The mission of the Support Center for Child Advocates (CHILD ADVOCATES) is "to advocate for victims of child abuse and neglect, with the goal of securing safety, justice, well-being and a permanent, nurturing environment for every child." CHILD ADVOCATES began as a committee of the Philadelphia Bar Association, recruiting attorneys to represent children in dependency proceedings. Incorporated as a nonprofit in 1977, we have remained true to our service model of assigning child survivors of abuse to specially trained volunteer attorneys and staff social workers and lawyers who ensure the safety, permanency, and well-being of our young clients by representing them in court and advocating for the services that they need to recover from physical and emotional trauma. We also engage in systemic improvement efforts that benefit all children and families within the child welfare system.
CHILD ADVOCATES annually serves close to 1,000 children and youth who range in age from birth to 21. Cases are referred to us by the District Attorney's Office and the courts. Most involve physical abuse, sexual abuse, serious neglect and/or multiple siblings. Our commitment to maintaining low caseloads for our case workers allows us to offer unparalleled service delivery. All of our direct service programs are designed to improve client safety, eliminate client exposure to violence, and improve client well-being. Last year, 90% of our closing cases resulted in safe, permanent homes for clients.
During 46+ years of service, CHILD ADVOCATES has served more than 16,000 children, with 907 served last year. As such, we have become one of the region's leading solutions to the problem of child abuse, annually accepting more than one-third of Philadelphia's substantiated cases of abuse, with 300 volunteer lawyers providing pro bono services valued at more than $5 million. The numbers of children with whom we engage and our success in helping them have a profound impact on the health of the community at large.
Among the children whom we have recently served is four-year-old Anthony* who was born with a congenital brain abnormality and required a ventilator for breathing, as well as a feeding tube. Anthony had been living in a pediatric nursing home because his family had not been able to meet his significant medical needs. When Anthony’s mother passed away, the facility contacted the Department of Human Services (DHS) because there was no caregiver to provide consent for a recommended surgery.
CHILD ADVOCATES was appointed to represent Anthony, and our attorney-social worker team immediately gathered records to better understand the boy’s needs. Because Anthony was nearing school age, our team advocated for the appointment of an educational decision-maker to track Anthony’s educational needs and ensure that he was enrolled in school. With an eye toward having Anthony live with a family, our team urged the DHS Community Umbrella Agency (CUA) to search for family members or a foster home for him. We collaborated with the DHS lawyers to move quickly towards a termination of parental rights, so that the department would be able to consent to any further medical procedures for Anthony. CHILD ADVOCATES partnered with DHS, CUA, and Anthony’s medical team, to move him out of the nursing home. In time, a staff member at the facility came forward and said that she would like to adopt Anthony. We continued meeting with the planning team to assist with the move and to ensure that the prospective caregiver had the training, medical equipment, and nursing support to care for Anthony.
CHILD ADVOCATES continues to assist Anthony and his future adoptive mother in navigating the challenges of Anthony’s transition from the nursing facility to a new home and community. Anthony is currently flourishing – picking up more words, learning other ways to communicate, enjoying school, and even playing the drums! Our team supports him and his soon-to-be Mom, with the hope that he’ll be adopted and officially become part of the family later this year!