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2001 September - October

Drafting an Administrative Complaint to Be Filed with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights

By Randal S. Jeffrey, Elisabeth Ryden Benjamin & Constance P. Carden

The administrative complaint process of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is a nonjudicial mechanism for addressing certain types of discrimination. When filing a civil rights complaint in federal court is possible, the advocate should consider the advantages and disadvantages of filing an OCR complaint in order to decide whether to file an administrative or court complaint. If the advocate files an administrative complaint with OCR, the complaint should be factually persuasive and well supported. The advocate should contact OCR to help ensure that OCR takes action on the complaint and to make a favorable outcome more likely.

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Filling the Gaps

Domestic Violence and Child Welfare Advocacy

By Monica Drinane & Marlene Halpern

A new project at the Legal Aid Society in New York City combines the perspectives of Juvenile Rights Division attorneys, who represent children in dependency proceedings, and those of Civil and Volunteer Division attorneys, who represent parents in domestic violence cases, in the hope of increasing the effectiveness of the program's advocacy for families. An increasing tendency of courts to remove children on the ground that the domestic violence in the home constitutes child neglect led to collaborative efforts to keep nonabusive parents and their children together.

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Resolving the Tension Between Child Support Enforcement and Family Reunification

By Eve A. Stotland

A state's child support program often is at odds with its child welfare system, and reunifying and reunified families find themselves caught in the middle. Just as parents are struggling to reunify with their children, the child support agency garnishes their wages to repay any debt that accrued for the child's support while the child was in state custody. Every state should have policies in place to ensure that child support enforcement never interferes with appropriate reunification.

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Immigrant Access to Food Stamps

Overcoming Barriers to Participation

By Sonya Schwartz

Many needy legal immigrants lost eligibility for the federal Food Stamp Program with the passage of welfare reform in 1996. Although Congress has mandated partial restoration of federal food stamp eligibility and some states are purchasing federal food stamp coupons for immigrants, many legal immigrants remain ineligible. Many legal immigrants and members of immigrant families who are eligible for food stamps are failing to receive them due, in part, to the enormous barriers they face when trying to apply for food stamp benefits. Advocates can help immigrants understand how eligible people may overcome barriers and gain access to the Food Stamp Program.

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Family Ties

Representing Formerly Incarcerated Women with Children in Family Court

By Lauren Shapiro, Lynn Vogelstein & Jennifer Light

Since the enactment of the Adoption and Safe Families Act, the adoption rate for foster care children has accelerated, creating a significant impact on incarcerated women and their families. In response, South Brooklyn Legal Services created Family Ties, a legal services project tackling the challenge of helping formerly incarcerated women maintain relationships with their children by providing legal advocacy in family court as well as in social service agencies.

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