The Family Defense Practice at NDS represents parents in family policing cases (sometimes called “child welfare” cases) filed by the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) as well as related family court cases, including custody, visitation and termination of parental rights proceedings.  Through our holistic approach to representation, the Family Defense Practice provides parents with the help they need—both inside and outside of court—to keep their families safe and stable.  Parents are represented not only by a high-quality attorney, but also social workers, team administrators, and parent advocates.  NDS is committed to advancing due process rights for parents by fighting unwarranted state intervention in their lives and advocating for related systemic change.  The Advocate is an essential part of a client’s interdisciplinary team and will provide support to both clients as well as attorney colleagues in family court.

Role and Responsibilities

  • Provide trauma-informed, anti-racist, intersectional, non-judgmental, and truly holistic advocacy for clients targeted by the family policing system;
  • Provide support to both clients as well as attorney colleagues in family court;
  • Acquire a robust institutional knowledge of ACS policy and practices;
  • Demonstrate energy, enthusiasm and ingenuity in working with complicated and difficult cases;
  • Respond quickly and communicate clearly with clients, their families, and ACS and foster agency case workers;
  • Advocate for clients at ACS and foster agency case conferences;
  • Conduct client interviews and assessments to determine social service needs; 
  • Identify and secure placement of clients in programs and services intended to address challenges such as mental health, addiction, domestic violence, educational needs; 
  • Work with clients to determine if any community resources serve their legal and/or social work needs; 
  • Communicate and advocate with service providers about clients’ needs; 
  • Work with clients in spaces that are most comfortable to them including but not limited to public spaces and their homes; 
  • Provide crisis intervention management; 
  • Participate in training, individual and group supervision and meetings with your supervisor and interdisciplinary team;
  • Work as part of the interdisciplinary team, including attorneys and other non-attorney advocates, to determine case strategy. 

Desired Capabilities and Qualifications

  • NDS is seeking applicants with a demonstrated commitment to parents’ rights, indigent defense, social justice issues and/or the Harlem communities;
  • For Social Worker applicants — a Master’s Degree in Social Work and be licensed or willing and eligible to become licensed; 
  • For Social Worker and Parent Advocate applicants — Must have experience in Family Court and/or the family policing system, as well as with adults managing mental health diagnoses;
  • Must possess excellent interpersonal, analytical, writing, and communication skills;
  • Must possess strong organizational skills and the ability to be flexible in order to manage a high caseload in a very fast-paced environment;
  • Must be comfortable in a court environment;
  • Bilingual applicants are encouraged to apply. Spanish language fluency is preferred.  


NDS offers a generous compensation package, including a competitive base salary as well as health, 403(b) and vacation benefits. Salary is commensurate with experience and is in adherence to the NDS Collective Bargaining Agreement with ALAA-UAW Local 2325.

How to Apply

Interested applications should email a cover letter, resume, and writing sample to Zainab Akbar at zakbar@ndsny.org with the subject line, “NDS FDP Advocate Posting.” Please send your application as one document, preferably PDF. Applications are due no later than August 15, 2020, candidates will be interviewed on a rolling basis and the position closed when filled. 

The Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem is committed to maintaining a diverse environment that reflects the community we serve. NDS is proud to be an Equal Opportunity Employer.  We strongly encourage candidates of all identities, orientations, experiences, and communities to apply.