Improving access to legal services for low income individuals and families is a critical component of breaking the cycle of poverty for individuals and families in Kansas and Missouri. All too often, families faced with a legal situation find themselves falling farther behind as they try to spread an already thin budget to pay legal fees, court costs, and even traffic fines. Many do not know where to turn for help. This is why Morefield Speicher Bachman, LC wants to highlight organizations like Legal Aid of Western Missouri, which works tirelessly to break this cycle.
In addition to serving their own clients, Legal Aid of Western Missouri, jointly with KCMBA, LAKC, and K.C. Bar Foundation, seeks to provide comprehensive legal services through their Volunteer Attorney Project (VAP) to individuals and families in Kansas and Missouri who need, but cannot afford, legal assistance. Through VAP, eligible clients are referred to private attorneys for free legal assistance with housing related matters, guardianships, and family law cases, among others. Attorney Andrew Speicher has been actively involved with VAP, representing pro bono clients in matters involving guardianships and warrant relief.
It’s unfortunate, but children are regularly the ones that suffer the consequences of our poor decisions as adults. When a parent is unable or unwilling to provide for their child’s needs, it usually falls to a well-intentioned grandparent or other family member to step in and pick up the slack. But when that child needs to go to the doctor or be admitted to the hospital, or enroll in school, the child is often denied because the caregiver has no legal authority to make these decisions. This is where volunteer attorneys can step in and serve by taking the caregiver through the court process of being appointed as Legal Guardian of the child, thus empowering the caregiver to make legal decisions for the child’s physical and financial health and well-being.
Some of my most rewarding moments as an attorney have come at the end of a Hearing For Guardianship. In that moment, the judge finally appoints my client as the legal guardian for her grandchild and now frees my client to get her grandchild the medicine she needs, or enroll her in school. Without being appointed Guardian, the child would fall between the cracks. But because of the opportunity to offer my services through the VAP programs, we can equip caregivers to provide these children with an opportunity to excel. – Andrew Speicher
To give your time to the Volunteer Attorney Project, please visit http://lawmo.org/volunteer/volunteer-attorney-project/.
You can also find similar programs through Kansas Legal Services http://www.kansaslegalservices.org.