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2003 Child Advocate Training Seminar

(from left) Children’s Rights Committee Co-Chair Lucy Johnston-Walsh, Outgoing Co-Chair Scott Hollander and (far right) Cathy Carr, executive director of Community Legal Services Inc., were on-hand for the presentation of the Child Advocate of the Year Award to Mary Allgood Noland (second from right).

The 2003 Current Issues for Child Advocates Program, co-sponsored by the PBA Children’s Rights Committee and the Pennsylvania Bar Institute, was held on April 11 at the PBI Conference Center, Mechanicsburg. This year’s conference offered six CLE credits of practical guidance and legislative updates in a host of areas that affect most Pennsylvania advocates.

The topics included juvenile delinquency and dependency, judicial perspectives from a panel of juvenile court judges, results of the Pennsylvania Defender Assessment Survey and open dependency court proceedings.

At the program, the 2003 PBA Children’s Rights Committee Child Advocate of the Year Award was presented to Mary Allgood Noland, co-director of the Advocating on Behalf of Children Project (ABC) for Community Legal Services Inc. (CLS), Philadelphia. The committee established the award to recognize the accomplishments of lawyers and judges who are advocates for children within the commonwealth or who are involved with child advocacy.

“Ms. Noland has been a public interest lawyer in Philadelphia for 20 years and brings a wealth of knowledge and contacts to her work on behalf of children,” said Pennsylvania Legal Services Executive Director Samuel W. Milkes, who nominated her for the award. “She has continually integrated individual advocacy with efforts to bring about systemic change in the policies that affect children. …Through her advocacy, Ms. Noland protects the legal rights of severely disabled children of low-income families and has enabled CLS to become a leading national advocate for children receiving income through Social Security.”

Noland has led CLS’s advocacy effort for children on the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program for six years and has represented individual local children. After learning that the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) eligibility process was unfair, especially in evaluating the needs of children with multiple impairments, she led CLS lawyers in an effort to influence the SSA to amend its regulations. This effort gained the attention of the former SSA commissioner and changed local Social Security office practices, which often deterred parents with disabled children from seeking benefits.

In addition to her individual case work, Noland has taught other advocates, including mental health workers and case managers, about the children’s SSI standard. She has led the development of a Web site to teach parents, lay advocates and public interest lawyers about the children’s SSI standard and how to represent disabled children effectively.

Noland also was involved with the “A Lawyer for Every Child” (ALEC) program that began in early 1997. ALEC was designed to help parents of children who were cut off of SSI due to program changes. Noland coordinated the efforts of this joint program with the Philadelphia Bar Association’s Children in Crisis SSI Task Force, the Philadelphia Volunteers for the Indigent Program and the ABC Project of CLS. She recruited volunteers from law schools and medical schools, as well as social work graduate students, and trained them to gather information so the cases could be matched with lawyer volunteers. Noland also worked to train the lawyer volunteers — one of whom was Pennsylvania Gov. Ed. Rendell.

Congratulations to Mary Allgood Noland for earning this award in recognition of her exemplary work on behalf of children in the commonwealth.