Meeting Diverse Needs
The Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law is more than a public interest law firm. The attorneys and staff are also teachers, counselors, and problem solvers for very low income clients and community members striving to start over.
This trailblazing legal program was the first in California to provide in depth continuing self-help assistance to very low-income individuals with family law and domestic violence problems and to empower clients to represent themselves in court.
Domestic Violence Assistance
Over 70% of all Center clients report a history of domestic violence, and most are women. The Center provides intensive, ongoing legal assistance to victims, and helps shield their children from harm by obtaining appropriate orders for custody, visitation and support for their parents.
Mothers Behind Bars
Collaborating with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Center conducts interactive classes in the county jails to educate incarcerated women on family law, child welfare and domestic violence topics.
Volunteer and Law Student Development
By maintaining an active program of recruiting and training over 250 volunteers to help its clients, the Center becomes a conduit by which attorneys, law students, and other professionals maximize the use of their skills to give back to the community.
Pro Bono Panel
Marshaling the services of private practitioners, the Center offers several thousand hours of free legal representation to clients facing barriers to self-representation because of severe abuse or fear, disability, legal complexity or other circumstances.
Meeting Emerging Needs
In addition to its core programs, the Center reaches out to meet emerging needs in the community. Here are the Center’s efforts:
Community College and Neighborhood Outreach
Partnering with various local schools and other non-profit institutions, the Center conducts day-long, on-site legal counseling sessions and group educational presentations to help community college students and community members facing critical family law issues.
Family Reunification and Reentry
To help facilitate healthy family reunification and reduce recidivism upon reentry, the Center offers direct legal services and education workshops on domestic violence, child custody, child welfare, paternity and child support to formerly incarcerated mothers.
Family and Mental Health
Over 10% of Center clients are parents and individuals who have one or more disabilities and seek help with custody and visitation issues. The Center provides them with legal assistance from advocates who understand the unique challenges that they face in demonstrating their ability to be a parent.
Special Efforts in 2015
LGBTQ Family Law Project (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer)
Despite recent court advances, LGBTQ individuals continue to face discrimination and prejudice in the family court system. In response to this community need, the Center offers direct legal services for eligible LGBTQ individuals who need family law and domestic violence assistance.
Vera Brown Curtis Project
Named after Vera Brown Curtis, a passionate advocate for disenfranchised persons, the Center initiated an effort in 2015 with funding from the Los Angeles Chapter of The Links, Inc., to increase its visibility and offer assistance to African-Americans living in the poorest neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Efforts are continuing with hope a new outreach location can be found.
Through the Harriett Buhai Center’s community advocacy training program, Promotoras, current and former clients of the Center, all Latina, learned how to initiate conversations with others about domestic violence in a culturally sensitive manner. The benefit of this lay leader program, designed by Planned Parenthood for use in the health care field, is to reach women who might not otherwise be aware of formal organizations and professionally trained personnel. Former Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina sponsored this pilot program offered for the first time by the Center. Future continuation of this successful program is sought.