Guest Kathleen Fisher is an accomplished attorney in the field of Workers’ Compensation, but she’s also an active leader of the organization Kids’ Chance, dedicated to supporting the children of workers injured on the job.
Kids’ Chance provides scholarships to the children of injured workers. When a worker is hurt, or even killed, on the job, ripples spread throughout the family. Kids’ Chance is active in all 50 states and has awarded more than 9,300 scholarships. Hear how just a Workers’ Comp claim number can translate into scholarships for children of injured workers. Kids’ Chance offers a streamlined approach, laser focused on filling the gaps a workplace injury can create.
As a claimant’s attorney, you can help connect survivors with resources. Kids’ Chance is another tool in your toolbox as you help clients and families recover. Talk to your clients, ask how you can help, and learn about the services that support not just injured clients, but their families as well.
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Intro: Workers Comp Matters, the podcast dedicated to the laws, the landmark cases and the people that make up the diverse world of workers’ compensation. Here are your hosts, Judd and Alan Pierce.
Judd Pierce: Hello and welcome to another edition of Workers Comp Matters. My name is Judd Pierce and I’m an attorney at Pierce, Napolitano in Salem, Massachusetts. And today we have a guest also from Massachusetts, Kathy Fisher. Ms. Fisher is the director of external relations at the Workers Comp Research Institute which I believe is based out of Cambridge Mass.
But here today, we have Ms. Fisher talking to us about an organization called Kids’ Chance. By way of background, Ms. Fisher formerly served as an attorney for New York, the City of New York, as well as a workers’ comp hearing officer for the State of Alaska Department of Labor. Ms. Fisher received her BA in political science from the University of Michigan and a juris doctor from Seton Hall Law School. We’re very happy you could be with us today, Kathy.
Kathy Fisher: Well, thank you very much for having me here today, Judd and yes, WCRI is located in Cambridge Mass so we are neighbors.
Judd Pierce: WCRI is a great organization but we know you’re not here to talk today about that but actually your service on the board of directors or board of governors for Kids’ Chance. Could you tell us a little bit about that?
Kathy Fisher: Sure, yes. I started working with the national board of Kids’ Chance of America a couple of years ago. Generally speaking, the mission of Kids’ chance is to get the kids of workers who have been injured on the job a chance at a better future. That’s the general mission statement. More specifically, what Kids’ Chance does is they provide educational scholarships to the children of a parent or a guardian who has been severely or fatally injured on the job. So that’s generally the mission of the Kids’ Chance check and I’d be happy to share a little bit more information about the history of Kids’ Chance and any other questions you might have.
Judd Pierce: Yeah, this is a fantastic organization that I’ve heard about through the years but it’s only recently come to my attention serving on the workers’ injury law and advocacy group which is a national board of claimant’s attorneys that really is known to claimant’s attorneys or more can be done to service our families and our clients by just getting the word out and making this available to our clients. Can you tell us a little bit about when it started and how we can be of help?
Kathy Fisher: Absolutely. So Kids’ Chance was originally founded in 1988 in Georgia as a matter of fact. And as you might imagine, it has evolved significantly over the years. And last year, just last year, we achieved a really important milestone by having Kids’ Chance organizations in all 50 states and the Kids’ Chance of Massachusetts organization where we both are, that was established in 2014 so really has been evolving a lot over the years.
But it’s really important to meet that 50-state mark last year because –.
Judd Pierce: Wyoming, right?
Kathy Fisher: Wyoming, that’s exactly right. Do you know the background really well? It was really important to meet that because it’s really the state organizations that process the scholarship applications and award the scholarship. So by meeting that goal now, kids all across America could potentially benefit from Kids’ Chance. Since 1988, we’ve awarded over 9300 scholarships and at this point, I think approximately $33.2 million in scholarship awards. But now that we’ve achieved that 50-state mark, we hope that that will exponentially begin to increase. And as we like to say, Kids’ Chance get more money for more kids.
Judd Pierce: Yeah. The website, and I was able to pull that Wyoming staff from the website, it’s very robust, it’s easy to use, it’s got a pretty simple to remember URL kidschance.org for all those listening. You are director of external relations for WCRI. What do you do for the Kids’ Chance of America group on the board?
Kathy Fisher: So I sit on the national board and we do everything from developing a strategic plan. Kids’ Chance of America is really an organization that is positioned to help support the state organizations that are processing the applications and awarding the scholarships. So what we really want to do and part of the reason I’m here today is to help raise awareness about Kids’ Chance to help support the state organizations with funds to help their infrastructure.
And we also are a fund for emergency scholarship. So if for instance a state has more scholarship applications than awards or funds that they have been able to raise that year, we can step in from the national organization with an emergency fund. We want to make sure that the eligible applicants there are all met. So from the national perspective, we’re here to support the states and again, help raise awareness and funds.
Judd Pierce: Are the scholarships easy to apply for? Do you need help possibly from your lawyer to help do it or are they fairly easily explainable and doable?
Kathy Fisher: We really strive to make them really straightforward and we do need help from the claimant’s attorney community and other communities but we also wanted to help them make it easy. So, to get started, we developed a plan a while ago called Planning for the Future. When a claim happens and when a work injury happens, one of the things that we recognized and one of the challenges that we have — just to back up for a minute. When I first started on the board, I thought, “Okay, this is a charitable organization. I’ll be hearing about the need to fundraise and the challenges around fundraising.” And I did hear all of that and we do have those challenges and we do really appreciate how easy it is for focus on our website with the click of a button donate and help contribute to the fund to fund the scholarships.
What I was surprised to learn however was that one of the other challenges Kids’ Chance has is connecting with some of the eligible families and kids out there. And as we dug a little bit deeper, we understand that number one, we are as a society now barraged with a lots of emails and websites and information about things. And so, kind of waiting through all of that and getting your mission out on the forefront can be a challenge. So one of the ways that we tried to meet that challenge is to come up with the Planning for the Future program with some very simple online application process.
On the website, if you go to Planning for the Future, there’s a very simple one-page form that a parent or guardian can fill out with and all they need is some contact details and a work comp claim number. Those are the two main pieces that folks will need to get started. We will get that information and then Kids’ Chance of America will take it from there. We will follow up with you. We’ll verify periodically contact details. And then when the child reaches age 15 or 16, we will reconnect and refer them to the appropriate state organization, the state where the workers’ compensation claim was filed to start that process.
Judd Pierce: Wow.
Kathy Fisher: So it’s as simple as that, an online one-page form to submit with some contact details and a work comp claim number and we have you in the system.
Judd Pierce: That would relieve a lot of stress I’m sure from people who ordinarily wouldn’t be thinking about this as early as maybe when their kids are toddlers or elementary school but that eventually will come up in conversation. Okay, why don’t we take a short break right now from a word from one of our sponsors and we will be right back with Ms. Kathy Fisher to talk about a little bit more about the Kids’ Chance organization. Be right back.
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Judd Pierce: And we’re back with Ms. Kathy Fisher. You were talking about how helpful it can be early on in someone’s injury to just fill out that one-page form with a workers’ comp claim number.
What can claimant’s attorneys — speaking as a claimant’s attorney, what can we do to Greater assist you all in this mission?
Kathy Fisher: Yes. So as I mentioned, we do have a little bit of this gap between connecting with the families and Kids’ Chance. And what we have found over the years is that claimant’s attorneys are really perfectly positioned and well-poised to make that introduction. They know the families, they regularly communicate and connect with the families. So what they can do is simply, one of the call to action I would have for claimant’s attorneys out there is, think about your caseloads, not just currently, but going some years back and think about some of the cases that might fit those parameters where there is a severe or a fatal injury and there are children involved and you can work with your legal staff to connect with those families and make that introduction and keep in mind as you continue to take on cases.
We heard from recently one claimant’s attorney I spoke with and I can’t remember the states, I spoke with quite a few recently, who noted that half of the scholarships that came out of that state came from their firm alone. And that really emphasized for us just how important claimant attorneys are the role they play in connecting and informing families about Kids’ Chance.
Judd Pierce: Yeah. Do you ever get referrals from say insurer’s attorneys, defense attorneys or employers? Do those come in too?
Kathy Fisher: Absolutely. There are various ways they can come in. They can come from nurse case managers who are on the claim. It can come from claimant’s adjusters and managers. But again, claimant’s attorneys are really critical. They play a critical role. That statement alone, half the scholarships in that state came from one firm.
Another attorney also mentioned, “Listen, you really got to try to get those champions covered across the state regionally.” Sometimes there are firms that work throughout the state very often but oftentimes one claimant’s firm might work regionally or have a regional concentration and they might call up their colleague, maybe even competitor in the state. But in this, we hope they can unite to say, “Hey, you’re working a lot in the south in the state. If you’ve got claims that come up, think about Kids’ Chance.” So kind of help us connect the community, this important community.
Another way I think claimant’s attorneys can help get the word out is from what I understand, attorneys need to do a lot of continuing legal education and there’s often seminars and conferences that they need to attend. And if you happen to get on the podium in your state and are connecting with professionals working in the workers’ compensation arena, say a few words about Kids’ Chance and invite people to check out their state organization. We are a growing and it’s an exciting organization but you’re not going to see us on a Super Bowl ad advertising. So it is really a grassroots movement and we do need some help getting the word out so that again, we can try to connect with all of the eligible kids and families out there.
Judd Pierce: So we’re not going to see Hellman’s mayo type ad or an avocado Kids’ Chance head on to Super Bowl 2024, no?
Kathy Fisher: I don’t think any time soon, no.
Judd Pierce: What you do is so important because it is tied to our mission as attorneys which is to help our clients and whether it’s claimant’s attorneys helping injured workers or insurers or nurse case managers as you said or even doctors who may see these patients in their offices and maybe inquire about their family, this is something that we can all participate in as a community who obviously want to see the best for our clients and their families. Disruption like a work injury, serious one, a fatal one is so dramatic that the ripple effect goes through the family and goes through the next set of relatives and the next set of friends and to take one less stressor off these folks is a blessing. So, very, very appreciative that you’re able to tell us a little bit more about this group.
Now, every state has its criteria, right? And that’s explained on the website and the general website leads you to the state website, is that how you do it?
Kathy Fisher: That’s correct. We are republic and so, there are 50 states and all states have their own certain characters and characterizations. One of the things that we’re trying to do at Kids’ Chance of America though now that we are all in all 50 states is to bring some uniformity to the eligibility process and other things and branding and so on and so forth. But all states do have those two main requirements: you’re a child of an injured worker and you have a workers’ compensation claim.
The states can vary on some of their terminology requiring a significant injury or severe catastrophic. They use some different words, all basically the same.
Judd Pierce: Yeah. Are we talking like someone has to be permanently and totally disabled? Can the person actually go back to work in some extent and still be able to apply for this for their family??
Kathy Fisher: Yes. And again, the eligibility process really does vary state to state and we encourage you to refer any claims that you think might fit the parameters of a severe injury and a child of a worker who’s been severely injured. The other kind of ways that eligibility can vary from state to state or the age range, some states have a broader age range from 15 to 26 let’s say. Others are a little bit narrower from 17 to 22. But generally speaking, I think Kids’ Chance tries to be broad in their definition to award these benefits to meet the need.
And again, I would say in terms of the severity and so on and so forth, if you’re talking about a claim that there isn’t a lot of medical treatment or lost time, it probably wouldn’t meet the eligibility requirements. But other than that, those that are more on the severe side, I would encourage people to go through what we think is a really simple eligibility process.
Judd Pierce: Yeah. I mean it doesn’t hurt to ask. It doesn’t hurt to maybe take those few moments or minutes to apply and see what happens. Is there a general range that a person could expect maybe if they’re awarded to receive in terms of scholarship help? Do you have a range?
Kathy Fisher: I know that we have an average scholarships are awarded. It depends year from year between like $4,500 and $7,500 in scholarships have been on average awarded. You can renew the application so you can be awarded a scholarship for a semester and then once you’re in the system, just automatically renew with a few quick steps so that, “Okay, I’ve completed one semester. I’m on to the next semester and the next.”
One thing that’s important to also note is that we really have a broad definition of educational ships. It could be anything from college university, vocational and technical school, community college. I know of one recipient who learned about Kids’ Chance when she was applying for graduate school and didn’t learn about it till then to your point that you just mentioned through a physician who actually mentioned it to her and she applied, was awarded a scholarship and recently received her master’s degree in social work from Columbia University in part with assistance from Kids’ Chance.
Judd Pierce: Yeah. You’ve highlighted or someone has on the website some personal stories, pictures of actual people, recipients. Can the claimant, the injured worker, him or herself could they avail themselves or it’s just their kids?
Kathy Fisher: It’s for the kids. The Kids’ Chance, that’s the name of the organization so it was really geared towards stopping, meeting that need with the kids.
Judd Pierce: Right. Why don’t we take another short break for one of our sponsors and we will be right back for our last segment with Kathy Fisher to talk about this great organization, Kids’ Chance. Be right back.
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Judd Pierce: And we’re back. Talking about Kids’ Chance in Massachusetts, I know that we have a lot to look forward to this summer. We can, for example, go to a WooSox baseball game and support Kids’ Chance, right Kathy? We can go golfing in July and donate and bid on auction items and all that goes to support this organization. I’m assuming there are types of events like that in other states as well?
Kathy Fisher: That’s right, yeah, the WooSox event is just coming up in May 4 and then in July, there is a golf scramble that will be at Indian Ridge Golf Course in Massachusetts.
And all of the states, they have similar, some do bowling events, silent auctions. I actually learned about a great — had a great story in Louisiana last year at the national Kids’ Chance conference about a former Kids’ Chance recipient who went on to receive his business degree and then opened a brewery. And then in a really nice full circle moment was hosting the following month a Kids’ Chance fundraising event at the brewery which was great. You know, it’s just exactly the kind of — full circle, exactly the kind of story. This recipient benefited from the scholarship, got his degree and then went on to support the organization which is great. So yes, there’s events like that all across in states all across the country and a couple of good ones coming up here in Massachusetts.
Judd Pierce: Yeah. And I think it’s really apt and I know this program will play for months later and maybe even you’ll be hearing this the following year. But you definitely stay up to date with the organization through the website and know that in April, for instance, April 28 this year, we have what’s called Workers’ Remembrance Day. Tell us a little bit about how Kids’ Chance corresponds with that important day.
Kathy Fisher: Yeah. On important days of like Workers’ Memorial Day, we focus on that and we on our social media accounts remember that day and make note of that day. It’s an important day and it certainly aligns with Kids’ Chance. And then in November of each year, we also do Kids’ Chance awareness week and again to make note of the severe and fatal injuries that workers have experienced and the impact that that can have on families. So we do try to connect with important days like Workers’ Memorial Day that really resonate with an organization like Kids’ Chance.
Judd Pierce: Right. And it’s important for those out there to remember that workers’ comp is a wage replacement system. It’s not designed to offer the type of remuneration that one might receive when they’re working and healthy. This is simply not the system that states have and any benefit in addition to the work wage replacement scenario is so very important to people who have lost their vocation and have lost their pride and a lot of times their dignity. So, again, every donation that you can make whether it be through the website or these events, if you learn about through your states, please do so. Please do so even if it’s a minor smaller contribution, I’m sure that will help a family in need.
So, closing this out, is there anything else you would like to add in terms of support that you need or awareness that we can make sure to bring you because this is the type of organization that just deserves all of our support.
Kathy Fisher: I really appreciate — first of all, I really appreciate you having me here today and giving me the opportunity to talk about Kids’ Chance and asking really important questions like how can we help which is worse is really wonderful. The claimant’s attorneys who might be listening as I say, think about your own cases, talk to your colleagues, reach out to the state organization in your state, you may be able to volunteer on the board in your state or attend a fundraising event. I could tell you from my own experience being involved with this organization, it is really gratifying — really hard not to feel good about supporting the educational dreams and hopes of kids. And for those of us who are working in the workers’ compensation community whether we’re an attorney working in research, a variety of different roles, it feels like a really important charity to connect with because it really is a very industry-focused charity.
Judd Pierce: This isn’t political. For example, someone could bring this to the attention of their local school board.
Kathy Fisher: Absolutely. And that’s, I’ve talked a lot about claimant’s attorneys and nurse case managers and other people that are interacting with kids during the, specifically during the time of the worker injury but we’re also cognizant of connecting with guidance counselors, school boards, scholarship departments at colleges and universities because sometimes we have found that it’s that second, third, fourth year of schooling that you’re trying to where maybe you’ve saved up money and you’ve gotten that first year but — you can apply for the scholarship while you’re in college, university, technical school and even as I mentioned about to go to grad school. So you’re right, there’s a lot of different community members who we can — you could mention to. School boards is a great one.
Judd Pierce: Or judges. I mean, judges typically stay out of cases. They let the attorneys argue and litigate. But say a judge remembers this and thinks of it off the top of his or her head, they could mention something to the lawyer’s sidebar or even to the family, right, in court?
Kathy Fisher: Absolutely. And we’ve talked about that as well because you have one senior judge in each state that focuses on the workers’ compensation cases, right? So if you can connect to the senior judge in that state and get them on board, they’ll talk to the other judges and judges can bring it up at conference settlement hearings or different moments to say, “Hey, you know, this is a case that might be relevant of Kids’ Chance.” So that’s another — you hit the nail on the head however that phrase goes. That there’s an important group and that kind of ties back to claimant’s attorneys as well because from what I understand, claimant’s attorneys are interested in what judges are interested too. So if a judge is bringing it up a couple of times, they may go back to their firm and say, “Hey, Judge Hernandez keeps talking about Kids’ Chance. What is this organization? Should we be thinking about it?” So I think you’re right. Judges are a key group.
Judd Pierce: So how can people contact you if they want to get involved with this program?
Kathy Fisher: The easiest and best way to learn more about Kids’ Chance is on our web site www.kidschance.org. On the website you will also find a phone number. That’s (401) 405-4028 where you can get more information. And then there’s also an address where you can send donations but we also make it really easy with a click of a button to make a donation on the website and also connect to the other state Kids’ chance organization. So again, that’s www.kidschance.org and we hope to be hearing from you soon.
Judd Pierce: Again, thank you for being on. Thank you for your time and attention to this important cause Ms. Kathy Fisher, our special guest today on Workers Comp Matters.
Kathy Fisher: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me and I hope to see you at one of the Kids’ Chance events coming up in Massachusetts.
Judd Pierce: I’m a huge baseball fan, I will definitely be at the WooSox. I have my — in, bubble head on my desk. It makes me think about that wonderful come from behind homerunning hit last year in the inaugural season but that’s just getting too deep into the weeds for our program. So thanks again Kathy, can’t wait to see you in person and for all those listening, make it a day that matters. Take care.