On The Frontlines: From CR’s Interim Executive Director

Sandy Santana

Sandy Santana

Children’s Rights is on a mission.

We are determined to build upon our success and protect even more abused and neglected kids when child welfare systems fail to do so. Meaningful reform takes time — but with 640,000 children in foster care every year, we are compelled to ensure that vital, life-altering changes occur.

And because change doesn’t happen overnight, our work must be fueled daily by a passion to improve the lives of these children. It’s not hard for me, especially when I think about the lives of my 9, 7, and 3 year olds. They can count on staying in the same home, attending the same schools, knowing where their next meal will come from and, most importantly, getting the love they deserve. For far too many children in foster care, these things are not a given.

They weren’t for Crystal, the keynote speaker at our 2014 benefit, who has graciously allowed us to share her story in this edition’s cover article, Foster Youth Fall Prey to Traffickers. There is no way to remain complacent when reading about the lifelong sexual abuse — both before and during her time in foster care — that led to her being trafficked.

And she’s far from the only one — up to 67 percent of children who are missing and likely trafficked have spent time in foster care. “We must reform foster care to deter sex trafficking,” human rights activist Molly Gochman asserted after receiving the Children’s Rights Champion Award at our annual benefit last month.

Then there is Edgar, who went into foster care when his father was deported. His drive to get an education kept him afloat, and he discovered The Compound Foundation, where he participated in its young CEOs competition and won for a business plan to take disadvantaged youth on college tours. Edgar presented R&B superstar and Compound founder Shaffer ‘Ne-Yo’ Smith with a Children’s Rights Champion Award. The good news: Edgar is now at Syracuse University on a full scholarship. But thousands upon thousands of others struggle to survive.

So what are we doing about it? We’re working with people like Jared Bobrow of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, our third Children’s Rights Champion, who spoke of the need for widespread reform in Rhode Island. And you can read updates on our legal advocacy in Massachusetts, Texas and other states in Reform Watch and In the Courtroom.

Children’s Rights knows thousands of kids are depending on us to ensure they are safe and have the care they need. We are resolved to remain the vigilant, smart, passionate advocates they deserve. In years to come, we will continue to confront pressing child welfare issues and target areas where our law and policy skills, and our ability to push concerns to the forefront, can best leverage widespread change.

So I am proud to bring you this edition of Notes From the Field. There is nothing more important than protecting the most vulnerable among us and giving them the chance to lead the happy and productive lives they deserve. With your support, we will remain the leading national voice of foster care reform. As you consider your philanthropic priorities this holiday season, I hope you will invest in our life-saving work.

Read additional articles in Notes from the Field, the Children’s Rights Newsletter: