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December 2020Vol. 21, No. 9Community Legal Services of Philadelphia's Family Defense Model Now Includes a Peer Advocate

Community Legal Services of Philadelphia is a family advocacy program that aims to strengthen families, keep children in their homes and communities, and safely reunify separated families whenever possible. To reach these goals, its Family Advocacy Unit (FAU) provides holistic family defense for parents involved in child welfare cases. FAU's interdisciplinary teams work to meet each client where they are, identify and support their unique strengths and capacities, and help their family overcome crises and thrive.

Recently, Community Legal Services added peer advocate, April Lee, to its team as part of a pilot program to introduce wraparound services—including attorneys, social worker, and, now, peer advocates—to families involved with child welfare in Philadelphia. Lee, who has experienced removal herself by temporarily losing custody of her three children, is in a unique position to help parents navigate the child welfare system and mitigate the trauma that is often a consequence of child welfare involvement. The goal of this new framework, which provides a family with a social worker, an attorney, and a peer advocate, is to provide families with quality representation and support resulting in positive outcomes for children and youth.