February 10, 2017 marked my twenty-fifth anniversary at CLC. During my years growing with this incredible organization, there were many times when I thought that I could not imagine any greater hurdle to our clients than the one we had just somehow managed to conquer.
When I first joined CLC in its second year of existence, there were twice as many children in foster care as there are today; there were no protections for teen mothers in foster care who were often pressured into giving up custody of their newborn babies in the hospital without legal representation; foster children who got into trouble with the police were usually sent straight to Juvenile Hall; placement in long-term foster care with no meaningful plan for permanence was a common occurrence; and domestic child trafficking was not a concept we even considered. After 25 years of fighting to change these realities and improve so many other issues faced by foster youth, I am buoyed by the progress we have made on so many fronts. That things would suddenly become even harder for the abused and neglected children we serve is nonsensical.
On March 21, 2016, CLC client Alexandria P., known as “Lexi,” was unwillingly propelled into the national spotlight by way of a media (and social media) frenzy brought about by her foster parents when a California appellate court ordered her placed with her family in Utah. Maybe you saw the tabloid-style headlines screaming something like, "Choctaw Girl Ripped from the Only Family She's Ever Known,” or caught sight of a news clip featuring tearful vigils outside the foster parents' home. California law protects the privacy of children in foster care, and as Lexi’s case wound its way through the appellate courts, CLC also fiercely guarded our client’s privacy and right to confidentiality.
CLC’s Sacramento office has recently undergone transformative and exciting changes. As CLC has continued to make increased Dependency Counsel funding throughout the state a top priority in tandem with our ongoing legislative efforts to improve outcomes for foster youth, we are thrilled to announce that John Skoglund has joined our Policy team.
CLC is very grateful to the community of funders who are committed to furthering CLC’s mission and to helping the thousands of foster youth we represent to lead safe, healthy and productive lives. The grants we receive help us to fund several areas of our work, including specialized advocacy for crossover youth (foster youth on probation) and commercially sexually exploited youth; our successful Peer Advocate program; training youth regarding reproductive rights and sexual health; the successful implementation of Continuum of Care Reform; and CLC’s efforts to improve and centralize our Los Angeles headquarters.
CLC has set an ambitious legislative agenda for 2017! We are sponsoring 6 bills to improve outcomes for youth in foster care, in addition to our advocacy with the Legislature and the Governor to secure increased funding for dependency counsel in the coming state budget.
CLC Secretary Gina Payne is affectionately known as the “heart of CLC3,” as her warmth and exuberance radiates throughout the office on a daily basis. Recently recognized as a CLC ‘Employee of the Quarter’, Gina goes above and beyond to support CLC’s attorneys, assisting them in highly detailed and personalized ways. This includes making individualized file folders and systems that enhance the attorneys’ work style and complement their personal preferences. Her work supporting CLC attorneys has been called ‘impeccable’ and is always done quickly and efficiently.
The holidays can be very difficult for our youth in out-of- home care, and especially so for foster youth struggling to complete their terms of probation and exit the juvenile justice system. Youth running away from their placements happens all too frequently during the holidays; for foster youth on probation, this risks violating probation and being sent to Juvenile Hall. Recognizing this, CLC’s CARE staff (CARE is a program dedicated to serving the crossover population and helping foster youth successfully complete probation) brainstormed ideas to help prevent these incidents, and hosted a ‘family-style’ Thanksgiving potluck at the CLC offices for youth who could not be with family this year.