While the reopening of our State (along with continued aid and support from the federal government), has brought hope for a better financial future, 2021 continues to unfold as a strange and challenging year for the most vulnerable in our community, making legal aid more important than ever. Texas has especially been hit hard with the downturn in the fossil fuel industry – leaving many workers either underemployed or unemployed.
A few weeks ago, economists at the University of Chicago and the University of Notre Dame released a study that found the national poverty level rose at the highest rate since the 1960s at the end of last year. That means that a more than 8 million new people find themselves living below the poverty line nationwide. Over 65% of mortgages in the greater Houston area in seriously delinquent, that is over four times as many as in 2019, and these numbers were prior to the winter storm which left homeowners with busted pipes and high electrical bills.
Despite the difficult start to 2021, we have some great news to share. I’m most excited to announce the completion of our first adoption! We couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of this story for this young family that waited 14 years for this day. Read the full story below.
I remain grateful for our supporters who continue to support us with time, talent and treasure. Many nonprofits locally and nationwide experienced lower giving, but ours saw a slight increase. Our volunteers, despite the burden of masks and COVID risk, continue to offer their time both in person and online to show love and care for our neighbors.
As many of you know, I have a background as a business attorney. The more time I spend in this area of legal aid, the more I understand the impact we can have in our community, especially among hard-working, honest people who often need support with minor issues that alleviate a significant burden.
I thank all of you for your support, your time and expertise, and your donations. But most of all, for your prayers, as we continue to serve as the hands and feet of Christ in our community.
Community Christian Legal Aid
First Adoption Finalized
With the support of Community Christian Legal Aid, Katie formally adopted her son the day before his fourteenth birthday. In early March, this young man’s wish of being her “official son” was legally granted.
“He’s a very loving kid,” she explained. “He cares more about other people than he does himself. He’s made me realize a lot of things. Life is hard, and sometimes you have to face life head on and take on the tough stuff.”
When the boy was twelve, he asked her to adopt him.
Adoption is expensive, and Katie, a daycare worker, reached out to a government-funded legal aid program for support. Even though she qualified for assistance, the program did not have enough attorneys to support her case.
Community Christian Legal Aid Support
Community Christian Legal Aid had only recently begun its Adoption Program when Katie called in 2019. Katie worked directly with volunteer attorney Kim Stelter.
“Adoptions are the happiest work we do,” said Stelter. “These are good people trying to adopt their relatives or become guardians of relatives. They’re doing all they can for others, and it’s nice to help them help other people.
Community Christian Legal Aid’s Adoption Program began in 2019 with a $2,000 grant from Montgomery County Community Foundation. The program supports uncontested adoption cases.
Each case typically takes 18 months from initial contact to completion. Community Christian Legal Aid screens families thoroughly and funds all aspects of the adoption, including funding the social worker class, background check and at litem, in addition to pro bono legal support.
“Adoption gives kids a sense of permanence,” said Deborah Hubbs, Executive Director of Community Christian Legal Aid. “There’s a significant psychological benefit to the child and to the family, and the sense of belonging makes a big impact on the child’s emotional development.”
“Kim stepped in and made everything so easy,” said Katie, who found working with the county social worker challenging, especially after the home visit, which was conducted virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“She knew my baby belonged with me,” said Katie. “I could call her and just talk and ask all my questions. She’d tell me exactly what to do. Then she’d send emails and do whatever she had to do to.”
After the virtual court session, the seventh-grader, “Well, I’m your kid now, Mom!”
“I think I’ve done a pretty decent job raising him by myself,” Katie acknowledged. “He’s respectful to other people, he’s got a loving heart.”
Community Christian Legal Aid Receives Grant from Montgomery County Community Foundation
For the second year, Community Christian Legal Aid has received a grant from the Montgomery County Community Foundation.
This year’s grant of $2,000 will facilitate virtual consultation with our clients, including:Zoom Professional MembershipDocusign SubscriptionProfessional ScannerIn today’s environment of social distancing and pandemic caution, access to virtual consultations is a game-changer for our services. This expands our reach of clients, allowing us to support people who can’t drive to the Saturday clinics because of transportation, child care or the need to work on Saturdays.
In addition, many of our volunteers cannot attend our Saturday clinics, but can fit Zoom consultations into their weekday schedules. We have already used these services for consultation in December and January.
The Docusign subscription significantly simplifies our process, empowering us to coordinate documents from any location and minimize the need for travel for document signatures and transfers.
“Community Christian Legal Aid provides a valuable and scarce service to the residents of Montgomery County,” said Julie Martineau, President and CEO of the Montgomery County Community Foundation. “CCLA enhanced their technical capabilities with their 2020 grant. Our endowment donors, Distribution Committee members and Board of Directors were excited to help CCLA strengthen their work in a meaningful way, especially during these unusual times.”
Interested in supporting clients through Zoom consultations?
Email me at [email protected] for more information.
Upcoming Clinic Dates
Community Christian Legal Aid Clinics are always on the 4th Saturday of the Month
The Woodlands United Methodist Church
2200 Lake Woodlands Drive
The Woodlands, Texas 77380
Saturday, March 27Saturday, April 24Saturday, May 22
Volunteers: Please mark your calendars!
Sign Up Genius for appointments will come a few weeks out.
Staff Spotlight: Lynn Flanagan
Service remains a theme in Lynn Flanagan’s life. Retiring after 32 years as a legal assistant or paralegal are large and small firms, she’s met clients when they struggled with seemingly insurmountable obstacles for decades.
“You can listen and help them through one piece of the problem at a time,” explained the optimistic Lynn in recounting her storied career. “It gives them hope.”
“I actually like talking to people,” she laughed. “People were struggling before the pandemic happened, and this situation has made it ten times worse for so many. You start by helping one person at a time with what you can do, and over time, it makes a big difference for many.”
Lynn knows what it feels like to receive an offer of hope. After she retired, her husband passed away in June 2020, and she found the part time role at Community Christian Legal Aid a “bright spot” in a hard year and an opportunity to continue serving others. In November, she endured a stroke that left her unable to speak for several weeks, but she bounced back into work and has recovered significantly.
“I’ve always been involved in outreach through my church or contacts, so when I applied for this job, I realized that it’s a chance to use my skills to help people with a need,” explained the longtime member of Faith United Methodist Church on Rayford Road, who has found purpose in this new role. “A lot of times, if people can solve their legal problems, they can better their lives.”
Lynn is available on Tuesdays and Thursdays to support Community Christian Legal Aid’s volunteer attorneys and paralegals with client matters. Her long career has provided experience with many types of law and can support filings, motions and other documents.