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In May, Shannan Wilber, NCLR’s Youth Policy Director, will receive the Juvenile Law Center’s 2020 Leadership Award. Given to individuals across the country whose work has substantially improved the lives of children in child welfare and juvenile justice systems, this award recognizes what we at NCLR already know about Shannan – she is a fierce and tireless advocate for the youngest and most vulnerable members of our community.

Shannan is a career child advocate. She represented individual children at Legal Advocates for Children and Youth, engaged in impact litigation and policy advocacy at the Youth Law Center, and served for many years as the Executive Director at Legal Services for Children, a law office in San Francisco that represents children in foster care, education, guardianship and immigration proceedings.

Shannan joined NCLR’s staff in 2013, though her history with the organization goes back decades – as a donor, board member and co-counsel on cases involving the forced institutionalization of LGBTQ youth and the rights of children in public systems. Beginning in the early 2000’s, Shannan worked closely with NCLR to develop legal protections for LGBTQ youth in foster care and juvenile justice systems, including groundbreaking practice standards published by the Child Welfare League of America. In 2005, she collaborated with NCLR and the National Juvenile Defender Center to launch the Equity Project – a national initiative dedicated to ensuring equal and respectful treatment of LGBTQ youth in the justice system. Since joining NCLR, Shannan has built on this foundation to integrate the needs and voices of LGBTQ youth into efforts to transform public systems of care across the country.

Through tenacious and strategic advocacy, Shannan has shined a light on the structural bias that harms LGBTQ youth and undermines their potential. She has increased awareness, pushed for change and immeasurably improved the prospects of our community’s children. Her vision is our vision – that LGBTQ youth, like all youth, thrive in families and communities who cherish them.


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