Pro Bono Net, in collaboration with the Center for Elder Law & Justice (CELJ), is pleased to announce the release of a new set of resources, available at AgingSafely.us. These resources will help legal aid programs and their community partners better identify, respond to, and remedy elder abuse and financial exploitation:
- A new set of online forms, powered by LawHelp Interactive, to help victims of abuse and exploitation access legal remedies available to them.
- A Toolkit with information on how older adults, or providers or caregivers assisting them, can use the online forms to address and protect against common forms of abuse and financial exploitation
- A Toolkit for programs interested in adopting the Legal Risk Detector, a web-based screening and referral app designed for use by social workers, nurses, and other professionals in aging who work with vulnerable older adults
According to the National Council on Aging, approximately 1 in 10 Americans age 60 or over has experienced some form of elder abuse, but studies estimate that only 1 in 14 cases are reported to authorities. Financial exploitation of older Americans is among the most common forms of elder abuse, and the increasing sophistication of scams and fraud targeting older people is exacerbating this issue. Meaningful and timely access to legal interventions can help break the cycle of abuse, restore stability for the affected individual, and protect them from abuse in the future. The resources featured on AgingSafely.us highlight how legal services can be a crucial component of elder care, and how new technology can help identify and respond to these issues.
The free online forms available on AgingSafely.us were developed with input from legal experts at CELJ and other nonprofit legal aid organizations serving older adults, and they can be used in any state. They cover three areas:
- A cover sheet for interstate enforcement of a protection order for seniors who already have a domestic violence protection order and might be travelling out of state
- A safety planning tool
- Consumer law forms to help identity and address theft and financial exploitation issues, including
- Letter to a creditor to request debt forgiveness when a bill is owed
- Letter to a creditor to dispute a charges from a bank or company
- Letter to a credit bureau to dispute an item on a credit report
The consumer law forms are available in two formats: a set designed for use by older adults and a set designed for use by advocates or other high-volume users.
“I am very excited about the availability of these new online forms and hope domestic violence counselors and support groups encourage their clients to take advantage of the safely planning tool, which is specifically crafted to the needs of older adults,” said Claudia Johnson, LawHelp Interactive Program Manager. “And with identity theft and financial exploitation on the rise, the consumer law forms will help many older adults gain peace of mind and control of their credit records.”
The Legal Risk Detector was initially created through a collaboration of Pro Bono Net, JASA and Georgetown University Law Center in 2016, and expanded in 2017 in collaboration with the Center for Elder Law & Justice. Developed using Neota Logic software and designed for use on tablets, laptops, and mobile devices, the Risk Detector enables non-legal professionals to conduct legal screening, triage, and referral activities for homebound and other vulnerable seniors in settings that are often difficult to reach through traditional service models. The screening encompasses financial exploitation, consumer debt, housing, abuse, and health care matters – legal issues that disproportionately impact the elderly but often go undetected or unreported. Pro Bono Net has partnered with programs in other states to adopt the Risk Detector or create state-specific versions of it.
A recent evaluation of the Risk Detector’s use by CELJ found that, in the Western New York region, the Risk Detector helps to identify cases from a variety of vulnerable and marginalized groups, including veterans, clients who live in rural areas, disabled people, and those who live alone, many of whom would not otherwise be identified as victims of abuse and would not engage in legal action. This shows that legal technology tools like the Risk Detector that are designed for use by non-legal organizations can help increase access to and awareness of legal services for hard to reach communities.”
“Elder abuse is such a prevalent crime but, here at CELJ, we realized that many of our community partners did not know how to recognize the signs, “ said Karen Nicolson, CEO for the Center for Elder Law & Justice. “Although both domestic violence and elder abuse have similarities, the manifestations of elder abuse often are passed off by the abuser as normal signs of aging. This easy-to-use tool will help our community partners flag abuse and to also understand when a referral for legal assistance could be helpful.”
The Legal Risk Detector Project Toolkit contains information about the origins of the Legal Risk Detector, what it is, how it works, how the Center for Elder Law & Justice has used it, how it can be customized for new regions, as well as suggested practices and tips for deployment. AgingSafely.us also features recordings from a three-part webinar series highlighting how programs can take advantage of these resources to create or expand innovative partnership models to serve older adults.
For more information about the Legal Risk Detector, contact Liz Keith, Program Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about LawHelp Interactive, contact Claudia Johnson, LawHelp Interactive Program Manager, at email@example.com.
Pro Bono Net (http://probono.net) is a national nonprofit that works to bring the power of the law to all by building cutting edge digital tools and strengthening collaboration in the civil justice sector to tackle justice problems. LawHelpInteractive.org and the Legal Risk Detector have been developed and are maintained by Pro Bono Net.
The Center for Elder Law & Justice (https://elderjusticeny.org) is a civil legal services agency in Buffalo, New York, serving eight Western New York counties. Since 1978, CELJ has provided comprehensive free legal services to the community’s seniors, people with disabilities, and the low-income population.
AgingSafely.us and the resources featured on it were supported through grant number 2017-VF-GX-K135 to Pro Bono Net from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) for Field-Generated Innovations in Addressing Elder Abuse and Financial Exploitation. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in these resources are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.