Improving Housing Conditions
Joseph was referred to Child HeLP because of appalling conditions in his apartment, including cockroach infestation and water damage. The entire apartment building was in disrepair, and Joseph was exposed to asthma triggers such as mold and dust on a daily basis.
Joseph’s referral to Child HeLP uncovered a much larger problem in his neighborhood. Together, Cincinnati Children’s and the Legal Aid Society discovered that a total of 16 families (45 children) had been referred to Legal Aid due to housing complaints from a cluster of 19 buildings that were all owned by a single absentee landlord. More than a third of the referrals involved patients with asthma.
Legal Aid learned that the Cincinnati Health and Building Departments had cited each of the 19 buildings for prior code violations and that the existing orders had not been complied with by the owner. The attorneys worked with the Building Department to help identify code violations in these buildings and to reissue orders for repairs.
Armed with powerful photographs of leaky ceilings, moldy pipes and insect infestations – all asthma triggers – Legal Aid also helped tenants form a tenants’ association. Legal Aid worked with the tenants to identify and prioritize repairs and force the landlord to remediate problems. The referrals to Child HeLP among these 19 buildings resulted in clean up and repair in nearly 80 percent of the cases, and major infrastructure repair (new roof, integrated pest management, improved electrical systems) in more than half of the buildings.
Since the improvement in living and building conditions, the number of cases of emergency department admissions for asthma from Joseph’s neighborhood has now decreased.
> Read more about Child HeLP’s work to improve housing conditions for families: Identifying and Treating a Substandard Housing Cluster Using a Medical-Legal Partnership.
Securing Special Education Services
Jeremiah is a junior high student with ADHD referred to Child HeLP because he was recommended for expulsion for misbehavior which put him at risk of being out of school for up to 80 school days. Much of Jeremiah’s behavior was related to ADHD, of which the school was aware. Although the school had agreed to complete a special education evaluation for Jeremiah over a year earlier, in fact the school never evaluated Jeremiah or provided interventions or accommodations to support his success.
Legal Aid represented Jeremiah’s mom and persuaded the school to withdraw the proposal for expulsion and allow Jeremiah to return to school immediately. In addition, the school agreed to provide accommodations for his disability. Cincinnati Children’s social workers provided the attorney with documentation of Jeremiah’s current condition, which was very helpful in resolving the discipline issue and increasing the likelihood of school success for Jeremiah.
The issues in this case raised questions about the possibility that this school district was engaged in a pattern of improper school removal for behavior issues of students who actually had special education disabilities and were entitled to interventions and supports – not punishment. As a result, Legal Aid attorneys are monitoring cases and data coming out of this district to identify systemic issues that should be addressed.