Frank had always provided for his family until he was injured on the job leaving him with a brain injury and in a medically induced coma. The family always lived from paycheck to paycheck, had no savings or even a checking account. With no joint account, there was no place to deposit the worker’s comp checks and no way to access money, and the family fell behind on rent and utilities. In the coma state, Frank had no capacity to consent to power of attorney for his wife Betty and she called Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, not knowing what she needed, only that everything was falling apart. The LASO attorney quickly obtained an emergency special guardianship over Frank so Betty would be able to pay bills; any delay could be devastating. Betty opened a checking account and was able to find some relief as she dealt with Frank’s long road to recovery. There were three court dates and thirty documents filed in Frank’s case of uncontested guardianship by LASO. Betty now receives bi-weekly worker’s compensation checks for Frank, and by cutting back, Betty is able to maintain the household she hopes Frank will return to. Betty had nowhere to turn until LASO stepped in to help.
In the 18 years Kevin has been on this earth, he has endured more loss than most people do in their entire lives. Kevin’s mother went to prison when he was very young, and his father was severely injured in a car accident that left him mentally challenged and unable to care for a young son. Kevin’s elderly grandmother took him in and raised him. Kevin’s home life was certainly not ideal. Kevin joined the Oklahoma High School Mock Trial team at his school as a freshman and found that he has an insatiable interest in law, politics and the criminal justice system. Up to that point, Kevin had struggled in school. As a member of his school’s Mock Trial team, Kevin not only learned critical thinking skills, he found a mentor and mother figure in his coach and a family in his team. Kevin rose to be the leader of that family taking his team during his senior year of high school to win the Oklahoma Mock Trial State Championship and fourth place at the National High School Mock Trial Competition. Kevin is just one example of how the Oklahoma High School Mock Trial program is changing lives and investing in the future.
Within months of her diagnosis, Rose received news that her cancer had spread. The doctors said it was terminal. Rose gradually began to lose her strength and her mind as the disease took over her body. Rose’s thoughts raced – How could she care for herself in this condition? Rose called her adult daughter, Karen, who immediately sold her home and personal possessions to move in to Rose’s home and care for Rose. Soon Karen learned how difficult it was to care for a parent. No one would speak with her about Rose’s care. They would not allow her to review Rose’s medical bills, purchase insurance, or even speak with them about paying the debts Rose owed. At a loss for what to do, Rose and Karen contacted the attorneys at the Senior Law Resource Center. The Center provided advice and documents to Rose that allowed Karen to care for Rose and speak to others on her behalf. The Center also helped Rose repay Karen’s generosity by helping Rose leave her home to Karen after her death. Now, Karen does not encounter problems caring for Rose. Karen can focus on caring for and spending time with her mother in Rose’s final days.
David and Jordan are brothers living very different lives than when they first came into DHS custody 3 years ago. The boys were 15 and 13 when removed from their parents for neglect. David, now an easy going 18 year old is far older than his age, “We knew we had to stick together when we got picked up. Our life wasn’t the best, but it was our life and it’s what we knew.” The boys had lived in motels all of their lives, often missing school when their parents were “dope sick” and needed “help.” David explained “help” meant he had to go score drugs for his parents and watch them shoot up. The boys arrived at the Shelter with their guard up and lots of attitude. A lot of that changed after they met their Oklahoma Lawyers for Children lawyer. Eventually, OLFC got them out of the Shelter, but not placed together. The street tough brothers would run off to meet each other and it was stressful for the foster families. When David aged out, he lived on the streets for a while, but stayed in touch with his OLFC lawyer. Eventually David figured out he didn’t want to be like his dad, and his OLFC lawyer helped him get a job and his GED. Now David attends OCCC and has a future. Jordan is at Guthrie Job Corps working on his GED and learning to be a welder. David is quick to remind young Jordan not to waste time saying, “Dude! Stay in Job Corps, get your GED and a trade!” The boys credit their OLFC lawyer for sticking with them and seeing them as individuals with different needs. “Man, we were on a bad road to nowhere!” says Jordan. “Our mom and dad, they weren’t changin’…Our lawyer cared!” The boys now look forward to the future, a future where hope and color have been returned to the lives of neglected children.
Download this article as it appeared in the October 6, 2012 Oklahoma Bar Journal