Success Stories

Success Stories

Brian: An Adoption Story

“With no other family to care for him, Brian struggled with an overwhelming sense of isolation and loss.”

Brian Brian* was nine years old when his grandmother had a debilitating stroke and he was placed in foster care.  With no other family to care for him, Brian struggled with an overwhelming sense of isolation and loss.  He was repeatedly hospitalized for depression until he met James and Dorothy Nelson through his agency’s mentoring program.
 
Over the next year, the Nelsons visited Brian every weekend. When they invited Brian to spend his summer break with them, his agency denied him permission, insisting that he was not allowed to spend more than a day at a time away from his group home. Brian was devastated.  His LFC attorney went to court and obtained an order permitting Brian to spend weekends and vacations from school with the Nelsons. With their continuous support, Brian was able to focus on his education and envision a life for himself after foster care. In May, he graduated salutatorian of his middle school and joyfully accepted the Nelson’s offer to enroll in a private high school that fall.

Mia: A Safe Place to Call Home

“For the first time in her life, Mia now knows what it feels like to be safe and loved.”

Mia After suffering years of neglect, Mia* was finally removed from her mother’s home when she was five years old. Due to her severe developmental delays, she was placed with a therapeutic foster parent and referred to LFC’s Mental Health Advocacy Project. Although the court report said that Mia was happy and thriving in her foster home, her hesitant and withdrawn demeanor at her first LFC interview raised a red flag.

Mia’s LFC social worker visited her foster home the next day and discovered that Mia was being forced to live alone in a poorly lit, damp basement.

Her LFC attorney demanded an immediate court hearing, after which the home was closed and Mia was placed in a new therapeutic foster home. For the first time in her life, Mia now knows what it feels like to be safe and loved, and she is overjoyed at the prospect of her upcoming adoption by her new family.

Isaac: Reunited With Family

“When Isaac was only two his mother, who suffered from schizophrenia, left him with an elderly neighbor and never returned.”

IsaacWhen Isaac* was only two his mother, who suffered from schizophrenia, left him with an elderly neighbor and never returned. He was placed into foster care and Lawyers For Children was assigned to the case. Isaac's LFC social worker immediately began contacting members of his extended family, and soon reached his grandmother in Georgia, who was shocked to learn that her grandson had been abandoned. She expressed her desire to care for and adopt him as soon as possible.

After the LFC social worker went to Georgia to evaluate the home, Isaac’s LFC attorney went to court to obtain an order permitting him to move to his grandmother’s home. Once he was settled and his LFC social worker confirmed that he was doing well, his LFC attorney expedited the filing of an adoption petition.

At the eleventh hour, the agency informed LFC that the adoption had collapsed because the grandmother no longer wanted to adopt. LFC quickly ascertained that the grandmother desperately wanted to adopt but simply did not have plane fare to travel to NYC for the final hearing. LFC’s client emergency fund paid the airfare, the adoption was finalized, and Isaac has been thriving in his grandmother’s care ever since.

Annette: A Young Mother’s Success

“Annette spent much of her childhood living in shelters with her mother.”

AnnetteAnnette* spent much of her childhood living in shelters with her mother.   When she was 17, her mother was incarcerated, and Annette was placed in foster care.   During her first meeting with her LFC social worker, Annette disclosed that she planned to run away from her group home because she was pregnant and afraid that her baby would be taken away if she stayed.

Annette’s LFC social worker suggested that living in a supportive foster care setting might allow Annette to get the support she wanted while learning to care for her baby.  Annette agreed, and her LFC attorney filed a motion requiring ACS to place her in a specialized home for pregnant teens, where she could receive prenatal care, take parenting classes and pursue her education. 

With LFC’s support, Annette completed her education, received a childcare license and was given priority for city housing.  She is now 20, living in her own apartment with her daughter, working at a nearby daycare center, and serving as a mentor for pregnant teens in foster care.

Andre: Permanency Through Kinship Guardianship

“Andre has been thriving in his grandmother’s home for over six years while maintaining his relationship with his mother.”

AndreWhen Andre* was five, his father was killed in a car accident, and his young mother spiraled into a severe depression. She knew she was incapable of caring for Andre and voluntarily placed him in foster care. When the court assigned LFC to Andre’s case, Andre’s LFC social worker discovered that his paternal grandmother had no idea that he had been placed in a foster home. When they spoke, Andre’s grandmother expressed a deep desire to care for him. After a thorough evaluation, Andre’s LFC attorney obtained a court order placing Andre in his grandmother’s home.

Before long, however, the foster care agency began pressuring Andre’s grandmother to adopt him and participate in the termination of his mother’s parental rights. The agency threatened to move Andre to a new adoptive home if his grandmother did not agree to this plan—all in the name of closing Andre’s foster care case.

Andre’s LFC attorney returned to court and successfully advocated for his grandmother to become his kinship guardian. With kinship guardianship in place, Andre has been thriving in his grandmother’s home for over six years while maintaining his relationship with his mother.

Ciara: Special Services Keep Family Together

“The agency planned to separate her from her godfather and send her to a stranger’s foster home in New York City.”

CiaraAfter facing abuse and neglect for the first five years of her life, Ciara* was removed from her mother’s home.  She was placed in foster care with her godfather, Mr. Miles, who lived in Rochester.

Though Ciara loved Mr. Miles and felt safe and happy in his home, she struggled in school.  Mr. Miles enlisted the help of a tutor, a behavioral therapist, and a psychologist.  Because of her school struggles, the agency planned to separate her from her godfather and send her to a stranger’s foster home in New York City.

Mr. Miles called Ciara’s LFC social worker, who immediately traveled to Rochester to meet with Ciara, Mr. Miles, and the psychologist.  They all agreed that a move to New York City would be detrimental to Ciara’s well being.  Ciara’s LFC attorney quickly filed a motion demanding that Ciara be permitted to stay in her godfather’s home, explaining why this plan violated state foster care guidelines and regulations.  The court ordered that Ciara remain with her godfather, with additional school-based services.  Ciara graduated from elementary school with a “Most Improved Student” award and the promise of her upcoming adoption by her godfather.

Alisha: A Loving Family for a Special-Needs Child

“It was crucial for Alisha’s survival, both physically and psychologically, to know the love and care of a family.”

AlishaAlisha* was born with an incurable, life-threatening illness.  Her health worsened over the first few months of her life, and when she was less than a year old, she was hospitalized. Though her doctors stabilized her condition, her mother decided that Alisha’s illness was too much for her to handle and placed her in foster care. 

Although Alisha was ready to go home after a few months in the hospital, she had no family members willing or able to care for her.  Her foster care agency maintained that it was impossible to find her a foster home.  Alisha’s LFC social worker knew that it was crucial for Alisha’s survival, both physically and psychologically, to know the love and care of a family.  She decided to contact a couple she had worked with on another case to see if they were still interested in adopting a child.  

They agreed to meet Alisha, and once they did, they knew immediately that they wanted her to be part of their family.  Soon after, they became her foster parents and Alisha has been living with them ever since.  With their love and close attention, she is growing stronger each day.  Alisha’s foster parents are moving quickly to finalize her adoption so that they will be able to provide her with the love and care that she so desperately needs.

Gaby: Overcoming Trauma Through Therapy

“Although Gaby was clearly traumatized, the foster care agency had refused to provide her with therapy.”

GabyWhen the police knocked down the door of seven-year-old Gaby’s* apartment, they discovered that she had been severely neglected by her father, who was dealing drugs out of their home. Gaby was malnourished and terrified and had not attended school in months. She was removed from her father’s care, and he was arrested.

When Gaby’s LFC social worker met her the next day, he was shocked to learn that although Gaby was clearly traumatized, the foster care agency had refused to provide her with therapy. Instead, the agency was insisting that she be given powerful antidepressants. Gaby’s LFC attorney went to court immediately, armed with the social worker’s outline of the dangers of giving these medications to young children.

The judge ordered that Gaby receive therapy and not be given any psychiatric medication unless a doctor demonstrated its necessity in court. Gaby has now been in treatment for six months, and her therapist has stated that medication is both unnecessary and inappropriate. She is safe and happy in a loving pre-adoptive foster home.

Ashley: A Return Home

“Ashley’s parents now have the help they need and Ashley is flourishing at home.”

Ashley When Ashley* was seven years old, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Although Ashley’s parents sought help at every turn, they were unable to access the resources they needed to cope with their daughter’s mental illness. After several psychiatric hospitalizations, they placed Ashley into foster care, hoping that she would finally get the help she needed.

She was placed in a short-term diagnostic center, where she was supposed to be assessed and then sent to live temporarily in a therapeutic foster home. Ashley desperately wanted to return home and her parents wanted her back as soon as possible. However, when Ashley was referred to LFC’s Mental Health Advocacy Project, her LFC social worker discovered that Ashley was still in the diagnostic center and had never been moved to a therapeutic foster home.

Ashley’s LFC social worker compiled a list of in-home and community-based services that would allow her to safely return to her parents. Ashley’s LFC attorney secured a court order ensuring that these services were put in place immediately, and within a week she was able to return home. Ashley’s parents now have the help they need and, as a result, Ashley is flourishing at home.

Anthony: A Home of His Own

“Anthony had no family to support him, and he feared that any gap in housing would lead to homelessness.”

AnthonyAnthony* was filled with anxiety as he approached his 21st birthday. On that day, he would be forced to leave the safety of his foster home. He had found a job and enrolled in college but could not afford to live on his own. Anthony had no family to support him, and he feared that any gap in housing would lead to homelessness. He sought help from the city, but was told that the only housing program he qualified for had a two-year waiting list.

When Anthony arrived at LFC, he was immediately referred to our housing attorney, who quickly recognized that he qualified for a new housing program for youth leaving foster care. That afternoon, Anthony and his LFC social worker completed the application and, within weeks, Anthony had a new apartment. His dream of safely achieving independence had finally become a reality.

Angelique: From Foster Care to College

“Living in a stable placement enabled Angelique to focus on her studies.”

AngeliqueAngelique* was abused by her parents for years before she was placed into foster care when she was twelve.  She lived in five foster homes in her first year in care, but when LFC was assigned to her case, her LFC social worker met with her and found out that she had a cousin who was willing to take her into her home.

Living in a stable placement enabled Angelique to focus on her studies. She worked hard and planned to attend college outside of New York City when she graduated from high school. When she asked her foster care agency for help filling out her scholarship application and gathering the materials she would need, they told her that she should attend community college instead. Angelique called her LFC social worker, who supported her dream of attending a four-year college. She helped Angelique with her applications and even wrote a letter of recommendation for her. A few months before Angelique graduated from high school, she found out she had been admitted to Syracuse University.  She began college in the fall and comes to visit her LFC team every time she has a school break.

Jacob: Reunited With a Loving Mother

“ACS determined that she had neglected Jacob simply by being abused herself.”

JacobWhen Jacob* was born, his father began to physically abuse his mother. After six months, Jacob's mother had finally garnered the support and the financial independence she needed in order to leave her abuser. She reported her husband to the police and immediately sought an order of protection against him.

Though Jacob had never been the victim of his father's abuse and his mother had always protected him, ACS determined that she had neglected Jacob simply by being abused herself. Jacob was removed from his mother's care and placed in a foster home, leaving his mother inconsolable.
 
When LFC was assigned to the case, Jacob's attorney and social worker immediately began working to reunite him with his mother. After investigating the home and meeting with his mother, Jacob's LFC social worker determined that she desperately wanted to care for Jacob and that she was fully capable of doing so.       

Jacob's LFC attorney called for an emergency hearing and argued that with his father in jail, there was no risk to Jacob's safety, and that he belonged back home with his mother. On a very happy and tearful day, Jacob and his mother were reunited.

Maritza: Recovering From Sexual Abuse

“When Maritza was 13, she revealed to her school counselor that her stepfather was sexually abusing her.”

MaritzaWhen Maritza* was 13, she revealed to her school counselor that her stepfather was sexually abusing her. She was immediately removed from her home and placed into foster care. Unfortunately, Maritza had gone to her mother first, but her mother did not believe her and refused to speak to her after she disclosed the abuse to her counselor.

Maritza came to LFC isolated and traumatized, and was immediately referred to our Child Sexual Abuse Evaluation and Education Project. Her LFC attorney and social worker team met with Maritza and came up with a comprehensive plan for finding a safe and supportive placement for Maritza and simultaneously connecting her with therapeutic services to help her process the abuse and subsequent isolation from her family.

When Lawyers For Children was notified that her father’s attorney intended to call Maritza to testify about the abuse in open court, Maritza’s LFC attorney filed a motion to permit Maritza to testify by video link from our office to minimize further trauma. Maritza is now living with her aunt and slowly recovering with the help of a strong support network that LFC has helped her build.

Lilia: A Safe Harbor in a New Land

"Lilia was terrified. Her fear turned to misery as the relatives forced her to work selling goods on the street and subjected her to repeated beatings."

LiliaLilia* came to New York City from Ecuador when she was 16 years old.  Her mother had recently passed away and her father told her they were going to America for a visit to relatives. Shortly after arriving, however, her father abandoned her to family members who were complete strangers, in an unfamiliar country where she didn’t speak the language. Lilia was terrified.  Her fear turned to misery as the relatives forced her to work selling goods on the street and subjected her to repeated beatings.  Lilia eventually managed to escape and was placed into foster care as a destitute child.

When LFC first met with Lilia, she was afraid she would be returned to her abusive family or deported to a country where she had no home. LFC’s immigration attorney immediately recognized that Lilia was eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (which would allow her to receive legal permanent residency), obtained the necessary court findings and an order that Lilia be placed in a therapeutic foster home. With the help of her LFC social worker, Lilia began going to school and receiving services and counseling. LFC was able to obtain a green card for Lilia, enabling her to enroll in college, work, and eventually move into her own apartment. She is now 18, happy and confident and hopes to pursue a career in bilingual education.

Shardee: A Supportive Home for a Transgender Youth

“Shardee begged for a transfer to a trans-friendly placement.”

ShardeeFourteen-year-old Stephan* was placed into foster care by his mother when he informed her that he identified as a transgender female. Stephan, now known as Shardee, was placed in a group home, where she was treated disrespectfully and punitively by the foster care staff—often denied food and prevented from contacting her attorney. Shardee begged for a transfer to a trans-friendly placement. ACS refused, arguing that there was no appropriate placement for Shardee.
 
After Shardee met with her LFC attorney (the LGBTQ Project co-director) and social worker, the LFC team located a residential placement in Pennsylvania that would provide Shardee with a service-rich program and allow her to express her gender identity. After extensive discussions with her LFC attorney and social worker, Shardee’s mother and ACS consented to Shardee’s placement in the Pennsylvania program.
 
Since her transfer to the new placement, Shardee has consistently reported that she is very happy in her new home, where she lives as a female. Shardee reports that staff and residents are respectful of her transgender identity; she is once again excelling in school and will be graduating from high school next year. In addition, Shardee now goes on regular visits to her mother, with whom she has mended her relationship.

*In order to preserve client confidentiality, names and other details have been changed. Volunteer models appear in all photographs that depict LFC clients. Photographs courtesy Ben Fink Shapiro Studio and Jasmin Ortiz.