Two New Fellows Serve Legal Aid Clients

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Legal Aid is proud to host both an Equal Justice Works Fellow and an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Fellow. Both programs help young lawyers pursue careers in public interest law.

Fellowships, Danielle 2

Ms. Gadomski Littleton

Danielle Gadomski Littleton is Legal Aid’s Equal Justice Works Fellow focusing on legal issues of youth in foster care and young adults aging out of the system. She works closely with the various county family services departments, and other partner agencies for foster youth.

“Youth in foster care have undergone a lot of trauma in their birth homes or as a result of their removal and that can trigger mental health issues,” says Ms. Gadomski Littleton, noting that the rate of post-traumatic stress disorder is higher for children in foster care than for combat veterans.

She trains families and social workers to recognize potential legal issues, for example, access to appropriate education. “A teacher might see a child acting out, but that impulsive behavior may be related to their situation. The school may recommend discipline or expulsion, when the youngster really should be getting support services so they can stay in school and graduate.” She may advise or represent the young person to get the school district to provide appropriate services.

At Denison University, the Columbus native understood that not everyone grew up with the advantages and family support she had and that pushed her to be more proactive. While deciding between a graduate degree in social work or law, she was an AmeriCorps volunteer at an agency for children in foster care. She observed that judges looked to attorneys a s the authorities on the cases. A public interest scholarship funded her law degree from Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law with a Certificate in Children’s Studies.

“I fell in love with this issue because I saw the impact one person could have” as a child advocate, she says. “I wanted to work with Cleveland Legal Aid because it is a strong program and I knew I would get great training and exposure to lots of issues.”

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Ms. Altum-McNair working with a veteran at a Brief Advice Clinic.

Ms. Altum-McNair working with a veteran at a Brief Advice Clinic.

 

Jami Altum-McNair is serving the civil legal needs of low-income veterans as Legal Aid’s Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Fellow.

“For some vets, something happens in the service that makes it difficult to adjust to civilian life,” she says. “That can start a domino-effect of problems – their marriage falls apart, then they can’t pay their child support payments, so they lose their driver’s license and then they can’t work. Some veterans may end up homeless or with substance abuse problems, or both.

“There are many veterans’ service organizations in Cleveland, but none of them do legal work. Sometimes veterans need someone who can go to court for them,” she says.

In addition to representing clients, Ms. Altum-McNair also increased access to legal services for veterans by holding brief advice clinics twice a month at a VA facility, one in conjunction with volunteer lawyers from McDonald Hopkins and Legal Aid’s Volunteer Lawyers Program staff. Vets can bring in legal paperwork they don’t understand, talk to an attorney and learn what the documents mean and what to do.

The daughter of a veteran, Ms. Altum-McNair served in the Army as a licensed practical nurse stationed at Fort Campbell, KY and was deployed to Kosovo. She became the first person in her family to attend college, graduating summa cum laude from Wright State; then attended law school at Case Western Reserve University and graduated cum laude, concurrently earning an MA in Bioethics.

Ms. Altum McNair adds: “I had a family support network to help me when I left the service. Now I want to be that help for others. We moved to Cleveland so our son could go to the same schools as my husband, Cuyahoga County prosecutor Ben McNair, so when I found this opportunity to serve low-income veterans in my adopted hometown, I couldn’t have been more excited.”

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