Legal Advocates for Children & Youth (LACY)
Legal Advocates for Children & Youth (LACY) advances the legal rights of children and youth, empowering them to lead healthy and productive lives. We listen to, advise, and advocate for our clients to ensure their voices are heard and their rights are protected.
LACY Honors Fundraiser Broke a 22-year Record!
Thanks to our amazing supporters, we raised over $200,000 at the 22nd Annual LACY Honors Luncheon to support our Legal Advocates for Children & Youth program! "Other people have parents to help them . . . . We have LACY lawyers to fight our battles." - Rochelle, a former foster youth.
Now many others, like Rochelle, can have LACY lawyers by their side. THANK YOU to everyone who helped to ensure that more children and youth in our community can get the legal help they need.
Senior Attorney Karie Lew is depicted in this great photo with honorees and founding members of The Hub, a drop-in resource center for former foster youth.
A Chance At A Better Life
The Law Foundation partners with law firms to ensure that our clients legal needs are fully met. One former client of our Legal Advocates for Children & Youth Program, or LACY, benefited from one such partnership.
Michael,* a former foster youth, was interested in pursuing a career in medicine and the military. When Michael was arrested for a criminal case he was not involved in, he called on us for help. Although the criminal case was rightly dismissed, he worried that the arrest and prosecution records would threaten his future. The Law Foundation tapped our wonderful network of pro bono attorneys, and found criminal defense attorney, Fred Thiagarajah, who represented Michael at no cost. Michael's arrest records were sealed and his future became a little more secure.
When we come together as a community to help others pursue their dreams, the result is a win-win for all. Michael is one of many clients we are able to help because of our pro bono partnerships and support from people like you.
*name changed to protect identity
How LACY Helps
- Free and confidential legal assistance to children and youth in juvenile dependency, family law, probate guardianship, education matters and numerous other practice areas
- Advocacy to improve court and community systems designed to protect and promote child welfare
- Workshops to educate youth, parents, caregivers and members of the community about issues impacting child welfare and legal rights.
LACY Works in the Following Issue Areas
- Commercially Sexually Exploited Youth: LACY’s newest project provides legal and social work services to children and youth up to age 21 who are, are suspected of being, or are at high risk of being commercially sexually exploited.
- Educational Empowerment: The Educational Empowerment Project assists students and their caregivers in school enrollment, school discipline, and special education matters.
- Emancipation: The Emancipation Project seeks to educate minors, parents, and service providers on the realities of emancipation. LACY represents minors who qualify for emancipation in the court process.
- Guardianship: LACY accepts referrals from service providers and the community to help establish guardianships and prevent minors from entering the foster care system. Additionally, LACY is periodically appointed by local courts to represent children in contested guardianship proceedings.
- Juvenile Dependency: LACY annually represents approximately 2000 children and youth who are victims of child abuse or neglect.
- Legal Partnership Clinics: LACY provides a presence at two facilities operated by the Valley Medical Center, Santa Clara County’s largest public hospital. The medical-legal partnership assists patients in the pediatrics clinic, and their families, with legal issues that impacts children’s health and well-being by providing on-site services.
- Refugee Foster Care: LACY serves as an independent review panel for immigrant foster children placed through Catholic Charities.
- Safe Families Advocacy: The Safe Families Project provides representation and education for pregnant and parenting teens on paternity, child custody and support, and visitation matters. LACY also works within a community collaborative to provide legal services, including assistance on restraining orders, to victims of teen dating violence. The Safe Families Project also extends to high-conflict child custody cases where the court appoints LACY to represent the minor.
- Transition-Aged Foster Youth: LACY addresses the unique legal needs of foster youth through the Transition-Aged Foster Youth Project, which provides legal assistance to current and former foster youth ages 14 to 24 as they move from the foster care system to independent adulthood.
LACY's Attorney-Social Worker ModelOur multi-disciplinary practice affords clients the opportunity to benefit from the expertise of attorneys and social workers as their needs are addressed. Our efforts protect the interests of children and empower clients to develop their voice through the legal process.
LACY Client Stories
Javier, now 15-years-old, was born in Mexico City, Mexico, and lived in a dangerous and crime-ridden neighborhood. He was abandoned by his mother and father before the age of 5. His grandparents took him and his siblings in and he only saw his mother when she came to ask his grandparents for money. When Javier was 10, his grandfather died. To help support his grandmother and his siblings, Javier had to drop out of school to do full-time manual labor.
When Javier was thirteen, a local gang member harassed and abused his younger sister; the gang member also threatened to harm her family if she did not date him. Javier and his cousin confronted the young man and asked him to leave. The gang member responded by threatening to kill the boys and other family members. Javier turned to police who told the family they could not protect them and urged them to leave the area. Before they could do so, Javier’s cousin was kidnapped and murdered. Out of fear for Javier and his sister, his grandmother sent them to the border to find his aunt and uncle in the United States.
Javier and his sister were separated at the border and he has not seen her since. He was detained and then released to the care of his aunt in San Jose. Upon arrival at his aunt’s home, Javier contacted LACY seeking assistance to avoid deportation. First LACY filed for a guardianship allowing Javier’s aunt to have custody of him. After obtaining the guardianship, LACY filed a petition for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, a special relief offered to children who have been abused, neglected, abandoned or harmed in their home countries and cannot safely return. On May 27, 2014, the court granted Javier’s petition and he received his green card. Without LACY’s help, Javier would not be able to remain legally in the U.S. and would have to live in fear for his life back in Mexico. Today, Javier is recovering from his difficult childhood and is doing well in his guardianship with his aunt. Javier is currently a sophomore in high school and he enjoys being back in school. Gang members are no longer a threat to him and he has a future filled with numerous possibilities due in part to the legal help he got from LACY.