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2023 Children’s Rights Benefit Honorees Inspired Us with Their Words and Actions

Childhood should be a time of innocence; a time to learn and grow with the support of a loving community. But when this isn’t the case, Children’s Rights steps in to defend the rights of children.

There are thousands of kids trapped in systems they don’t understand. Dysfunctional and discriminatory, they jeopardize children’s well-being, poison their dreams, and rob them of the time and space they need to just be kids — and to grow up to become healthy, thriving adults.

Children’s rights are human rights. But children can’t be expected to advocate alone. It is up to us to defend their right to a happy childhood.

The theme of childhood was central to last evening’s 2023 Children’s Rights Benefit, held at New York City’s magnificent Mandarin Oriental overlooking Central Park. There, we honored a global corporation with a heart, a gifted journalist and truth teller, and a passionate advocate for the families she serves.

Photo: David Handschuh

Meeting Youth Where They Are.

Global investment firm KKR received the Children’s Champion Award in recognition of its generous support of Children’s Rights at the height of the pandemic, enabling us to meet the immediate needs of young people aging out of the foster system threatened with homelessness and hunger.

All of us have an obligation to meet youth where they are, without judgment, and providing pathways for success. Sometimes it is about fulfilling basic needs like food, housing and health care, sometimes it is about education, sometimes it is about policy…And it doesn’t happen without organizations like Children’s Rights to lead the way.

Pamela Alexander, Managing Director and Head of Corporate Citizenship at KKR
Photo: David Handschuh

This is a book about grief.

Journalist and author Roxanna Asgarian accepted the Voice for Justice Award for her in-depth reporting on the harms of the child welfare system and her powerful and harrowing book, We Were Once a Family, which tells the tragic story of six Black children abused and murdered by their adoptive mothers, the birth families they left behind and the foster system that betrayed them all.  

This is a book about grief. The grief of six children suffering unspeakable loss and abuse. It is about the grief of a big brother who lost all hope. It is about mothers and aunts and other loving relatives who never got to say goodbye. My book is about these people. And Children’s Rights was a key factor in my ability to tell their story.

Roxanna Asgarian
Photo: Robert Braunfeld

What has failed is the system.

The Fostering the Future Award was given to Iesha Hammons, Parent Ally at New Jersey Legal Services, an advocate who has felt the pain and grief of family separation from both sides — as a child and as a mother — and has transformed that experience into her work helping parents avoid the same fate.  

My family is one of many for whom a tragic history repeated itself. Why did this happen? There are lots of complicating factors, but one truth stands out. The system looks at a Black poor woman and sees someone who is going to fail at parenting. The reality is that what has failed is the system itself.

Iesha Hammons
Photo: David Handschuh

Childhood Is Our First Right.

As the night ended, board member Jay Galluzzo talked movingly about the dark days we are in as a world, and the ramifications for children everywhere. He thanked the Children’s Rights staff for the enormity of the work they do and the impact they have. And he ended on a note of optimism.

In our world, and especially for kids and families, there is so much that divides us. But our love for children is one thing that unites us. Tonight’s powerful video captured how Children’s Rights is leading the movement to end our nation’s indifference to children’s human rights. Please, share it with your friends, family and colleagues. Talk about us tomorrow, and in the weeks beyond. Advocate with us. Each of us can play a role in building the just world our children deserve.

Jay Galluzzo, Children’s Rights Board Member

Stand Up for Children’s Rights