Ronisha practices in the 2nd Judicial District as a Guardian ad litem and Staff Attorney with the Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center.
Why did you choose to practice child welfare law?
I chose child welfare law because I have a background working with youth as a teacher and college mentor. It was a natural fit for me to continue working with youth as an attorney.
What has been the most rewarding moment for you while working with children and families in the dependency and neglect system?
The most rewarding moments are successful case closures after reunification. Not the cases where there has been marginal effort from the parent(s), but when the parent(s) really worked hard on their treatment plans to make the necessary changes for their children.
Describe a challenge you face doing this work and your strategies to overcome it.
The biggest challenge is the mental and emotional energy it takes to do the job well and advocate for the best interests of the children. Sometimes the cases are very adversarial and what you are asking for is simply for the benefit of the child’s well-being, but you have to fight so hard for it. That can really be emotionally draining.
What advice do you have for an attorney that is new to child welfare law?
My advice is to have a good self-care plan in place. It could be regular exercise or having the right supports in place which will allow a healthy work/life balance. Additionally, take time to read through the Children’s Code and relevant case law often. I found that I gained a better understanding of the Code as I gained more hands-on experience. Lastly, do not take anything personal and keep on fighting.
What drives you to continue in this line of work?
The children I work with drive me to continue working in this field. Advice for seasoned attorneys is to never fall back in the status quo.
Share a litigation strategy or case example when you were successful despite opposition from other parties to the case.
I represented the best interests of three siblings who were faced with a second removal from their parents. The case was an EPP case and had been open one year. To keep them together after removal, the Department placed them in a group center for children with developmental and physical disabilities. The Department’s placement desk kept saying there was no other placement. These were young children (all under 9 years of age) that did not meet the criteria of this placement. I began making calls myself and contacted the prior foster parents of the children. The prior foster parents were willing to care for the children and, although it had been a year, the children remembered them. The oldest child cried and asked for the family during transport to the group center placement. There was a lasting mutual bond. The Court ordered the children be placed with the prior foster parents despite opposition from parent counsel and, initially, from the Department. The children thrived and made great progress in short time after being moved. On hard days, I think of this case and it gives me strength to keep fighting.