Legal Volunteers Provide Services to Help Meet Health Needs of Poor Children in New York City
Legal intervention to protect the rights of children for example, addressing benefit eligibility, housing problems, immigration status and family law questions can be a necessary step in meeting their health needs.
In 2001, Volunteers of Legal Service launched its Children's Project, which provides free legal services to low-income children in New York City hospitals.
- Volunteers provided legal assistance to 41 children and their families. Examples include:
- Assisting the father of a three-year-old HIV-positive child to establish paternity in Family Court.
- Representing a chronically-ill six-year-old, her two-year-old sister and their mother before the city's Emergency Assistance Unit.
- Obtaining a visa to allow the mother of a teenage boy who required a kidney transplant to come to New York from Colombia.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) supported the project with a grant of $35,000 from November 2001 to October 2002.
During the first year, Volunteers of Legal Service established the project in three city hospitals New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Center, New York University Medical Center and the Children's Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center and matched each with a specific law firm. It held orientation meetings at each hospital and organized periodic meetings at which volunteer lawyers and hospital staff members both medical personnel and social workers shared their experiences and refined the process by which hospital staff referred pediatric patients and their families to the volunteer attorneys. Volunteers of Legal Service also held two information sessions for hospital and legal staffs, covering HIV confidentiality and adolescents' rights to health care.
Also supporting the project were the United Way of New York ($10,000) and the New York State Bar Foundation ($1,000).
During the one-year grant period, volunteers provided legal assistance to 41 children and their families. Examples of the services provided include:
- Assisting the father of a three-year-old HIV-positive child to establish paternity in Family Court, enabling the child to continue to receive the Medicaid and other benefits that had ceased with his mother's death.
- Representing a chronically ill six-year-old, her two-year-old sister and their mother before the city's Emergency Assistance Unit, enabling them to move from an overcrowded, unsanitary apartment to a homeless shelter and ultimately into their own apartment.
- Obtaining a visa to allow the mother of a teenage boy who required a kidney transplant to come to New York from Colombia to undergo tests to determine her eligibility as a donor. She was not eligible, but she was able to spend several weeks with her son and to help identify other possible family donors.
The project director wrote an article about the Children's Project, which appeared in the New York Law Journal, and made a presentation at a conference, "Fostering Medical and Legal Collaboration: How to Bring Legal Advocacy to the Clinical Setting," sponsored by the Family Advocacy Program at Boston Medical Center in October 2002. Articles also appeared in newsletters produced by Volunteers of Legal Service and a participating hospital and law firm. See the Bibliography for details.
AFTER THE GRANT
Although RWJF declined to fund the project for a second year, Volunteers of Legal Service has continued the Children's Project at the three hospitals and has expanded the initiative to Children's Hospital of New YorkPresbyterian and Harlem Hospital Center.
GRANT DETAILS & CONTACT INFORMATION
Providing Free Legal Services to Improve the Health Outcomes of Poor Children in New York City
Volunteers of Legal Service (New York, NY)
Dates: November 2001 to October 2002
William J. Dean, L.L.B.
(Current as of date of this report; as provided by grantee organization; not verified by RWJF; items not available from RWJF.)
"A Voice for the Unheard." Kids Care: Newsletter for the Friends of Children's Hospital of New YorkPresbyterian, Winter: 2001.
Dean WJ. "A Team Approach: Lawyers, Doctors and Social Workers." New York Law Journal, September 9, 2002.
Sullivan DA. "Reflections of a Volunteer Lawyer." VOLS Pro Bono Forum, Fall: 2002.
"Case Notes." The Cravath Chronicle, March: 2003.
Presentations and Testimony
William J. Dean, presentation at the Fostering Medical and Legal Collaboration: How to Bring Legal Advocacy to the Clinical Setting conference sponsored by the Family Advocacy Program at Boston Medical Center, October 26, 2002, Boston, Mass.
Report prepared by: Marsha E. Kalman
Reviewed by: Robert Narus
Reviewed by: Marian Bass
Program Officer: Kimberly A. Lochner