THE NEIGHBORHOOD DEFENDER SERVICE OF HARLEM (NDS) is a community-based, client-centered, holistic public defense office located in Harlem, providing both criminal and civil representation.  NDS Clients are represented by multidisciplinary teams.  NDS is accepting applications from candidates for an Parent Advocate position in our Family Defense Practice’s Out-of-Court-Advocacy-Team (OOCA).


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 Team 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.

Role and Responsibilities

  • Attend with and advocate for clients at ACS and foster agency conferences;
  • Provide trauma-informed, anti-racist, intersectional, non-judgmental, and truly holistic advocacy for clients targeted by the family policing system;
  • Acquire a robust institutional knowledge of ACS policy and practices;
  • Respond quickly and communicate clearly with clients, their families, and ACS and foster agency case workers;
  • Conduct client interviews and assessments to determine social service needs; work with client to identify and secure placement of clients in programs and services intended to address 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, as is safe and appropriate;
  • 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

  • Either or both of the following experience or education:
    • One year of case management/advocacy experience, and/or;
    • At least two years education in a related field
  • Demonstrated commitment to parents’ rights, indigent defense, social justice issues and/or the Harlem communities;
  • Demonstrated energy, enthusiasm and ingenuity in working with complicated and difficult cases;
  • Lived and/or professional experience with family court or the family policing system strongly preferred
  • Excellent interpersonal, analytical, writing, and communication skills;
  • Strong time management and organizational skills and the ability to multitask and be flexible in order to manage an issue-diverse caseload in a very fast-paced environment;
  • The ability to exercise discretion and maintain confidentiality
  • Ability to receive critical feedback constructively, reflect, and shift behavior accordingly
  • Familiarity with the Harlem community is a plus
  • Bilingual applicants are encouraged to apply. Spanish language fluency is preferred.


Compensation is commensurate with experience and is in adherence to the NDS Collective Bargaining Agreement with ALAA-UAW Local 2325.  Full medical and dental benefits, as well as other benefits, are provided.

How to Apply

Interested applications should email a cover letter, resume, and writing sample to Zainab Akbar at with the subject line, “NDS FDP OOCA Posting.” Please send your application as one document, preferably PDF. Applications will be considered on a rolling basis. The position will start on July 19, 2021.

Neighborhood Defender Service, Inc. is an Equal Opportunity Employer.