The Social Worker Difference

Jeanette Lomeli, Social Worker, Juvenile Justice Clinic

Mike B. is a longtime client of the Juvenile Justice Clinic, whose mother and eleven siblings have lived in 2 RVs under a DTLA freeway interchange for more than two years.  Because of their homelessness, in December the juvenile courts were refusing to release Mike from his court-ordered residency in a group home, as Christmas was fast approaching.  

Enter the difference that the holistic approach of our Center for Juvenile Law and Policy (CJLP) can make.  CJLP clinical teams include social workers, who play a crucial role in the success of supporting their clients.  “Oftentimes,” explains CJLP Supervising Social Worker Jeanette Lomeli, our clients and their families lack fundamental and essential necessities, like housing or trauma-informed mental health treatment. Many times, these same needs increase our client’s vulnerability to enter and remain in the juvenile justice system, and unfortunately, the system is not designed to address these basic needs. Using an ecological and system approach, a social worker can assess a client and their environment to identify the appropriate resources to help increase positive outcomes.” 

In Mike’s case, Jeanette has, since Spring and throughout the pandemic, navigated labyrinthine Los Angeles County housing agencies and DCFS requirements to get the family’s Section 8 voucher renewed and find them housing. Her Herculean efforts—endless phone calls and emails to agencies, innumerable forms filled out and signatures collected, nonstop scouring of housing listings, and evenings and weekend hours spent with the family—resulted in a very special holidayAfter Jeanette accompanied the client’s mother to sign the lease and pick up the keys for a four-bedroom house on a quiet street in Alhambra, Mike joined his family in their new home just in time for them to be together for Christmas Eve.  

Jeanette “coordinated it all, every step of the way,” observed Brooke Harris, Mike’s CJLP Supervising Staff Attorney. “Beyond any shadow of a doubt, the family is housed today simply because of Jeanette.” After every agency failed this family, Jeanette empowered Mike’s mom “to advocate for herself, and to believe in herself”—the greatest Christmas gift of all.