First Star, a D.C.-based children's rights non-profit organization, honored a few of Washington's stars earlier this week for their work in helping to improve the lives of abused and neglected children in the District.
In the organization's first award ceremony in Washington, First Star recognized the work of D.C. Superior Court Judge Anita Josey-Herring, Schiff Hardin managing partner Ronald Safer, and Shalita O'Neale, founder and executive director of the Maryland Foster Youth Resource Center.
Amy Harfeld, First Star executive director, says the award winners were deliberately selected from three different fields to show the diverse ways Josey-Herring, O’Neale, and Safer went about helping children.
Harfeld says Josey-Herring, who presides over the Family Court, was selected because she is a “star in the D.C. legal community” who understands the importance of providing top-notch professionals to children to ensure they are taken care of.
“She does this work every day, and has an exceptionally high standard for any professional who enters her courtroom to deal with children,” Harfeld says.
O’Neale, herself a victim of abuse, was selected because “she puts a face” on First Star’s effort to get a national right to counsel law passed, which would ensure that all child victims of abuse and neglect who receive court action are represented by an attorney in foster care and dependency hearings.
“She had the experience of growing up within the system and saw how powerful it would have been to have access to counsel while growing through such a scary process,” Harfeld says.
Safer, and by extension the rest of Schiff Hardin, was honored for being a “partner” to the organization. Schiff Hardin provides office space for First Star in D.C. and is actively involved in many of its efforts.
“They don’t help us because it’s a nice thing to do. It’s apparent in how they walk the halls and with who they hire that they are completely committed to our cause,” she says.