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.

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 2020

Women’s Gender-Responsive Jail Project

Formerly named the Mira Loma Women’s Jail Project, this project originally aimed to investigate, monitor, and provide recommendations related to the proposed move of the Los Angeles County women’s jail (CRDF) to the Mira Loma Detention Center in Lancaster, 90 miles away from the existing hub of service providers, courts, and community organizations in Lynwood. Its seminal report, Lynwood to Lancaster, was relied upon in part by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors in February 2019 when announcing its 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 and members of the Gender Responsive Advisory Committee (GRAC). The Project’s second report, Jail Visitation Innovation, was recently released and aims to bring attention to the ways in which family visitation with incarcerated mothers promotes public safety and child welfare and to advocate for improving visitation policies and programs at CRDF.

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.

Veterans Family Law Project

Started in fall 2018 and led by the Center’s Equal Justice Works fellow, this project provides free family law services to low-income veterans. The Center provides services that include direct representation, advice and counsel, and know-your-rights presentations to inform veterans on custody and visitation, which are frequently impaired because of absence and PTSD. This program focuses on helping veterans strengthen their relationships with their children.