Author Archives: Jennifer

About Jennifer

Jennifer Wyatt, the Executive Director of R2JNC and a North Carolina lawyer.

Donor of the Month December 2014

We give Emily Brock hearty thanks for her continuing support of R2J! We will be honoring a new donor each month, and she is our first. I asked if she’d write about why she supports our mission. She was kind enough to oblige:

It can be difficult for anyone to understand his or her legal rights, and that difficulty can be overwhelming for a person already in a distressing personal situation. When I lived in North Carolina, I spent much of my free time exploring the state’s backroads by bicycle. I came to love the rural and overlooked parts of the state, including counties where Roads to Justice is most active, like Beaufort and Pamlico. I appreciated residents’ kind welcomes, but also recognized that many lived in circumstances far less comfortable than my own.

When a personal disaster hits, a precarious living situation can become completely untenable. I support Roads to Justice because it helps those overwhelmed by legal or regulatory tangles recognize their rights, discover resources, and find ways to maintain and improve their lives. Roads to Justice provides legal education and tools, but it also does more. R2J spends time in these communities, engaging in supportive dialogue with people who have often been overlooked by “the system.” It feels good to donate to a non-profit with such a focused and effective mission. I donate knowing that I am helping some of North Carolina’s disadvantaged people make progress on their own roads to justice.

thank-you-flower-Emily K. Brock is a historian of science and environment. Her work focuses on American natural resource management and the intersections between industry, science, and conservation. She has a Ph.D. from Princeton University and has taught at several universities including Stanford University and the University of South Carolina. She now lives in Berlin, Germany, where she is a research scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science. She wrote this book about American Forestry in the first half of the 20th century.

 

For the Want of a Nail

horsehoe“For want of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost; and for want of a horse the rider was lost…” is an old proverb that still rings true. You can likely think of several examples of this butterfly effect from your own life. If you are living paycheck to paycheck, that missing “nail” of basic legal understanding be the difference between raising a safe, healthy family and disaster.

Brandy comes home from a long day of working and shuttling kids to daycare. The bills are piling up, and she worries about staying current with the utilities. She has not been paid child support in months and does not have the money for a lawyer her family says she needs. Brandy attends a Roads to Justice roundtable and shares her concerns. She leaves our event with the knowledge that she does not need a lawyer, the confidence to deal with the court system herself, as well as resources if she has any further questions.

Natalie’s son Keith is in first grade. Keith has autism and Natalie is frustrated with how the school deals with his special needs. The IEP (Individualized Education Program) process is confusing and she doesn’t feel like the school listens to her concerns. Austin suffered several incidents that forced Natalie to leave work and she is now in danger of losing her job for chronic absences. Natalie attends a Roads to Justice workshop on IEPs with a lawyer specializing in special education. She leaves our class with a better understanding of the process and language in the IEP, the confidence she can explain what her son needs to the school, and a list of contacts if she needs a little more guidance.

In neither Brandy nor Natalie’s case was a lawyer needed, but clearly without better information, their families lives were headed towards rougher waters. Roads to Justice helps women raising families in rural NC gain the knowledge and confidence to advocate for themselves and their families, to avoid simple legal problems that could easily lead to very difficult times.

Shopping Night at Ten Thousand Villages

Ten-Thousand-Villages

December 15 from 5 to 8 pm in Cameron Village. Come join us for Shopping Night at Ten Thousand Villages, Raleigh. You can get your Christmas shopping done while learning about how you can help women gain advocacy skills. We’ll be serving snacks and having a good time. Put it on your calendar and come on down!

 

 

 

 

Self-awareness and Good Intentions

Whenever a do-gooder type ventures out into a community that is not their own, they need to check themselves for bias. People with the best intentions can unintentionally work against the needs of those they seek to help, insult an entire community, or at best see their efforts come to naught. At R2JNC we work on a cooperative model, always aware that while we may know how the law works, we are there to learn too.

We provide legal education, but in no way do we think problems can be solved with a simple “aha” moment a la Oprah Winfrey. Rural areas are tough places to live, but life is indeed happening. We have respect for that. We use reciprocal learning- we share what we know about the law in exchange for information about the community and how life works for folks.

Screen Shot 2014-07-03 at 10.35.35 AMWhy is life especially tough in rural America? As this article points out, money set aside to improve lives in rural America doesn’t always get to those who need it. The land may be resource rich but the locals are the last to benefit. What destroys this cronyism and corruption? As the article states, “political transparency, democratic participation and equality.” None of those three things will happen when people do not assert their legal rights and responsibilities. Besides improving individual lives through education and self-advocacy skills, R2JNC increases community dialogue. 

Advocates for Childrens’ Services

Roads to Justice NC ((R2JNC) partners with organizations and firms all over North Carolina. Advocates for Children’s Services, a statewide project of Legal Aid of North Carolina is one of those partners, focuses on issues facing school-aged children. From Special Education to the School-to-Prison-Pipeline, ACS’s attorneys are kept busy handling a variety of cases from all over the state. While their staff is able to commit some time to outreach, North Carolina is an enormous state. In some senses, organizations like ACS are able to “outsource the outreach” to R2JNC.

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This is how it works: if the community wants a workshop on School Discipline issues, R2JNC organizes the meeting space and arranges for an ACS staff member to come out for the workshop. R2JNC has partners in a wide range of legal areas, so we work on bringing as many workshops as desired, which is much more efficient than ten different organizations trying to do the same. Additionally, we can refer qualified people to ACS during our legal clinics. In this way, we not only help the community, but we help ACS increase their exposure in rural North Carolina.

R2JNC is here to efficiently bring advocates and the community together. Please donate!

 

 

Legal Rights AND Responsibilities

I-voted-stickerRights and responsibilities are opposite sides of the same coin. Our system of law afford us certain rights, such as the right to vote. Right along with it though, we have the responsibility to not only exercise that right but to stay informed of the issues and make our decisions accordingly. It’s one of the few times as an adult that we get a sticker for doing the right thing.

At Roads to Justice, we talk about other rights and responsibilities in our clinics, workshops, and roundtables. In honor of my older daughter’s 18th birthday today, here is a non-exhaustive list of things we all need to do to be responsible adults:

  • Read before you sign anything.
  • Even more importantly, understand what you are signing. Ask questions. No one was born knowing everything, so there is no shame in asking.
  • Put important agreements in writing.
  • Keep important documents in a safe place.
  • Keep copies of contracts, even gym memberships. You never know when an issue may arise.
  • OPEN YOUR MAIL REGULARLY
  • DO NOT IGNORE PROBLEMS. ASK FOR HELP. I cannot stress this one enough. People are a lot less judgmental than you might suppose. A stitch in time saves nine. It really does.  

Any others to add?

 

How Is Your Legal Health?

public-health-symbolAre you legally healthy? Having peace of mind that if something goes wrong you’re prepared is crucial to the well being of your family. At Roads to Justice we work with women to make sure they have the tools they need to care for themselves and their families. We often start with a “baseline” diagnosis. Some of our questions:

  • Are your important documents in a secure place? Examples- birth certificate, passport, military discharge documents, marriage certificate, deeds and titles.
  • Are your tax forms up to date?
  • Do you have legal documents directing what happens when you die or if you are incapacitated?
  • Do you know if you qualify for public or private benefits?
  • Are your assets and investments secure and working for you?
  • Do you know how your assets are titled?
  • Are you appropriately insured?
  • Do you know when to reassess your legal health? Examples- when you buy a house, get married, have a baby, or turn 18!
  • Do you have an attorney you can call if you have questions?

Many of use take our health for granted. For people with low incomes or who live in areas underserved by lawyers, it can be a big hassle to get things in order. Roads to Justice helps get people moving in the right direction.

Please consider helping Roads to Justice help others! Please donate via the Paypal button on this webpage. Thank you.

Project Pamlico Fundraiser Begins Today!

Today we kick-off our Project Pamlico fundraiser!

R2J_Primary3_LogoIn order to provide learning and information sessions in Pamlico County this fall, we need your support. R2JNC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, so your donation is tax-deductible. Please consider making a gift today. R2J_Primary3_Logo

Where will your donation go? Roads to Justice NC works hard to keep costs low. For example, our staff will be traveling to Pamlico County in a high-mileage, low-cost vehicle and lodging with local residents. We make use of free meeting space whenever possible, and accept in-kind donations from local businesses to offset costs.

When Roads to Justice NC spends money, all efforts are made to keep that money in the community we serve. We chose small, local businesses whenever possible. At the end of each Project, we report on where donations were spent. You can feel good about money donated to R2JNC.

We have set a $10,000 goal to be met by September 15, 2014, when we plan to hit the ground running in Pamlico County. Please click on the Paypal button to your right (or at the bottom of the page if you’re on your phone), the donate button in the banner above, or follow this link for more information: http://www.roadstojustice.org/donate

Thank you for your support!

The Importance of Education in Advocacy

Decisions will be made that affect your life, whether you’re the one that makes them is up to you. In the legal world, you may forfeit rights you didn’t even know you had or you may make poor decisions based on faulty information. Knowledge is critical. Roads to Justice North Carolina provides education to women in rural North Carolina, so that they can improve the lives of their families with more informed decision making.

This summer Roads to Justice went on hiatus when our executive director (me, Jennifer Wyatt) took time off to tend to a family medical issue. In recent weeks my conviction grew that it was important for me, as a mother, to make informed decisions about my child’s care. This isn’t a legal story, but I’d like to share how it relates to Roads to Justice’s mission.

In 1997 my one year old daughter was diagnosed with cancer. It didn’t take long to learn that doctors cannot be the sole decision makers. The use their expertise to advise, but in the end the patient or the patient’s guardians are the ones who have to decide what to do. It took education combined with love and understanding of my daughter to come up with the best decisions for her over the years.

Whether it was dealing with doctors and nurses, health insurance companies or hospital bureaucracy, I always had to be on my toes. Later when she entered school using a wheelchair, a I had to learn a whole new level of advocacy to get her what she needed. I could not possibly advocate for my daughter without at least a basic understanding of the underlying issues. R2JNC helps women find basic understanding of legal issues so they can better advocate for their families.

When you’re dealing with a medical condition, it’s easy to see that there’s something wrong and that it needs to be addressed. Outside the medical arena for the average person, legal issues can sneak up on us. Whether it’s the landlord not responding to calls about repairs or increasing harassment at work, we usually focus on personality issues. We don’t always recognize the legal issue until things get really messy. We must understand our rights before we can assert them. I’m proud to work for an organization that helps people help themselves.

20140707_142652My daughter is recovering from her very rough summer surgery, and I’m excited to get back to work. I’d like to thank the Roads to Justice North Carolina extended family for their love and support during this time.

We’re getting ready to kick off our next fundraiser. Please consider donating, whether it’s sending us a check or clicking to donate via Paypal on this webpage. Thank you!

 

Aiding the Elderly

According to the North Carolina State Demographics Unit, older adults are the fastest growing population in the state. The number of adults over 65 is expected to double from 2000 to 2030. Some rural counties with retirement communities, like Pamlico, have even more elderly residents. The poverty rate for the elderly in many rural areas tops 25%, making them some of our most vulnerable citizens.

Women make up 59% of adults over 65 in North Carolina. That ratio changes dramatically for adults over 85 to an astonishing 72% being female. Roads to Justice offers learning opportunities specifically for women in this demographic so that they may better advocate for themselves. seniorpov

There are resources out there for senior citizens (such as the Low Income Energy Assistance Program), but as we increasingly shift to a web-based society, folks without computers have increased barriers. Computers and technology presume a level of familiarity and literacy that our many of our elders do not have, some of whom retired before computers were commonplace. Roads to Justice delivers information in person and does not require an Internet connection.

We respect the experiences of the women we serve, and conduct our learning sessions as conversations. We believe more learning occurs when it’s interactive; it gives us a chance to learn from the participants and have a lot more fun!

Some of the workshops and clinics especially relevant to the elderly:

  • Consumer protection
  • Healthcare and the Law
  • Disability Law
  • Estate planning

In the future, Roads to Justice plans to add Internet literacy classes to our catalogue, as well as work with tech nonprofits to get more rural North Carolinians online.

It’s our honor to get to know long time residents of rural North Carolina. Stay tuned for news, updates, and the occasional interesting anecdote!