National Center for Lesbian Rights

Shannan Wilber

Shannan Wilber, Esq. she / her / hers

Youth Policy Director

As Youth Policy Director, Shannan Wilber leads NCLR’s efforts to elevate the most vulnerable LGBTQ youth across the country and advance policies to promote their safety, inclusion, and well-being. With a career spanning three decades, Shannan came to the LGBTQ movement as a child advocate. Working closely with state and local juvenile justice and child welfare systems to raise awareness of the unacceptably high numbers of LGBTQ youth in their custody, she advocates for reforms to prevent the harms caused by discriminatory policies and practices.

Early in her legal career, Shannan helped launch Legal Advocates for Children and Youth, a California-based agency that now serves hundreds of children annually 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. For over a decade, Shannan 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 served for many years as a member of NCLR’s Board of Directors and as co-counsel on cases protecting LGBTQ youth against forced institutionalization and cases asserting the rights of children.

Shannan launched the Equity Project in 2005, a collaboration of NCLR, Legal Services for Children and the National Juvenile Defender Center, and the first national initiative to promote equal and respectful treatment of LGBTQ youth in the juvenile justice system. She was the primary author of the first set of comprehensive professional standards governing the care of LGBTQ youth in child welfare and juvenile justice systems, which was published by the Child Welfare League in 2006. She has been instrumental in developing state and federal policies, regulations, and legislation to prohibit public agencies from discriminating against LGBTQ youth. She has worked with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the PREA Resource Center, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to develop best practices to protect the safety and well-being of LGBTQ youth in secure confinement settings. Her work is widely cited by a growing number of advocates and professionals working to promote the health and well-being of LGBTQ youth in their homes, schools, communities and public systems of care.

Shannan earned her B.A. from Michigan State University and her J.D. from Santa Clara University. She has received numerous awards and honors for her work, including the 2003 Livingston Hall Juvenile Justice Award from the American Bar Association, the 2004 Outstanding Legal Advocacy Award from the National Association of Counsel for Children, and the 2020 Leadership Award from the Juvenile Law Center.

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