Karen J. Freedman ‘75

Citation for Karen J. Freedman, 2000 Common Good Award recipient.

"Karen J. Freedman of the Class of 1975, graduate of Wesleyan University and the New York University School of Law, you have become a powerful voice for social justice for children in the foster care system of New York City.  “Almost from the beginning,” you once said, “I had a sense that I wanted to focus on representing children.” It is a commitment that has deep roots in your work over time for a number of important causes: as a camp counselor for emotionally disturbed, inner-city children; as a student working with children in a Bruderhof living community; and as a volunteer at the Long Lake School for delinquent youth. At New York University, you were named a Root-Tilden Scholar for your pledge to serve the public interest upon graduation and received an Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Liberties Fellowship.

As a young attorney, you worked in the juvenile rights division of the Legal Aid Society, where you learned that children in foster care lacked legal representation. That work prompted you to co-found Lawyers for Children, Inc., in 1984. As its executive director, you have been a tireless advocate for reform, focusing on issues of abuse, neglect, termination of parental rights, adoption, guardianship, custody, and visitation.  Through Lawyers for Children, each of the thousands of children you represent receives free legal and social work services – services that are essential in coping with the emotional, social, and legal turmoil that often surrounds foster care.

You have fought these battles on a broad front – through federal legislation; a class-action lawsuit on behalf of children whose care rests with the New York City Administration for Children’s Services; a child-centered visitation center; and a Child Sexual Abuse Evaluation and Education Project – all to secure for these children the basic “rights” of childhood: safety, love, and a true sense of family. In seeking these fundamental human rights, you have always kept the interests of the children foremost in mind.  The battle is a continuous one, but each victory, each success, transforms lives and families for generations to come.  Through your compassion for others and your passion for social justice, you embody service to the Common Good.

It is with great pride and an even greater sense of admiration for your commitment to the lives of children and their families that we present to you the Common Good Award for 2000."