F.I.R.S.T. Clinic is …

Family Intervention Response to Stop Trauma launched in July of 2019. Since July, the FIRST Legal Clinic has
helped dozens of mothers in multiple counties avoid CPS removal and the filing of a dependency
petition in court. This interdisciplinary and cross‐discipline upstream approach to child welfare combines
legal advocacy with connecting a family first‐hand with services to prevent not only a removal now, but
future involvement with CPS as well.

Think of the FIRST legal clinic as a “first responder” to mother facing the risk of CPS removal and family
separation.

 
Within minutes of calling and providing her name and date of birth along with the father’s
information, we can begin the advocacy process. Our current law office is located within 10 minutes of
Providence hospital in Everett, WA and our average response time for a family team decision making
meeting and most FIRST Clinic calls is less than 30 minutes.
With legal advocacy that helps mothers understand their legal rights and the implications of ignoring
CPS, families can make informed decisions not based on fear but from a safe space where “fight or
flight” reactions to CPS, which are common, can be avoided.
Along with an attorney, the FIRST clinic partners with a veteran parent ally who has successfully
completed treatment and navigated CPS involvement to now help other parents do the same. This
provides an entirely new level of emotional support that ensures parents know that the clinic is truly
designed to be a source of advocacy and resources for the family.

FIRST Clinic clients also have access to “fast‐tracked” drug and alcohol assessments through a
partnership with our local treatment provider,

and a new 30‐day inpatient treatment program allowing
mother’s to discharge immediately from the hospital to a supervised CPS approved program has just
been implemented and has already prevented the filing of a dependency petition by allowing mother an
opportunity to go into treatment with her baby.
The FIRST clinic also connects new mothers with a nurse partnership for the first two years of a baby’s
life allowing a nurse to come out to the family whenever health issues may arise preventing a huge
barrier for care for most families, transportation.
With our veteran parent ally comes access to a private housing resources for 12‐18 months, well above
the typical timeline for supportive housing in Snohomish County. This housing resource allows parents a
safe space to which provides them access to life skills classes and resources through a partnership with a
local community college.

As the FIRST Clinic expands so will our local partnerships.

The Washington State University School of
Medicine in Everett, Washington has agreed to partner with the FIRST Clinic to explore health outcomes
for children and families participating in the clinic.
Often times, misinformation and disinformation (internet and elsewhere) can lead a parent to make
decisions that are not in the best interest of their family and which prevent them from reaching out for
help for fear of having their vulnerability used against them. Having a confidential and trusted resource
to help a parent navigate through the hurdles of CPS involvement PRIOR to court action has made all the
difference in the lives of many of our clinic clients.
At present, a physical clinic space has almost completed construction at Providence Women’s Pavilion in
Everett and will usher in a new era in medical‐legal partnership and a framework for how to change
child welfare across the country.

 

Article – Using Legal Services to Keep Children in Families: The F.I.R.S.T.

You Can Donate Directly to F.I.R.S.T. Legal Clinic

Testimonial

One of the first Clients of the FIRST Clinic called our office with less than 15 minutes before her family
team decision making meeting (FTDM) which would decide whether or not CPS would remove her child.
The First Clinic attorneys myself and Neil Weiss arrived before CPS was even scheduled to start the
meeting and after a long discussion which involved multiple family members who were at the hospital a
safety plan was developed and mom and baby were allowed to go into treatment together discharging
to a relative who she and baby were approved to move in with. After the meeting, the family reported
that their interactions with CPS up until that point were adversarial and testy and that the power
dynamic completely shifted once an attorney for mom became involved. Following the meeting mom
has successfully finished her treatment and the department is no longer actively involved in her life.

Anonymous