By Heather Gearheart
Drug-exposed babies born every 15 minutes. Foster children getting physically lost in the system. Abusers with more power than their child victims.
For most of us, it’s too much. Too much to think about and definitely too much to do anything about. But thankfully for children in the system, it was not too much for Darcy Olsen.
Her journey began in 2010 when she planned to foster a teenager. Her plans changed when a social worker told her they had newborn babies sleeping in office buildings. Olsen left the NICU cradling a drug-exposed baby; the first of 10 she would foster. One did not live to reach his first birthday.
Olsen founded Generation Justice in 2017 in his honor, and to mend the brokenness she’d seen in the child protection system.
“In case after case, I saw how the criminally accused receive more protection under the law than child victims. Criminals have the constitutional right to an attorney and to a speedy and public trial; children have none of those protections,” said Olsen.
Gen Justice opened a one-of-a-kind Children’s Law Clinic in Arizona to provide free counsel for abused children, including kids trafficked by their own parents. The Clinic has served hundreds of child victims of abuse and their families. The Clinic also partners with organizations throughout the state to provide trainings in the rights of children in foster care to relatives, foster families, licensing agencies and front-line workers.
The organization’s inaugural reforms passed in a bipartisan consensus and were helping Arizona’s 10,000+ kids in foster care before the organization’s first birthday. The next year, the Arizona legislature again adopted several more bipartisan reforms at the organization’s urging. These reforms have expedited the search for relatives, reduced time in care, shortened the time to adoption and opened the door for more children in care to get the special education supports they need. Several states have introduced and passed legislation copying these impactful reforms.
Gen Justice’s work is more important than ever, with cases of child abuse rising during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Where do Arizona’s abandoned and abused kids turn? For them, Gen Justice is a lifeline and I’m hoping more parents and concerned citizens come forward to help this vulnerable population,” said Phil Giltner, chairman of the board for Gen Justice.
According to the Arizona Department of Child Services National Foster Care Month FAQs (published May 2020), there are more than 19,000 Arizona children in foster care, but there are only around 4,500 licensed foster families.
“I understand not everyone is in the position to open their home to foster children – but everyone can make a difference. It can include everything from calling legislators to support reform to lending your own expertise to our efforts. Our goal is to empower you to be a part of the solutions and help this next generation experience true justice,” said Olsen.
Gen Justice is a 501c(3) organization under federal law and a Qualifying Foster Care Charitable Organization under Arizona law. Arizona taxpayers may receive an income tax credit for donations to Gen Justice up to $500 (single) or $1,000 (married). To learn more and make an immediate impact, visit genjustice.org.