NEW YORK – On Wednesday, October 18, Children’s Rights hosted its annual Childhood Is Our First Right Benefit, celebrating honorees for their commitment to children and families harmed by government systems responsible for keeping children safe and healthy.
“When government agencies fail in their most basic function – keeping kids safe – and are unresponsive to all other forms of advocacy, Children’s Rights acts. To date, 1.7 million children have been positively impacted by our litigation work, while outside the courts our policy efforts are helping to keep children out of the child welfare system in the first place, and at home with their parents and in their communities,” said Sandy Santana, executive director at Children’s Rights. “Tonight we lift up the work of our amazing staff and partners and celebrate the enormous impact of our honorees, who share our commitment to working toward the day when childhood is every child’s first right.”
The event honored a leading global corporation and two remarkable women for turning their commitment to the rights of children into bold action, including:
- KKR & Co. Inc. and its employees were recognized for their pursuit of equity and social justice, and for providing vital support to Children’s Rights when the global pandemic threatened the safety and well-being of youth aging out of the foster system
- Roxanna Asgarian, journalist and author of We Were Once a Family, a Story of Love, Death and Child Removal in America, was honored for her impact in exposing the truth about the failed child welfare system — and for bringing to life its heartbreaking human toll
- Iesha Hammons, Parent Ally at Legal Services of New Jersey, was recognized for her pioneering work in advising and supporting parents caught up in the child welfare system and helping them access community support services that can prevent the unnecessary removal of children, a burden that falls most heavily on Black families and those experiencing poverty.
“When Children’s Rights turned to KKR for help, their answer was a rapid and resounding yes. Thanks to them, Children’s Rights was able to sustain support for older youth during the height of the pandemic and helped young people like me make it out the other side of a terrifying health crisis that hit us so hard,” said child advocate Sadaf Sheikh, who presented the award to KKR.
“Roxanna is one of the few journalists who is an expert on the child welfare system and its flaws. Her harrowing and unforgettable book shines a bright light on the issues that drive the work of Children’s Rights,” said Sandy Santana in presenting the award to Asgarian. “Its power and immediacy have changed minds, and will continue to wield influence as we work to reimagine a better way to care for and protect children, and keep families together.”
“Iesha has turned her own experience of the pain and trauma of family separation into her life’s work. In her role as parent ally she supports families, whose issues are primarily poverty-driven, with commonsense solutions like access to housing, healthcare and the other essentials of life. This is what drives her passion and her brilliance,” said Jey Rajaraman, Associate Director of Litigation, Children and the Law, at the American Bar Association, who presented Hammons with her award.
The event also featured a powerful video about Children’s Rights that calls for an end to government indifference to the civil and human rights of children in the U.S.
Past honorees and presenters at the annual Children’s Rights benefit have included Rosario Dawson, Cyndi Lauper, Padma Lakshmi, Rosie Perez, Nick Cannon, Harvey Fierstein, Natalie Morales, and Darryl “DMC” McDaniels.
ABOUT CHILDREN’S RIGHTS
Children’s Rights is a national advocacy organization dedicated to improving the lives of children living in or impacted by America’s child welfare, juvenile legal, immigration, education, and healthcare systems. We use civil rights impact litigation, advocacy and policy expertise, and public education to hold governments accountable for keeping kids safe and healthy. Our work centers on creating lasting systemic change that will advance the rights of children for generations. For more information, please visit childrensrights.org.