The Lancaster Bar Association and Lancaster Bar Association Foundation in partnership with MidPenn Legal Services offers free child custody services to those within 125% of the federal poverty level under its "We Care about Families Campaign. "
The initiative was founded in 2005 in response to a sharp rise in the number of requests the Bar Association was receiving for help with child custody cases, Lancaster Bar Association Foundation President Caroline Hoffer, Esq. told the Rotary Club of Lancaster, Wednesday.
The Bar Association has had a volunteer attorney program in place since 1978, Hoffer explained, but the decision was made to devote a full-time attorney to child custody cases starting in 2005.
Under the program, individuals who would not otherwise be able to afford the services of an attorney when their child is taken in a custody dispute can appeal to the Bar Association Foundation for help.
In 2007, they handled 233 such custody cases, logging 2,286 of volunteer attorney work hours.
Currently, the full-time attorney they have devoted to these cases is Michelle Goldstein of MidPenn's Lancaster Branch.
In 2006, the Lancaster Bar Association won the Pennsylvania Bar Association's highest pro bono award, the Louis J. Goffman award for work in this area, Hoffman said.
This year, the Lancaster Bar Association is hoping to raise $180,000 to help continue this work.