November 14, 2008
Three scholars and one alum from CUNY School of Law highlighted the critical importance of women’s leadership in addressing violence against children and women during a Friday, Nov. 14 panel, “Advocating for Change: Justice for Women and Children in the Family.”
Dean Michelle J. Anderson moderated the 75-minute discussion, which was part of the CUNY Women’s Leadership Conference: “Advocating for Change,” held at the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan.
Panelists at the afternoon plenary session included Dean Angela Burton, the Interim Assistant Dean for Students Affairs and Associate Professor at CUNY Law; the Hon. Bryanne Hamill (Class of 1990), a New York State Family Court Judge; and Professor Donna Hae Kyun Lee, director of the Battered Women’s Right’s Clinic at CUNY Law. All of the panelists have focused their work on protecting the rights of women and children.
Donna Lee (pictured above) began the discussion, describing the battered women’s rights movement and the importance of analyzing violence in the family in culturally appropriate ways. She emphasized that services need to be provided in the language of the victim and that the law needs to account for the fact that abused women from Asian communities may also be abused by their in-laws, with whom they live.
Angela Burton talked about her work advocating for children’s rights and how social services and legal actors both tend to assume that men, particularly black men, are irrelevant in terms of care for children. She emphasized the disparate impact that the child welfare system has on communities of color and encouraged students to help the system devise ways to keep families intact.
Bryanne Hamill discussed her work as a judge in the Family Court, hearing almost all the cases in which the state seeks emergency removal of children from their homes in Brooklyn. She discussed how she sought to keep families intact whenever possible, and lamented the federal mandate to move rapidly toward the termination of parental rights when the state does not fund adequate services for mothers to clean up their lives and care for their children.
Conference attendees were student leaders from all 23 CUNY colleges, selected by their institutions for their leadership in the area of women’s rights.
All the panelists at the afternoon session on families and children emphasized the great importance of women students taking a leadership role in tackling these tough issues. Dean Burton implored the students: “What can you do, working with your strengths, to help on these issues?”
Judge Hamill told students that they had to do something in life to work from their passion.
Roughly 150 people attended the afternoon session. Morning sessions at the conference focused on change in New York City and New York State government.