Calling all Peoria parents: Free legal consultations at Wraparound Center this weekend
Are you the parent of a Peoria Public School student struggling with a legal issue?
You may be interested in a free event taking place this weekend.
From 10 a.m.-noon Saturday at the WrapAround Center, attorney Yolanda Riley will meet with Peorians to discuss their edibility for various legal services related to family law, expungement/sealing, orders of protection, landlord/tenant negotiations and guardianship of minors.
The WrapAround Center is located on the north end (the Latrobe Street side) of Trewyn Middle School, 1419 S. Folkers St.
The event is informational and participants are not obligated to pursue legal action if they choose not to.
"This is just to get a large amount of people in one room instead of doing 50 reach-outs," Riley said. "And hopefully get them on some consultation appointments. ... I can set up appointments that day."
Riley asks participants to RSVP by noon on Friday by calling 309-282-1919. (RSVPing is not required, but encouraged so that Riley has an idea of what areas of law are most needed.)
Those who are interested in Riley's services but cannot come to Saturday's event can inquire about a free consultation online.
Located inside Trewyn Middle School, the Wraparound Center offers multiple resources and services, from trauma counseling to a food pantry.
"All of these services are under one roof," Wraparound Center director Derrick Booth said. "If you need anything and don't know where to go, we want you to come to the Wraparound Center."
Riley, a veteran of free legal aid clinic Prairie State Legal Services, and her firm are equipped to help parents with a number of issues:
Family law and guardianship of minors
Whether someone needs help finalizing a divorce, obtaining child custody or attaining child support payments, Riley said family law is a huge area of need among Peoria families.
Additionally, Riley said she knows many Peoria Public Schools students may not reside with their biological mothers or fathers. Perhaps they are living with a grandparent, family friend or other guardian.
But until that person is given legal guardianship of the minor, that person is not authorized to make important education and medical decisions for the child, Riley said.
Legal action can "put the guardian in a position of authority to make decisions," she said.
With the lifting of the eviction moratorium, Riley said many families may be facing unstable housing. But not every housing dispute needs to head to court, she said.
As an attorney, she can help people negotiate terms with their landlords so they can avoid the courtroom.
"There are situations where people can avoid an eviction if they just have people speaking for them," she said.
Eligible tenants currently fighting an eviction order can obtain legal aid from Prairie State Legal Services.
Orders of protection
Filing an order of protection is an important legal step toward protecting oneself and one's family. If someone is being abused, harassed or stalked, one can protect themselves by filing an order of protection against that person, Riley said.
Expungements and sealings
Various levels of drug-related offenses have been eligible for expungement and record sealing since the Cannabis Regulation and Tax Act passed 2019. (The act became law on Jan. 1 2020.)
Not all Illinoisans with criminal records predating June 25 2019, however, have been able to get their records cleared up.
Riley said she sees unsealed and un-expunged criminal records as a major handicap for families with children in Peoria Public Schools.
"A lot of families have past arrest or criminal issues that create barriers for their future, which in return creates barriers for their children," Riley said. "Employment barriers... advancement in their professional careers ... license issues ... housing issues."
Though lawmakers intended the 2020 law to make expungements and sealings automatic, the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down the courts, Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria) said. (Jehan Gordon-Booth and Derrick Booth are married.)
Another hang-up, Gordon Booth said, is a lack of a statewide digitized records system. It's up to individual counties to navigate local expungement of records.
While "thousands" of records have been expunged in Cook County, smaller counties Downstate have "lagged a bit," Gordon-Booth said.
Riley said she's seen things improving in Peoria County. There is a 60-day window the local State's Attorneys have to object to a petition for expungement.
"What I have seen with my wraparound center clients in the last few months ... is that Judge (David) Brown has been directing clerks to, if there's no objection, to send the orders right on over to me," Riley said. "I've had at least three clients now, where we didn't even have to go to court."
Riley said Brown's process avoids delays for both families, attorneys and judges.
"If there's no objection, why waste the court's time?" she said. "I think there is a change happening, specifically for this county, as it relates to expungements and sealings."
Gordon-Booth said she hopes to see the state invest in a digitizing of records to make the process of record sealing and expungements more truly automatic.
"I believe that it is understood ... if you pay your fine, do your community service hours ... There is a general understanding that people should be able to move their lives forward, and not tying up the court's time," she said.