Helping Vulnerable Kids Be Seen and Heard

By Giving List Staff   |   November 18, 2022
When kids trust their lawyers, like this young man who has his lawyer Emily on speed dial does, everyone wins. Youth are able to authentically voice their needs; and judges and service providers have the opportunity to meet them.

Here’s something you might not expect to hear from foster kids: “I want to spend more time with my lawyer.”

But this is the sentiment Kristin Mateer hears from the hundreds of kids her organization, East Bay Children’s Law Offices (EBCLO), represents in court each year.

Launched in 2009, when the Alameda County Public Defender’s Office closed its dependency practice, Mateer and her colleagues wanted to create an organization that could more effectively – and compassionately – represent traumatized young people navigating the byzantine court system.

Visiting with youth in the communities in which they live is so important to understanding their needs. More than half of EBCLO’s clients live outside of the county. EBCLO lawyers and social workers drove over 70,000 miles last year visiting clients.

The Oakland-based nonprofit has a sterling reputation for what Mateer, its Executive Director, calls “holistic, vigorous legal advocacy,” helping youth understand their rights, express their needs, and be guided through a complex series of systems including the child welfare, education, probation, and mental health systems.

Mateer and her colleagues believe in youth, and this belief is reflected in EBCLO’s motto: “Children should be seen & heard.” This respect helps their clients trust in them as adults committed to family reunification – or, if that is impossible, legal permanency through adoption or guardianship or sometimes “emancipating” at age 21. In 2021, EBCLO advocated at nearly 5,000 court hearings, and helped almost 300 youth reunify with their families.

The ripple effect of EBCLO’s work is part of its power. EBCLO recently represented a toddler girl removed from a family struggling with domestic violence and drug abuse. It was not until the girl’s mother trusted that EBCLO’s goal was the same as hers – for the family to reunify – that she moved forward with substance abuse treatment. It was the EBCLO attorney who pushed the Court to send her client home having observed her and her mother together at home during weekend visits.

With the pandemic stressing the education system to the breaking point, EBCLO is also furthering its partnership with schools by identifying children’s special needs and connecting their clients to supports at school. And EBCLO is expanding its Youth Voices Group, a brain trust of previous youth clients who can gain the trust of children beginning their journey into this process, and show what’s possible on the other side of their traumas.

During 2021, as COVID’s impact on struggling families became increasingly clear, EBCLO’s message got through to a lot of Bay Area folks. The number of supporters rose by 40%, running the gamut from very small gifts, to a few unexpected larger donations.

EBCLO is listening to, and helping, the most vulnerable members of our community.

Are we?


East Bay Children’s Law Offices

Donate now!
(510) 496-5261
Executive Director: Kristin Mateer


The Mission of East Bay Children’s Law Offices is to protect and defend the rights of children and youth through holistic, vigorous legal advocacy. EBCLO strives to provide a voice for children in and out of the courtroom and to promote positive outcomes for them.

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We know you care about where your money goes and how it is used. Connect with this organization’s leadership in order to begin to build this important relationship. Your email will be sent directly to this organization’s Director of Development and/or Executive Director.

How did EBCLO help me? Where do I start?! It is so important to have a lawyer — it’s someone who can vouch for you and be another voice for you when you can’t talk. Sarah was that for me. And she listened. She was reliable — she was always there and making things happen. She constantly asked me if I wanted to come to court and was always willing to come see me at home or school or wherever. She made me feel comfortable. It was like having an extra auntie.
Keke D. EBCLO Youth Voices Group Leader and Former EBCLO Client

Helping Children To Be Seen and Heard

The 18 lawyers and six social workers of East Bay Children’s Law Offices (EBCLO) represent hundreds of children and youth who have been abused or neglected. State funding and federal matching dollars only cover a bare minimum of the nonprofit’s needs. 

Donations from private donors can help lighten the burden on lawyers who manage over 100 cases a year and also enable the nonprofit to provide more holistic support for children whose needs go well beyond the four walls of the courtroom. This includes the Community-based Advocacy for Resources and Education (CARE) program, which provides intensive and individualized education and mental health support for children and youth. 

In 2024, EBCLO will be celebrating its 15th anniversary and looks forward to celebrating its anniversary with the community!

Key Supporters

Younger Family Fund
Zellerbach Family Foundation
The Greg Smith Charitable Fund
Bernard E. & Alba Witkin
Charitable Foundation
Sky Ranch Foundation
Van Loben Sels/RembeRock
The Morris Stulsaft Foundation
Firedoll Foundation
Jennifer & Steve Roop
Bigglesworth Family Foundation
Share the Spirit
In-N-Out Burger Foundation
Susan Cody
The Barrios Trust
Tri-Universal, Inc.
William G. Gilmore Foundation
Advanced Cooling Technolgies, Inc.
Daniel Kim & Charmaine Wong
Chip & Becky Conradi
James McElhinney
Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe
Sidney Stern Memorial Trust
Venable Foundation