Brevard County Legal Aid (Rockledge, FL)

Name

  • Name:Rob Johnson
  • Title:Executive Director

Organization Address

  • Organization Name:Brevard County Legal Aid
  • Address:1038 Harvin Way
    Suite 100
    Rockledge, FL 32955
    United States

Organization Phone

  • Main phone:3216312500
  • Main fax:3216334822

Organization Web

User Email

Location

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General

  • Mission:
  • Brevard County Legal Aid (BCLA) is committed to improving the quality of legal aid and assistance to protect personal safety, establish family stability, and ensure equal access to justice for low income and disadvantaged persons in Brevard County. We are a non-profit (501-C3) agency serving Brevard County since 1970. Since 2006, BCLA has been providing support and advocacy through both in-house and pro bono resources specifically to give abused, abandoned and neglected children a strong and zealous voice in legal proceedings. Approximately 20% of the children we serve annually have special needs.

  • Overview:
  • Brevard County Legal Aid (BCLA) provides a wide range of legal services to economically disadvantaged persons in Brevard County including: Family Law, Free Foreclosure Assistance, Domestic Violence, Guardianship, Consumer cases that exceed small claims, Bankruptcy, Landlord/Tenant Negotiations. One of the strongest operating programs through BCLA is our Children's Legal Advocacy Project.

    Our Children’s Legal Advocacy Project (CLAP) assists children who, due to parental neglect, have been removed from the custody of their parents pursuant to court order, and placed in the care of the State. Many are “aging out” of the foster care system and will be thrown into a world on their own without housing, financial assistance or emotional support. Legal Aid’s CLAP program is there to help by protecting their access to educational opportunities, stabilizing their transition from foster homes to independent living arrangements, and ensuring that the court understands their needs. Our primary goal is to provide effective advocacy for our young clients regarding their mental and physical health, placement, interactions with family, access to educational programs, representation at juvenile justice hearings, and psychiatric residential treatment hearings. Without an attorney to represent them, the dependency system often overlooks the very children it seeks to protect.

    Many of our young clients have been abused by parents, physically and sexually, kicked from placement to placement for years, and have never established permanent family connections. The lack of support and guidance normally provided by intact families is evident and these children are likely to experience hardships at a much higher rate than their counterparts. These hardships grow exponentially for those individuals who have special needs. Through CLAP, our attorneys assist many young adults with disabilities in critically important matters such as placement, sibling visitation, mental health services, and appropriate residential treatment requests. Without a loving parent to advocate for their special needs, many foster children with disabilities have no voice to receive the basic services which they so badly need to enjoy a fulfilling life. Experienced attorneys through CLAP fill this gap and advocate on behalf of our clients for the supportive services to help them to be most successful in their care and transition from foster services.

    Thanks to Florida's Independent Living Act, foster children with disabilities may extend state-supported foster care through the age of 22. As a result, more and more youth are extending foster care and the need for services through BCLA’s CLAP program has never been greater. Our attorneys work to ensure that these clients are well represented in the court system and receive the support they are entitled to. Community care providers continuously attempt to cut services and housing funding for young adults transitioning into independent living. Many foster youth are moved to extended stay hotels when they turn 18 - a deplorable practice that BCLA fights every day.

    Using advocacy, collaboration, and ingenuity, CLAP protects the health, education, maintenance and well-being of children on Florida’s Space Coast – particularly those clients who have special needs. Approximately 20% of the youth we serve have severe disabilities. One client who received support through the program is severely autistic, non-verbal, has a low IQ and engages in self-injurious behaviors. In a separate case, one client has a very low IQ and was the victim of severe physical and sexual abuse by the biological father. The trauma from the abuse caused the child to engage in fecal smearing. The children’s disabilities in such cases make it very difficult to secure appropriate living arrangements. Typically, the State attempts to place these children in non-specialized group homes which do not offer the level of individualized care these children need. CLAP has been successful in such cases in securing specialized therapeutic group home settings for our clients along with treatment which includes behavioral therapy. As a result of our efforts, these children are making significant progress. In one case, an autistic child is now potty trained and out of diapers at the age of 17. She is learning to use sign language to speak and her incidents of self-injurious behavior have significantly decreased from up to 50 per day, to only a few per week. In each of these cases, it is clear that our clients are unable to make their own decisions as they approach the end of their state supported foster care arrangements. BCLA attorneys ad litem have been successful in advocating for such clients.

  • History:
  • Brevard County Legal Aid contracts with over 150 volunteer attorneys in Brevard County to provide quality legal services to children in need, such as Trenton Miller. In spite of having a 3.7 high school GPA, serving as an ROTC Brigade Commander and having been selected for a highly competitive statewide youth leadership program, Trenton Miller says he had never considered college until a volunteer lawyer from BCLA showed him his options. Miller's early teenage years had been focused primarily on protecting his younger sisters from his mother's alcohol and drug abuse, going to school and working 30 hours a week, mostly at fast food restaurants. When his mother's boyfriend was arrested for domestic violence and the family had to go to a shelter, Miller, then 16, decided to call an abuse hotline to report his mom for exposing his sisters to drugs and involving them in theft to support her habit. Eventually placed in a group home, Miller wanted to live on his own and sought help from Brevard County Legal Aid.

    Miller’s BCLA attorney made sure Miller was able to continue receiving state benefits while living on his own. At the same time, he opened Miller's mind up to the possibility of college by explaining to him that the state would provide help with tuition and living expenses if he chose to earn a degree before going active duty in the military. Accepted at the University of Central Florida, Miller started college this fall. With a college degree, he will able to take his military career much farther than he had originally planned. Miller is quoted as saying, “Legal Aid has changed my life. I'm going to go down a different path for my future than I would have, and in a more successful, effective way."

    Annually, Brevard County Legal Aid serves over 1500 clients. In the past five years, BCLA has closed over 8300 cases, of which 60% were managed by volunteer attorneys. In 2014, over 350 volunteer attorneys affiliated with Brevard County Legal Aid provided extensive pro bono services ranging from staffing advice clinics to representation in ongoing court litigation for BCLA clients. These attorneys contributed over 3,500 hours of service. Attorneys also made contributions in lieu of services totaling almost $46,000 in financial donations. In 2014 alone, BCLA closed 1,542 cases.

    Quality legal representation is often absent for low income populations. The civil legal problems of low income individuals involve essential human needs such as protection from abusive relationships, safe and habitable housing, access to necessary health care, support with family law and children's issues (including child support and custody actions), and relief from financial exploitation. BCLA's goals include: increasing client awareness of their legal situation, their rights, available resources, and legal options. BCLA also works to improve increased access to the courts; improve family stability by establishing legally binding court orders for custody, support, and visitation; provide safety for victims through court actions; and representation of dependent children aging out of foster care and/or with special needs through court appointments.

    BCLA is committed to providing high quality legal representation to protect personal safety, establish family stability, and ensure equal access to justice for low income and disadvantaged persons.

  • Year established:1970
  • Endowment:Unknown

Staff

  • Executive / Trustee board size:14
  • Advisory board size:0
  • Staff size:10

Registration

  • Organization type:Grantseeker
  • Country of registration:United States
  • Tax Determination Letter:Received Determination Letter
  • IRS Section:501(c)(3)
  • IRS Subsection:509(a)(1)
  • Tax ID: