The Legal Aid Society is a beacon of hope for thousands of New Yorkers who have nowhere else to turn. Through our Civil Practice, we offer essential civil legal services to those in need in areas like housing, immigration, and education. With the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changing the face of education in our city, vulnerable students in all five boroughs are at risk of being left behind. Thankfully, we are taking a stand for students with disabilities, ensuring their educational needs are met during this crisis.
Take for example our recent work with Alicia, a mother of four. For 14 years, Alicia couldn’t take a job, unable to trust anyone to care for two of her children with special needs. She said her oldest son, Kevin, had a “disruptive personality.” When Alicia did try to juggle employment and caring for Kevin, she found herself “so exhausted all the time that I couldn’t do anything with him.”
When her youngest son Kyle was four months old, Alicia and her partner separated leaving her with no income and two children in need of full-time attention. Kyle’s severe allergies caused even more problems for Alicia. “I had to keep running to the hospital.” Kyle was repeatedly refused by several daycare centers.
Through the years, we’ve helped Alicia secure appropriate educational resources for Kevin and Kyle. We made sure that they were able to receive an education on their terms, helping them build the skills they need to thrive throughout their lives. We helped Kevin graduate, and now he is using skills he learned during an internship in his full-time job as a graphic designer at a t-shirt company. Kyle, 15, is now happily working his way through high school. But many mothers are still facing the same issue: how do you balance full-time work and caring for children with special needs?
Unfortunately, the current COVID-19 pandemic has only made matters worse for the vulnerable families we serve. Lost income, limited access to special services, and remote learning have put the educational futures of over 200,000 children in jeopardy. This crisis has exacerbated problems for mothers like Alicia.
The Legal Aid Society is bridging the gap for vulnerable children and families.
We are connecting students to the essential educational resources they need and helping families navigate the complex special education system. We work with families to build the right plans for them, setting a strong foundation that lets children thrive. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, we gave New Yorkers like Alicia the tools they needed to help their children.
Now, during these uncertain times, our work is more important than ever before. We are pushing the Department of Education to ensure that all students have the support they need to continue their education during this pandemic. Our city’s children need our help.