Here’s How Our Clients Succeed
Below are just a few of the many stories of the successes experienced by the youth we serve. All names have been changed to protect our clients' privacy.
“Duane” Puts System-Involvement Behind Him, Enrolls in College
Duane was 16 when his father remarried and brought a new family into his life. He was in a new household, with new rules – and his stepmother was much stricter than his dad had ever been. Duane had trouble adjusting, and before long a fight with his stepsister led his stepmother to call the police…
After Rocky Road at School, “Imani” Starts Fresh
Imani was confident about starting high school. She had been a good student in middle school and her teachers liked her. She had a flair for the dramatic, and she was good at making her classmates laugh.
Coping with Tragedy, “Brittany” Improves Behavior and Earns Early Release
Brittany’s first familial separation occurred when she was just 12 years old. Both of her parents were incarcerated, and she and her siblings were sent to live with different family members.
After moving to her grandmother’s, Brittany struggled to feel accepted and was arrested several times on minor charges. Then, shortly after her fourteenth birthday, she was sentenced to 3 years in secure care – juvenile prison – when she crashed a stolen car. For the next eighteen months, Brittany was forgotten: Her lawyer never visited her in prison or spoke to her after the sentencing hearing. And, unbeknownst to the facility staff, Brittany was coping with two major changes in her home life. Her grandmother and guardian was dying of cancer, and her father had recently returned from prison.
When Brittany first met with attorneys from the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights, she immediately requested to visit her grandmother and asked for permission to live with her father upon release. Her defense team secured both of her wishes. Then, when a staff member dislocated Brittany’s shoulder, her attorneys filed grievances and contacted the Department of Children and Family Services. Watching her team advocate on her behalf, Brittany realized that changing her behavior would lead to better outcomes. And she was right. In the classroom, Brittany began achieving her full potential by engaging with her teacher and classmates on assignments. Her teachers reported excellent progress. She also participated in counseling and family sessions to build her relationship with her father.
Then, when Brittany’s grandmother passed away, the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights defense team was able to provide her a home pass. Soon after, she was granted early release. Brittany returned home 3 months early, got enrolled in a GED program, and is happily reunited with her father.
Finding Strength in School
Losing a parent is devastating, especially for a young child. John lost his mother when he was 11 years old. After her passing, he packed his things and moved in with his father and step mother, his new guardians.
Months went by and John grew very sad. He loved school, but it was progressively more difficult to follow along. He wasn’t engaging in classroom activities, and he didn’t get along with his teacher. But school was a refuge. John continued to show up, finding comfort in the buzz of the hallways; the silence at his desk.
Then the suspensions started. Minor infractions turned into more adverse behavior, and John received an out-of-school punishment. Day after day, he felt increasingly disconnected and alone. It finally became too much. John returned to school and, when approached by administrators, refused to leave campus. The police were called. John was arrested for criminal trespass and disturbing the peace.
When John’s Children’s Defense team began working on his case, the LCCR youth advocate discovered he hadn’t gone to school. In weeks. When she contacted the school, they denied his return because too much time had passed, and his stormy history.
Unwilling to accept the school’s decision, John’s youth advocate teamed up with his court-ordered caseworker to campaign for his re-admission. John’s case worker reached out to the school administrators while his LCCR team collected records, referred him to a high-quality mental health provider, and enrolled him in a mentoring and case management program.
The school agreed to his return. John is now enrolled in a school-based therapeutic program that better serves his needs, and a proper Individualized Education Plan (IEP) was fully implemented. John’s judge is excited about his progress, and the school principal says he’s proud of John’s hard work. Just recently, he emailed an LCCR social worker with an update: John is focused and happy, has built strong relationships with staff, including the school counselor, and has no new infractions.
Case Closes as “Darrell” Thrives at School
Darrell was prosecuted as a status offender in a so-called Families In Need of Services case. The prosecution said that he needed court supervision because of alleged trouble at home. Darrell wasn’t accused of any delinquency offense. Nobody even said he had committed a crime. But he was placed under the supervision of the court and eventually given a probation officer.
During their weekly meetings, Darrell’s LCCR youth advocate discovered that he had little support at home—his father was ill, and his mother struggled with substance abuse—and even less support in school. Darrell has a learning disability that makes it hard for him to pay attention during class, and though he had an Individualized Education Program (IEP) in place, it was largely ignored. Darrell’s lack of engagement was taken for indifference rather than the symptom of his special education needs.
With the help of his youth advocate, Darrell enrolled in a new school. The youth advocate and LCCR’s civil litigation attorney met with the school’s special education teacher to make sure Darrell’s IEP was updated and diligently followed. His LCCR team also referred him to a doctor’s office where he sees a social worker and psychiatrist. Darrell was diagnosed with severe depression and is now receiving the proper medication and counseling.
Because of Darrell’s efforts, his judge closed his case one year early. And after the first week of school, Darrell’s teacher called his youth advocate to share that he was the best student in class. He also joined the school’s football team, and the coach echoed the sentiment, saying Darrell was a great team player.
“LT” Back in School After System-Involvement
When he was fifteen, LT started hanging out with a new group of boys in his neighborhood. His friends didn’t go to school much, and the more time LT spent with them, the more he ditched school, too. LT was kind and thoughtful, but after years of being exposed to violence, he suffered from emotional trauma that made him feel indifferent to his safety, and to his environment. He found an outlet in fighting, and put himself in situations where he faced serious injury. It was during this time, as LT progressively detached from school and his family, that he was arrested for illegal carrying of a weapon.
Initially, the judge sentenced LT to probation. LT returned to his neighborhood, where his mother could sense he was getting into trouble, and feared for his life. Shortly after the decision, the judge modified LT’s sentence to a non-secure care facility, where LT first met his LCCR social work intern, who began regular visits to the facility. They talked about healthy ways for him to manage his anger, and worked on a plan for him to live a more positive lifestyle. Meanwhile, his LCCR social worker assisted LT’s mother with finding a new place to live. Afraid for her son to return to such a violent neighborhood, LT’s social worker accompanied his mother to Housing Authority meetings in attempt to transfer her housing voucher. After an exhaustive process, they were successful.
Despite the family’s move, LT’s LCCR team made sure LT could return to the same school, where he’s doing much better now that he and his mother are in a new part of town. They also connected LT with after-school sports, and introduced him to the team coaches who are now his mentors. When we hear from LT, the news only gets better. He’s enjoying school, his family is happy, and together, they’re building a brighter future.
“JR” Reunites with Family After Prolonged Incarceration
Children should not sit in prison simply for the lack of a lawyer to fight for them. That strong belief drives LCCR’s Second Chances Project, a pilot initiative that brings the promise of release to incarcerated youth from parishes outside of New Orleans. After the project launched in November 2013, LCCR took JR’s case, who at age fourteen was sentenced to four years in prison for an armed robbery charge. JR’s visit with his LCCR attorney marked the first time he had spoken with a lawyer since he went to prison two and half years before. And having a lawyer made all the difference. Three months after their initial meeting, the court released JR from custody.
During his first year in prison, JR’s mother passed away. Barred from the funeral, JR was only permitted to attend the wake escorted by a deputy officer, in shackles and alone. With JR’s mother gone, his uncle became his guardian. JR’s three siblings moved to Texas, where the uncle lives. Determined to unite his nephew with the family, JR’s uncle began advocating for JR’s release. The process grew complicated as authorities shuffled JR among three different facilities. At the first, the other youth bullied and beat him up; JR was transferred for his own safety. The second facility, Jetson Center for Youth, abruptly closed. When he reached the third, JR had an entirely new case manager, and his record of achievement in the juvenile prisons – including a clean disciplinary record from the preceding months – was erased. Due to administrative red tape, JR had to start at square one. He had nothing to show for all the progress that he had made.
JR’s defense team gathered his records as well as statements from case managers who recommended that he join his family in Texas. After filing a motion to modify – a request to the judge to reconsider the length of a sentence – JR’s LCCR attorney set up a reentry plan to present in court. With assistance from his uncle, the LCCR team enrolled JR in Job Corps and located a mental health provider to ensure JR received the proper medication and counseling support. The judge agreed to the plan, and now JR is with his family in Texas, one year and six months before his scheduled release date.
“PW” Finds Career Path After Incarceration
At the age of 13, PW was arrested and charged with armed robbery. He served one year in secure care – the term of art for juvenile jail – before the court released him with four years probation. PW is the oldest of three children, and he resolved to be on his best behavior. He wanted to set a good example for his younger siblings.
And he did. For the next two years, PW performed well in school and helped his parents with household chores. He was kind, soft-spoken, and respectful. Then, in a few short, tragic months, PW lost three of his closest friends to gang violence. Terrified that he was the next target, PW started carrying a gun. It was the only way he thought to protect himself.
One afternoon, the police stopped PW and found the gun. He was charged with illegal possession of a firearm and his parole was revoked—meaning PW had to return to jail. Taken from his family and grieving the deaths of his friends, he fell into a deep depression.
Teaming with his mother, PW’s LCCR defense team made sure PW received the proper mental health supports: he started taking medication and seeing a counselor on a regular basis. While incarcerated, he also earned his GED. Months into his sentence, he had a clean record with no write-ups or reprimands from the facility’s staff.
Determined to return PW to his family, his attorney helped PW’s mother complete a home study as part of a comprehensive reintegration plan. His LCCR advocates lined up a paid apprenticeship for him. And the judge agreed to send him home.
Now, weeks into his release, he’s learning a new trade and enjoys the hard work and concentration it requires. In fact, he plans to pursue a degree from the community college to further master his skill. PW’s defense team also set up counseling services and he continues to receive the therapy necessary to cope with the trauma he experienced. Living at home again, PW is finally content and eager to move forward with his life.
“JL” Gains New Confidence to Achieve Goals
Those who know him all agree: JL has a smile that can light up any room. At 17 years old, he’s an extraordinary athlete with a kind and helpful heart. But JL endured a lot of pain growing up, and he always hid his feelings, even from his mother. Carrying that burden alone soon became too much for JL. He felt isolated and emotionally distracted, and eventually stopped showing up to school. Before he even turned 16, JL was charged with armed robbery and spent nearly a year in Orleans Parish Prison. Shortly after his release, he was accused of violating his probation and faced a sentence of four years in prison. But LCCR’s Reentry Project, a pilot project that provides intensive case management services for youth transitioning from custody back into the community, presented JL with an alternative to jail time. JL and his youth advocate crafted a strong plan to keep him involved in the community and out of trouble, and the judge agreed to let JL give the plan a try.
Months into the program, JL no longer feels overwhelmed and alone. With the support of his mother, his youth advocate, and his basketball coach, JL is confident and motivated to be involved in activities he knows will help him thrive. JL is back in school working hard to earn the credits he needs to get on track with his grade level, and during a recent visit with his youth advocate, JL said he finally feels happy and like himself again. He is learning healthy ways to cope with his hurt and anger at regular counseling sessions, and as no surprise to his friends, JL continues to be a dominating force on the basketball court.
Safe Housing and Support for “KC”
KC was just thirteen when he was arrested and charged with simple burglary. His mother struggled financially, and she and KC often went without food and steady housing. Because they frequently moved in search of shelter, KC had difficulty attending school; when he did, he was hungry and exhausted. Desperate to help his family, he began looking for a way – any way – to bring home a few extra dollars. KC soon faced a series of theft charges.
Then it got even worse. KC and his mother were living outdoors as his trial approached, spending some nights huddled under an overpass. KC was struggling with the pressure of his court case and his homelessness, and the judge – worried that his judgment was affected – ordered that he be held in a locked mental hospital pending trial.
KC isn’t locked in a hospital anymore, and he isn’t homeless. KC’s lawyer and social worker secured him a place in a group home where he has his own room, a ride to and from school, and three meals a day—the burger, he says, is his favorite. Working closely with KC and his mother, his LCCR team showed the judge that KC is full of potential—he is eager to learn, excited to engage with his peers, and happy to have a safe, reliable routine, as well as access to 24/7 counseling from an in-house support team.
His mother found affordable housing, and KC visits her every weekend. She is focused on building a stable home for KC to return to in the future. And the comfort and safety of the group home permits KC to finally focus on school, social activities, and enjoying his childhood.
Comprehensive Reentry Plan for “J”
J met us as a bright, composed, gentle 14-year-old – one who was charged with armed robbery.
In the eighth grade, J began skipping school. His teachers reported that he was disruptive in class. His school administrator referred him to the court’s Families in Need of Services program, and he was prosecuted as a status offender – a child who is only on the wrong side of the law because he did something that children aren’t permitted to do, like being truant from school or “ungovernable” at home.
As too frequently happens, sending a child who hasn’t committed a crime into the court system doesn’t actually solve any problems. Too frequently, court involvement just makes existing problems worse by stigmatizing children and by exposing them to peers who have more significant behavioral difficulties. And that’s what happened to J. Before long, he was arrested on an allegation of committing an armed robbery. He ended up going to secure custody – the term of art for juvenile prison.
But that wasn’t the end of the story.
LCCR’s client services staff began working on a reentry plan for J a month before his scheduled release. His social worker pre-enrolled him in the school of his choice, so that he could begin attending the day after he came home. She set up a doctor’s appointment so that he would be able to continue receiving medication and counseling for his behavioral health disorders. She made sure that he had afterschool activities in place to keep him busy. And his whole advocacy team kept checking in and following up to give J the guidance and support he needed during the difficult reintegration process.
Now, months after his return home, J is thriving. He is in school and on his medication. He is preparing for basketball try-outs this winter, and mixing music at a friend’s studio in the afternoons. He feels, and looks, terrific.
J’s story is just one of the reasons that LCCR believes advocacy for children’s rights matters every step of the way – from the moment of arrest until a child is entirely free of the justice system. We believe that children are so much more than the worst thing they have ever done, and that all children deserve the supports and opportunities that they need to develop into healthy, successful adults. And there are some times in particular – like when children are returning to the community from custody – that those supports are particularly important.
Network of Support for “M”
M, a seventeen-year-old client, first experienced psychosis at the age of fifteen, setting off a long and exhausting struggle with the mental health and juvenile justice systems. M’s mother went to jail during his most recent inpatient hospitalization. When he was finally released, our youth advocate found him living alone in his mother’s apartment with no electricity or water.
Our team worked on safe housing first. With their support, M went to live with his grandmother; his youth advocate and social worker check in on the family every week to be sure that they receive the services that they need, including kinship care. We enrolled him in a school that understands his mental health needs, and put special education supports in place. We arranged for a full neuropsychological examination, connected him with a psychiatrist, and provide ongoing case management to make sure that he takes his medicine and attends therapy. For the first time in years, M is free, safe, and learning.
Positive Development for “W”
W was just 14, but had started spending time with older boys who pushed him to join them in breaking into cars and houses. He was smart and charismatic – but he stopped going to school every day, started failing classes, and began fighting with his siblings and his mother.
We started with a complete psychosocial evaluation, pulled every school and medical record we could think of, and interviewed every family member we could find. It turned out that W’s troubles had a lot to do with his neighborhood and his lack of adult support. Our case plan called for him to move out of state with a relative; working remotely, we pre-enrolled him in school, and set up after-school activities, to be sure that he would be supported after his move. When the court accepted our plan, W got his first real shot at positive development – and he took advantage of it. Months later, he has not been rearrested; his relative and teachers say glowing things about him; and he just called to let his LCCR lawyer know that he made the honor roll.
Successful Reintegration for “S”
At the age of thirteen, S was sentenced to serve six months in secure custody. LCCR’s staff never stopped fighting, and secured S’ early release on parole, in part by setting up services to support a successful reintegration. We re-enrolled S in school; arranged for him to be a part of a highly-effective male mentoring program; and even worked through a community partner to make sure that he got a free uniform shirt.
When a youth advocate visited S at school a few weeks after his release, he was thriving – playing on the baseball team, pulling his grades up, and avoiding disciplinary trouble. He tells us that he wants to be a lawyer – and we think his potential is limitless.
Fighting for “E’s” Rights
E was gentle and kind, a fourteen-year-old from a tight-knit family that cared deeply about him, and that helped him to stay out of trouble. The night that a migrant worker was robbed at gunpoint, some miles from E’s house, E was with a half-dozen members of his family, visiting a much-loved aunt at the hospital. But the police officer who took the complainant’s statement did not speak Spanish, and did not bother to call an interpreter; in the confusion, the complainant identified E as the person who robbed him.
E was arrested and held in custody for two months pending trial, even though he had nothing on his record. We interviewed more than a dozen witnesses and pulled records and video to support E’s defense. All of that investigation gave E the confidence to turn town any plea offers and insist on fighting for his rights at trial. In the end, the complainant walked into court, took one look at E, and asked why the person who had robbed him was not there. The case was dismissed and E went home with his family – but nobody could give him back the two months that he had lost.