In-House Pro Bono: Kids in Foster Care

National Foster Care Month has just concluded, but the unmet legal needs of the more than 400,000 children in foster care in the U.S. continue on, as do pro bono efforts to help address those needs. Such efforts include helping the more than 100,000 foster care children and families seeking adoption each year navigate those proceedings and providing the more than 23,000 children who age-out each year with legal and financial advice.

The PBEye previously reported some of this work by law firms and legal services organizations. In-house counsel have also played an important role.  In 2004, Pfizer Inc.** co-launched the Pro Bono Adoption Project, helping expedite adoptions for foster care children in New York City.  More recently, several in-house legal departments have led or contributed to important initiatives. For example:

  • Google Inc. and Baker & McKenzie*† hosted the Children’s Rights Summit in December 2014. This gathering of children’s rights advocates, in-house lawyers, and former foster youth discussed legal issues facing children, particularly those in foster care. Among the event’s featured speakers were representatives from Hewlett-Packard Company**, Intel Corporation**, and Ecolab Inc.
  • Several in-house legal departments have also partnered with Baker & McKenzie in starting, a pro bono project aimed at helping homeless youth and children in foster care understand their rights through state-specific handbooks. Currently, three handbooks are complete:
    • Illinois, in partnership with United Continental Holdings, Inc.** and Chicago Coalition for Homeless Youth;
    • Minnesota, in partnership with Ecolab and Southern Minnesota Regional Legal Services; and
    • Washington, in partnership with Starbucks Corporation** and Columbia Legal Services.
  • The legal department of the The Walt Disney Company has developed a signature project with Public Counsel to represent families to adopt children and create their forever families. The project has been so successful in Los Angeles, Disney is expanding the effort to other offices. Disney lawyers in New York have partnered with MFY Legal Services – a local legal aid organization– to work on its adoption program.

Those in, or recently “aged out,” of foster care have a great need for legal services in a variety of areas and pro bono counsel can have a meaningful impact on the lives of children and young adults navigating the foster care system.

To learn more about in-house pro bono, including existing pro bono opportunities and guidance on how to start a new project, contact CPBO Director Eve Runyon.

Number of Children in Foster Care (by state) Source:
Number of Children in Foster Care (by state)

Hat tip to PBI intern Mike Andreani for his research and drafting assistance with this blog.


* denotes a Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®
† denotes a Member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project
** denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory