Carolyn Griesemer, a San Diego attorney who has represented children in the foster care system, already faced a busy week when she got an urgent call from girl she represented.
The teenager was scared. She told Griesemer she’d been raped the night before and that detectives wanted to speak with her about what happened. Afraid the detectives might suspect her of prostitution, she asked Griesemer if she would accompany her during the interview.
Griesemer is executive director of the newly formed Children’s Legal Services, the only agency that provides legal help to the 3,000 foster children living in San Diego County.
Appointed dependency attorneys represent foster kids’ interest in virtually every aspect of their lives. They help advocate for the best living arrangements if children have been removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect. They argue for children to remain at their schools of origin, instead of being bounced from school to school. They work to keep foster children from being over-medicated or criminalized for petty infractions.
Griesemer knew that responding to the call would mean she’d have to work all weekend to make up for it. She’d have to find a partner who could fill in for her at a court hearing. And she understood she’d have to put other, equally needy children she represented on hold.
“I didn’t have time. But how do you say no to that? It far outweighed anything else that was happening that day,” Griesemer said. “She needed a lawyer there. Not a volunteer. Not a social worker. A lawyer. And she has a lawyer through the system. It’s just a question of whether we have enough funding for lawyers to be able to lawyer.”
We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?
Thank you Mario for bringing this situation to light. It is shameful how the absolutely most vulnerable group of our society, totally dependent on strangers for everything from food and water to their safety and security, seems to be at the bottom of the funding totem pole.
I'm used to better work than this from Mario. No look into why the system is so inefficient? There is an over abundance of lawyers so maybe these are overpaid (or perhaps they are underpaid - no reference in the story) . Why isn't more of this work done by paralegal and more junior folks? Lastly, why don't the ACLU and Cory Briggs lend them a few of their lawyers...that would save millions!