Category Archives: Children and Family Law

Family Resource Centers Now Open

The Family Resource Centers (FRCs) of Massachusetts is a statewide network providing community-based, multi-cultural parenting programs, support groups, early childhood services, information and referral resources and education for families whose children range in age from birth to 18. Supported through funding from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services in collaboration with the Department of Children and Families, a Family Resource Center is located in each of the 14 Massachusetts counties.

The goal of each FRC is to provide information and assistance to families needing access to health, safety, employment training, education and peer support. Through the work of the FRCs families can focus on strengthening their bonds, connecting to others, and engaging in their communities. The core values of the FRCs include: respect, trust, safety, wellness, caring, connectivity, and education. 

Family Resource Centers – locations

For more information, visit the Family Resource Centers website at http://frcma.org/.  

In Memoriam:  Margaret T. (Clapp) Winchester

September 14, 1953 – June 16, 2015

With sadness, we are writing to let you know that Margaret Winchester, the Attorney in Charge for CAFL’s trial office in Worcester, passed away on Tuesday afternoon.

For more than 25 years, Margaret was a tireless and courageous champion for children and parents whose rights to family integrity were jeopardized – and often trampled – by state intervention.  She was an early member of the trial and appellate panels for the Family Law Advocacy Project (the precursor of CAFL); she served as a mentor and Regional Coordinator in Worcester County; she was one of CAFL’s Co-Directors from 1999 to 2006; and for the last nine years she has been CAFL’s Attorney in Charge in Worcester.  Her accomplishments were many and varied in each of those roles.  Looking at her AIC work alone, she successfully launched the office (while helping her counterparts in Boston, Brockton, Lowell, and Pittsfield start their own offices); she positioned the office at the forefront of child welfare advocacy in Worcester County; she helped the office grow from a staff of five in mid-2011 to more than 20 by mid-2013; and she kept her staff steady and strong in the midst of a severe shortage of CAFL lawyers and an unprecedented avalanche of new cases being prosecuted by the Department of Children and Families in late 2013 and well into 2014. 

In the face of various challenges, Margaret was particularly adept at working with newer, less experienced staff members.  A one-time high school teacher, Margaret loved helping her staff learn, grow, and develop as professionals.  Countless others also benefited from her eagerness and willingness to share her knowledge and experience.  Year after year, Margaret served as a trainer par excellence for private attorneys and staff.  At the same time, she modeled zealous advocacy in her own work.  Sharp and insightful, Margaret didn’t simply rely on her intelligence.  As her colleagues have noted (and as anyone who ever observed her would agree), no one ever outworked Margaret. 

Margaret’s work extended far beyond “typical” public defender work (if there is such a thing).  She participated in a number of Worcester area and statewide organizations aimed at securing better outcomes for our clients.  She was willing to speak up and speak out when she saw a problem that needed to be addressed – with the Juvenile Court, with DCF, and within CPCS itself.  Through her appellate work, she helped establish a right to counsel for parents who were in jeopardy of losing their children to state custody in status offense cases.  In honor of that achievement and her other work, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly named Margaret one of their “Lawyers of the Year” in 2008.  Margaret also received CPCS’s Mary Fitzpatrick Children and Family Law Award in 2013 in recognition of her zealous advocacy and extraordinary commitment to children and families.

As much as, if not more than, any other CAFL lawyer, Margaret was committed to her work.  She was always client-centered,she was deeply devoted to her staff, and she was very supportive of private attorneys.  It is no exaggeration to say that Margaret helped hundreds of lawyers and thousands of children and parents (directly and through her support and supervision of others) over the arc of an incredibly productive career.  But Margaret was more than just a great litigator and a dynamic leader.  She was kind and compassionate to clients and colleagues alike.  She was generous with her time, even while her health was failing.  She had a wonderful sense of humor.  She was humble.  Particularly over the last few years, she reminded us that every day is a gift.

Families in Worcester County and all of us at CPCS have lost a great friend and a powerful voice for justice.  We ask each of you to pause for a moment at some point in your busy day in Margaret’s honor.  

More information can be found at: http://www.wrightroyfuneralhome.com/obits/obituaries.php/obitID/695134/obit/Margaret-T-Winchester

Anthony J. Benedetti,                                                                                                                                       Chief Counsel
and
Michael Dsida,
Deputy Chief Counsel
Children and Family Law Division

Joan Mikula To Lead Department Of Mental Health

BOSTON — On May 11, EOHHS Secretary, Marylou Sudders, announced that Joan Mikula, has been promoted to serve as Commissioner of Mental Health; a position she has held on an interim basis since March. Mikula has worked for the Department since 1985, serving as Deputy and Assistant Commissioner of Child and Adolescent Services. She has prior experience in education, child welfare, criminal justice, and substance abuse treatment and served as Executive Director of a North Shore, non-profit human service agency. As Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health, Mikula will oversee a public operated and private contracted mental health system serving an estimated 23,000 individuals with mental illness and their families. More from Mass.gov.

Nancy Hathaway Receives Juvenile Bar Association Award

Nancy Hathaway, a supervising attorney in CPCS’s Children and Family Law Division office in Boston, was honored by the Juvenile Bar Association (JBA) with the Leo J. Lydon award at its annual conference on March 20.  The JBA is a statewide bar association dedicated to engaging and connecting attorneys who represent clients in abuse and neglect, delinquency, youthful offender and status offender cases.  This award, named for the late Juvenile Court Judge Leo J. Lydon, honors an attorney who has demonstrated the utmost integrity, sound judgment, and perseverance in zealous advocacy and who has elevated the standard of Juvenile Court practice through example.

While Nancy is being honored for her overall work on behalf of her clients, one particular recent case exemplifies her personal and professional qualities that inspired this award.  In a case that became quite high-profile, garnering local and national headlines and spawning extensive discussion on social media, Nancy represented a teenaged girl whose parents brought her to Boston for treatment of a controversial mitochondrial disease, were accused of neglect, and became embroiled in a complex custody dispute involving the state and medical providers.  Throughout the lengthy proceedings, Nancy was charged with representing the interests of her endearing, but very sick teenaged client.  In the end, Nancy was able to obtain the legal outcome that her client desired. 

CPCS thanks the JBA for its ongoing support of attorneys doing this most important work on behalf of children and parents in our communities and appreciates this generous and well-deserved tribute to Nancy.

U.S. Department of Justice and HHS Find that DCF Violated ADA and Section 504

In a Letter of Findings made public Monday, the U.S. Dept. of Justice and the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services Office of Civil Rights ordered the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families to immediately withdraw a petition to terminate a developmentally delayed mother’s parental rights, and to provide appropriate reunification services accommodating the mother’s disability.  The Letter of Findings can be found at http://www.ada.gov/ma_docf_lof.pdf.   It is a must read for any attorney representing parents with a disability.   Continue reading

Notice Regarding Application for Appointment of GAL’s in Juvenile Court

The current lists of individuals eligible for appointment as guardians ad litem in all categories and in all divisions of the Juvenile Court will be null and void on July 6, 2015. Anyone seeking to be qualified to be a guardian ad litem, in any category, for the Juvenile Court and included on the lists effective July 6, 2015, must re-apply. Additional information and application can be found here.

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