After years of advocacy by many groups, in 2007 the City of New York took the innovative step of funding institutional legal services providers to represent low income parents in child welfare cases.The Brooklyn Family Defense Project - an office of Legal Services NYC - was one of only three providers selected by the City of New York to receive this contract and spearhead this exciting initiative.
BFDP helps low income families stay together instead of being torn apart by their lack of resources. Our mission is to provide holistic and high quality legal representation to protect parents’ due process rights while promoting access to benefits and services families need to remain safe and stable. BFDP’s goal is to keep children out of foster care wherever possible and reunify families quickly when it is not. BFDP achieves this goal by providing parents with ongoing support and intervention outside of court so that they can safely parent their children and through aggressive advocacy in court by filing frequent motions and having hearings seeking the return of children. As an office of Legal Services NYC, BFDP offers clients a specialized expertise in and understanding of housing and benefits related issues.
BFDP is strongly committed to achieving systemic change in the family court and child welfare systems. In our day to day practice, BFDP seeks to show how poverty affects families and demands that families are given the help they need – not punished – for being poor. The benefit of a high volume practice is that BFDP is in a unique position to have a substantial impact on the quality of representation in family court and to lead the way in creating systemic reform. BFDP has a systemic advocacy agenda that includes informal advocacy, legislative and litigation strategies for influencing policy and practice in the child welfare field.
BFDP represents over 850 new clients in Brooklyn Family Court each year --- over half the respondents. Assigned by the court to clients when they first come to court, BFDP represents clients in Article 10 cases, Termination of Parental Rights cases, and related custody and order of protection matters. On average, our cases last over two years. BFDP also has a thriving appeals practice -- we file appeals in emergency applications for the return of children, to challenge lengthy delays of critical hearings, and after fact finding trials.