Social work is a critical component of holistic defense. Whether a client is facing criminal charges, in danger of losing her children, or threatened with eviction, our social workers are there for them. They advocate for clients in criminal, family, and civil court. They represent clients in meetings with drug program counselors and child welfare agencies, and they support clients as they navigate the complex public benefits system. Our Masters-level social workers are not only trained to assess but also address the issues that drive clients into the various justice systems.
Social workers at The Bronx Defenders collaborate with attorneys and other advocates to determine the best defense strategy for clients based on their needs and existing strengths. Our social workers help amplify client and families’ voices in the court house, ensuring that case outcomes make sense not only for their legal case, but also for the lives our clients and their families. Through written submissions and oral advocacy, our social workers show that the true cause of our clients’ court involvement is not character, but circumstance. Because of their participation, our clients are able to obtain better outcomes in and out of the courtroom.
Our social workers also play a critical role in helping clients eliminate from their lives the issues that drove them into the justice system in the first place. They thoroughly research all of the social services available in the community and build relationships with those that are most effective. In this way, they create a web of resources that enable them to connect clients quickly to the services they need to succeed in the short term and to reach their long-term goals.
Achievements & Initiatives
- We developed specialized expertise in removal defense and collaborate closely with our immigration attorneys to defend clients detained and facing deportation. Social workers write evaluations for immigration court, provide direct testimony in court proceedings, and assist in developing case theory. We also connect clients to community resources and support when they are able to return to their families and communities in New York City.
- We host interns and fellows from social work and forensic psychology programs around the city and country including Columbia University, Lehman College, Hunter College, Fordham University, New York University, University of Michigan, and University of Texas.
- We regularly speak on panels, present at local and national conferences, and work with schools of social work to raise awareness about the issues impacting our clients in the criminal, family, immigration, and civil court systems.
- Through the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies and Focus on Fathers programs, our social workers and parent advocates provide specialized support to pregnant women and fathers through high-quality referrals to community-based services, inclusion in support groups, and advocacy in both court and non-court settings.
- We spearheaded a cross-practice Mental Health Working Group to identify trends, improve our practice across systems and promote individualized interdisciplinary advocacy for one of our most vulnerable client populations.
- We bring our clients’ stories and our practice experience to city council hearings, lobby days in Albany, community coalition work, task forces, and planning committees in the Bronx, New York City and statewide.