The Maryland Office of the Public Defender (MOPD), Parental Defense Division (PDD), is seeking an attorney to serve as an essential team member on the Better Together Early Family Advocacy Program, a grant-funded project in Baltimore City to assist families who come into contact with the Family Policing System/Child Welfare System due to allegations of child abuse or neglect. The project expands the representation of families beyond the judicial sphere, aiming to protect the rights of families to remain intact. This grant-funded contractual position is expected to run through December 31, 2024, with the possibility of extension depending on funding.

MOPD’s vision is for justice, fairness, and dignity for all, and we are committed to our core values of maintaining a culture of excellence, providing client-centered representation, tenacious advocacy, and being united in achieving our mission. At MOPD we use our legal education and experience to fight for justice and fairness, and we refuse to remain silent in the midst of human suffering. Our unique talents, identities, educational backgrounds, and perspectives guide us in representing our clients. We stand up against prejudice, systemic racism, and inequity. MOPD seeks a candidate who will join us in providing compassionate, competent, zealous, and client-centered representation. Learn more about our mission and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.​

Overview of the Position
The Better Together Early Family Advocacy Program utilizes a multidisciplinary team to support parents who are being investigated by the Department of Social Services (DSS) and are at risk of having their children separated from them and placed in foster care. Better Together aims to prevent family separation and ensure that children are not unnecessarily placed in the foster system.  The team consists of a lawyer, social worker, and parent advocate who will provide distinct services relevant to their area of expertise that respond to the issues identified for the individual client. The lawyer’s advocacy will include advising parents of their rights and responsibilities in terms of responding to DSS and meeting their children’s needs, assisting parents in making custodial arrangements for their children with family members, taking actions to protect against domestic violence, resolving criminal warrants, and assisting with removing legal impediments to keeping custody of their children. The position will also include providing legal representation in administrative hearings and in some emergency Child In Need of Assistance (CINA) hearings if a petition is filed in Circuit Court.

By providing these services early in the investigation, parents will be better equipped to successfully resolve concerns arising during the investigation, avoid having a CINA petition filed against them, and prevent family separation. This project is funded by a grant from the Maryland Judiciary, Foster Care Court Improvement Program, and the Casey Family Programs and is expected to run through December 2024. This position will be located in Baltimore City, Maryland.

Primary Duties & Responsibilities
●      Protect clients’ Constitutional rights to raise and rear their children by providing prepetition legal services to parents when they come into contact with DSS, informing clients as to their rights and responsibilities, and advocating for them as they navigate their involvement with DSS before a court petition is filed.

●      Engage in prepetition legal advocacy and radical early defense strategies to avoid family separation and foster care.

●      Organize and participate in community outreach to disseminate information about the Better Together Program.

●      Assign legal externs to obtain, organize, and review records and documents relevant to the issues sought to be resolved to avoid a CINA petition from being filed.

●      If a CINA petition is filed, appear at the initial shelter care hearing to assist or brief the assigned APD in circumstances where appropriate, or prepare a transfer memo to the assigned shelter attorney.

●      If a CINA petition is filed, prepare a transfer memorandum and case file to be given to the assigned APD so APD can prepare for the shelter care hearing or non-emergency hearing.

●      Develop and maintain client relationships over the extended pendency of the case.

●      Collaborate with PDD social workers, criminal defense attorneys, parent advocates, immigration attorneys, and others as part of a multidisciplinary defense team.

●      Maintain records and data to enable OPD to track the outcome of cases.

●      Ensure clients are consistently heard and respected.

●      Engage with clients who are experiencing challenges and legal/societal/intellectual barriers in a nonjudgmental and empathetic manner.

●      Effectively and compassionately communicate with clients, colleagues, and service providers to ensure optimal outcomes for clients.

●      Continuously seek professional and personal development through training, continuing legal education, and trial skills courses.

●      Supervise law school interns.

Learn More Here: https://www.jobapscloud.com/MD/sup/BulPreview.asp?R1=24&R2=005799&R3=0004

Requirements
Core Competencies & Requirements ●      Demonstrated commitment to serving marginalized communities. ●      Dedicated to dismantling racist, prejudiced, unfair systems. ●      Ability to work independently and autonomously. ●      Compassion and empathy. ●      Strong interpersonal skills and the ability to communicate effectively with people with different backgrounds and experiences. ●      Ability to thrive in a fast-paced, diverse, team-oriented environment. ●      Ability to use technology to telework and participate in virtual court hearings and meetings as necessary. ●      Strong organizational, legal, and administrative skills necessary to handle a high caseload with short deadlines. ●      Prior experience in litigation including CINA/TPR, Criminal, Civil, Juvenile, or Family Law (experience may include internships, law school clinical programs, or any other relevant experience). ●      Strong communication and client advocacy skills. ●      Active membership in good standing in the Maryland Bar or Bar of another state. Individuals who are members of the Bar of another State must be admitted to the Maryland Bar within 18 months of the start date.
Job Contact
Durriyyah Hollimon
410-691-1530 opd.jobs-law@maryland.gov