Systemic Improvement: Getting the community,  the court and child welfare to visit the data -   A study on how collaboration and trial advocacy can impact policy outcomes and accountability

Dawn J. Post, Co-Borough Director

The Children's Law Center

44 Court St., 11th Floor

Brooklyn, NY 11201

Biography:

Dawn J. Post is the Co-Borough Director of the Brooklyn, New York office of the Children's Law Center (CLC), a non-profit law firm providing representation to over 10,000 children per year in the busiest Family Court system in the United States in guardianship, custody, visitation, orders of protection and related child protective cases.  Prior to her current position, she was an Assistant Attorney-in-Charge of the Legal Aid Society's Juvenile Right's Practice in the Brooklyn office, providing representation to children in child protective and delinquency cases. Dawn is an expert in children’s rights, advocacy and litigation, and the central theme of her work is that children and adolescents are entitled to have a voice and representation in legal proceedings that have a significant impact on their lives.  To that end, she promotes cultural competence to address the underlying issues of poverty and social exclusion based upon race and socio-economic status in the legal and foster care systems in the United States.  Dawn provides various trainings on family law matters in New York City focusing on trial skills, the role of the attorney for the child, custody and visitation, and child protection.  Nationally, she has led panels and discussions about providing voice to children in high conflict custody and visitation cases and addressing broken adoptions.  Internationally, she has lectured on the role and responsibilities of the attorney for the child.  Dawn works to find new and innovative ways to improve the lives of the children in the legal system and is effective at reflecting upon and examining the issues and policies which impact children and families from various angles and from a global perspective.  She recently oversaw a case study examining broken adoptions in custody and visitation cases and these results have been included in an article co-authored for the Capital University Law Review, The 7th Annual Wells Conference on Adoption Law, “Maintaining a Family: Post-Adoption Challenges for Families”.   Dawn sits on various committees including the NYC Family Court Advisory Council for Child Protection as well as TPRs and Adoptions.

Focus Areas:

Collaboration and Partnership

Level of Learning:

Intermediate

Learning Objectives:

Families: Understand the issues which lead to broken adoptions and need for engagement with knowledgeable service providers and post-adoption services.

Direct Service Staff: Understanding how staff contribute to the issue through poor placement decisions and how they can proactively focus on trainings in order to educate families what to expect particularly in the adolescent years.

Administration: How data is key to create momentum for systemic change and institutional collaboration is necessary.

Description:  In 2010, 52,891 children in the United States were adopted from the child welfare system.  While there are no federal standards for data collection to track if an adoption fails, attorneys for children (AFC), child welfare, the courts, education and the community programs working with children often see cases, and have children before them again in need of permanency who have returned to foster care, are subjects of new abuse/neglect, custody/guardianship, voluntary placements, surrenders, domestic violence,  status offense, or delinquency cases.  However, no entity has been looking at the data about these children and why permanency has alluded them.  The Children's Law Center New York explored this phenomena and conducted a six month case study to evaluate broken adoptions – when children return to family court on custody, guardianship and order of protection cases.  In addition, CLCNY collaborated with a parent representative to co-author an article with recommendations and begin the movement for systemic change.   This panel will share the development and the results of the study, suggest approaches to build a reflective component in a client practice, and discuss how trial advocacy and data collection can be used to affect policy outcomes and accountability with all the stakeholders working with children returning to Family Court.