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CUNY Law Review Symposium Brings Family Defense to the Forefront

April 11, 2016

Making parental voices in child welfare cases more prominent was the focus of CUNY Law Review’s recent symposium.

“We are the professionals, but [parents] are the experts,” Angela Burton, a former CUNY Law professor and now with the New York State Office of Indigent Legal Services, said in her opening remarks.

More than 100 people attended the half-day symposium on Friday to engage in discussions of how family defense can become more available throughout the U.S.

CUNY Law Review members invited representatives from Rise Magazine, a publication written by and for parents dealing with the child welfare system to ensure that parents’ voices were included.

Marty Guggenheim of NYU Law, Kara Finck of Penn Law and Diane Redleaf of the Family Defense Center discuss innovative models of family defense.

Marty Guggenheim of NYU Law, Kara Finck of Penn Law and Diane Redleaf of the Family Defense Center discuss innovative models of family defense.

The plenary panel featured contributions from family law professors from NYU and University of Pennsylvania, along with legal defenders from Brooklyn Defender Services and the Family Defense Project (based in Chicago).

“All of the presenters today start from one basic premise—families matter. Every family matters,” Burton added.

Marty Guggenheim, director of NYU Law School’s Family Defense Clinic, moderated the plenary session which focused heavily on the need to increase legal representation for parents in child welfare cases. When child welfare cases are adjudicated, poor parents around the country usually don’t have access to any legal representation. New York is one of the few states where parental representation is generally available.

The CUNY Law Review board presented Guggenheim with the Scholarship for Social Justice Award. CUNY Law Professor Ann Cammett (’00) shared how Guggenheim inspired her in the early 2000s, and called him a “godparent on questions of family healing and representation.”

The symposium also included smaller panel discussions. In a session moderated by CUNY Law Professor Julie Goldscheid, the group considered interdisciplinary approaches to family defense. Professor Cammett, director of the Family Law Practice Clinic at CUNY Law, led a session about problem-solving courts. And Professor Babe Howell led a discussion on structural racism and family defense.

Matthew Fraidin, a professor at the University of the District of Columbia’s David A. Clarke School of Law, delivered the keynote address.

CUNY Law professor Andrea McArdle praised the sessions. “The panels were illuminating, and the discussion substantively rich and affecting. The presentations by parent writer-advocates were inspiring,” she said. “It was a memorable program that will continue to have impact when the CUNY Law Review publishes the symposium papers later this year.”



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