2013 Equal Justice Works Fellow, Danielle Gadomski Littleton

Danielle Gadomski Littleton

Name of Host Organization: The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland
City, State: Cleveland, Ohio
Issue area: Children/Youth
Sponsors: Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation

The Project

Danielle worked to eliminate barriers to a successful transition into adulthood for children in foster care and youth aging out of foster care in Northeast Ohio through direct representation and systemic advocacy. Danielle also educated youth to advocate for their own future, empowering a new generation of foster care advocates in Cleveland.

The Inspiration

Need Addressed By Project: 
Foster youth in Cleveland face unique challenges in a city where 53 percent of children under 18 live below the poverty level, incarcera-tion rates exceed state levels, and graduation rates trail state levels. Nationally, 33 percent of the youth who age out of foster care do not have a high school diploma or a GED, 28 percent have been arrested, and 22 percent experience homelessness. No organization in Cleveland focuses specifically on the civil legal needs of youth in and aging out of foster care. Many need an advocate to help them address issues such as special education needs, housing, public benefits, and immigration status.
Fellowship Highlights: 
During her Fellowship, Danielle has:
• Prevented expulsions, secured special education services and ensured school enrollment for youth in foster care
• Preserved housing subsidies, sealed criminal records and vacated debts caused by identity theft for youth who aged out of foster care
• Advised and educated foster youth and their advocates on their rights in the areas of consumer, education, immigration, family, housing, and public benefits law
• Collaborated with other community groups to end youth homelessness, suggested uses for federal money allocated for youth aging out of foster care, and supported a new Court Appointed Special Advocate program in Cuyahoga County
Where are they now?: 
Now that the Fellowship is complete, Danielle plans to continue representation, advice and education of youth in and aging out of foster care on civil legal issues at the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.

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