June 3, 2009

STATE BAR ASSOCIATION ANNOUNCES 2009 LEVINE AWARDEES FOR EXCELLENCE IN JUVENILE JUSTICE AND CHILD WELFARE

Awards presented to Gladys Carrión, commissioner of NYS Office of Children and Family Services and Karen J. Freedman, founder of the non-profit, Lawyers for Children

ALBANY-Gladys Carrión, commissioner of the New York State Office of Children & Family Services and Karen J. Freedman, founder and executive director of the New York City-based non-profit advocacy group, Lawyers for Children, have been awarded the prestigious Howard A. Levine Award for Excellence in Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare for 2009. The honors were presented last evening in Albany by the New YorkState Bar Association's Committee on Children and the Law. The award is presented annually to individuals who demonstrate outstanding work protecting and promoting the rights of children in New York. The award is named for retired Court of Appeals Judge Howard A. Levine (Whiteman Osterman & Hanna LLP), a strong proponent and leader in the effort to improve New York's child welfare and juvenile justice.

"While often unrecognized, the work of child advocates gives a voice to the most vulnerable members of our society," said State Bar President Michael E. Getnick of Utica(Getnick Livingston Atkinson & Priore, LLP). "This year's winners, Commissioner Carrión and Karen Freedman, follow in the footsteps of Judge Levine in their selfless dedication and tireless advocacy on behalf of children."

"The work of child advocate attorneys is vital to our future citizens," said Committee Chair Professor Merrill Sobie of White Plains(Pace University School of Law). "On behalf of the committee, I am proud to honor these extraordinary individuals who represent the very best in the government and not-for-profit sectors. They embody our profession's deep commitment to provide effective legal representation to the most defenseless among us."

Carrión, from the Bronx, was appointed commissioner of the New York State Office of Children & Family Services (OCFS) in January 2007. At OCFS, she oversees such areas as foster care and adoption assistance; child protective services; preventive services for children and families; childcare services; and protective programs for vulnerable adults. Carrión also is responsible for the administration and management of specialized programs for juvenile delinquents and juvenile offenders, as well as residential facilities for youth placed in the custody of OCFS by the family and criminal courts. She is a graduate of Fordham Universityand New York University School of Law.

Freedman, from Palisades, is the founder and executive director of Lawyers For Children Inc.(LFC), a not-for-profit legal corporation that provides free legal and social work services for children in foster care, abused or neglected children and other issues involving the termination of parental rights, custody and adoption proceedings in New York. Since founding LFC 25 years ago, Freedman has created numerous projects to serve particularly vulnerable young people in the foster care system including initiatives on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth; young people who have been sexually abused; children living in homes where domestic violence is present; youth in foster care with mental health challenges; youth without adequate access to appropriate educational services; and immigrant youth in foster care.

In addition, LFC has participated in several important class action cases on behalf of children in foster care and maintains a division devoted exclusively to impact litigation and child welfare policy. Before establishing LFC, Freedman was a staff attorney with the Juvenile Rights Division of the Legal Aid Society and a law clerk in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Freedman is a graduate of Wesleyan Universityand New York University School of Law, where she was a Root Tilden Scholar and a Hays Civil Liberties Fellow.

Past winners of the Howard A. Levine Award for Excellence in Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare include Columbia University Law School Professor Jane M. Spinak; Hon. Eugene F. Pigott, Jr., Associate Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals; Assemblywoman Helene E. Weinstein; Hon. Judith S. Kaye, retired Chief Judge of the New York State Court of Appeals; and Matilda Cuomo, the former First Lady of New York.

The 76,000 member New York State Bar Association is the official statewide organization of lawyers in New Yorkand the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Founded in 1876, State Bar programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years.

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