Meet Our Clients

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Keeping Grandchildren Safe

Children who are impacted by addiction, crime, or neglect are placed into the foster care system, away from family members that know them and are willing to care for them during these traumatic times. Research shows that family connections are critical to healthy development, helping to maintain cultures, customs, and relationships for children. Yet the process to gain legal custody can be complex, lengthy, and confusing.

Our Kinship Care Unit advocates on behalf of clients like Barbara Linwood*, who fought for over 4 years to gain custody of her great-granddaughter when the newborn’s mother became incapable of caring for her. Barbara worked with our attorney to first become a registered foster parent, before finally gaining her right as the adoptive mother.

There is an overwhelming need to support dedicated caregivers like Barbara as they navigate the legal system and face every day challenges.

*Client name has been changed for privacy reasons.

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welcoming refugees

Zorobabel Kadjobo and his wife, Clarisse fled to the United States from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a war-torn country where 2 million children risk starvation and 4.5 million have been displaced in recent years.

After struggling to navigate the U.S. immigration system - studying U.S. history and the English language, and attempting to interview and pay for naturalization several times, they were ready to give up. Although they were willing to put in the time and effort necessary to gain citizenship, they felt like they had no options, and were upset and frustrated.

With the help of the Center for Elder Law & Justice, Zorobabel, Clarisse, and their two daughters were assisted with the steep application fees, and recommended for citizenship.

Zorobabel writes,

Being a U.S. citizen means a lot…we can exercise our rights and duties as Americans. Had it not been for the help of Fidele at the Center for Elder Law & Justice, we would not be naturalized. Let’s help CELJ’s staff to prosper and flourish so that they can keep up the good work and help many more.”

 

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Stopping Abuse

The most common perpetrators of elder financial abuse are family members.

Florence was 93 years old when she discovered that she was a victim of elder abuse at the hands of her great-grandson. Each month, he would transfer most of her Social Security check to his own bank account, leaving Florence with $200 a month to live on.

With the help of CELJ, Florence found that over $14,000 had been taken from her. Although it was a difficult decision, Florence decided to let CELJ present the case to the District Attorney’s office. Her great-grandson pleaded guilty to a felony and had to serve jail time and pay restitution.

Not every victim of elder abuse is as strong and resolute as Florence was. There are many victims who never come forward. Every year, an estimated 5 million seniors are victims of abuse, neglect or exploitation.

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allowing people to live with dignity

What a difference a year can make…

The photo on the left is our client Gary in 2015. Gary was a victim of elder abuse at the hands of his spouse, who physically and emotionally abused him, often hitting him with pans and calling him names. She also controlled the household finances, leaving Gary with many unmet needs.

Gary worked with an attorney and social worker in our Elder Abuse Prevention Unit. Through their efforts, Gary was able to leave his wife and move into a safe assisted living facility. He was able to obtain an order of protection to avoid future abuse and get benefits to make ends meet.

Gary’s story has a happy ending- he now lives in a safe environment, has clean clothes, enough food, and has gained weight. When asked about his life today at his new home, Gary said, “Here I have a chance to be me again.”

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Helping those who need it most

This is our client, Patricia Hamilton Stacey, with her new winter coat and hat. We were able to purchase this for her (along with a scarf, another hat, and gloves) after CELJ made an application to the Western New York Coalition Pooled Trust Remainder Fund.

CELJ runs the Western New York Coalition Pooled Trust along with People, Inc., and we currently manage the funds for almost 800 individuals. Placing funds into the trust enables our clients with disabilities to retain their critical public benefits, while continuing to have access to their income for necessities, such as clothing.

The Western New York Coalition Pooled Trust recently received the Program Award of Excellence from the Network in Aging. We are grateful for this collaboration with People, Inc., that allows us to assist our community members in need. 

Our client John

keeping people in their homes

John is a 70-year-old Veteran who received a notice from the housing authority stating that he was responsible for thousands of dollars in back rent and that his current rent would also be raised.

John was unable to pay for basic necessities and could no longer do any activities outside of the home with his friends. The payments were making it impossible for him to live.

Our legal team at CELJ discovered that his Veteran’s benefits for exposure to Agent Orange should have been exempt from the calculation of his rent, and advocated on John’s behalf. John's rent was lowered, and he was returned the amount he had paid towards the back rent. John can now live independently and with a better quality of life.