E-Newsletter: November 2017

Meet Our Director of Legal Services

Director of Legal Services Sara Gilloon

The Family Defense Center is delighted to announce Sara Gilloon, formerly a staff attorney with the Center, as its new Director of Legal Services, starting today.

At the Center, Sara leads our legal services team in providing expert legal assistance to hundreds of families each year and coordinates our award-winning pro bono program. She has represented and advised parents and caregivers in all aspects of child welfare investigations and litigation. She also manages the Center’s civil rights and class action lawsuits, which impact thousands of Illinois families and affect reforms in child welfare policy and practices.  She has played a lead role in obtaining and enforcing significant policy improvements in several of the FDC’s most impactful federal civil rights cases. Sara is a fantastic manager and mentor, and she enjoys working with our entire staff, including law students who clerk with the Center.

Sara frequently represents the Center in the legal aid community both in Chicago and nationally. She has presented at the American Bar Association’s National Parent Attorney Conference and the Illinois Legal Aid Advocates Conference, frequently speaking on the topic of building and maintaining successful pro bono programs.  She was also selected to participate in the 2017 Family Defense Leadership Workshop at the University of Michigan Law School’s Child Advocacy Law Clinic, along with other up-and-coming leaders across the country in the field of child welfare advocacy.

Prior to joining the Family Defense Center, Sara was a litigation attorney at Winston & Strawn LLP in Chicago, where she did extensive pro bono work. Sara received her J.D., with high distinction, from the University of Iowa College of Law in 2008, where she earned membership in the Order of the Coif (awarded to the top 10% of the class) and served on the Journal of Transnational Law & Contemporary Problems.  She received her B.A. in Economics and Spanish, summa cum laude, from the University of Notre Dame, where she was also inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society.

Please help us congratulate Sara on her new leadership position!


Sara Block Receives Outstanding Partnership Award

Executive Director Rachel Ruttenberg and Domestic Violence Project Attorney Sara Block

The Family Defense Center’s Domestic Violence Project Attorney Sara Block was honored with an Outstanding Partnership Award at Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network (CMBWN)’s “Together We Lead” Partnership Breakfast on October 25. The award focused on her work co-leading, with CMBWN, a coalition of domestic violence and child welfare agencies that advocated for and is implementing – in collaboration with DCFS and the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence – an innovative pilot project to improve DCFS interventions for families impacted by domestic violence.

Illinois has already enacted a model rule on child welfare, neglect, and domestic violence due to years of advocacy and litigation efforts by the Center; however, in practice, the implementation of this rule has not resulted in appropriate and effective interventions for families. As a result, survivors of domestic violence are still being punished with the possibility of losing their children, instead of being provided with adequate support services that allow them to rebuild their lives and care for their children in safety. DCFS recognizes the value of enlisting outside support to help front line staff better handle domestic violence-related cases, and is willing to do so as a partner in the project.

The innovative pilot project places domestic violence professionals in DCFS investigative offices to advise DCFS staff and advocate for trauma-informed, supportive family interventions. The pilot will launch in Lake County in early 2018.


Young Professionals Board Hosts Panel at UChicago

Attorneys Ashley Parr, Elise Tincher, Teresa Sullivan and Líadan Donnelly

On Thursday, October 26, the Young Professionals Boards of The Family Defense Center and LAF joined forces to present “The Intersection of Domestic Violence, Families, and the Law in Chicago,” a panel discussion that featured lawyers from both private law firms and legal aid organizations speaking on their experiences representing individuals and families impacted by domestic violence, in celebration of Pro Bono Week and in observation of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Over 40 University of Chicago students attended the panel discussion, which featured Ashley Parr of Barnes & Thornburg, Elise Tincher of Kirkland & Ellis, and Teresa Sullivan of LAF. Líadan Donnelly of The Family Defense Center moderated the discussion and provided background on how domestic violence survivors are often impacted by child welfare system involvement.


HAMILTON Tickets On Sale on November 2

For the first time ever, The Family Defense Center has partnered with Broadway in Chicago to offer a limited number of tickets to HAMILTON at the beautiful CIBC Theatre the evening of Friday, January 12, 2018. Tickets officially go on sale on November 2 at 9 a.m. CST – don’t miss your opportunity to enjoy an unforgettable evening watching the award-winning musical Hamilton while supporting Illinois families!

Sponsorship opportunities are also available! Get a package of tickets, with private suite service, and opportunities to highlight your business or firm.

Purchase tickets tomorrow or become a sponsor today!


Save the Date for #GivingTuesday

Mark your calendars – Giving Tuesday is November 28! The Family Defense Center will be joining over 30,000 organizations in a global day of giving. GivingTuesday kicks off our holiday fundraising campaign.

This year, everyone who gives at least $50 on GivingTuesday will be entered into a drawing to win two tickets to Hamilton in Chicago on January 12, 2018!

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates throughout the day!