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support center for child advocates

Welcome New Board Members!

Support Center for Child Advocates Announces New Board Slate
July 29, 2016 Philadelphia, PA – Support Center for Child Advocates (Child Advocates) announces the addition of three new Board Members: David Dzara, Sarah Keating, and Jeffrey Sotland. They will join the other 27 members of the Board as passionate and ambitious advocates of the nation’s oldest and largest pro bono legal and social services agency serving abused and neglected children.

Members of Child Advocate’s Board of Directors are charged with bringing their unique experiences and perspectives to enhance the agency’s mission and provide diligent fiscal and programmatic oversight to promote the agency’s work in the community.

“We are delighted to welcome these illustrious new members and young lawyers to our Board of Directors,” said Frank P. Cervone, Executive Director. “Every Board Member plays a crucial role in the oversight of our agency and our efforts as we move to the future. I am confident that these new members add a rich diversity of background, talent, and experience to our Board.”

New Board Members:

David Dzara is an experienced business litigator and trial attorney with Steve Harvey Law, LLC. A graduate of Temple Law School, David previously served as a law clerk for the Superior Court in Delaware and for the Honorable Ronald D. Castille of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. David worked at Pepper Hamilton LLP for seven years where he was co-chair of the firm’s Child Advocacy Practice Group before joining his current firm. David has been a Volunteer Attorney with Child Advocates for the past nine years and also serves as a Director for the Jordan Estate Homeowner’s Board.
Sarah Keating is an environmental lawyer and the CEO of Keating Environmental Management, Inc., a female-owned consulting firm that has been in business for 25 years. A graduate of George Washington University National Law Center, Sarah worked for Morgan, Lewis, and Bockius and then for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for more than 15 years. She also served as a Special Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Sarah is a member of the Forum of Executive Women, is the founder of Women Empowering Women, and is a member of the Society of Women Environment Professionals.
 
Jeffrey Sotland is a Partner with Mintzer Sarowitz, Zeris Ledva, and Meyers LLP where he oversees the firm’s national subrogation practice. A graduate of Dickinson School of Law of the Pennsylvania State University, Jeffrey has over two decades of experience in civil litigation focusing on property damage and loss cases. He is the past Commissioner of the City of Brotherly Love Softball League, served as co-chair of the William Way LGBT Community Center, and is the current president of Out Philadelphia Athletic League.

About The Support Center for Child Advocates
The Support Center for Child Advocates provides legal assistance and social service advocacy for abused and neglected children in Philadelphia County. Child Advocates is one of the most successful volunteer models serving children in the country. Since its founding in 1977, Child Advocates has trained more than 8,000 attorneys who contribute pro bono services valued at more than $5.1 million annually

We Have Moved In More Ways Than One!

In 2001, we purchased our building at 1900 Cherry Street. Many will recall this ambitious endeavor, supported by so many Capital Campaign donors, to create permanency for the agency: a place we could call our own, where we could grow and be seen. At the time, our 23-person staff included 6 lawyers and 9 social workers, and with the help of 300 volunteer attorneys, we were able to provide legal and social services to 700 abused and neglected children.
How times have changed! Our Child Advocates staff now includes 8 attorneys, 17 social workers and an administrative staff of 13 – plus interns! In each of the last two years we represented over 1,000 child clients, and more come almost every day. More than 320 volunteer attorneys were teamed with staff to cover 2,500 court hearings. Last year, more than 4,600 lay and professional caregivers of children attended training programs produced by our Center for Excellence in Advocacy. To continue providing the level of legal and social services that the community expects from us, it is time to find a larger home.
On Monday, we continue our journey of service. Our important work will now be carried out in a new office location – 1617 JFK Boulevard, Suite 1200 – Philadelphians know it as The Suburban Station Building at One Penn Center. This larger space will allow our services and staff to grow even more as we continue to provide top-tier pro bono services to children and youth in Philadelphia, and training programs everywhere. We also have a new website address: SCCAlaw.org.
Thank you to everyone who has supported our work, our staff and most importantly, our child clients. We look forward to seeing you at our new home!

What’s the right amount of time for a birth mother to change her mind about putting her baby up for adoption?

The adoption process in Pennsylvania is being scrutinized for potential updates, but one bill that could halve the time birth mothers have to decide against adoption has been particularly controversial.

By Elizabeth Lepro and Lauren Rosenblatt | PublicSource | July 7, 2016

When Priscilla Sharp gave birth to her daughter, she was startled when the baby was put in her arms.

Moments after the nurse handed her the child by accident, a nun came by to carry the baby girl away.

“I had no choice. I had no home, I had no job, I had no money.”

Sharp, now a 71-year-old blogger living in State College, had chosen to put her baby up for adoption in 1964 and was not permitted to see the child. Sharp said she’s held on to the pain of that moment for 50 years.

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Former City Solicitor Shelley R. Smith joins Support Center for Child Advocates Board of Directors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                     Contact: Moira Mulroney

Director of Development & Communications

mmulroney@sccalaw.org or 267-546-9208

FORMER CITY SOLICITOR SHELLEY R. SMITH JOINS SUPPORT CENTER FOR CHILD ADVOCATES BOARD OF DIRECTORS

July 1, 2016 Philadelphia, PA – Support Center for Child Advocates (Child Advocates) announces the addition of Shelley R. Smith to its Board of Directors. Ms. Smith joins the other members of the Board as a passionate and ambitious advocate of the nation’s oldest and largest pro bono legal and social services agency serving abused and neglected children.

Members of Child Advocate’s Board of Directors are charged with bringing their unique experiences and perspectives to enhance the agency’s mission and provide diligent fiscal and programmatic oversight to promote the agency’s work in the community.

“We are delighted to welcome Shelley to our Board of Directors,” said Frank Cervone, Executive Director. “Every Board Member plays a crucial role in the oversight of our agency and our efforts as we move to the future. I am confident that she will add to the rich diversity of background, talent, and experience of our Board.”

Ms. Smith is a Partner in the Philadelphia office of Archer Law where she counsels clients in commercial litigation and labor and employment matters. Ms. Smith joined the firm following a distinguished career in public service for the City of Philadelphia, most recently as the longest serving City Solicitor, representing the Mayor, City Council, all City elected officials, all City employees, Agencies, Boards, and Commissions.

Ms. Smith began her career with the City Law Department as a trial attorney in the Civil Rights Unit representing the City in constitutional tort cases alleging, primarily, of violations of the 1st and 4th amendments to the United States Constitution. As a trial attorney, she also served as in-house legal counsel for former Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Neal. Following her position in the Civil Rights Unit, Ms. Smith headed up the Law Department’s Affirmative Litigation Unit, which explored opportunities to pursue recovery on behalf of the City and initiated proceedings where appropriate and viable. She also led the City’s Labor & Employment Unit, which included labor grievances and employment discrimination cases initiated in state and federal courts and administrative agencies. Prior to her role as City Solicitor, Ms. Smith served as Chair of the Law Department’s Corporate and Tax Group where she managed the transactional work of the full-service department, including real estate, tax and intellectual property matters.

A graduate of Villanova University School of Law and Temple University, Ms. Smith has served on the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Commission on Judicial Selection and Retention, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Advisory Commission for Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts, and the Law and Public Safety Stakeholders Partnership of the Philadelphia School District. She is also on the Board of Directors of Lincoln Day Nursery, the oldest nursery program in Philadelphia serving predominantly African-American families.

About The Support Center for Child Advocates

The Support Center for Child Advocates provides legal assistance and social service advocacy for abused and neglected children in the Philadelphia County. Child Advocates is one of the most successful volunteer models serving children in the country. Since its founding in 1977, Child Advocates has trained more than 8,000 attorneys who contribute pro bono services valued at more than $5.1 million annually.

The Legal Intelligencer Professional Excellence Awards – June 21, 2016

logoAttorney of the Year, Lifetime Achievement and Lawyer on the Fast Track Awards

Keynote Address of Frank P. Cervone, Executive Director, Support Center for Child Advocates

Thank you Hank.  We congratulate Legal Editor Hank Grezlak for his recent promotion, announced today in The Legal.  His reach has grown tremendously, clearly a sign that SOMEONE in American Lawyer Media likes him! As reported today, “Hank Grezlak’s role with ALM as Regional Editor-in-Chief for the Northeast—including The Legal Intelligencer—has been expanded to include oversight of all regional ALM brands including the New York Law Journal, The Recorder, Texas Lawyer, Daily Report and the Daily Business Review … and Sesame Street, The National Enquirer, Saturday Night Live and All Twitter feeds everywhere.”  Talk about Fast Track!!

Seriously, The Legal has been a tremendous partner of the public interest law community, and a friend of Child Advocates, promoting our events and helping us to invite others to the work.  More importantly The Legal Intelligencer remains a vital element of Pennsylvania’s Fourth Estate, speaking truth to power, pressing for and creating accountability in our legal institutions.  All of the journalists and leaders involved in ALM and The Legal Intelligencer – please let’s recognize these fine colleagues! 

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White House Foster Care & Technology Hackathon

White House Foster Care & Technology Hackathon

By Frank P. Cervone

The White House Foster Care & Technology Hackathon engaged the challenge of using computer technology and the Internet to solve complex legal and social service problems facing children, families and professionals in the child welfare system. Hosted by the Administration on Children and Families (ACF), the child welfare arm of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the gathering convened more than 150 lawyers, techies, and former foster youth at the White House for two intense days of brainstorming, software design and information sharing.  The sessions were held at The White House and Reagan Federal Office Building on May 26-27, 2016 and led by ACF Commissioner Rafael Lopez, White House Policy Advisor Molly Dillon, and HHS Chief Technology Officer Susannah Fox.

The White House Hackathon builds upon work of two Children’s Rights Summit held in December 2014 and 2015 in Silicon Valley, and focused on the interaction between technology and children’s rights.  Workgroups in this current session developed digital solutions and legal principles to address information sharing across the child welfare system.  Links to the proceedings can be found at:

White House Foster Care & Technology Hackathon Video

White House Foster Care & Technology Hackathon Day Two

White House Foster Care & Technology Hackathon Website

Commissioner Lopez challenged the group to imagine trying “something dramatically different to change a system we know does not yield better results for children and families in the system. How do we engage, across multiple sectors, the kind of talent and creativity that we need to rethink and reimagine foster care in America?”

The Obama Administration has prioritized digital access to help fill gaps in knowledge and service in a wide variety of fields, while promoting cross-disciplinary and international participation in creative web-based problem-solving.  Other Hackathons have engaged civic activists, technology experts, and entrepreneurs to build tools that help others in their own neighborhoods, experimenting with alternative ways to engage citizens in civic discourse. The 2016 Foster Care & Technology Hackathon featured more than 20 former foster youth and foster parents and also included a software development team from Romania. With tools such as digital information lockers and all-new software platforms, workgroups “hacked” on topics that included substance exposed newborns, homeless youth, foster family recruitment, youth empowerment, and preventing unplanned teen pregnancy.

Inside the larger group, about 20 lawyers in the “Legal Hackathon” met to explore the legal challenges to applying technology in child welfare.  Angela Vigil, Pro Bono Partner at Baker & McKenzie and leader of the Legal Hackathon, observed that “information about and related to children and families in the child welfare system is sometimes shared that should have been protected, and information is sometimes held that should have been shared in the child welfare system.  These failures must be addressed in order to better serve the children the child welfare system was designed to serve.”

Key stakeholders include children, biological parents, siblings and relatives, foster parents, courts, caseworkers, and both lawyer and non-lawyer advocates for children and their caregivers.

Vigil added that “a principled framework should govern the access, protection and flow of information among and between these parties. Yet no such holistic framework exists — although there are certainly laws that aim to govern some of this information access and protection.”

Seeking a legal and ethical framework to govern the flow of information between and among the stake holders in the child welfare system, the Legal Workgroup drafted a “Bill of Rights for Information-Sharing in Child Welfare”.  Key tenets include:

  • Children in care are entitled to access, control, protection and preservation of their information. (for example, it should be a rebuttable presumption that children get access to full information about their siblings in developmentally appropriate and trauma-informed way).
  • Electronic information-sharing between agencies is authorized and expected where it is necessary to serve the children’s interests well.
  • Caregivers need the information necessary to parent effectively. States need to be transparent about rules of information-sharing with caregivers.
  • Caseworkers need unlimited access to all categories of information electronically, real-time, accurate, across sectors
  • Courts must have access to all relevant information necessary to make decisions about the children before them. Courts must insist on stakeholders bringing them everything they need.

Ira Lustbader, Legal Director of Children’s Rights, Inc. recalled that “in every single reform campaign or civil rights lawsuit” that he had been part of “these issues of data and tech have been sources of profound frustration and profound potential to solve problems.” He said that “information on kids should be accessible across sectors, because it will lead to better outcomes. There’s a web of state and federal legal barriers, along with technological ones, that constrain the open access of information for kids across sectors. Some states have MOUs [Memorandum of Understanding] and other approaches to break down barriers” that we can promote and learn from.

The Legal Workgroup plans to continue its efforts in a series of conference calls and other work together over the next six months. Over the next few months, members of the group will invite comment and improvement by experts and advocates across the nation. The result will be a platform upon which local, state and federal law development might be guided to better serve the children and other stakeholders in the child welfare system in the United States.

Seven child welfare workers fired for false reports

May 3, 2016 Philly.com
By: Julia Terruso

Seven child-welfare workers in Philadelphia were fired in February and March in connection with at least two false reports about home visits, according to state officials.

Rachel Kostelac, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Human Services, said three were workers from Community Umbrella Agencies contracted by the city to handle cases, and four were with subcontracted foster-care agencies.

The report of the firings followed remarks Friday by a state DHS official, who said child-welfare workers in Philadelphia had falsified reports in response to high caseloads.

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Advocacy in a Dynamic Child Welfare System

Advocacy in a Dynamic Child Welfare System
The Legal Intelligencer April 24th, 2016
Written by Tracey Thomasey

Since 2012, the Philadelphia child welfare system has been transitioning to a new model of service delivery using Community Umbrella Agencies (CUA) to work with families through an Improving Outcomes for Children (IOC) initiative. IOC has moved responsibility for foster care and in-home family services to 10 CUAs that are based in local communities so that families and providers can build familiarity with each other.

The initiative was launched with the first two CUAs opening in 2012 in North Philadelphia neighborhoods where child welfare caseloads have been the highest and most challenging. As of fall 2014, all 10 CUAs were fully operational, so that all new cases and most of the existing cases are now being serviced by CUA workers.

As with any significant system reform, the shift to community-based agencies has had challenges, including a high turnover rate among CUA workers, difficulty sharing information between entities, as well as monetary and social service resources that are inadequate to meet the needs of a growing child welfare system. We must ask ourselves: In a dynamic child welfare system, how do advocates assist children, families and the system in reaching their individual and collective potentials?

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Philadelphia’s Child Welfare Reform Suffers Growing Pains

By Pat Loeb
April 5, 2016 PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Philadelphia’s child welfare system is suffering from overloaded case workers, who often lack the tools and training they need to protect children, according to advocates and officials inside and outside the system.

Many of the problems, ironically, arise from an effort to improve the system by transferring case management to community-based non-profits, known as Community Umbrella Agencies (CUAs).

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Mayor Kenney Signs First Bill into Law

We are honored to be the beneficiary of Mayor Kenney’s first law! Our contract with the City allows us to provide high quality services to more than 1,000 child clients this year. We will leverage the City’s support to raise another $2 million in charitable dollars and more than $5 million in pro bono services from our amazing volunteer lawyers! Together, we can change the story.

CITY OF PHILADELPHIA
MAYOR’S OFFICE OF COMMUNICATIONS

For Immediate Release: February 26, 2016
Contact: Lauren Hitt, 443-370-3205, lauren.hitt@phila.gov

Mayor Kenney Signs First Bill into Law
PHILADELPHIA – Today, Mayor Kenney signed his first bill into law. The Bill, No. 160009, will authorize a contract with the Support Center for Child Advocates to provide legal representation for kids in Department of Human Services (DHS) cases.

“It is important for children who have been abused and neglected to have someone fighting and advocating on their behalf,” said Acting DHS Commissioner Jessica Shapiro. “The Support Center for Child Advocates provides high quality representation to our most vulnerable population.”

Councilman Bill Greenlee introduced the measure on behalf of the Administration. “The Support Center for Child Advocates has a long history of doing great things for the youth of our City. I am pleased their association with the City is continuing,” he said. Council Committee on Children and Youth Chair Helen Gym, who also played a key role in guiding the measure through Council, said, “Child Advocates is a vital resource in helping children who have faced abuse or neglect to return to well-being and obtain justice. We are fortunate to be able to rely on their expertise and professionalism.”

The Support Center for Child Advocates is the nation’s oldest and largest program dedicated exclusively to providing free legal and social services for abused and neglected children. They team volunteer attorneys with staff social workers and lawyers to advocate for children in crisis in Philadelphia.

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