25 Years StrongSeptember 4, 2018
Connecticut’s Bridge Over Troubled Waters
The Children’s Law Center turns 25 this year! Still strong after a quarter-century, CLC reaches this milestone with friends like you who support our work to protect children and strengthen families. Founded by Judith Hyde and Debra Ruel, CLC was formed out of a coalition of concerned professionals and parents united to examine the weaknesses in a system that failed six-year-old Ayla Rose, who was shot and killed by her father during a supervised visitation session in 1992. In February 1993, a conference on children’s legal rights was held and six months later, CLC opened its doors. “I cry with happiness when I see the changes there have been in family court,” Judith said, remembering a time when some Connecticut jurisdictions had no representation for children in court. Now, in her words, “the children have someone.”
CLC’s Legal Representation program has come a long way since hiring its first attorney, Garrett Tuller, in 1995. With twelve staff members and hundreds of children represented every year, this program has had a positive impact on the lives of thousands of children and families.
Shortly after opening, the board voted to expand services, establishing the Children’s Law Line: a free legal resource that can assist callers on a variety of issues. This service is an important resource for anyone seeking to navigate a complex and unfamiliar legal system. There is no income screening to access the service and no limit on how many times a person can call.
In 2004, CLC’s programs expanded once again when we established the Families in Transition (FIT) Program. Often, by the time our attorneys are appointed to represent children, conflict between parents has escalated significantly. We recognized that if we could reach parents before escalation—educating parents early on about the harmful effects of conflict on children, encouraging them to find ways to work together as co-parents—this would create the best outcomes for their children and promote loving, safe homes. FIT provides parents with an opportunity to work out their custody and visitation disputes in a non-adversarial, mediation setting, while keeping the costs low for indigent families.
We are proud to have touched so many lives and happy to share our accomplishment with you.
Looking to the Future
Earlier this year, CLC revised its mission: To promote the best possible outcomes for children and families in transition or crisis by providing access to legal services and support they could not otherwise afford and by advancing collaborative, nonadversarial options for resolving conflicts outside the court system.
Our new mission supports an evolution of our programs, enabling us to develop services for children of parents of modest means who, while not eligible for our existing services due to their level of income, nonetheless cannot otherwise afford to access needed legal services and support. It supports our growth as an organization protecting the legal rights and needs of children by reaching more families throughout Connecticut.