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3L Wins Equal Justice Works Fellowship

March 21, 2012

Elizabeth Aleman 3L has been selected for a highly competitive Equal Justice Works fellowship.

Each year the organization chooses 40 to 50 individuals to serve in its two-year fellowship program. Fellows find host organizations to collaborate with on legal advocacy projects they design to serve communities in need.

Aleman will work with East Bay Children’s Law Offices, a nonprofit organization that provides free legal representation to children in Alameda County abuse and neglect proceedings. Her project will advocate on behalf of foster care youth and provide services to help them develop skills for adulthood in conjunction with Assembly Bill 12, a new state law that allows foster care youth to continue to receive benefits when 18 to 20 years old.

Aleman, whose fellowship is sponsored by Morrison & Foerster LLP, reported in her project proposal that 65 percent of the 4,200 young adults who emancipate from the child welfare system in California each year do not have a place to live, 40 percent of people living in homeless shelters were once foster children, 51 percent of emancipated foster youth are unemployed and only 3 percent go to college, and 70 percent of state penitentiary inmates are former foster children.

“For a system aimed at improving the lives of children born into struggling families, these statistics are saddening,” she wrote. “It is difficult for any child to walk the road to adulthood. But often foster youth must make the journey without any financial or familial support to fall back on, nor the life skills needed for independent living.”

Her three-part system for foster care clients of East Bay Children’s Law Offices will provide proactive counseling for 14- to 16.5-year-olds to evaluate future goals and collect files for future transition hearings; transition planning for 16.5- to 18-year-olds that focuses on AB12 eligibility and the benefits of staying in foster care past 18; and emancipation and post-emancipation legal representation for youth 18 to 20 years.

“It is unimaginable that kids who have experienced awful trauma, abandonment, and instability are expected to engage life as an adult once they hit 18 years old and their case is dismissed,” Aleman says. “My project will increase the advocacy for EBCLO’s teenage clients by investigating the factors that contribute to successful transition and implementing AB12 that gives foster teens more time to develop skills needed for successful adulthood.”