When A Cough Isn’t Just A Cough: A day in the life of an embedded CLC attorney

October 25, 2017

It’s 9 a.m. on a crisp fall day in the District as Children’s Law Center Attorney Jani Tillery walks into Unity Health Care Minnesota Avenue Health Center. Her mood is high. Not only is it a perfect October morning—the kind where leaves are changing and there’s just a hint of chill in the air—it’s also DC Pro Bono Week (but more on that later).

Jani is one of more than a dozen Children’s Law Center attorneys who work in health clinics across the District. Her job empowers her to work on-site, face-to-face with clients who are dealing with housing-related health issues, special education questions and more. So what does she do in a day?

A Day in Jani’s Shoes

Let’s Start the Day

When Jani walks in to the clinic, she notices the waiting room is already crowded with families. She sees it as the perfect opportunity for a joint health and legal pop-up presentation, right there in the waiting room. She is joined by a health educator from Unity. Together, they share about topics that may be important for the children and parents in the room. For example, many kids are coughing and having trouble breathing. These symptoms are often signs of asthma, and housing conditions such as mold, moisture and rodents often trigger asthma—and there are legal steps families can take to combat these conditions. Jani is there to make sure they have the resources and knowledge to do so.

First Referral of the Day

Around 10 a.m. Jani heads to her office, which is conveniently located next to the medical consult rooms. Since she is on-site, primary care physicians, psychologists, social workers and health educators can easily knock on her door to work with her on potential legal matters.

This morning, a doctor introduces her to a teenager who is facing domestic violence in a shelter, and isn’t receiving the help she needs. Jani and the patient call her case manager together and talk through next steps right then and there. After a conversation and an outline of a solution, the patient is well on her way to a safer living arrangement, without ever leaving her doctor’s office.

Lunchtime!

Jani generally eats with the providers, where she can directly hear about the types of problems their clients are facing—therefore learning firsthand about families who could benefit from Children’s Law Center’s services. She’ll also conduct presentations for providers during lunch, continually educating those partners about how Children’s Law Center can help their clients. These trainings continually strengthen our medical-legal partnership.

An Afternoon Well Spent

Jani spends time talking with patients and families in the afternoon. One student, Bryce, isn’t receiving the special education assistance he needs from his school. Jani works with Bryce to ghostwrite a letter to the school, beginning the process of getting him the education he deserves. The issues will not be resolved in a day and Children’s Law Center will work with Bryce until the issue is successfully resolved.

The Next Steps

That’s often when one of Children’s Law Center’s pro bono attorneys steps in! While Children’s Law Center’s tenacious 100-person team works to make a positive impact for DC’s kids every day, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to assist every child in need. Our team of more than 500 pro bono lawyers often help with cases like Bryce’s—with expert training and mentorship from Children’s Law Center attorneys.

Jani wraps up her day by stopping by to chat with the Unity social worker on her way out the door to finalize the next steps for a case. She’ll head to Children’s Law Center’s offices for meetings with some of her team members knowing Bryce’s education is in good hands. By the next week, a pro bono attorney has accepted the case, and is working with Bryce’s family to overcome any challenges the school throws his way. Jani can begin her next day knowing another child is on his way to a better life.

Celebrating Pro Bono Week

Every week, Jani works on-site at the clinic, learning firsthand about the challenges DC’s poorest families are working to overcome. Each week, she also works with Children’s Law Center’s amazing pro bono team to help make sure every DC child can grow up with a loving family, good health and a quality education. That teamwork is the reason we reach more than 5,000 children in DC every year!

That’s why we’re saying thank you this Pro Bono Week—thank you to our amazing pro bono attorneys. The day we described is just one work day—and in that one day, proactive steps are taken to improve several children’s lives. And THAT is reason to celebrate.

Learn more about how you can join our pro bono team here