Imagine if Someone Tried to Adopt Your Child. 
“Mary” had a loving relationship with her son. His father regularly took him to visit her at the Logan Correctional Center, and their visits kept her going. She couldn’t wait to be reunited with her son in their home. She did everything she could to be a good mother – she even took parenting classes and recorded herself reading stories for him through Project Storybook.

All of that changed when her son’s father developed dementia. Visits became less and less frequent, and Mary missed that cherished time with her son. Eventually, her son was placed under the care of a guardian who began private adoption proceedings against Mary’s wishes. The adoption would permanently terminate Mary’s rights and make any contact impossible. Mary felt powerless.

Mary was heartbroken by the prospect of losing her son. Unlike adoption cases in juvenile court, there are no public defenders appointed for this severance of relationship with a child. However, Mary found an ally in Cabrini Green Legal Aid (CGLA), an IEJF grantee. CGLA’s family law attorney was able to get the adoption case dismissed, preserving Mary’s parental rights and the chance to reunite her family after her release. Now Mary and her son continue to see each other and exchange letters regularly. Thanks to legal aid, this mother-child relationship was not destroyed in court.

CGLA recently joined WBEZ’s Morning Shift to talk about what it’s like for kids whose moms are incarcerated. Listen here:

Cabrini Green Legal Aid provides both criminal and civil legal services, integrated with social work support, to individuals facing barriers stemming from an encounter with the criminal justice system, providing services in areas of acute need, including criminal records relief, defense, family and housing law.
Illinois Equal Justice Foundation Board Member Profile 

The Illinois Equal Justice Foundation is proud to welcome its newest Board Member, Jaime Skinner. In-house counsel for Caterpillar Financial Services Corporation, Jaime Skinner also serves as Director for Caterpillar’s Peoria Pro Bono Committee and liaison to the Tenth Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee. Prior to her career at Caterpillar Inc., Ms. Skinner worked as an Attorney for Winstead P.C in Dallas Texas, counselling clients and prosecuting and defending complex litigation matters. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Columbia University in New York, graduating magna cum laude in 1997, and graduated from Washington University School of Law in St. Louis in 2001. 

What motivated you to serve on the Board of the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation?

Caterpillar has long supported IEJF, and I was happy to continue that tradition. It's a great effort for a great cause.

What's your personal philosophy on what should be done about civil legal aid?

The need for pro bono legal services is so great in our state, and it is not being met by private sources.
We simply must do more to ensure access to justice for civil legal needs. The court system must work for all citizens, not just those who can afford it. 
We need to ensure access to justice for all.

What might someone be surprised to know about you?

I just got married and am still getting used to my new last name!

Latest News 

The IL Access to Civil Justice Council is hard at work developing grant guidelines for the new IL Armed Forces Legal Aid Network. The IEJF is coordinating this work to address the civil legal needs of veterans and active duty military. The project was made possible through amendments to the Access to Justice Act. A $1.4 million appropriation comprised of filing fee revenue was included in the stop gap budget passed in June. The IEJF hopes to launch the first grant cycle of this five year-pilot program in January 2017. Pictured (left to right) are Council members Grant Swinger, Lauren Meachum, Deb Golden, George Ripplinger, IEJF Program Director Zach Zarnow and Bob Glaves. Not pictured are Council Chair Trish McGill and Judge Ron Spears.
Photo credit: Cabrini Green Legal Aid. Printed with permission.   
Copyright © 2016 Illinois Equal Justice Foundation, All rights reserved.

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