Law firms join Brooklyn Defender Services Pro Bono Unit to combat systemic inequities

June 28, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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Brooklyn Defender Services (BDS) Pro Bono Unit has joined forces with esteemed law firms Cooley LLP and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, in a concerted effort to support families ensnared in the city’s family regulation system – a system often misguidedly termed the “child welfare system.”

BDS has been instrumental in educating the volunteers from Cooley and Skadden about the detrimental impact of the system on families, parents, and children, and providing them with the necessary training to help their clients navigate through the system. Volunteers from Cooley assisted eight individuals to erase their names from the State Central Registry (SCR), whereas Skadden’s team supported four individuals to file motions to reverse their SCR findings.

This initiative is crucial in challenging the systemic disparities that predominantly impact low-income, Black, and Latino families in New York City, BDS said. A significant majority of SCR reports and identified instances of neglect do not involve abuse but rather, are symptomatic of poverty.

Lack of resources leads to a report or finding by the SCR, consequently hindering a parent’s ability to secure employment and further resources. In penalizing parents for poverty, the system unwittingly perpetuates the very conditions that sustain poverty in families.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

The Pro Bono Unit is also collaborating with the Law Firm Antiracism Alliance (LFAA), a network of private firms and lawyers devoted to achieving systemic change and racial equity within the legal system. Every summer, the LFAA hosts the “Summer Associate Project Exchange,” where summer associates from participating firms delve into research on issues, legislation, or cases that impact racial justice.

This year, the Pro Bono and Family Defense submitted a project examining the implications of the Adoption and Safe Families Act on the separation of Black and Brown families. The project has been accepted and will be researched by Linklaters LLP and Fenwick & West LLP.

Law firms interested in joining the cause and partnering with the Brooklyn Defenders Pro Bono Unit are invited to contact Molly Meltzer, Director of Pro Bono, at [email protected].


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