Who We Are
Message From The Executive Director
In my many years in and around the Family Court, I have observed the emotional highs and lows that accompany the families that seek the intervention of the court. Often, I think about the impact of a court proceeding on a child and I am heartened that there are advocates for children and organizations such as the Children’s Law Center New York. In my fifth year as the Executive Director of CLCNY, each day I see a dedicated staff who strive to provide high quality legal representation from the point of assignment to a case until the final court resolution. CLCNY was inspired by visionary leaders in the court and legal community and we strive every day to build on that legacy as we carry out our mission.
Karen P. Simmons, Executive Director
On April 15, 1996, former Chief Judge, Hon. Judith S. Kaye, announced in a speech a new focus on custody and visitation matters. In her speech, entitled a “New Family Court Initiative for Custody and Visitation Cases,” she stated:
“Judges always seek to identify the course of action that is in the best interests of the child, and as we know all too well that can be very difficult to do when information from the many agencies and service providers involved in family cases may be incomplete or unreliable. The aim of our new effort is to increase the Court’s ability to obtain timely and relevant information in a coordinated fashion about litigants’ abilities to care for children — so that the judges can make the best decisions possible to safeguard the welfare of children. The Court can act only in its role as an adjudicator - not an investigator or prosecutor - and it is critical that judges have all of the necessary history about the parties and the facts of the case before them when they are making critical decisions about custody and visitation.”
In order to achieve this goal, Judge Kaye called for the appointment of independent counsel for children in custody/visitation cases in Family Court. This speech is the inspiration that led directly to a year of planning by CLCNY’s founders, Carol Sherman and Fern Schair. Carol Sherman, currently a Family Court Judge, was the first Executive Director. She began representing children in 1972, at a time when there was little law in this area, and she has been at the forefront of juvenile justice and family law ever since. Along with Fern Schair, the former President of CLCNY, and with the support of Barbara H. Dildine, the Deputy Director of Appeals, Judge Sherman created a comprehensive multidisciplinary law firm to represent children in these cases.
Established as a pilot in 1997, CLCNY began accepting cases in the Brooklyn Family Court in December of that year. In its first fiscal year, CLCNY represented over 2,000 children. Since then, CLCNY has expanded its operations to Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island, providing a strong and effective voice to over 100,000 children since its inception.
CLCNY currently represents children in both the Family Court and the Integrated Domestic Violence Parts of the Supreme Court. Judges in the Family Court and Integrated Domestic Violence Parts of the Supreme Court are concerned with the safety and well being of the children in the cases before them. Although assignment of counsel by the judge to children in custody/visitation, domestic violence and paternity cases is optional, judges have increasingly realized that children can benefit greatly from having their voices in the proceeding heard through the assignment of independent counsel, the Attorney for the Child. In 2011, CLCNY started the Securing Seamless Education Services Project “SSES” pronounced SUCCESS - to assist our clients with education advocacy in the court, community, and the school system.
CLCNY attorneys meet with their clients and investigate the cases in preparation for providing zealous representation. And equally as important, they provide the child with a voice that might otherwise remain unheard.
The leadership of CLCNY is proud that we provide comprehensive representation of our child clients. CLCNY’s focus are the issues that surround a child during a court proceeding. However, we are ever poised to assist our clients on issues outside of court that impede the resolution of a court matter.
CLCNY is led by a board of directors from the legal, social work, academic, business, and public sectors.
The CLCNY Board of Directors
Stephen Rinehart, Esq., President
L. Robert Batterman, Esq., Vice President
Mary Eaton, Esq., Secretary
William C. Silverman, Esq., Treasurer
Aman A. D’Mello, MSW
Hon. Betty Ellerin, Retired
Beatrice Frank, Esq.
Linda Gerstel, Esq.
Amy Glickman, Esq.
Hon. Howard A. Levine, Retired
Fern Schair, Esq.
CLCNY’s executive staff are experienced professionals in the areas of family law, social work, and not-for-profit operations.
Karen P. Simmons, Esq., Executive Director
Barbara H. Dildine, Esq., Deputy Director of Appeals
Martha Schneiderman, Esq., Deputy Director of Trials and Training
Tanisha S. McKnight, Esq., Director of Paralegal and Volunteer Services
Tracey Tronolone, LCSW, Director of Social Work
Rebecca Beard, Administrative Manager
Charles T. Simpson, Human Resources Manager
All children pictured on our site are not clients.