SYSTEM REFORM

Giving Voice to the Families We Serve.

Who uses the Family Courts? Established as “poor persons” Courts in the early 1960s, the Family Courts have become a de facto arena for low-income families to resolve urgent issues that are fundamental to a family’s well-being, issues such as domestic violence, custody, delinquency, abuse, and neglect.

In Family Court, there is no cost to begin a case and the Court remains one of the most neglected in the state court system. The lack of resources in the system means that there are numerous delays, damaged and dysfunctional infrastructure, few court interpreters, and outside of LIFT, no place for information or support to address the issues which propelled families into Court.

Low-income families are historically a community that is both silenced and marginalized. They are not asked to offer their opinions on new legislation, nor do they have a seat at the policymaking table. Drawing on years of experience and expertise in the community, as well as our partnership with the Family Courts, LIFT’s system reform initiatives aim to give voice to the families we serve so that other community organizations, legal service providers, city agencies, and public officials can better understand the challenges they face. Giving voice to those who are entrenched in the system is the only way to ensure that the national dialogue on critical issues reach the right conclusions, and result in the most responsive services being implemented.

System Reform Initiatives
In addition to our Judge for a Day program, LIFT engages in numerous policy-related efforts, including:

  • Public Testimony: LIFT has testified at hearings before public officials on matters relating to children, families, and the Family Court.  
    • In January 2012, LIFT presented testimony at the New York State Bar Association Family Court Taskforce hearing calling for recommendations to address issues related to the Family Court system. Read the testimony here.
    • In October 2010, LIFT submitted written testimony for hearings held by the Chief Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals, Jonathan Lippman, and the Task Force on Access to Civil legal Services on the need to expand the right to counsel to kinship caregivers. Read the testimony here.
    • In October 2009, LIFT presented testimony at a New York City Council hearing calling for recommendations to better serve grandparents and other relative caregivers. Our testimony supported findings and recommendations from the NYC Kincare Taskforce’s recent report. Read the testimony here.
  • Participation in national conferences, resource fairs, and community events to raise public awareness of Family Court issues.

LIFT also serves on several influential committees, including:

  • Federal Administration of Children and Families Healthy Families Task Force for Stronger Families New York
  • New York State Bar Association Family Court Taskforce
  • New York State Office of Court Administration Advisory Committee to Improve Court Interpreter Service
  • New York State Kincare Coalition
  • New York City Kincare Taskforce
  • New York City Bar Association Family Court and Family Law Committee
  • New York City Bar Association Council on Children
  • New York City Family Court Advisory Council
    • Committee on Child Support
    • Committee for Family Court Operations
    • Committee for Lesbian, Gay Bisexual & Transgender Matters
    • Custody, Visitation and Family Offense Education Subcommittee
justice for families


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