HARRISBURG (April 3, 2019) — The Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) Children’s Rights Committee has named Venango County attorney Virginia Garris Sharp of Franklin as its Child Advocate of the Year.
Sharp will receive the award at a luncheon ceremony during the committee’s spring training program, “Current Issues for Child Advocates 2019,” taking place April 12 at the Pennsylvania Bar Institute in Mechanicsburg.
The award recognizes the accomplishments of lawyers and judges who are advocates for children within the commonwealth or who are involved with child advocacy.
Throughout her legal career, Sharp has represented hundreds of children in Venango County in all types of proceedings, including custody, dependency, delinquency and criminal cases. This work began when she was employed as a public defender at the Venango County Public Defender’s Office and continues today in private practice at the Law Office of Virginia Garris Sharp. As a court-appointed child advocate in the Court of Common Pleas of Venango County, Sharp balances the children’s wishes with the facts of the case to indicate the best interests of the children. She is frequently appointed counsel for dependent and delinquent children, having represented more than 1,500 children in dependency actions.
Outside of legal representation, Sharp dedicates her time to improving the system. She was instrumental in developing and implementing the facilitation process used in Venango County for dependency cases. This process is a form of mediation utilizing family group decision making principles focused on strength-based family engagement. Sharp was also instrumental in bringing the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program to the county in 2004, where she teaches new volunteers about applicable law and the court process for dependency cases.
Sharp is a member of the PBA Children’s Rights Committee and the Venango County Bar Association, where she served as past president and vice president. Additionally, she is a member of Juvenile Defender’s Association of Pennsylvania and the Balanced and Restorative Committee. Sharp is a former board member of Northwestern Legal Services and Youth Alternatives.
Sharp graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1990 and received a J.D. from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in 1993. She clerked for President Judge H. William White and Senior Judge William E. Breene, Court of Common Pleas of Venango County.
In addition to the presentation of Sharp’s award, Current Issues for Child Advocates 2019 will include a complete summary of significant case law and legislative developments, exposure to up and coming trends and effective strategies for best representing juveniles in the court system. To learn more about this program, visit http://www.pbi.org/Meetings/Meeting.aspx?ID=20418.
Founded in 1895, the Pennsylvania Bar Association strives to promote justice, professional excellence and respect for the law; improve public understanding of the legal system; facilitate access of legal services; and serve the lawyer members of the state's largest organized bar association.