Last year, Shelly Aguilera could not have imagined that her family of four would soon become a family of eleven. But when her seven nieces and nephews were left without parents and without a home, Shelly and her husband Ramon knew what they had to do.

The kids had been struggling for a long time. Their father took his own life, and their mother-Ramon’s sister-battled drug and alcohol addiction for years.

“They have had a very rocky life,” Shelly said. “They’ve been in foster care several times. They’ve been split up several times.”

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Shelly and Ramon knew it was going to be tough, not least because of the daunting process of establishing legal guardianship. They sought assistance at the Van Nuys Self Help Center – one of a network of courthouse-based self-help centers NLSLA operates throughout the county.

Over several visits, staff at the center helped Shelly and Ramon prepare a petition for guardianship to request custody of the children, so they would know “that we’re not just going to give up on them of take off — that we’re here to stay,” she said.

“The center was really there at a time when we really needed it,” she said. “And the fact that I didn’t spend one penny on that-that’s money I can spend feeding them. It makes a big difference.”

Sometimes at Neighborhood Legal Services, our job is simply this: to make it possible for extraordinary people to do truly extraordinary things.

Thank you for your continued support,

Neal Dudovitz, Executive Director
Yvonne Mariajimenez, Deputy Director