Twenty-five years ago, Children’s Law Center opened its doors with a mission to serve DC’s kids. Our founding attorneys – James Marsh, Diane Weinroth and Ken Noyes – imagined an organization with the expertise and legal skills to fight for children in foster care.
At the time, DC had more than 3,000 children in foster care and thousands of children were sitting in classrooms without learning basic skills. As a result of class-action lawsuits, every government agency serving children was under federal court oversight on issues from child welfare to special education to mental health. During our first year, we provided legal representation to 200 of these children and advocated for changes to help even more.
Children’s Law Center has come a long way since then – as have the District’s children.
From the start, we realized children needed more than permanent families to thrive. That’s why we grew from an early focus on child welfare to take a broader approach that looks at the whole child and what they need to grow up with a stable family, good health and a quality education. Just as our focus expanded, so did our staff. Our original team of three has grown to include almost 100 lawyers, social workers and other professionals dedicated to giving each child they meet a fighting chance. We extend our impact by partnership with pediatricians and pro bono lawyers and through the strategic work of our policy, communications and appellate teams. Like the children we fight for, we needed help to build a strong foundation. Our donors and supporters make that happen.
Today, we reach more than 5,000 children and families every year with a focus on improving each child’s health, family stability and education outcomes.
Although the pandemic took a huge toll on the children and families we serve, we remain optimistic about the future. Because of our work, DC children are more likely to be screened for developmental delays in the youngest years when intervention can do the most good. Kids in DC public schools can now access behavioral health supports right where they learn and play every day. And if something goes wrong and a child can no longer live with their parents, they are more likely to be placed with a relative than with strangers.
As Children’s Law Center looks to the next 25 years, we will continue to innovate and advocate to meet the changing needs of the District’s children.
While we work to find city-wide solutions that combat the longstanding impacts of poverty, racism and trauma, we will also carry on the fight, kid by kid and family by family, to ensure every DC child can thrive.