For families living in poverty in Indianapolis, an unanticipated legal issue can quickly escalate into a major crisis. Lack of transportation and knowledge of how to deal with the problem plus day-to-day stressors like dealing with childcare, medical needs and putting meals on the table can easily leave these families feeling like there’s nowhere to turn for help.
With help from the Indianapolis Bar Foundation (IBF), local non-profit Kids’ Voice of Indiana will bring free legal assistance into the community to directly assist these families through a new Community Mobile Law Program, funded through the IBF’s 2017 Impact Fund Grant.
The pilot program will provide one-on-one legal help for Indianapolis residents with regular clinic hours at four community centers: Children’s Bureau, Flanner House, the Shepherd Community Center and the Mary Rigg Neighborhood Center. Each of these centers serves clients suffering from poverty, high crime, lack of transportation and language barriers.
At these clinics, Kids’ Voice staff and IBF/Indianapolis Bar Association volunteers will help clients fill out forms ready to file so their legal issue is on its way to resolution and will provide guidance with legal advice and direction on additional options for assistance through pro bono services or attorneys prepared to help with specific legal problems. In addition, the program will provide training sessions for the community center staff on family law topics and child abuse and neglect. Several free presentations will also be available for the public accessing the community center, including programs for juveniles on delinquency and social media safety.
The impact of the program is expected to be immense. It will provide new resources for the community centers served, not only for their existing clients but for new neighbors who will be drawn into the facilities through the added services of the Community Mobile Law Program. The program will empower clients to become self-sufficient in handling their own legal issues and overcoming obstacles, helping them find new employment and establish a stable family life. Crime prevention is also an anticipated benefit, as services will provide neighbors with solutions that help them avoid resorting to crime to pay for needed legal services. The program will also uniquely serve the immigrant community without fear of reprisal.
The project is scheduled to launch in 2018, with volunteer opportunities and training sessions for the program offered to bar members throughout the year. Watch for details at indybar.org.
About the Indianapolis Bar Foundation & the Impact Fund
The Impact Fund began in 2011 as a vehicle to maximize the financial generosity of Indianapolis Bar Foundation donors and to provide members of the Indianapolis Bar Association with compelling opportunities to donate their time through pro bono service. Since its inception, $175,000 has been awarded through the fund to organizations like Indy Reads, Peace Learning Center, the Joseph Maley Foundation, the Military Assistance Project of Indiana Legal Services Inc., Reach for Youth, and the Health and Human Rights Clinic at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in an effort to provide a significant positive impact in central Indiana through the promotion of access to justice for indigent persons.
The Impact Fund is an important tool in the foundation’s efforts to fulfill its mission: to advance justice and lead positive change in Indianapolis through philanthropy, education and service. In addition to the Impact Fund, the Indianapolis Bar Foundation grants $105,000 each year to a variety of community service programs co-sponsored with the Indianapolis Bar Association.
About Kids’ Voice of Indiana
Since 1982, Kids’ Voice has been a champion for abused, neglected, and endangered children in Marion County. Its signature programs are based on three pillars: Education (The Derelle Watson-Duvall Children’s Law Center, established in 1983), Advocacy (The Bette J. Dick Guardian ad Litem Program for Kids, established in 1993) and Protection (The Jenny Miller Supervised Parent-Child Visitation Program, established in 1997). Kids’ Voice is a prevention organization using secondary prevention services to deter abused, neglected, and endangered children from experiencing or re-experiencing abuse and/or neglect. Without prevention services, abused, neglected, and/or endangered children can become wards of the state, otherwise referred to as a Child in Need of Services (CHINS).