At the Tahirih Justice Center, we believe that it is not enough to simply win a client’s legal case. We work to support their needs and connect them with a variety of services, like skill–building opportunities, workforce readiness and education programs, counseling, and medical care so they can begin healing from trauma and have the means to support themselves and their family.
Legal advocacy for immigrant survivors of gender-based violence is most successful when survivors are provided with the legal, emotional, and social support to make the most informed decisions in their cases.
“Our clients have a lot going on, and they are better equipped to work with us on their declaration, gather supporting evidence, and make decisions about their case when they are not worried about the medical needs that pop up, enrolling their kids in school, safety planning and whether or not they have a place to sleep at night,” Jessica Howton, Tahirih Houston Managing Attorney, explained.
In order to better address the unique challenges our clients face, Tahirih developed an interdisciplinary model of service that allows for attorneys and social workers to work in partnership. Under this new model, each Tahirih client has access to both a legal advocate and a social services advocate. Together, these interdisciplinary teams present the most comprehensive analysis and options to the client to ensure the success of their legal case and their ability to thrive in their communities.
“The ability to function as one interdisciplinary team allows for more client-centered, trauma–informed care for immigrant survivors and their families. This has been especially important after harmful policy changes occurred and clients’ cases dragged on longer,” said Adriana Lopez, Tahirih’s Co-Director of Client Advocacy, Social Services.
The interdisciplinary model ensures that the Tahirih attorney, social worker, pro bono attorney, and the client form one unified team where the client serves as the decision-maker. Survivors are the experts on their own life experiences and our client-centered services are there to support them in their own journey.
This is an exciting, innovative approach to immigration legal services. While there are other non-profit immigration law firms that offer social services, Tahirih is on the leading edge in adopting a fully interdisciplinary model. We are continuing to learn as we go and sharing our findings with other immigration law non-profit organizations.
Most importantly, our clients benefit from this closer, hands-on approach between our legal and social services teams. By working with a complete team of attorneys and social workers from the very beginning of their case, immigrant survivors receive support in meeting their needs and goals.