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Leaning in to Address Complex Issues

At Children’s Law Center, we spot and address the most pressing issues facing a child’s family, health and education – then take on complex systemic reforms that improve the lives of all DC children. For example:

  • We made sure the landlord got rid of the mold making Marta sick – and are adding lawyers to more health care clinics so kids with asthma can also get the legal supports they need to live in a healthier home.
  • We connected Kiarra to a therapist at school – and are reforming DC’s entire behavioral health system so children living in poverty can access timely, high-quality services. 
  • We made sure Da’ Von was set up with stable housing when he turned 21 – and are ensuring an ombudsperson is available to field complaints and track the gaps in the system so DC can better meet the needs of children like him in foster care.

*To protect our clients’ privacy, pseudonyms have been used.

Who We Are

Children’s Law Center believes every child should grow up with a strong foundation of family, health and education and live in a world free from poverty, trauma, racism and other forms of oppression. 

Since our founding in 1996, we have reached more than 50,000 children and families directly and multiplied our impact by expanding our partnerships and advocating for city-wide solutions that benefit hundreds of thousands more.

Our Impact

In 2023, we made a difference in the lives of 4,404 children and families through individual assistance:

Graphic showing number of children and families impacted in each issue area: Family (1,454), Health (2,246), and Education (1,427). Photo of a caregiver and child.

Our work with so many children and families drives our city-wide advocacy and our partnerships – creating changes that impact the lives of tens of thousands more DC children.

Seeing Laws Through to Successful Implementation

Charnese lived in six different homes during her first two years in foster care. Sadly, dozens of the youth we’ve worked with have experienced this instability. And many youth who stay in foster care until they turn 21 leave without stable, long-term housing.

To protect the privacy of children and families, abuse and neglect cases are kept confidential, making it difficult to identify the root cause of an issue and hold the government accountable. For 30 years, the federal court monitored the government. When that court oversight ended, we knew there needed to be continued transparency and accountability.

We advocated for the District to create a new Ombudsperson for Children office to better meet the needs of kids in foster care by identifying and resolving issues like housing instability. We then fought to ensure the office was funded – and staffed.

Now we’re making sure that funding stays in the DC budget so that the new office achieves what it was built to do: Protect children and ensure transparency for families.

I’ve seen eight youth age out of foster care these last few years without stable housing – even though there were federal housing funds available. This leads to devastating setbacks for our clients during an emotional and challenging time.

Allie Federoff, Children’s Law Center Supervising Attorney

Reforming Complex Systems

Photo of child with therapist, playing with modeling clay

“I like how they listen to me. I don’t talk to any other adult about my feelings.”

DC student, about their experience with their school therapist

For more than a decade we’ve been fighting to reform DC’s behavioral health system to provide high-quality, timely, affordable care to children who need it.

Thousands of children have benefited. Today, many children can access behavioral health services through their schools, their pediatricians and in childcare centers.

When the pandemic struck, 17-year-old Ana couldn't concentrate on her studies. Thankfully, her strong connection to her school-based behavioral health therapist helped her overcome her anxiety and stress - and stay in school.

But there are still thousands of children left to help. Ensuring all children have the support they need requires a comprehensive vision as well as consistent funding and technical, contractual and regulatory changes.

Together with experts, clinicians and families, we drafted a blueprint for the future with 94 concrete recommendations to make DC’s behavioral health system work for everyone.  

In 2023, we met with agency leaders and Councilmembers who have a role in this change and shared tailored recommendations about how they could improve the children’s behavioral health system.

A Path Forward for DC’s Public Behavioral Health System

Our newest report, A Path Forward: Transforming the Public Behavioral Health System for Children, Youth, and their Families in the District of Columbia, is a blueprint for creating a successful public behavioral health system — one that supports children and families and, in doing so, strengthens our entire community.

Learn More

Innovative Partnership Captures National Attention

20 years ago, Children’s Law Center implemented a bold idea: make lawyers part of the medical team and use the law to resolve health issues. It became one of the first medical-legal partnerships in the nation. Last year, we expanded to eight health clinics.

NPR and Washington Lawyer magazine both featured the innovative partnership, and the woman who leads it – Tracy Goodman – received the prestigious Jerrold P. Scoutt Prize.

In the kitchen of her rental home in northwest Washington, D.C., Shelly, a mom of two, points to the sink. ‘We had a fungus, a mushroom, growing out right here. They fixed that,’ Shelly says.

That mushroom was just one sign of the mold that once pervaded the house. Shelly lives in the home with her 7-year-old daughter. She says the mold issues often set off the child’s asthma. ‘She really couldn’t breathe during those tough times,’ Shelly says.

As featured on NPR Morning Edition

Thank you!

Our more than 100 staff – together with DC children and families, community partners and pro bono attorneys – tackle complex challenges so that change endures.

Thank you to the 3,500+ law firms, corporations, foundations and individual donors for making our work possible.

Nearly 3,000 individuals, law firms, corporations and institutional donors contributed to Children’s Law Center in 2023. View our financials here:

CFC Designation Code: #43333
United Way NCA Designation Code: #8070

Meet our 2023 Champions for Children Winners

Through our Champions for Children Campaign, law firms and corporations challenge themselves, their corporate contacts, associates, partners, vendors and staff to raise critical funds for Children’s Law Center. These generous contributions strengthen families and ensure positive health and education outcomes for DC children.

Thank You to Our Boards

Our Boards provide strategic and financial support to ensure we remain an anchor institution for children and families in the District for years to come.

Our Boards