Skip to the content

ABLE Parent Advocate Discusses SUCCESS Program at National American Bar Association Conference

In early 2022, Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc. (ABLE) launched an innovative multi-disciplinary program to address chronic absenteeism in elementary and middle-school-aged children and families in the Springfield, Ohio area. Funded by the Supreme Court of Ohio, the Springfield Foundation, and the Community Health Foundation, the SUCCESS Program runs as a partnership among ABLE, the Clark County Juvenile Court, and Springfield City Schools.



When a child at a participating Springfield elementary or middle school meets the criteria for chronic absenteeism, a multidisciplinary team from the SUCCESS Program joins the school to work with the family and offer services to help address the underlying issues that keep the child out of school. The team offers services to help address the underlying issues that keep the child out of school. If a family chooses to join the SUCCESS Program, an ABLE attorney helps the family resolve civil legal challenges. Additionally, a parent advocate employed by ABLE works with an education liaison officer from the Clark County Juvenile Court to connect the family with social services and local community resources.

“On average, each family can be facing up to five different legal issues,” said Renee Murphy, Managing Attorney at ABLE and legal aid liaison to the program. “We provide legal services to stabilize housing, to improve families’ economic stability, and to ensure children get needed services for success in school. We also assist families with things such as medical appointments, finding furniture, and help with moving.”

To assist with the various needs of the student or family, ABLE’s designated Parent Advocate, Christina Brown, works directly with the clients, gaining their trust and holding them accountable. Brown often works with hard-to-reach community members who may not trust the legal system or are wary they may get in trouble for not being a good student or parent. Brown shared that her approach of “meeting the child or parent where they are” has been effective.

“Overall, we are successfully demolishing barriers that are causing family truancy issues in the Springfield and Clark County area,” Brown said. “Our participants are trusting us with their underlying needs and issues that previously weren’t being addressed.”

Brown will help place ABLE’s SUCCESS Program in the national spotlight this week during the National Conference on Parent Representation in Washington, D.C. on Friday, April 12. The biannual conference is hosted by the American Bar Association’s Center on Children and the Law. Titled “Different Strokes for Different Folks: Maryland and Ohio Do Multidisciplinary Representation Their Way”, the panel will feature Brown alongside other Ohio and Maryland lawyers, parent advocates, and social workers that have piloted similar programs. The discussion will focus on the unique ways ABLE and additional organizations are addressing the issue and the important role of the Parent Advocate.

“Parent Advocates are vital and necessary members of the multi-disciplinary team,” said Judge Katrine M. Lancaster with the Clark County Domestic Relations Court-Juvenile Section. “It is extraordinarily difficult for any parent to admit and recognize they need help for themselves and their children—and then be asked to trust an unknown process and share very intimate details of their life and that of their family with unknown persons whose experiences rarely look like their own. The Parent Advocate changes the dynamic of the parent’s interaction and can work quickly to gain trust and develop a relationship based on shared experiences. The work of the Parent Advocate may decrease the time in which needs can be identified and increase the effectiveness of the multi-disciplinary team thereby delivering the appropriate targeted services to the families and children more quickly.”

To learn more about ABLE’s SUCCESS Program, click here. For the full National Conference on Parent Representation agenda, visit the American Bar Association’s website.

About the author

Advocates for Basic Legal Equality

Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc. (ABLE) is a non-profit regional law firm that provides high quality legal assistance in civil matters to help eligible low-income individuals and groups in western Ohio achieve self reliance, and equal justice and economic opportunity.