Participation in a well-organized pro bono program improves morale while generating a sense of pride and loyalty in one's workplace. And engagement within the legal community helps build relationships among associates and fill the gap between the legal needs of the most disadvantaged in our society and their access to legal services. One example of a well-organized pro bono program that is helping close the justice gap is the “Child Support Help Program (Program)” hosted in Wayne County twice a year by the Wayne County FOC and the Salvation Army—William Booth Legal Aid Clinic.
The collaboration is comprised of the generous hearts and committed service of private lawyers in the greater Detroit area. Pro bono attorneys help clients complete motion forms and offer legal information and advice on child support, parenting time, and custody issues. Also on site are child support professionals to answer general family support questions and community partners and nonprofit agencies to provide information on programs and services available to support the needs of families participating in the Program.
The Program has served hundreds of economically disadvantaged families in Wayne County. The Program is held every April and October, and since 2011, has been hosted at the Detroit Public Library. The library was selected to provide prospective clients a “neutral” location and “arrest-free zone.” To date, the Program has helped more than 2,000 parents in Wayne County. Without the help of private bar attorneys volunteering their time and legal expertise, many low-income parents would be forced to navigate the legal system on their own.
When asked why attorneys volunteer for the Program, one attorney responded, simply stating that “[i]t’s for our children.”
Jillian Fitzgerald, Assistant Friend of the Court - Legal Director at the Wayne County Friend of the Court, contributed to this story.