Parent advocates have an essential impactful role in providing effective legal representation to protect parents’ rights, prevent family separation and support parents involved with the child welfare system. Here, Iesha Hammons, the Parent Ally at Legal Services of New Jersey, explains how she supports parents, why she does this work, the challenges of being a Parent Ally and how she takes care of herself in the role.
Parents’ legal rights in child welfare proceedings vary from state to state, and even in different cities. Work with your lawyer or a parent advocate to learn more about your rights. Rise’s interviews with lawyers offer guidance on your rights and responsibilities.
Parents struggling to provide for their children are often surprised to learn that gaps in basic care caused by poverty can result in allegations of neglect and child removal. Parents struggling with lack of adequate housing or poverty need access to resources and support, not an intrusive child welfare investigation, mandated services, or separation.
NYC parents at risk of child protective involvement or facing an investigation can now access legal representation through family defense organizations in their communities. In October, NYC’s City Council also introduced a bill t would ensure that all parents being investigated by ACS have information about how to access a lawyer and the opportunity to do so, although it hasn’t yet passed. Here, Emma Ketteringham, managing director of The Bronx Defenders’ Family Defense Project, explains the importance of early legal representation and systemic reform to reduce child welfare involvement. The Bronx Defenders has been providing early legal representation to parents facing ACS investigations for 15 years.
In the coming weeks, Rise will publish a new series about parents’ legal rights and representation, as well as related legislation. Our goal is to familiarize parents with legal processes that you can potentially seek out, such as early representation or a lawsuit against the child welfare system. The series will also highlight legal protections that you can advocate for through legislation.
Last November, The Huffington Post published an article that documented how some schools misuse reports to child protective services. These reports were done to pressure parents to send a child with behavior problems to a different school or to agree to a school’s recommendations for services.
Most school personnel don’t make reports maliciously, but the reporter, Caroline Preston, a senior editor at The Hechinger Report, said she thinks mandated reporting laws contribute to these kinds of calls because “there are pretty significant consequences to not reporting, and many fewer consequences to over-reporting.”
Here, Preston tells us about the parents she interviewed—and all the parents who reached out after her story was published to say they’d had similar experiences.