Legal Services for Children

Organization: Legal Services for Children
Project: Development of ARC (Advocacy, Relationship, Coordination)
Location: San Francisco, California
Target Group: Child Victims of Abuse and Exploitation

In order to stabilize the lives of children and youth and help them realize their full potential, Legal Services for Children (LSC) provides free legal and social services to children and youth in need. LSC’s in-house attorneys and social workers, as well as the organization’s pro bono attorneys, provide every client with comprehensive, holistic services to enable the children to achieve safety and stability, and avoid unnecessary placement in the foster care and juvenile justice systems. Each year, LSC serves over 2,500 children and provides comprehensive representation to approximately 600 youth.

Childhood supports the development of ARC (Advocacy, Relationship, Coordination) to enhance agency response to child trauma and part of establishing services at the Center for Youth Wellness.

LSFC has been working with unaccompanied immigrant children since 2001. A majority of these children are victims of abuse, abandonment, and neglect. Many of these youth are fleeing gang violence, drug wars, rape, and incest. A number of these children qualify for legal status through Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), U-Visas, T-Visas and asylum. These children are apprehended by Immigration and Customs Services (ICE) and released from ORR (Office of Refugee Resettlement) custody to family/sponsors at a rapid pace.

To meet the increasing demand of this highly vulnerable population, LSFC’s immigration practice has steadily grown over the years. Last year, as the unprecedented surge in unaccompanied children from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico made national headlines, LSFC made the decision to increase its program staff to serve even greater numbers of youth. They moved forward with this increased expansion of services with the knowledge that they would face an extraordinarily difficult time sustaining casework that may last up to 2 years. The additional funding from the external donors and the state that was made available last year and that LSFC applied for and received, was for just one year. Presently, in addition to serving greater numbers of unaccompanied children, LSFC plans to deepen their services to include a peer support group for newly arrived immigrants and pilot on-site mental health services. LSFC believes that the need for legal services—which is immediate and unavoidable for the unaccompanied children who have recently arrived—opens a window of time in which young people are engaged with the organization. This is an optimal time to ensure that the wrap-around services that victims of trauma need are provided.

Childhood was one of the first funders to LSFC’s Immigration Project in the early 2000’s allowing them to position as a thought leader in the space.

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