WILMINGTON, DEL.—For society’s most vulnerable citizens, even a few weeks of uncertainty can create great hardship. Womble Bond Dickinson attorneys Ericka Johnson and Matthew Ward recently stepped up to provide pro bono help to a local teen during one of these difficult times.

The young man has been in foster care for much of his life, and has been represented by Ward for several years. When he turned 18 in February 2018, the Delaware Department of Family Services (DFS) granted him a one-year board extension, which would allow him to remain in his foster home through his nineteenth birthday.

However, in December 2018, DFS unilaterally decided to end its support for the teen due to pending criminal charges for which there had been no convictions as justification for cutting its support for the young man. The team sought the Court’s intervention, which led to the opportunity to brief the issue.

Johnson argued that terminating the board extension based solely on charges – not convictions - would leave the young man homeless. She also argued that DFS had not made appropriate efforts to help him find other housing in the two months between the board extension ending and his 19th birthday.

The Court agreed, and stayed DFS’s decision to terminate the teen’s board extension, allowing him to stay in foster care for an additional two months. Johnson and Ward’s efforts allowed the young man certainty and security through his nineteenth birthday.

Ericka Johnson focuses her practice on business bankruptcy and corporate restructuring matters and is experienced in representing a variety of parties in interest in complex Chapter 11 cases. She has represented debtors, debtor-in-possession lenders, official committees of unsecured creditors, secured and unsecured creditors, trustees, plan administrators, officers and directors, vendors, and asset purchasers. She practices in Womble Bond Dickinson’s Wilmington, Del. office.

Matthew Ward has extensive experience serving as primary counsel for numerous public and private companies, guiding them through all aspects of complex Chapter 11 and Chapter 7 proceedings, assignments for the benefit of creditors, or reorganizations out of court. He also regularly has represented official committees of unsecured creditors as lead counsel. Ward is the Managing Partner of Womble Bond Dickinson’s Wilmington, Del. office.