Family Defense Teams

Attorneys, Social Workers, and Parent Advocates

Defending and Supporting Families

CFR was founded to provide family defense—that is, to protect families whose children were at risk of foster care and improve outcomes for both children and their parents. We began this work in 2002 with a unique holistic model that is now being replicated nationally and that has been proven to improve child safety and save the government millions in reduced foster care costs. CFR’s core work is anti-racist: Black and Brown families are represented disproportionately in child welfare investigations and in foster care. Despite New York City being 42% white, 92% of our clients are people of color.

When ACS (ACS is the New York City Administration for Children’s Services) summons parents to Family Court, alleging that they have put their children at risk, they meet a team from CFR. At no cost, we assign every parent an interdisciplinary family defense team with an attorney, a social worker, and a parent advocate. CFR’s parent advocates are trained professionals who have had direct experience being investigated for maltreatment, being prosecuted in family court, losing their children to foster care, and successfully reunifying their families. CFR was the first legal agency in the nation to include system-impacted parents into its legal teams.

Poor families of color are at greater risk of losing their children to foster care because they often confront multiple challenges that put their families at risk. These challenges include homelessness or unstable housing, inadequate educational support, interruptions in public benefits or other financial insecurity, immigration problems and physical and mental health issues. And all these challenges are exacerbated by the racial divide that exists in the first instance in economic and educational opportunities, and in health care and housing.

Our attorneys represent parents in family court to ensure that the city meets its legal obligations to families. Social work staff connects parents with needed services, such as substance use treatment, counseling, or day care. Parent advocates use their unique position as peers who overcame similar challenges to mentor our clients and provide emotional support. If parents need assistance in venues beyond family court, as a result of challenges with immigration, housing, public benefits, or a criminal prosecution, the family defense team refers clients to attorneys and social workers in our Home for Good practice areas.

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