The Medical-Legal Partnership for Children

Training clinicians and social workers to address unmet legal needs of children and families in Seattle

Field of Work: Medical-legal partnerships

Problem Synopsis: Ten percent of families in the greater Seattle area, where this project is located, live below the poverty line. According to staff at the grantee organization, Medical-Legal Partnership for Children, children of vulnerable families are at great risk for poor health outcomes if the families' legal needs are unmet. While there are laws ensuring that children are not denied access to medical services, medical providers and social workers alone may lack the expertise to advocate for this effectively.

Synopsis of the Work: Working with Washington state's nonprofit legal aid program, the Medical-Legal Partnership for Children operated at three Seattle-area medical facilities: Seattle Children's Hospital, that hospital's Odessa Brown Children's Clinic and Harborview Pediatric Clinic.

In these settings, it provided legal advocacy for individual families in meeting their medical and other needs. It also engaged in public policy advocacy, and trained clinicians and social workers in legal issues affecting families.

Key Results: In 2008–2011, the partnership served 244 families, about 900 people total. Out of 209 cases closed, 36 clients increased their income, 35 received educational services and 38 obtained improved housing conditions.

It also provided 62 trainings to 630 medical providers, social workers and project staff on the basic legal needs of the families and how to identify, triage, and refer patients for legal services. The partnership also identified and made recommendations on public policy enhancements that would improve the health and well-being of children.