Salute to JRP Team Work and Advocacy; Patty Diaz and Jordana Levey Literally Go the Extra Mile and Our Client Gets to Go HOME!!

This is an amazing story of team work and advocacy between Forensic Social Worker Patty Diaz and Staff Attorney Jordana Levey with a terrific result for our client.

Approximately a year and a half ago, our client Yerly was sent from to Guatemala to reside with her father Mario M. in the Washington, DC area. Mr. M., a laborer and landscaper who worked long hours and lived in a small apartment with several single men trying to save money and support their families, decided that Yerly would have a better life with his cousin in NYC, and he made arrangements for his daughter to move there.

After several months, Yerly developed a medical condition, and Mr. M’s cousin possibly belatedly took her for treatment. Hospital staff called ACS, alleging that the cousin was not an appropriate caretaker for Yerly. ACS got in touch with Mr. M and told him to either come to NYC and pick up Yerly or sign a voluntary placement agreement. Mr. M contended that his cousin was taking good care of the child and declined to sign a voluntary; ACS then filed a neglect petition against Mr. M. Yerly’s mother’s whereabouts in Guatemala were unknown and thus the child was placed in non-kinship foster care.

Our client Yerly was very unhappy in foster care and desperately wanted to return to her father. Mr. M. became determined to resume caring for Yerly and obtained a new apartment for just himself and his daughter in Maryland. Maryland authorities refused to do a courtesy visit to the residence without an ICPC, and ACS’s position was that it wanted an approved ICPC and supervision prior to Yerly being released to her father’s case.

We had concerns about whether an ICPC would be approved because Mr. M. has no documented source of income or medical coverage. We determined that our best plan of action would be to advocate for dismissal of the neglect petition against Mr. M pursuant to FCA section 1051(c). Jordana assessed that if Judge Costanzo was presented with evidence that Mr. M. now had appropriate housing, a child care plan, and a viable school lined up for Yerly, she could be convinced that aid of the court was no longer necessary to ensure the child’s well-being. Patty, who had had numerous conversations with our client’s father, had every reason to believe that if she saw the apartment, took pictures, and verified certain other information, any report or testimony she would provide would be positive. So she got into her car and drove three hundred or so miles to do a home visit.

When Jordana and Patty presented the result of their combined efforts to the Court, they prevailed over ACS’s objection. The family was reunited and Yerly was able to go home with her father. True interdisciplinary collaboration – a hallmark of JRD – and two dedicated advocates got a great result for our young client. Great work!!