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LAWCROSSING

THE LARGEST COLLECTION OF LEGAL JOBS ON EARTH

LAW STAR

www.lawcrossing.com

1. 800.973.1177

Marcia Robinson Lowry, Founder and Executive Director of Children’s Rights [by Regan Morris] Attorney Marcia Robinson Lowry started Children’s Rights a decade ago to represent children and advocate on their behalf in the courts. LawCrossing speaks with her about her career and the organization she founded.

Even after 30 years of experience in

anybody could have been in that house and

“I thought that children’s issues would be the

children’s rights, Lowry is consistently

seen those four boys, who were so stunted in

most interesting and the one [area] where I

outraged by how government systems fail

their growth, and not immediately report it to

could make the most difference in people’s

children. That outrage and indignation were

the abuse hotline. I can’t give you an answer

lives,” she said. “I didn’t start out with that

what inspired her to start Children’s Rights

to that. It doesn’t make any sense to me.”

particular goal, but once I started working on

and drives her to work to make the system better for kids in the future.

it, it just seemed to me [to be] the area where Children’s Rights now employs 10 attorneys

there was the greatest opportunity to have a

and a staff of 31 and uses its expertise to

positive impact on people’s lives.”

Lowry was working for the American Civil

change child welfare bureaucracies. They

Liberties Union in New York when she decided

scrutinize failing systems and provide

After that fellowship, Lowry spent a year

the most vulnerable members of society

solutions to systemic problems. If a system

with the New York City Child Welfare

needed an organization of their own. About 10

fails to respond, Children’s Rights uses

agency before joining the New York Civil

years ago, she started Children’s Rights, a New

litigation to force reform and monitor its

Liberties Union to start a litigation program

York-based national advocacy organization for

implementation.

for children, which has proved invaluable

abused and neglected children.

because Lowry’s job involves understanding Lowry said she has always been interested

and identifying problems within child welfare

Children’s Rights generally brings class-

in civil rights and public interest law, but

bureaucracies.

action suits against state governments,

did not initially intend to focus her career

although recently, Lowry personally

on children. She spent four years working

Accountability is the single biggest problem

represented three of the four teenage

as a journalist before going to law school.

in child welfare across the country, Lowry

boys found starving in their New Jersey

Growing up in Florida, in the segregated

says. Most states have good laws to protect

home, where their adoptive parents were

South, she said, fueled her interest in civil

and serve children. The problem is no one

supposedly being monitored by case workers.

rights. A liberal aunt in New York who was a

pays attention to the laws, she said.

lawyer piqued her interest in the law. The oldest of those boys was 19 and weighed

She said voters should hold governors more

less than 50 pounds and was found digging

“I felt that I couldn’t accomplish enough as

accountable for child welfare systems and

through a neighbor’s trash for food. His three

a journalist. I wanted to be more actively

that a failed system is a reflection of a failing

younger brothers weighed even less. Lowry,

involved in resolving social problems,”

governor.

who became guardian ad litem for the three

she said. “As a journalist, all you can do is

younger boys, said she will never understand

document and point out issues—and you

“Ultimately, in any state system, it’s the

how the government social workers, who

have to be neutral—and I decided I wanted to

governor who is responsible for having the

were present in the house, did not report

be more actively involved in identifying the

state agencies perform properly. And it’s just

the abuse. The four boys had been adopted,

problems, not just solving them.”

not a priority, because the voters don’t know

but caseworkers were present because the

about it; and if they knew about it, it wouldn’t

family was in the process of adopting one of

After earning her J.D. from the New York

be affecting them,” she said. “And these are

the other foster children living in the house.

University School of Law, Lowry won a public

kids who don’t vote, and often their parents

interest fellowship and worked for the legal

have been unable to care for them and have

“How can something like that happen? Beats

services program in New York. It was then

their own problems. So nobody who elects

me,” she said. “I represent three of those

that she chose to specialize in children’s

officials pays attention to these kids. That’s

kids, and I couldn’t to this day tell you how

rights.

why we have to go to court.”

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LAWCROSSING

THE LARGEST COLLECTION OF LEGAL JOBS ON EARTH

LAW STAR

www.lawcrossing.com

1. 800.973.1177

Children’s Rights has cases in numerous

Lowry said she couldn’t imagine swapping

are with the use of the law, the better we can

states across the country in various stages.

her public interest career for a dazzling

serve the people who are less fortunate than

As executive director, Lowry supervises the

private-firm salary. Too many lawyers don’t

we are. And there is an enormous amount of

legal department and the policy side. She

realize that it’s perfectly easy to live on a

pro bono work that can and should be done.”

is also directly involved in cases in Georgia;

public interest salary, she said.

Washington, DC; Tennessee; and Nebraska. Lowry said attorneys interested in doing

“We work with local firms whenever we

pro bono work with Children’s Rights must

can. It’s taken on as a case by the firm, and

be willing to dedicate long hours to the

as I said, it’s really a major commitment of

cases. There are opportunities with other

time and resources,” she said. “Courts are

organizations if attorneys can only dedicate a

enormously powerful devices to affect social

few hours per month, she said.

problems. And I think the more creative we

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Marcia Robinson Lowry, Founder and Executive Director of Children's Rights