About the Council
Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s Legal Advocacy Agency for Children
Council for Children’s Rights is Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s leading advocate for children, providing both direct assistance to children in need today and working for the well-being of all children in the future. Our mission is to lead the community to stand up for every child’s right to be safe, healthy, and well-educated.
We serve some of the most at-risk children in Mecklenburg County. Our advocacy work intersects with the lives of children in the areas of education, abuse and neglect, mental health, custody, domestic violence, and juvenile defense. We actively work toward system reforms and public policies that address the needs and future of all children — not just the children we serve.
Council for Children’s Rights was formed in 2006 through the merger of the Council for Children (founded in 1979) and the Children’s Law Center (founded in 1987). Both groups worked tirelessly to advocate for children in crisis, and in merging they created the largest child advocacy agency in the state.
Our Practice Areas
The Council is court-appointed to represent the best interests of children caught in the middle of high conflict custody cases.
The Council is the court-appointed public defender to represent all children in juvenile delinquency court who have been accused of a crime.
The Council provides legal representation for every child who faces civil commitment to a mental health hospital or residential treatment facility in Mecklenburg County.
The Council provides expert legal assistance to students who are in the juvenile defense or child welfare systems facing educational challenges, to parents and guardians of students who have special education, Section 504, or discipline-related issues, and to the community at-large through free training sessions.
Research & Policy
The Council conducts important research, analysis, and policy advocacy efforts to reform policies, improve systems, and solve complex problems facing children.
“Our children are my heroes, and I am in awe of their courage and resilience.”
Executive Director Heather Johnson, JD, MSW shares the obstacles and victories of the past year and the vision for a better future for our children in crisis.
2021 Vision Statement
We defend and champion the rights of children to be supported and treated with fairness, compassion, and respect, regardless of personal obstacles. We work to achieve our mission by:
…providing legal services and advocacy for individual children,
…encouraging our community to use research that informs policies, improves systems, and solves complex problems facing children,
…educating professionals, parents, and caregivers to become more effective advocates,
…and collaborating with community partners by providing expertise, leadership, and support to create solutions that achieve better outcomes for our children.
CFCR BY THE NUMBERSFY2021
A Letter from Our Board Chair
When I joined the Board of Council for Children’s Rights, I didn’t expect to one day be Board president. By participating on the board, interacting with leaders, staff, and community members, I came to understand the importance of the Council and the impact that it has on the community.
I couldn’t get enough.
I wanted to do what I could to help our children at risk. Together we care for children and give them a voice – in a way that nobody else can or does. Too many kids fall through the cracks of our society’s systems. Without us, that number would be much higher.
Even in the best of times, there are thousands of children in Mecklenburg County that need support. Now, maybe more than ever, children need support and a voice. The pandemic has taken a toll on all of us. We can’t reverse time. We can’t erase the impact. However, as a community, I ask that we do our best to limit the impact on our children in need.
Let’s be honest with ourselves – the pandemic has increased the wealth gap. Some families are better off financially than they were a year ago; however, many families are far worse off. Let’s not let that dictate the future for our children. Children have needs – financial stability, mental health support, access to the internet for school, etc. They also need a voice and a support system. Join CFCR and help provide the services that these children need.
It may feel like the pandemic is in the rear-view mirror. Only time will tell. Regardless, its impact will be lasting. Let’s come together and minimize the lasting impact on our children.
CFCR Board Chair 2021-22
Our Board of Directors
Brian Bonaviri, President
Grant Thornton LLP
Deb Hanna, President-Elect
Landon Eustache, Past President
Andy Barbee, Treasurer (co-chair)
Emily Costigan, Treasurer (co-chair)
Bank of America
Anika Kim, Secretary
Bank of America
Nuveen, LLC (a TIAA company)
Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services
Southpark Family Law
Alston & Bird LLP
Lord Law Firm
Mecklenburg County Public Defender’s Office
Moore & Van Allen
Bank of America
Ernst & Young
Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP
Ricky Singh, ex offico
Charlotte Lab School
Heather Johnson, MSW, JD
Director of Administration
Amy Vavra, JD
Director of Advancement
Associate Director of Institutional Giving
RESEARCH AND POLICY
Jaimelee Behrendt-Mihalski, PhD
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE TEAM (CDT)
Michelle Duprey, JD
Director, Children’s Defense Team
Staisha Hamilton, MSW, LCAS
Cathy Ann King, MSW, PhD candidate
Anthony Masters, JD
Breanne Mercer, JD
Charles Sexton, JD
Brian Wick, JD
CUSTODY ADVOCACY PROGRAM (CAP)
Patti Tutone, JD
Director, Custody Advocacy Program
Linda Hurlbert, JD
Josh Lee, JD
Legal Support and Database Manager
Ann Sanders, JD
Bridget M. Vanevenhoven, JD
EDUCATION LAW PROGRAM (ELP)
Caitlin Whalan Jones, JD
Director, Education Law Program
Daniel Brown, JD
Stephanie Klitsch, JD
Assistant Director, Education Law Program
Hayley Lampkin Blyth, JD
Aly Martin, JD
Our Institutional Supporters
Foundation For The Carolinas
Duke Energy Foundation
First Presbyterian Church
George T. Lewis Foundation
North Carolina Interest on Lawyer’s Trust Accounts (IOLTA)
Myers Park United Methodist Church
The Leon Levine Foundation
Christ Church Episcopal Church Women
Sisters of Mercy
Delta Sigma Theta
North Carolina Bar Foundation
North Mecklenburg Women’s Club
St. Gabriel Catholic Church
St. Peter Catholic Church
St. Matthew Catholic Church