Our Programs

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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.

Core Programs

Pro Per

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

Since 2004, Center attorneys have provided a legal education program to thousands of women at Century Regional Detention Facility (CDRF), the largest women’s jail in the U.S., located in Los Angeles. Classes seek to improve the students’ understanding of the family and child welfare legal systems. This knowledge empowers students to improve their parent-child relationships and take action against domestic violence.

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.

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.

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 2019

Women’s Gender-Responsive Jail Project

Originally named the Mira Loma Women’s Jail Project, this project aimed to investigate, monitor, and provide recommendations related to the proposed move of the Los Angeles County Women’s Jail. The Center anticipated family ties and rehabilitation would be harmed by moving the jail 90 miles away from the existing hub of service providers, courts, and community organizations. Its seminal report, Lynwood to Lancaster, was relied upon in part by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in February 2019 when announcing their decision to abandon the long distance Mira Loma move. Through the project, the Center continues to work with Los Angeles County and Sheriff Department personnel as members of the Gender Responsive Advisory Committee (GRAC).

Community Legal Education Program

Begun as a pilot in early 2019, the Center started teaching men’s and women’s legal education classes at various Probation offices. Well received, the Center hopes to expand the program as probation departments across the county become increasingly interested in strengthening the relationships of formerly incarcerated parents and their children.