BFDP represents New Yorkers in the greatest need. Most of our clients face charges that are directly related to their poverty or exacerbated by their poverty.
Many of our clients struggle with homelessness, mental illness, physical disabilities, domestic violence, substance abuse, and/or histories of sexual or physical abuse. Our clients need a variety of ongoing support services to help them keep their families safe and stable. Only a very small percentage of BFDP’s cases involve abuse.
The heart of our work is the relationships we create with our clients over time and the support we provide them. The relationship our clients develop with their advocates can be transformative - they come to us in a moment of crisis and, in partnership with us, turn one of the most difficult times in their lives into an opportunity for positive growth for them as individuals and for their families.
Ms. Q is a 20 year old single mother with two children: a very active two year old and a four year old who has a severe kidney disorder. Her four year old's diet and weight need to be strictly monitored to prevent painful and dangerous swelling of his body. ACS filed a medical neglect case against Ms. Q because she missed several of her son’s weekly medical appointments. When the case was filed, Ms. Q received $402 a month from public assistance, had no daycare for either of her children, and received no home-based services. While Ms. Q kept meticulous track of her son’s health and tended to his needs as best she could, she received no medical, nursing or other services. Ms. Q did not take her son to the hospital on several occasions because carrying her son through the subway in his swollen condition caused him severe pain. No one had offered her assistance in obtaining ambulette services. The four year old was removed from his mother’s care and BFDP negotiated his temporary parole to his maternal grandmother and eventually his return to his mother’s care. We successfully argued for a court order that ACS provide a daycare voucher and a homemaker and assist Ms. Q in obtaining a waiver from her welfare work requirements. ACS was also ordered to ensure that her son receives ambulette services for hospital visits as well as a visiting nurse to help Ms. Q to meet her child’s special medical needs.
Mr. P is the single father of two boys. His youngest son, Simon, has Type 1 diabetes and has been hospitalized several times. ACS removed Simon and placed him in foster care, alleging that Mr. P could not control his son’s diabetes. Mr. P had repeatedly asked Simon’s doctors and ACS for additional training to no avail. BFDP requested a hearing to have Simon returned to Mr. P, which took place over several weeks; the court heard testimony from Simon’s doctors, the ACS caseworkers, and Mr. P. Meanwhile, BFDP’ssocial work team got Mr. P training and support services so he could safely care for his son. A BFDP social worker accompanied him to expanded hospital-based training sessions and assisted him in adapting the skills he gained to his family’s particular needs. Mr. P won the hearing and Simon was returned to his care.
Julia is a single young mother who is legally blind. Her 3-year old son Peter was removed from her last summer when she hit him while disciplining him. Peter was placed with his grandmother and Julia was only allowed to have supervised visits. Julia immediately engaged in weekly counseling, parenting skills classes, and worked on college preparation with the Council for the Blind. BFDP worked with Julia’s service providers and provided glowing reports for each court date. Julia visited with her son every day, but ACS would not allow her to have unsupervised visits. BFDP negotiated with ACS to obtain first unsupervised day visits and then overnight visits. Eventually, BFDP negotiated reunification and Julia and Peter continue to flourish. Julia is now enrolled in college and plans to become a translator and court interpreter.
BFDP represented Kate, a young mother in foster care who ran away with her daughter to live with her daughter’s paternal grandparents. Kate’s foster care agency did not approve of this home and was concerned that Kate did not have enough provisions for her daughter. BFDP worked with Kate to return to foster care with her child. Kate and her daughter now live in a foster home where she is comfortable and supported. Kate’s foster mother is also a daycare provider and is able to assist her with learning healthy parenting skills in the home. Kate and her daughter continue to thrive in their new home.
Sarah was charged with neglect when ACS said that her older child sexually abused her younger children and Sarah failed to take appropriate action. All of the children were removed from Sarah’s care. BFDP requested a hearing to have the younger children returned. The children were under the care of a psychiatrist who testified at the hearing that the children were suffering great harm from being removed from their mother’s care. Sarah won the hearing and her children were returned home, where they remain with extensive services in place.
Amanda was a victim of domestic violence. ACS removed her four-year old son from her, claiming that she refused services to assist her in keeping her family safe. Amanda does not speak English but ACS made no attempt to communicate with her in Spanish and she did not understand the services being offered to her. She also did not understand the document she was asked to sign, consenting to her son’s placement in foster care. BFDP assigned a Spanish-speaking attorney to her, helped Amanda obtain placement in a confidential domestic violence shelter, and successfully negotiated a return of the child to her at the shelter where they could live together safely and receive services in Spanish.
Ms. H has five children. Her daughter Jane was placed in foster care after Ms. H was charged with excessive corporal punishment of her children. Ms. H’s relationship with Jane was rocky because Ms. H was having a difficult time accepting Jane’s sexual orientation and Jane was having a difficult time respecting Ms. H’s rules and values. BFDP helped Ms. H find individual counseling and group meetings for parents of LGBTQ youth. A month after her removal, Ms. H and Jane were ready for Jane to come home. ACS did not return Jane to her home, but instead transferred her from one psychiatric hospital to another. BFDP requested a hearing to have Jane returned to her mother’s care. Jane now lives with her family again and attends therapy sessions with her mother.
Mr. W’s newborn son Sean was diagnosed with failure to thrive. ACS removed him claiming that his parents had not been feeding him enough formula. Sean’s doctors did not believe that his parents had neglected him. Mr. W requested a hearing to have Sean returned and a BFDP social worker attended a service conference to determine what services were needed for Sean to return home. On the date of the hearing, Sean came home. He has been thriving ever since.