“No child should grow up in a home where violence is present.”
The website for the Children’s Law Center of Central North Carolina goes on to say much more about its mission and purpose, but that opening statement pretty much says it all.
The CLC was established in Winston-Salem in 2005 “to provide advocacy for children in legal and administrative proceedings.” The organization delivers on this promise by advocating for children caught in the middle of Chapter 50B domestic violence cases and Chapter 50 custody cases.
“In these situations, these children don’t have advocates,” said attorney Gary Tash, who currently chairs the CLC Board of Directors and is one of several NCBA members providing volunteer leadership and service to the organization. “They don’t have people to speak up for them, and judges don’t have ways of getting somebody to do that.
“The Children’s Law Center was designed to advocate for children in court and to protect children when they are exposed to domestic violence or become victims of domestic violence.”
As a family lawyer, Tash has seen his share of children who have been abused or raised in households where abuse is commonplace.
“It is upsetting to the children,” Tash said. “It exposes them to a way of life that can become repetitious if they don’t learn that it is not appropriate behavior.”
The advocacy role ascribed in the mission statement of the CLC is provided by guardians ad litem.
“Guardians ad litem are not really attorneys for the children,” Tash added, “but they are in a position to make recommendations to the court based on interviews as to what would be in the best interest of the child. One of our judges refers to the guardians supported by the Children’s Law Center as the ‘eyes and ears of the court on the street.
“The Children’s Law Center recruits and trains guardians ad litem. Some of them are attorneys who for some reason are not practicing. One of our best guardians ad litem is married and has a family, and chose not to practice law
“She does a super job. She goes into neighborhoods and interviews neighbors. They do not take the place of a judge or tell the judge what to do, but they can recommend to the judge what would be in the best interest of the children.”
Fellow NCBA members Robin Stinson, vice chair, Tripp Greason, treasurer, and directors Jim Gallaher and Rich Keshian currently serve on the board with Tash.
The NCBA Foundation Endowment also has a direct connection with the CLC, thanks to the generosity of Ran and Frank Bell and the Bell Davis & Pitt law firm, who recently established the Ranlet S. Bell and Frank M. Bell Jr. Restricted Justice Fund.
Proceeds from the Bell Fund, established through a gift of $100,000, have been earmarked for the CLC. The Bells are both longtime Winston-Salem attorneys. Ran Bell has practiced throughout her career with Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice while Frank Bell is a founding member of Bell Davis & Pitt.
“It is very difficult to put into words what this means to the Children’s Law Center,” Tash said, “except to say that there are so many needs in the community that sometimes the quiet, young victims of domestic violence can be overlooked.
“For them to make this gift that enables advocacy for children caught in the web of domestic violence is extraordinary and so helpful. I hope and pray that it will be used to such an extent that it will generate more funds in the future.”
“The Children's Law Center of Central North Carolina is so honored to be selected as the beneficiary of the Ran and Frank Bell Justice Fund,” added Executive Director Iris Sunshine. “Because we believe that every child deserves to live in a safe environment, we take great pride in our efforts on behalf of children embroiled in domestic violence and high conflict custody cases.
“The Bell Fund will allow the Children's Law Center to continue to assist some of the most vulnerable children in the greater Forsyth County area and to help build a safer community, one family at a time.”
The NCBA Foundation Endowment was established in 1987 to enable the foundation to fund programs and activities to better serve the public and the legal profession. As of June 2012, the endowment had awarded grants totaling $4 million for 517 projects.