(San Francisco, CA, September 24, 2012)—The National Center for Lesbian Rights is pleased to announce that Shannan Wilber, one of the nation’s leading social justice advocates for children, will be joining its team in January 2013 to direct and expand the organization’s Youth Project.
Wilber, currently the executive director of Legal Services for Children, will expand the reach and impact of NCLR’s Youth Project, reaching out to the most vulnerable LGBTQ youth across the country and working on their behalf to advance their safety, inclusion, and well-being.
For almost twenty years, NCLR’s Youth Project has played a leadership role in securing comprehensive protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth in foster care and juvenile justice settings. In 1993, NCLR became the first organization in the country to establish a national legal resource project for LGBTQ youth who were abused in the mental health system—particularly youth who were subjected to dangerous efforts to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. Over the next few years, NCLR expanded the project to advocate for sweeping reforms in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems to address the widespread abuse of LGBTQ youth in those settings. Under the leadership of former Youth Project Director Jody Marksamer, NCLR helped to draft the first-ever state laws to prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ youth in foster care and juvenile justice facilities, developed groundbreaking guidelines about the best practices for caring for LGBTQ youth in state care, and launched transformative partnerships with mainstream child welfare organizations to elevate the issues affecting LGBTQ youth in these systems to national prominence.
Under Wilber’s leadership, NCLR will build on this strong foundation to expand its advocacy with federal and state agencies, deepen its partnership with leading researchers and experts to identify the best practices for addressing the needs of LGBTQ youth in state care, and support legislation and policies that recognize the critical importance of family acceptance and of embracing the ethnic, racial, and religious diversity of LGBTQ youth and their families.
“Shannan is one of the most dynamic, accomplished, and well-respected youth advocates in the country,” said NCLR Executive Director Kate Kendell. “Her innovative work on behalf of LGBTQ youth has been groundbreaking, and we intend to deploy her skills and talents in a way that will help transform state systems to benefit all youth in state care. We are thrilled that she will be joining the team at NCLR.”
Said Wilber: “I am looking forward to joining the amazing team at NCLR, and working with them to create an equal playing field for LGBTQ youth. Together, we have made tremendous progress toward our shared vision of justice and respect for all youth. But too many LGBTQ young people continue to suffer daily ostracism and discrimination—often in isolation. I am excited about the opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of these youth.”
Early in her career, Wilber helped launch Legal Advocates for Children and Youth, a California-based agency that now serves hundreds of children a year in state court proceedings. Her experience representing individual children in juvenile court inspired her to join the Youth Law Center, where she engaged in policy advocacy and impact litigation to reform child welfare and juvenile justice systems for nine years.
Since 2001, Wilber has served as the executive director of Legal Services for Children, a nonprofit law office in San Francisco that represents children in foster care, guardianship, education and immigration proceedings. She has a long history with NCLR, having served for many years as a member of our Board of Directors and as co-counsel on cases protecting LGBTQ youth against forced institutionalization and cases asserting the rights of children. She is the co-author, along with Dr. Caitlin Ryan and Jody Marksamer, NCLR’s former Youth Project Director, of the Child Welfare League of America’s Best Practice Guidelines for Serving LGBTQ Youth in State Care.
Wilber has received numerous awards and honors for her work, including the 2003 Livingston Hall Juvenile Justice Award from the American Bar Association and the 2004 Outstanding Legal Advocacy Award from the National Association of Counsel for Children.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights is a national legal organization committed to advancing the civil and human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and their families through litigation, public policy advocacy, and public education.