CAI’s Executive Director, Professor Robert Fellmeth, Appears on CBS 8 News

CAI’s Executive Director, Professor Robert Fellmeth, Appears on CBS 8 News

CAI Executive Director Robert C. Fellmeth (left) and CAI Senior Policy Advocate Amy Harfeld (right)CAI Executive Director Robert C. Fellmeth (left) and CAI Senior Policy Advocate Amy Harfeld (right)

SAN DIEGO (March 10, 2023) – University of San Diego (USD) School of Law Children’s Advocacy Institute (CAI) Executive Director Robert C. Fellmeth and CAI’s Senior Policy Advocate Amy Harfeld, appeared on CBS 8 San Diego News, to discuss the lawsuit filed against the County of San Diego alleging that the County takes SSI benefits from foster kids.

According to the article, signing foster children up for disability benefits and survivor benefits if their parent has died without informing the child is the standard operating procedure at Child Welfare agencies in San Diego and throughout the country, says Washington D.C-based attorney Amy Harfeld, who works for USD's Children's Advocacy Institute and lobbies elected officials on this issue as well as others. Harfeld tells CBS 8 that over the years, states have taken an estimated $250 million in benefits from foster children, later depositing them into municipal accounts.

The article states, that the state has made some policy changes, far more needs to be done, according to USD School of Law Professor and founder of CAI, Robert Fellmeth, who is representing the two sisters in their quest to recover the benefits paid to them.

CAI has helped introduce Assembly Bill 1512, a newly proposed state law that hopes to amend current law to ensure that foster children receive the benefits they are entitled to.

"I can't think of any greater harm that a city, or a county, or the state can do than to embezzle money from foster children, their own foster children," says Fellmeth.

"They just take it, they stick it in the general fund, the kid does not get it. There's no trust fund created for the kid. The foster parent doesn't see it. An example is this," says Fellmeth. "I spent nine years prosecuting white-collar crime as a Deputy DA here in San Diego and as an Assistant US Attorney and this is the worst I've ever seen."

To read the full article and watch the segment, click here.

To view the complaint, please visit CAI’s website.

About the Children’s Advocacy Institute

The Children’s Advocacy Institute (CAI), founded at the nonprofit University of San Diego School of Law in 1989, is one of the nation’s premier academic, research, and advocacy organizations working to improve the lives of children and youth, with special emphasis on improving the child protection and foster care systems and enhancing resources that are available to youth aging out of foster care.

In its academic component, CAI trains law students and attorneys to be effective child advocates throughout their legal careers. Its Child Advocacy Clinic gives USD Law students three distinct clinical opportunities to advocate on behalf of children and youth, and its Dependency Counsel Training Program provides comprehensive training to licensed attorneys engaged in or contemplating Dependency Court practice.

CAI’s research and advocacy component, conducted through its offices in San Diego, Sacramento, and Washington, D.C., seeks to leverage change for children and youth through impact litigation, regulatory and legislative advocacy, and public education. Active primarily at the federal and state levels, CAI’s efforts are multi-faceted—comprehensively and successfully embracing all tools of public interest advocacy to improve the lives of children and youth. To support CAI’s work, please visit

About the University of San Diego School of Law

Each year, USD educates approximately 800 Juris Doctor and graduate law students from throughout the United States and around the world.  The law school is best known for its offerings in the areas of business and corporate law, constitutional law, intellectual property, international and comparative law, public interest law and taxation.

USD School of Law is one of the 84 law schools elected to the Order of the Coif, a national honor society for law school graduates.  The law school’s faculty is a strong group of outstanding scholars and teachers with national and international reputations and currently ranks 30th nationally among U.S. law faculties in scholarly impact and 28th nationally in past-year faculty downloads on the Social Sciences Research Network (SSRN). The school is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. Founded in 1954, the law school is part of the University of San Diego, a private, independent, Roman Catholic university chartered in 1949.


Katie Gonzalez
(619) 260-4806