underserved populations. Although he retired as President Pro Tempore of the Senate in 2004, Burton’s commitment to Californians continues as the volunteer chair of the John Burton Foundation for Children Without Homes. Through this project, Burton is seeking to address broad changes in the child welfare system relating to foster care. Senator Burton and The John Burton Foundation were leaders in the passage and implementation of California’s landmark AB 12 extended foster care program which allows youth to remain in foster care until age 21.
The Morrison & Foerster Foundation is one of the oldest law firm-affiliated charitable foundations in the United States. Since its formation in 1986, the Foundation has supported charitable organizations in the communities in which the people of Morrison & Foerster live and work.
The Foundation is funded chiefly by Morrison & Foerster partners, with additional support from the firm’s professional staff and other individuals. In 2013, their annual charitable contributions totaled $4 million. Over the years, they have donated more than $40 million, primarily to local nonprofit organizations.
A lasting commitment to purposeful giving is one of the hallmarks of Morrison & Foerster. The Foundation’s board of directors is especially grateful to the firm’s partners and employees for their years of support. Together, they are committed to making a real difference, particularly for their communities’ disadvantaged children and low-income individuals seeking meaningful access to justice.
Faith Margaret Battles is the oldest of three and is a native of South Central, Los Angeles. Faith’s family was among the first wave of families devastated by the influx of “crack” cocaine in the 1980’s. As a result of their mother’s addiction, Faith and her sisters were placed in foster care in 1984. All three transitioned out of foster care at 18 years old, and Faith’s experiences with the foster care system created a real desire to work within the public child welfare system on behalf of other families that would experience the trauma of child abuse and neglect.
Faith earned her BA in Law & Society in 1993 from UC Santa Barbara, and her MSW in 2000 from San Francisco State University. Her work experiences includes working with developmentally disabled youth in a residential treatment setting as well as case managing children and youth in foster care. She began working for Alameda County Department of Children & Family Services as a Child Welfare Worker, and was then promoted to supervisor and was responsible for recruiting and training community partners to be foster/adoptive parents. Faith later promoted to Program Manager and is currently a Division Director over transition, eligibility and placement services for the department. In Faith’s current position she serves as the department’s liaison for AB12.
It is Faith’s intention to provide a transparent and conscious perspective to professionals and caregivers around working with children, youth and young adults that experience the trauma of child abuse and neglect. It is her hope others are encouraged by her approach to the work and consistently find new and creative ways to “do no harm” to families that touch the public child welfare system during what is an incredibly difficult time in their lives.
Ann Whiting has worked with at-risk teens and foster youth for over 30 years. Her experience includes being a counselor specializing in suicidal and LGBTQ teens; a court-ordered family therapist for youth involved in the juvenile justice system; and a social worker, in schools, and with foster/adoption family agencies. Ann became known to Alameda County through her work as a family finder through Family Builders by Adoption, a local foster family agency. She was subsequently hired as a Child Welfare Worker for the Alameda County Department of Children and Family Services in 2011. She currently works with older foster youth supported by AB12 legislation as they transition out of the foster care system. Her passion for the work extends to her life; she has adopted an older foster youth herself. Her philosophy is to hold a strong vision with youth to help them stay positive and work toward their dreams, academically, artistically or however they would define a happy and successful life. She can often be found recruiting foster/adoptive parents at local events. Ann has a BA from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and an MA in Clinical Psychology with an emphasis in marriage, family and child therapy from Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, California.
Brian Blalock is a staff attorney at Bay Area Legal Aid, where he founded and currently directs the Youth Justice Project (YJP), providing direct representation and systemic advocacy on issues related to youth who are under twenty-five years old. Brian’s work at YJP aims to create a civil legal safety net for youth in the bay area through a strong presence in the community and collaboration with system partners with a focus on reaching youth who are delinquency or dependency involved and/or who have disabilities. YJP’s current projects include working with homeless young adults in accessing appropriate benefits, health, and emergency supports and looking at systemic funding issues that create barriers to entitled services. Brian was instrumental in the implementation of AB12 in Alameda County through countless trainings for judges, lawyers, social workers and probation officers. He also led an effort to establish equitable foster care funding for relative caregivers in California. Brian was formerly a public school teacher in the south Bronx. He has graduate degrees from Columbia and Harvard and a law degree from Stanford Law School.