Whenever a child is placed into a traumatic situation, whether it is at home, at school, or even in court, it is difficult for him or her to speak up. That is where Children’s Law Center of Central North Carolina comes in! This nonprofit foundation, founded in 2005, stands up for children. They advocate for children who are living in abusive households, victimized by high custody cases, and also children and families dealing with issues involving the public school system.
This past September, the nonprofit organization celebrated 14 years of child advocacy at their Birthday Blast of 2019! This elegant event was flooded with attendees, including sponsors from local law firms. There was also live jazz from Camel City Jazz Orchestra and a delicious full-course meal. Not only did the Children’s Law Center (CLC) celebrate 14 years with their biggest turnout yet, the organization also honored two women for their exceptional work and dedication: Suzanne Reynolds and Pollyann Holthusen.
A HEART FOR THE CHILDREN
The CLC is filled with passionate souls for helping children live a better life and growing into emotionally healthy adults. But in order to help a child effectively, one must know the alarming evidence and statistics caused by adverse childhood experiences. Children exposed to domestic violence are vulnerable to substance abuse in later years, teen pregnancy, depression, suicide, PTSD, behavioral health problems at school, and physical health consequences. Children who are abused growing up are 70% more likely to become abusers, or victims as adults, than children who are not abused. “Our goal is to break the cycle of violence,” says Iris Sunshine, Executive Director of the CLC. “Domestic violence knows no boundaries,” Sunshine states. Domestic violence cases occur among low-income families, high-income families, all races, and even in households in which the parents have high-paying jobs. A study by faculty at WFU Law proves that families who are involved with CLC are 70% less likely to return to family court than families that did not have a CLC “Guardian ad Litem.” “That is significant!” declares Sunshine.
INTERACTIVE HELP AND SUPPORT
The CLC works with vulnerable children in various ways. First, a Guardian ad Litem gives a report to the judge containing their observations of the child’s living environment and their recommendations to help the child in the most suitable way. This person also testifies in court on behalf of the child. The CLC gathers information by visiting the child’s home, speaking with the child and their parents, their neighbors, and friends. They also obtain information from the child’s teachers and school counselors. They review academic and medical records. From there, the CLC finds solutions and resources to help the children.
The CLC is loaded with quality, passionate workers who advocate for children. But on the night of the Birthday Blast, two women were honored this year: Pollyann Holthusen for the Leadership Volunteer Award and Suzanne Reynolds for the Founding Leadership Award. Both women are extremely humbled to have received such honors. Holthusen shared that she is “highly honored” to be singled out among workers who are so “dedicated and qualified.” She was board chair and served six years on the board of CLC. With her active volunteering, she helped with fundraisers, outreach, events, and governance. She believes that having a mission and a heart for the children helps the CLC thrive.
Suzanne Reynolds helped to found the CLC, along with co-founders Amy Kuhlman and Penny Spry. She started off by teaching family law courses at Wake Forest School of Law. A close friend of hers, Amy Kuhlman, spoke with her about her dreams of helping children and families thrive. They spoke about the people and resources who could help actualize that dream. Soon, they would form a nonprofit, and Suzanne made her entry as one of the first board members! She was the one who encouraged the partnership of CLC and Wake Forest School of Law to create the Child Advocacy Clinic.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
The CLC believes that helping one child will create a wave of change for generations to come. You can help brighten the future of the children of Winston-Salem by volunteering as an attorney, committee member, including the CLC in your philanthropy, or by contacting Susan Gies Conley, Director of Development, at (336) 831-1909, ext. 108 or at sconely@ChildrensLawCenterNC.org.