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PRRAC Grantees' Advocacy Updates

*July/August 1995 issue of Poverty & Race

Greater Boston Legal Services
197 Friend Street
Boston, MA 02114
Contact: Dan Manning

In 1993, Greater Boston Legal Services received a PRRAC grant to expand a research and advocacy effort to reduce the number of children entering or staying in foster care because of their parents' race, poverty and homelessness.

Although only 32% of Boston residents are people of color, they account for 75% of the caseload of the state's child protective agency. Among the people with open cases, children of color are more likely to be removed from their families and more likely to stay longer in foster care.

The project's research component has involved documenting the relationship between poverty, homelessness, race and foster care placement. Both the available literature and information obtained through investigation support the conclusion that the effects of discrimination in the housing and employment systems cause overrepresentation of children of color in foster care. This problem is then exacerbated by institutional discrimination within the foster system itself.

Advocacy has included a lawsuit, Connolly v. Carlisle, on behalf of families with children in foster care, which seeks court orders requiring use of state resources to provide housing assistance to reunite families. As a result of preliminary success in the lawsuit, the state child welfare agency has engaged in negotiations to provide emergency shelter and priority access to state controlled Section 8 certificates. Last year, the state housing agency allocated 75 Section 8 certificates for families identified by the Department of Social Services (DSS) as needing housing assistance to avoid or shorten foster care. DSS is now supporting legislation that would establish a so-called "local preference," which gives these families on the waiting list priority for housing assistance and would assure a steady supply of housing assistance for such families.

Clinica Legal Latina
1736 Columbia Road NW
Washington, DC 20009 202/387-0434
Contact: Leslye Orloff

In 1991, Ayuda received a PRRAC grant to survey immigrant and refugee battered women in the Washington, DC, Latino community. With more than 350 of 400 surveys complete, preliminary data have already had sig-nificant influence on important federal domestic violence policy.

Ayuda's research found that the incidence of battering among Latina women who were recent immigrants was nearly 30% higher if they were married to citizens or lawful permanent residents, compared with Latina women who were not married or married to men who were not citizens or lawful permanent residents. The preliminary survey results revealed that in many cases, Latina women whose immigrant status was dependent on their husbands' sponsorship were at increased risk of becoming battering victims because the batterers would use the threat of deportation to keep the women within the relationship. These data provided impetus for Congressional passage of the Safe Homes for Immigrant Women section of the Violence Against Women Act. The Ayuda survey was quoted in the legislative history of the Act.

Signed into law on September 13, 1994, the Violence Against Women Act enables abused spouses and children of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to file for their own immigration status without the cooperation of the abusive spouse or parent.

The soon-to-be completed PRRAC funded study will be a resource to Ayuda in its new role as invited advisor to assist the Justice Department in drafting Immigration and Naturalization Service regulations to implement new immigration provisions. It will also be used in organizing and training efforts to prepare domestic violence victim advocates and immigration advocates to assist victims through the process of applying for immigration relief. In addition, the survey results will be used to shape the development of bilingual community education Public Service Announcements for radio and television and how-to manuals to assist battered women.

Ayuda attributes its latest policy success in part to participation in a newly formed coalition, the National Network on Behalf of Battered Immigrant Women. The group, which Ayuda helped organize in 1992, is a national coalition of advocacy organizations that strive to increase legal opportunities for immigrant and refugee women to flee violent home situations. Network participants include: Ayuda, The Family Violence Prevention Fund, The Asian Law Caucus, NOW Legal Defense & Education Fund, CUNY Law School's Main Street Legal Services, the Legal Aid Society of Austin, Texas, the San Francisco Neighborhood Legal Assistance Foundation and several other groups. For more information on the Network, contact Ayuda

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