Message from the Executive Director

April 05, 2017
Just when you think you’ve seen it all… 

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.

Just when I thought I'd seen it all, CLC now must confront nearly unprecedented threats to our young clients related to their immigration status. Until now, CLC clients born outside of the U.S. fell squarely and unquestionably under the protection of a classification called ‘Special Juvenile Immigrant Status’ (SJIS) which provides a path to legal residency  for children who have been removed from a parent's custody due to abuse or neglect. Disturbingly, in recent weeks there has been heightened scrutiny applied to SJIS applications, and threats that children who are relying on the state for protection may be subject to deportation.  

The threat of immigration sweeps – including on our own doorstep at our Los Angeles courthouse – has the potential to paralyze our work as relative caregivers, parents and children become afraid to come to the courthouse.  Without meaningful participation by families our dependency courts are designed to serve, our intervention and protective efforts will fall short.   

Our attorneys and investigators have quickly mobilized to reach out to other organizations for immigration trainings and assistance, volunteered to educate caregivers and clients regarding their rights under the law, and are quickly developing the expertise needed to protect our vulnerable clients.   As CLC steps up to meet this new and terrifying challenge, we have to dig a little deeper, search for more outside funding, advocate to ensure the Legislature and the Governor allocate adequate funding for this critical work, and most importantly, develop the resources needed to protect the 33,000 children in Los Angeles, Placer and Sacramento who are counting on us to stand up for them.

Just when I thought I’d seen it all, CLC must now protect our young clients from the fear of deportation, separation from their families and in many cases the only homeland they have ever known.  The system set up to keep children safe as they struggle to overcome the trauma that brought them before the court may well be powerless in the face of changes to federal immigration policy.  

After 25 years, I am often asked “what’s next for you?” I can confidently say that for me - and for CLC - what’s next is what's now.   The fate of thousands of children rests in our hands, and we will continue through each new obstacle to fight for them and their families.

Please visit today to help us protect these children every single day.