Legal Aid Society

A Day In The Life

Giving Children a Voice in the Juvenile Rights Practice

Demetra Frazier has been an unrelenting advocate for New York City’s youth in The Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Practice (JRP) since 1995.

After a few years working in the City Council and seeing firsthand the bureaucracy bottlenecks under Mayor Guiliani, Demetra realized she wanted to make more of an impact in her life. She observed a Legal Aid attorney in Family Court and then decided to spend a couple of years figuring out her next steps while working as a staff attorney in Legal Aid’s Brooklyn office.   

Nearly 30 years later, Demetra is still at Legal Aid doing the work she loves. Throughout her career, Demetra has done almost everything as a JRP attorney and has handled some of the most harrowing abuse cases, an area in which she specializes. Now, she focuses on neglect cases.  

My job is more than being my clients’ attorney and representing them in trials. It’s figuring out how Legal Aid can help better their life, and what a better life means for them.

Unsurprisingly, working with children in Family Court can be emotionally taxing for Demetra and her JRP colleagues, but they still remain zealous advocates for the most vulnerable group in New York. 

“Children need attorneys, and I can’t think of a better advocate than The Legal Aid Society. We’re trained for it and have so much help, from social workers to paralegals to supervisors. Each child has a team of people supporting them,” says Demetra. 

JRP works with children from one day old until they turn twenty-one. Over the years, she has learned to develop different relationships with her clients of varying ages. She knows all too well the struggles of being a teenager after raising her three children and will gladly play the role of “aunt” to help clients become the best version of themselves.  

She recalls representing a baby whose mother battled addiction. After 13 years in her aunt’s custody, the client returned to Family Court after mentioning to her school guidance counselor that she was living with her mother, and Demetra represented her again.  

Demetra saw incredible potential in her, and when she learned she was not completing her schoolwork, she spent several hours with her until it was finished. Her client went on to graduate high school and recently finished her first year of college. She still calls Demetra and jokingly asks for help with her homework. 

The little things make a difference in the lives of JRP clients and often cannot be quantified, which is why Demetra pushes each client to achieve their highest potential. Whether encouraging them to go to college or trade school or ensuring they get their passport and take driving lessons, Demetra goes above and beyond for New York City’s youth and ensures their voices are heard in court. 

“We’re not only just dealing with the here and now, but we have to project to figure out what type of adults we’re going to put into the world,” says Demetra. 

Though she only intended to work at Legal Aid for three years, Demetra is still driven by the possibility of positively impacting her clients’ lives and giving them a voice in the legal system nearly 30 years later. 

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