The Bronx Defenders serves over 35,000 clients from the Bronx each year, and the voices of these clients and their families — their stories of struggle, strength, and achievement — is what drives our work forward. Here are just a few of these stories:
Crystal — herself a veteran of the New York City foster care system — has spent her young adulthood parenting her three children as lovingly as any mother would. She was committed to making them feel secure and loved in the way she never experienced.
This family security and stability that Crystal worked so hard to create was called into question when her youngest son fell off his bed when she looked away to reach for a diaper. Despite immediately taking her son to the hospital, the doctors did not believe Crystal’s account of what happened and reported her to the authorities. New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services (ASC) accused Crystal of child abuse and asked the Family Court to remove all three of her sons from her care.
Fortunately, with the support of her Bronx Defenders advocates and medical experts, Crystal was able to prevent her family from being torn apart and never spend a single day away from her children. With her case closed, Crystal has resumed her life as a hard-working single mom with her three growing sons.
Pedro had lived in the Bronx for 24 years, he held a green card, and he worked hard to raise his four children, one of whom was diagnosed with severe autism. Already faced with these daily challenges, Pedro was arrested and found himself entangled in the criminal justice system. And, like many poor people in communities like the South Bronx, his engagement with the criminal justice system was made all the more severe by the cascade of enmeshed penalties and collateral consequences.
By the time Pedro’s family gathered enough money to post bail, it was too late. Immigration officials had lodged a detainer on him, and he was sent to Louisiana and then to Texas where he languished in immigration detention for nearly a year. Pedro’s four young children were placed in foster care. He lost his job and his apartment. And he was in danger of being deported.
With holistic support from his Bronx Defenders team of immigration attorneys, criminal defense attorneys, family defense attorneys, and social workers, Pedro was able to turn his life around. He was transferred back to immigration detention in New Jersey, closer to home. His criminal charges were dismissed, and he won his Family Court case to regain custody of his children. Back in the Bronx with his family, Pedro was attended counseling and parenting classes and got his old job back. In addition, with support from The Bronx Defenders, Pedro obtained certificates for relief from disability to start the process of applying to be a U.S. citizen.
Wendy came to The Bronx Defenders with a long, difficult history of involvement with the criminal justice and child welfare systems. She had already been arrested countless times and served two years at a correctional facility, and her five children had been removed from her care and placed in foster care.
Despite all these challenges, when Wendy met her Bronx Defenders criminal defense attorney for the first time, she realized that she could still have hope for a better future. Working together with her team of criminal defense attorneys, family defense attorneys, civil attorneys, social workers, and parent advocates, Wendy was able to stabilize her life, regain custody of all of her children, and obtain safe and stable affordable housing.
With her life on track, Wendy decided to go back to school, and was able to earn her Masters in Social Work. Today, she is a supervising social worker, and is able to provide the same compassionate support and advocacy that helped her to rebuild her own life.