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From the Vault Published December 10, 2021

The Power of Pro Bono: Delia’s 1996 Custody Case

Delia (a pseudonym) was already a grandmother when she found herself caring for seven young children. Severe poverty and drug addiction had rendered her niece unable to raise the children, who ranged in age from one to thirteen. Hoping to give them a safer home, Delia – who lived on less than $900 a month – asked her niece to let her raise the children.

Without legal help, Delia and her grandchildren initially faced hardship after hardship. She sought custody of the children so she could properly care for them while they lived apart from their mother. Two of the children needed special education benefits, which the school district opposed. And Delia could not manage her grandson’s severe medical problems without additional Supplementary Security Income (SSI).

VIP procured for Delia not one, but three volunteer attorneys from Drinker Biddle and Reath: Jill Fowler, Sharon Barr, and Robert Yarbrough. The team built a comprehensive legal strategy to put Delia’s family on the path to security. With her volunteers’ help, Delia obtained custody of five grandchildren, special education assistance for two, and SSI benefits for one.

Delia’s VIP volunteers gave her family peace of mind and legal protection that she could never have afforded on her fixed income. These attorneys, who gave generously of their time and expertise, changed the course of eight Philadelphians’ lives. In so many small pro bono engagements over VIP’s forty-year history, our volunteers have changed countless lives and strengthened our city.

Thank you for believing in our mission and supporting our work over the last 40 years. Since December 10, 1981, VIP has helped more than 40,000 Philadelphians, like Delia, access justice.

Together, we are empowering our community.