Legal services help children and young people affected by the pandemic

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Although children appear to be relatively invulnerable to the worst health effects of COVID-19 – a silver lining as the virus shuts down public life and overwhelms hospitals – they are not immune to its domino effects, such as jobs lost, schools closed and social services disrupted.

In Connecticut, legal service providers for children and youth are trying to protect them from the dislocation caused by the virus.

Attorney Alice Rosenthal leads the pediatric medical-legal partnership at Yale New Haven Hospital. The partnership is designed to help address health issues that arise or are compounded by children’s environment: factors such as socioeconomic status, housing conditions and food security. The low-income families she works with, Rosenthal said, are already under enormous pressure on a daily basis.

“It’s kind of pushing everyone over the edge, financially, emotionally and physically,” she told the News.

Rosenthal said one of his biggest concerns is food safety. “All of my clients have food issues,” she said.

Rosenthal said she helps her clients’ parents understand their options, like learning how to apply online for unemployment or WIC – the special supplementary nutrition program for women, infants and children – and directs customers to some pantries that are still open. Rosenthal picked up some customers’ groceries herself and dropped off the food on their doorstep.

A saving grace was the moratorium on evictions issued by the state judiciary in late March, which is in place until at least May 1. On March 13, the Connecticut Utilities Regulatory Authority banned utility shutdowns in the state in response to a petition. of Attorney General William Tong. This ban will last as long as the state’s state of emergency.

Rosenthal said she works to make sure families are aware of state rules and regulations. One family she works with, for example, had their water cut off about two weeks ago, just before the enactment of the moratorium on utility shutdowns. After a call to the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, the family’s water was restored within an hour. Still, Rosenthal said she worries about what will happen to her clients when the moratoriums are lifted.

Stacey Violante Cote, an attorney with the Homeless Youth Advocacy Project, represents children and young people up to the age of 24 who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Like Rosenthal, Violante Côté is employed by the Center for Children’s Advocacy in Hartford, where she is also director of operations.

Most Violante Côté clients in the greater Hartford area do not live with their parents. Some are in the child welfare system, while others are surfing with relatives or peers.

“In a situation like this, that’s why these placements become more problematic,” she said, noting that they often involve many people living together in one house.

One concern is that people, including young people, are being encouraged not to stay in shelters due to the challenge of practicing physical distancing within them. Violante Côté said she and her staff made sure their clients had places to stay, but noted that some of those places were “insecure”.

Most of her clients, she added, do not have a car and depend on public transport for all their needs. Some have been laid off from their hourly jobs, which Violante Côté says is the “difference between being able to put food on their plate or pay their rent.”

Both Rosenthal and Violante Côté said they are concerned about students who have special needs or learning disabilities at a time when education has moved online. Violante Côté noted that some of its customers who are in school do not have the Internet or reliable devices to access online courses or virtual teaching materials. Rosenthal is concerned for children who typically receive disability resources from their schools and children with learning disabilities who may be less able to access online learning.

According to the Department of Public Health, Connecticut currently has 3,824 cases of COVID-19, including 647 in New Haven County.

Talia Soglin | [email protected]

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