Children's Law Center of Connecticut
30 Arbor Street
Suite 208
Hartford CT 06106
Contact Information
Address 30 Arbor Street
Suite 208
Hartford, CT 06106-
Telephone (860) 232-9993 x
Fax 860-232-9996
E-mail clc@clcct.org
Web and Social Media
Mission

The mission of The Children’s Law Center is to promote the best possible outcomes for children and families in transition or crisis by providing access to legal services and support they could not otherwise afford and by advancing collaborative, non-adversarial options for resolving conflicts outside the court system.

At A Glance
Year of Incorporation 1993
Organization's type of tax exempt status Public Supported Charity
Organization received a competitive grant from the community foundation in the past five years Yes
Leadership
CEO/Executive Director Atty. Justine Rakich-Kelly
Board Chair Atty. Robert Madden LCSW, J.D.
Board Chair Company Affiliation University of St. Joseph
Financial Summary
Revenue vs Expenses Bar Graph - All Years
Statements
Mission

The mission of The Children’s Law Center is to promote the best possible outcomes for children and families in transition or crisis by providing access to legal services and support they could not otherwise afford and by advancing collaborative, non-adversarial options for resolving conflicts outside the court system.

Background

In November 1992, six year-old Ayla Rose was shot and killed by her father during a court ordered supervised visitation, after a violent argument with Ayla’s mother. From this tragedy arose a coalition of concerned professionals and parents, united to examine how our legal system failed this little girl. Ultimately, the need was identified for children to have a legal advocate of their own in their parents’ high conflict family court cases. Twenty-five years later, the Children's Law Center (CLC) has grown to a staff of twelve and a budget of $1.1 million, and operates in all 13 of Connecticut's judicial districts. In 2017, the organization served 1,766 children and families through its programs and services. Today we remain the only organization in Connecticut with this unique mission.

CLC strives to create safe, stable environments for indigent children whose parents are in chronic conflict. Our primary goal is to be the voice for children in family court disputes, where otherwise their interests would be overlooked and they could potentially be put in harm’s way. Without CLC's services, our clients would have no representation in a family court system designed to serve parents. We are there to remind all concerned that the most important parties in the case are the children. We work with parents to create co-parenting plans that enable and encourage a safe, positive and loving relationship that emphasizes the important roles of both parents in a child’s life. In addition to poverty, all of our cases are exacerbated by conditions such as violence, neglect, abuse, addiction, mental illness, incarceration, and other chronic challenges.
Impact

2017 Accomplishments:

  1. Our Legal Representation Program served 515 children in 332 families.
  2. Our Families in Transition Program served 64 children in 35 families.
  3. The Children's Law Line served 1,187 children through 875 calls.
Current Organizational Goals:
  1. To assist families and the court system by advocating for these indigent children directly.
  2. To effect systemic change in family court by advancing policies that will create a system that is collaborative in nature and focuses on children's needs and interests.
Needs

Nearly 50,000 family court cases involving divorce and custody are filed in Connecticut each year. 50% of these cases involve minor children, 69% of whom are under the age of ten. Since 2005, five children have been slain by abusive fathers involved in these disputes. The longer parental conflict continues, the greater the ongoing trauma and consequences for children. Children in stable homes are better able to perform in school, interact appropriately with peers or siblings, and successfully reach emotional, physical, and academic milestones.

CLC’s unique and innovative services help children and families in Connecticut and serve as a national model of excellence. We combine the resources of both legal and mental health professionals to advocate for young children’s best interests. We help break the cycle of anger and violence in the lives of the children we serve. 
CEO Statement
The Children's Law Center of Connecticut's attorneys provide legal representation to low income children involved in highly contentious divorce, custody and visitation cases in family court. Cases are typically complicated by exacerbating circumstances involving chronic conflict between parents, putting children who are already under significant stress at even higher risk of abuse or neglect. The program is the only one of its kind in Connecticut. This cross-disciplinary model is unique in that it addresses not only the legal strategy of divorce and custody, but the mental health of the children and parents involved, as well. Research shows that children of divorcing couples suffer from depression, sleep disorders, loss of self-esteem, behavioral regression and other emotional problems. The longer the parental conflict continues, the greater the consequences for the children. By protecting a child's relationship with each parent, we help to ensure that the child continues to receive the love and support of the two most significant people in his or her life.
Board Chair Statement

The Children's Law Center of Connecticut works to protect the best interests of children whose parents are engaged in high conflict custody, divorce, and visitation cases in family court. Our organization has garnered great respect and support from the local legal community and at the state levels. Our innovative programs are unique to Connecticut and our services are unduplicated by any other organization in the state.

Funding has always been a significant challenge for CLC. In addition to financial challenges resulting from evolving funding priorities, legislation enacted 4 years ago changed the way the family court appoints attorneys for children. The residual effect of this legislation continues to influence when and how cases are referred to CLC, resulting in a delay in appointments. By the time cases are referred to CLC, families have reached a higher level of conflict, which results in longer time to resolution and increases our internal costs per case. Thus, we no longer have the capacity to handle the same level of caseloads as we had in years past. While our time and expense per case increases directly with the case's duration, the court fees we are paid per case remain constant no matter how long the case takes to reach agreement. Despite this, no child is ever turned away. The focus of our work continues to be the quality of our representation and the differences we are making - one child, one family at a time.

CLC recognizes the need for greater public awareness of our programs and services. In addition to our Legal Representation Program, we staff a free legal help-line, which provides information and referrals to callers with concerns about children, on a variety of issues related to family law and children's rights. We also provide a mediation program, Families in Transition, for low-income families involved in high conflict custody and divorce cases as an alternative to time-consuming, costly and often harmful litigation.

CLC is working with a consultant to address these challenges. We are developing a 3-year strategic plan which will establish measurable organizational goals, determine priorities for implementation and funding, and commit to rigorous and continuous outcome assessment. We anticipate having this new, Board-approved strategic plan in place by May 2018.

Service Categories
Primary Organization Category Crime & Legal - Related / Legal Services
Secondary Organization Category Crime & Legal - Related /
Tertiary Organization Category Crime & Legal - Related / Single Organization Support
Areas Served
State wide
Ansonia
Bethany
Branford
Cheshire
Derby
East Haven
Guilford
Hamden
Lower Naugatuck Valley
Madison
Milford
New Haven
North Branford
North Haven
Orange
Oxford
Seymour
Shelton
Shoreline
Wallingford
West Haven
Woodbridge
Other
CLC's Legal Representation program operates in all 13 judicial districts in Connecticut.
 
The Families in Transition (FIT) program operates largely in, but is not restricted to, Greater Hartford and New Britain.  
 
Our Children's Law Line is a statewide, toll-free service for the general public with questions concerning family law.
Programs
Description
The Legal Representation program focuses on serving the best interests of children in family court by addressing the needs of each child we represent. The program provides attorneys to children living in poverty who are affected by high conflict custody and visitation cases. In addition to qualifying as indigent at below 125% of the federal poverty guidelines, cases often involve exacerbating circumstances such as: domestic violence, substance abuse, mental illness, child abuse/neglect, or other chronic conflict. An attorney/mental health team works together to shape legal strategies to address the needs of a family and the well-being of the children. Through our work, we seek to achieve the most stable, safe, and optimal living arrangement for children caught in the middle of a family crisis. 
 
In 2017, our Legal Representation Program served 515 children in 332 families.
Population Served Children and Youth (0 - 19 years) / Poor,Economically Disadvantaged,Indigent /
Program is linked to organization’s mission and strategy Yes
Program is frequently assessed based on predetermined program goals Yes
Short Term SuccessHelpOrganizations describe near term achievement(s) or improvement(s) that will result from this program. This may represent immediate outcomes occurring as a result of the end of a session or service.
We represent children in family court and ensure that Court orders reflect their best interest and allow for safe and loving relationships with children and their parents. We provide parents with information regarding how their conflict affects their children and help them to find alternative ways to address the issues they have with one another, keeping them child-focused but without putting the children in the middle of their conflict. We help parents find ways to improve their communication so they can co-parent in more positive ways. We help parents identify weaknesses and find resources to strengthen their abilities as parents and providers.
Long Term SuccessHelpOrganizations describe the ultimate change(s) that will result from this program. This may be far into the future and represent an ideal state. Participation in CLC's Legal Representation program serves to decrease the amount of stress and negative effects of parental conflict on children. After CLC's involvement, children will ideally grow up in safe, stable homes. They will, when appropriate, have loving, positive relationships with both parents. Their stable family environments will enable them to do well in school, engage appropriately with peers and siblings, and successfully meet developmental, academic, and physical milestones.
Program Success Monitored ByHelpOrganizations describe the tools used to measure or track program impact.

For our Legal Representation program, we conduct an annual multi-faceted outcome measurement process. At least once per year, the Executive Director meets privately with every judge before whom we appear in our Legal Representation Program to inquire about our services. This interview explores strengths and weaknesses of our program, any changes the judge would suggest, and observations about our work and overall impressions of CLC attorneys. At the close of every case, the attorneys complete a survey which details information about cases.

 
In 2017, this program served 515 children in 332 families. 91% of the orders entered by family court judges reflected the recommendations of CLC attorneys. CLC attorneys were able to help parents reach agreement in 77% of cases. Only 23% of cases involving a CLC attorney required a trial or hearing, compared to 49% of all family court matters in the state of Connecticut. 75% of cases remained closed after CLC involvement, indicating positive resolutions and no re-emerging issues. Co-parenting improved with our help in 55% of cases. After CLC involvement, parental conflict decreased in 75% of cases and family environments improved in 65% of our cases. 
Examples of Program SuccessHelpOrganization's site specific examples of changes in clients' behaviors or testimonies of client's changes to demonstrate program success.

Maya is a four-year-old who had been residing with both of her parents before her father began physically and emotionally abusing her mother, who turned to alcohol to cope. After one violent altercation, Child Protective Services became involved. They gave guardianship to Maya’s paternal grandmother in order to keep her out of foster care. While her father was later incarcerated, her mother fought to get back guardianship. Maya’s grandmother felt that her mother wasn’t stable enough, and The Children’s Law Center was appointed by the court to help find the safest, most stable situation for Maya. Our staff attorney helped Maya’s mother get into a substance abuse treatment program. As she showed great strides towards recovery, we helped her have more extensive visits with Maya in order to strengthen their relationship. She found stable housing and a job, and proved that she was ready to begin taking care of Maya once again. During our last court appearance with the family, we helped enter a joint custody agreement between Maya’s mother and grandmother. Maya continues to have both supportive parental figures in her life.

Description

The Children’s Law Line is a free, state-wide telephone help line that answers legal questions and gives advice, information and referrals to people seeking help with family court issues. Getting assistance often entails navigating a maze of agencies, courts, laws and resources that is often overwhelming even to the most experienced advocates, and simply not navigable to those of limited means. The Law Line is designed to be an accessible resource, with the majority of referrals coming from 2-1-1, Infoline, Statewide Legal Services, DCF, courts, attorneys, the internet and word of mouth.  The phone number is 1-888-LAW-DOOR. In 2017, the Law Line served 1,187 children through 875 calls.

Population Served Families / Children and Youth (0 - 19 years) /
Program is linked to organization’s mission and strategy Yes
Program is frequently assessed based on predetermined program goals Yes
Short Term SuccessHelpOrganizations describe near term achievement(s) or improvement(s) that will result from this program. This may represent immediate outcomes occurring as a result of the end of a session or service. The Children’s Law Line provides immediate assistance to parents, children, guardians, grandparents, and service providers who have concerns about the safety and well-being of children in their care. Callers to the Law Line are able to access services that help them deal with their specific questions and problems, all of which involve children. The assistance provided to callers creates an immediate impact, reducing or fully alleviating family stress. Because most callers have no attorney of their own, the Law Line provides critical insight into the legal system.
Long Term SuccessHelpOrganizations describe the ultimate change(s) that will result from this program. This may be far into the future and represent an ideal state.
The Children's Law Line program is designed to impact 1,500 children annually. In 2017, the Children's Law Line served 1,187 children through 875 calls.

In addition to receiving legal advice, callers to the Children's Law Line are connected to additional community services and provided resources that address their specific situation. Because of this, callers are able to begin the process of addressing complicated issues that impact their children, or children in their custody. With this help, parents (and sometimes grandparents) are able to tackle, with some measure of efficiency, problems that could be time-consuming and intractable. Children are the ultimate beneficiaries, as their lives become less complicated in the long run. By reducing conflict and helping guide parents and guardians toward a resolution, even in the early stages of the process, the negative impact is reduced.
Program Success Monitored ByHelpOrganizations describe the tools used to measure or track program impact.
An annual statistical evaluation is compiled that includes the total number of calls, caller demographics and issues raised by callers. This data is compared to summaries of previous years. Survey calls are made no less than once a year to solicit feedback on caller satisfaction with the Children's Law Line. The study asks to what degree the caller found the information to be helpful and whether their situation has improved, in addition to measuring and assessing the issue they were calling about. Our most recent outcome report for the Law Line indicates that 91% of respondents reported a combined positive of “Very Helpful” or “Helpful” when evaluating the help they received. We often hear comments such as, "it's because of you that I have a plan. I can move forward with my life and take care of my children."
Examples of Program SuccessHelpOrganization's site specific examples of changes in clients' behaviors or testimonies of client's changes to demonstrate program success. Mr. Brady called our Law Line out of grave concern for his grandchild, Alex. He had been placed into foster care after being removed from his mother's care due to neglect. Mr. Brady called our Law Line for guidance on how he and his wife could take Alex out of foster care and bring him home. We walked him through DCF's relative placement process and explained how to get a court order. We remained the one source of information as he went about this process. Months later, we received an email from him with the subject line "The Nightmare is Over." He stated, "In Court on Thursday, the judge ordered our grandson into our custody after hearing my wife explain all we had done [based off of your recommendations]... The judge not only ordered Alex into our custody, she made it possible to bring him back with us tomorrow night. I just wanted to thank you for going out of your way when we were totally lost as to what to do and helping us get through what I truly call a nightmare situation."
Description
The Families in Transition (FIT) program is a hybrid family mediation service and parenting education program that helps families resolve their immediate issues while educating parents about how extended conflict impacts their children. We help parents understand each others' perspectives, and give them tools to improve their communication with each other. Sessions are facilitated by a volunteer gender-balanced team consisting of an attorney and a mental health professional, both of whom are certified in family mediation. The service helps families avoid expensive and time-consuming litigation, thus shielding children from the harmful effects of long-term parental conflict. The FIT program is currently the area's only mediation service designated to serve low-income families. Most clients are referred to CLC through the court system, however, the program is open to anyone in need of service. The program operates on a sliding-scale fee basis.
 
In 2017, the FIT program served 64 children in 35 families.
Population Served Families / Poor,Economically Disadvantaged,Indigent / Children and Youth (0 - 19 years)
Program is linked to organization’s mission and strategy Yes
Program is frequently assessed based on predetermined program goals Yes
Short Term SuccessHelpOrganizations describe near term achievement(s) or improvement(s) that will result from this program. This may represent immediate outcomes occurring as a result of the end of a session or service.

Thee Families in Transition (FIT) mediation program protects children from the harm that high conflict parenting disputes cause. Parents come to understand that they will be co-parents for the rest of their children's lives and develop appropriate communication skills. Clients reach settlements through discussion and compromise, thereby avoiding a contentious court case with high legal fees and repeated court appearances. Through mediation sessions, participants maintain a sense of control over their lives and are able to make decisions together about their children.

Long Term SuccessHelpOrganizations describe the ultimate change(s) that will result from this program. This may be far into the future and represent an ideal state.
Participation in the Families in Transition (FIT) mediation sessions is designed to improve communication and parenting as the participants restructure their relationship. Mediated agreements are more often observed and followed, helping to mitigate future problems especially when both parties are involved and invested in the process.
Program Success Monitored ByHelpOrganizations describe the tools used to measure or track program impact.
The success of the FIT program is indicated by the clients' willingness to continue participating in the mediation process until a settlement has been reached, and/or participants have successfully implemented new communication tools. Success is also indicated by clients' willingness to return to mediation if future issues arise, rather than resorting to adversarial court proceedings.
Examples of Program SuccessHelpOrganization's site specific examples of changes in clients' behaviors or testimonies of client's changes to demonstrate program success.

When Miranda and Leon began participating in FIT, their co-parenting relationship was filled with anger and resentment. They had their son Eli after a whirlwind relationship, and managed to successfully co-parent for the first few years of his life. Things began to unravel when Leon began a new relationship and Miranda began to withhold Leon’s visits with their son. A few months later, Miranda was arrested for driving under the influence. The court granted Leon temporary sole custody, and Eli moved in full-time with him. Leon spoke to Miranda and suggested that they attend mediation together since they were having trouble communicating, and neither of them wanted to spend the money or time to continue battling in court.

Although the process wasn’t always easy, they both participated in FIT, stating that they were willing to do whatever it took to get along for Eli's sake. Through listening, understanding and being educated about the harmful effects that their conflict had on Eli, Miranda and Leon began being able to speak to each other in a significantly more positive manner. With the help of their FIT mediators, Miranda and Leon learned to co-parent in a non-combative manner that showed Eli that his parents could put aside their issues for him to have healthy, happy relationships with both parents.

Program Comments
CEO Comments


CEO/Executive Director
Atty. Justine Rakich-Kelly
Term Start Oct 2000
Email justine@clcct.org
Experience

Justine Rakich-Kelly graduated from Western Connecticut State University, cum laude, with a BS in Justice and Law Administration, and earned her law degree from University Connecticut School of Law in 1991. She worked for a number of years in private practice, focusing on family and juvenile law. She became a Staff Attorney and then a Managing Attorney of the Family Unit at Statewide Legal Services in 1998. In 2000, she accepted the position of Executive Director at The Children's Law Center of Connecticut and has been in that role since. As Executive Director, Justine has presented at numerous conferences, including a joint conference of the American Bar Association and the American Psychological Association in 2008, where she introduced CLC's Families in Transition program and discussed the importance of a mental health perspective in the legal representation of children.

Justine served on several Commissions and Committees, including a sub-committee on the Governor's Commission on Divorce, Custody and Children in 2003 and the Governor's Commission on Judicial Reform in 2006. She currently serves as a 2016 Governor's appointee to the Statewide Advisory Council on Children and Families and also serves on the Standing Committee on Guardians Ad Litem and Attorneys for Minor Children in Family Matters. In 2013, she and CLC Deputy Director Randa Hojaiban co-authored a comprehensively written chapter in the handbook "A Practical Guide to Divorce in Connecticut," entitled "Representing Children in Family Court Custody and Visitation Disputes."
Staff
Number of Full Time Staff 11
Number of Part Time Staff 1
Number of Volunteers 84
Number of Contract Staff 1
Staff Retention Rate 66%
Staff Demographics - Ethnicity
African American/Black 0
Asian American/Pacific Islander 0
Caucasian 11
Hispanic/Latino 1
Native American/American Indian 0
Other 0 0
Staff Demographics - Gender
Male 1
Female 11
Unspecified 0
Senior Staff
Title Deputy Director
Formal Evaluations
CEO Formal Evaluation Yes
CEO/Executive Formal Evaluation Frequency Annually
Senior Management Formal Evaluation Yes
Senior Management Formal Evaluation Frequency Annually
Non Management Formal Evaluation Yes
Non Management Formal Evaluation Frequency Annually
Collaborations

Our work provides us with regular opportunities to collaborate with other organizations, although none of these relationships constitutes official partnerships. We work cooperatively with Lawyers for Children America (LFCA) and the Center for Children's Advocacy (CCA), both children's advocacy programs. Our services complement each other, yet neither LFCA nor CCA provides legal representation in family court, as CLC does. We also enjoy positive, professional relationships with Statewide Legal Services, New Haven Legal Assistance Association and Connecticut Legal Services, all of which share a common commitment to legal advocacy of the poor. Our staff has ongoing, collaborative relationship with many other providers to whom we refer our clients for additional services, such as Southern Connecticut State University for supervised visitation, Yale Child Study Center, and Clifford Beers Clinic for mental health treatment, and Yale School of Medicine and Department of Psychiatry for evaluation services. Additionally, we make referrals to Achievement First, Community Health Network of CT, Yale University Department of Psychiatry, Integrated Wellness Group, NeighborWorks, and New Horizons.

Board Chair
Atty. Robert Madden LCSW, J.D.
Company Affiliation University of St. Joseph
Term Oct 2015 to Oct 2018
Board of Directors
NameAffiliation
Mr. Mark Boxer Ph.D.Cigna
Atty. Dan A. Brody Robinson & Cole, LLC
Mr. Tim Buckley Trumbull Group Benefits
Mr. Jonathan Fink CPABlum Shapiro
Atty. Sandra Gersten Gersten Law Offices
Atty. Pamela Magnano Flaherty Legal Group, LLC
Hon. C. Ian McLachlan McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney, & Carpenter, LLP
Mr. Gaurav Patel SS&C Technologies
Ms. Patricia Pheanious Retired
Ms. Laura Post LEGO Systems
Mr. James Russell CPA/ABVRussell & Company, CPA, PC
Dr. Elizabeth Thayer Beacon Behavioral Services, LLC
Mr. Jovanni Valentini Barings
Board Demographics - Ethnicity
African American/Black 1
Asian American/Pacific Islander 2
Caucasian 11
Hispanic/Latino 0
Native American/American Indian 0
Other 0 0
Board Demographics - Gender
Male 9
Female 5
Governance
Board Term Lengths 3
Board Term Limits 2
Written Board Selection Criteria Under Development
Written Conflict of Interest Policy Yes
Percentage Making Monetary Contributions 100%
Percentage Making In-Kind Contributions 36%
Constituency Includes Client Representation No
Standing Committees
Development / Fund Development / Fund Raising / Grant Writing / Major Gifts
Board Governance
Finance
Program / Program Planning
CEO Comments

In 2012 the governance committee began a review of the by-laws of the organization. At our September 12, 2013 board meeting, term limits were instituted. Going forward, all new board members will serve a term of three years; current board members will have the option to serve an additional three year term after which they will cycle off the board for at least one year. Each current board member is given an option of extending their term into the next year (2015) or year after (2016) to avoid a mass exodus at the next Annual Meeting and to allow for a steady 1/3 off, each year of the 3 year cycle. The by-laws continue to be reviewed and additional proposals for modifications may be made at future meetings.

Each board member is expected to serve on at least one committee and make a financial commitment to the organization. 

 
 
Financials
Fiscal Year Start Jan 01 2018
Fiscal Year End Dec 31 2018
Projected Revenue $1,116,663.00
Projected Expenses $1,141,663.00
Spending Policy N/A
Credit Line No
Reserve Fund Yes
Detailed Financials
Prior Three Years Assets and Liabilities Chart
Fiscal Year201620152014
Total Assets$1,242,452$1,273,031$1,330,801
Current Assets$725,103$772,184$833,686
Long-Term Liabilities$0----
Current Liabilities$141,169$135,866$51,793
Total Net Assets$1,101,283$1,137,165$1,279,008
Prior Three Years Top Three Funding Sources
Fiscal Year201620152014
Top Funding Source & Dollar Amount --CT Bar Foundation $188,551CT Bar Foundation $217,052
Second Highest Funding Source & Dollar Amount --American Savings Foundation $111,791Hartford Foundation for Public Giving $114,472
Third Highest Funding Source & Dollar Amount --State of CT Judicial Branch $109,838American Savings Foundation $102,081
Capitial Campaign
Currently in a Capital Campaign? No
Comments
CEO Comments The Children's Law Center maintains strong fiscal health. We have an active and prudent Board of Directors and a strong Finance Committee that pays careful and regular attention to our organizational budget throughout the year. Our current financial strategy is to increase revenue streams and expand our program outreach statewide.
Foundation Staff Comments This profile, including the financial summaries prepared and submitted by the organization based on its own independent and/or internal audit processes and regulatory submissions, has been read by the Foundation. Some financial information from the organization’s IRS Form 990, audited financial statements or other financial documents approved has been inputted by Foundation staff. The Foundation has not audited the organization’s financial statements or tax filings, and makes no representations or warranties thereon. A more complete picture of the organization’s finances can be obtained by viewing the attached 990s and audited financials. To see if the organization has received a competitive grant from The Community Foundation in the last five years, please go to the General Information Tab of the profile.
Address 30 Arbor Street
Suite 208
Hartford, CT 06106
Primary Phone 860 232-9993
Contact Email clc@clcct.org
CEO/Executive Director Atty. Justine Rakich-Kelly
Board Chair Atty. Robert Madden LCSW, J.D.
Board Chair Company Affiliation University of St. Joseph

 

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