Carleton College President Steven Poskanzer awarding Diane Redleaf
Carleton College honored the achievements of Family Defense Center Executive Director, Diane Redleaf, at the 2016 Reunion on June 16. Diane was one of two from the class of ‘76 to receive the Distinguished Achievement Award, which is given to Carleton alumni who attain outstanding achievement within their particular field.
In Carleton’s Alumni Association’s write up about Diane, they stated that “Diane Redleaf is the most passionate, inspiring, tireless, and effective [child welfare advocate] and the one who most exemplifies humility and willingness to serve. Her impact on attorneys, students, and, most importantly, children and families in Chicago and across the nation is extraordinary.” Additionally, one nominator said, “At the center of Diane’s work has always been the willingness to represent those whom others cast to the margins and who are often vilified.”
For more information about the award, visit Carleton College’s website here.
Family Defense Center Executive Director, Diane Redleaf, received the prestigious Chicago Bar Association Alliance for Women’s Founders Award on May 15, 2014. Below is friend and colleague Laurene Heybach’s introduction from the award’s ceremony, which eloquently articulates Diane’s myriad accomplishments in her fight to advocate justice for families in the child welfare system.
Introducing Diane L. Redleaf, 2014 Alliance For Women Founders’ Award Winner
By Laurene (Rene) Heybach, Director of the Law Project for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless
It is wonderful, as a feminist and a lawyer, to be here today. I have the good fortune to introduce my good friend and mentor, the remarkable Diane Redleaf. Let me tell you about her.
Born in New York City, reared in Minnesota, a graduate magna cum laude of Carleton College, Diane earned her J.D. from Stanford Law School in 1979. She started her career at the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago (now LAF) where she remained for 16 years as part of first its Women’s Law Project and later the founder of its Children’s Rights Project.
I knew of Diane before we met. In the mid ‘80’s, I was litigating to improve conditions in Florida’s detention facilities for children. One of my colleagues drew my attention to a most remarkable complaint filed in Cook County Circuit Court. Entitled G.S. v. Goodman, the case was a class action lawsuit against Cook County seeking broad injunctive relief to overhaul the manner in which children in the juvenile court here were provided legal guardians and legal representation.
In recognition of her lifelong advocacy to protect families and children from injustice at the hands of the child welfare system, Diane Redleaf, Executive Director of the Family Defense Center, was honored with an Angel Award at the K.L.E.O. Community Family Life Center Benefit Gala, held in Chicago on October 27, 2013.
The Family Defense Center is pleased to announce that staff attorney Melissa Laurie Staas (nee Sharstrom) is one of five attorneys to receive a $50,000 fellowship from the Chicago Bar Foundation. This prestigious award is given to attorneys who are pursuing a career in legal aid and public interest law. Recipients must demonstrate a commitment to public interest work, academic achievement in law school, and outstanding character and integrity.
Ms. Staas joined the Family Defense Center in December 2007. She provides legal representation to parents who have been wrongly accused of child abuse or neglect and coordinates the organization’s growing Pro Bono Program that currently partners with seven major Chicago-based law firms. Ms. Staas is also helping to spearhead a new initiative called the Mothers’ Defense Advocacy and Education Project. This groundbreaking project addresses gender bias in the child welfare system. It provides legal defense for mothers who are victims of domestic violence and are at risk of losing their children due to unjust allegations of child neglect.
Family Defense Center Executive Director Diane Redleaf believes the fellowship is especially well deserved, for Melissa brings exceptional skills and expertise to her work. She notes that many people who meet Melissa express surprise when they find out that Melissa has practiced law for less than three years. “Melissa’s writing and analytic skills are superb but at the same time she is very sensitive to clients. She has excellent communication skills, a great eye for details, and very good judgment about how to represent clients most effectively. Melissa is always well prepared and extraordinarily well organized. She has become the backbone of our legal services program,” says Diane Redleaf.
Melissa earned her J.D., magna cum laude in May 2007 from Loyola University Chicago School of Law where she was the Editor-in-Chief of the Children’s Legal Rights Journal. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Women’s Studies from the University of Minnesota.
The Family Defense Center is proud to announce that it is the recipient of the prestigious “Excellent Emerging Organization” award for 2010. This annual award, introduced for the first time this year, was presented to Executive Director Diane Redleaf on May 13, 2010. To view the video about this special award, please click here.
The Family Defense Center was selected by The Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management for its exemplary leadership and innovation in service delivery, as well as its sound management, strong governance, financial stability and vision for the future. The award comes with capacity-building services that are valued at over $50,000. The package includes professional development services, consultation, and one year of mentoring by a senior nonprofit leader. We are extremely grateful to The Axelson Center for this generous package.It will allow us to strengthen our organization and accelerate our efforts for growth and development.