Huguette Clark Family Fund for Protection of Elders to Support New Elder Justice Advocates Academy

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Academy will educate financial institutions and service agencies to combat elder financial exploitation

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Educating advocates, financial institutions and social services agencies about policy needs is essential to combating the problem of elder financial abuse.

The Huguette Clark Family Fund for Protection of Elders announced today that it has awarded a $30,000 grant to fund the launch of an Elder Justice Advocates Academy. A project of the California Elder Justice Coalition, the Advocates Academy will support state and national efforts to combat elder financial abuse and provide relief to its victims. This includes engaging financial institutions and educating stakeholders about the Victims of Crime Act and other programs and resources for victims.

Commenting on the grant, Ian Clark Devine, an advisor to the Fund, said: “Educating advocates, financial institutions and social services agencies about policy needs is essential to combating the problem of elder financial abuse. The California Elder Justice Coalition (CEJC) has extensive experience in this area and is well positioned to take the lead in developing strategies that can be applied nationwide.”

“The Elder Justice Advocates Academy is an important first step in promoting exchange among state elder justice programs about how they’re being affected by federal developments and how they’re responding,” said Lisa Nerenberg, executive director of the CEJC. “It will build upon our state program by sharing the information, strategies, and materials CEJC has produced and providing technical assistance to help other communities implement promising practices. We also plan to alert federal policy makers and advocates about states’ needs.”

The grant to launch the Elder Justice Academy is the Fund’s fifth since its inception in 2013. Its earlier grants provided financial support for programs to train Adult Protective Service workers; help banks implement federal guidelines for sharing customer information with investigatory agencies in cases of suspected financial exploitation of the elderly; convene a roundtable of national specialists to formulate specific proposals to prevent elder abuse; and develop model civil statutes to help victims of financial exploitation seek justice, recover assets and rebuild their lives.

About the California Elder Justice Coalition

The CEJC was formed in 2008 to provide a voice from the field in elder justice policy. It emerged in response to gaps in services, coordination, and leadership that led to a fragmented and poorly coordinated response to elder abuse, neglect, and the violation of older adults’ rights. Today the CEJC has 72 members, including state organizations, coalitions, prosecutors’ offices, departments of aging and adult services, local agencies, researchers, and individuals.

About the Huguette Clark Family Fund for Protection of Elders

Established in 2013, the Huguette Clark Family Fund for Protection of Elders is a donor-advised fund created by members of the Clark family to honor their late aunt, Huguette Clark, who was victimized by her caregivers and advisors for more than two decades. The Fund supports innovative organizations and programs to fight the financial abuse of elders, addressing immediate needs overlooked by traditional programs as well as innovative models that can be replicated nationwide.

The family’s strategy has been to make targeted grants to develop pilot programs that could be scaled or replicated later for broader impact. Grants are related to the abuse that Huguette Clark herself suffered, specifically the prevention of undue influence, manipulation and financial abuse by institutions, professionals and caregivers.

Grants made by the Fund have supported programs in three general areas: developing better tools and training for those who are fighting elder abuse; encouraging meaningful collaboration of experts to make their work more effective; and providing services for victims.

1.    The Fund’s first grant in December 2013 developed online training modules for Adult Protective Service (APS) workers to help them recognize and report financial exploitation and undue influence. While APS workers are on the front lines of fighting elder abuse, standards for these positions vary dramatically by state and are often inadequate to today’s challenges. The grant to San Diego State University created two one-hour, online training modules that are available nationally.

2.    The Fund’s second grant responded to the reluctance of banks to share information when they suspect financial abuse. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 permits financial institutions to disclose customer information to authorities in cases of suspected elder financial abuse. But unclear about their legal liability, banks routinely ignored requests for this information. The Fund’s grant helped the Philadelphia Corporation on Aging and the National Adult Protective Services Association develop a standardized form and protocols for financial institutions and APS agencies to facilitate the sharing of information. The form has been credited with getting several banks to release records to APS workers for the first time. The program received a 2016 Aging Achievement Award in the Elder Abuse Prevention category from the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging.

3.    Many specialists in aging have devoted their lives to the fight against elder abuse. To improve communication and coordination among them, the Fund sponsored a roundtable of experts in Washington, DC. Hosted by the National Center for Victims of Crime, the roundtable identified and prioritized unmet needs in the realm of elder financial exploitation, and produced a white paper with five practical recommendations for action.

4.    A significant and fundamental gap in the justice system is the lack of effective civil remedies for preventing elder abuse and recovering losses. Civil attorneys lack incentives to take cases as recoveries are low and cases are labor intensive. The National Center for Victims of Crime and the American Bar Association (ABA) shared the Fund’s fourth grant to develop model civil statute provisions that allow for attorneys’ fees and treble damages, as well as provisions for burden shifting, extending the statute of limitations, and other victim-centered and protective mechanisms. The model civil provisions were presented at a plenary session of the ABA’s National Conference on Aging and Law in October 2016.

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Richard Mahony
richard@mahonypartners.com
+1 917-257-6811
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Lisa Nerenberg
California Elder Justice Coalition
650-306-0253
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