“Do the Work, See a Need, Help a Need”

The American Bar Association Recognizes the work of CABA Member Carlyn Hicks

Patti Gandy

Article by Patti Gandy Featured Author

Carlyn Hicks was awarded the 2015 Child Advocacy Award

Carlyn Hicks was awarded the 2015 Child Advocacy Award by the Young Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association.

The American Bar Association recently recognized the work of Jackson attorney Carlyn Hicks with a major national award. Carlyn was awarded the 2015 Child Advocacy Award by the Young Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association, recognizing her ground breaking work with the Parent Representation Program. The award was presented to Carlyn at the ABA National Conference in Chicago on August 2, 2015, to a standing ovation by conference attendees.

The ABA’s award recognizes Caryn’s dedication to child advocacy as Parent Representation Program Director at Mission First Legal Aid Office. “Your commitment to child advocacy is an inspiration, and we are thrilled to honor you with this award,” Andrew M. Schpak, chair of the ABA Young Lawyers Division, told Hicks in his letter announcing her selection as the award winner.

The Parent Representation Program seeks to provide a holistic and collaborative approach to family healing and reunification for those families involved in the child welfare system. Carlyn has served as program director since 2012. The Parent Representation Program is a pilot project made possible by a partnership between the Administrative Office of Courts, the Rankin County Youth Court, and Mississippi College School of Law. It is based at Mission First, where Carlyn has been a staff attorney since 2010. The program currently provides representation to parents in Rankin County Youth Court.

As Director of the Parent Representation Program, Carlyn works tirelessly as an advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves. She screens potential clients, conducts interviews, investigates, prepares pleadings, propounds discovery, locates necessary resources, attends team meetings, and represents clients in all stages of litigation in child welfare cases in Rankin County.

Carlyn’s efforts caught local attention long before the ABA made its award. “If there is one word to describe Carlyn’s dedication to families and children, it is passion,” said MC Law Dean Wendy Scott. “Her passion for this work is contagious.”

Judge Tom Broome, Rankin County Youth Court Judge, has observed Carlyn’s work with the Parent Representation Program. “Carlyn truly lives the Golden Rule,” remarked Judge Broome. “Her professional accomplishments aside, Carlyn never fails to engage the whole person no matter who you are or from whence you came. Her wisdom and charm, as well as kind civility, are often lacking in many today, but not with Carlyn. She makes sure to treat all with respect, and she brings a sense of clarity and purpose to all she works with to accomplish their goals.”

The Parent Representation Program does much more than provide legal assistance in Rankin County Youth Court. Carlyn also organizes orientation workshops to educate parents about the Youth Court process and navigating the child welfare system; identifies resources that strengthen vulnerable families, provide guidance and counseling, and help improve outcomes for indigent families; and promotes legislation to recognize and enhance the Parent Representation Pilot Programs. At the inception of the program, Carlyn conducted multidisciplinary trainings with representatives from the Youth Court, the County Prosecutor’s Office, children’s attorneys, representatives from the Department of Human Services, and Guardians ad Litem. Carlyn demonstrates a remarkable ability to bring together diverse personalities, talents, and resources to work toward the common goal of providing quality pro bono legal representation to indigent parents involved in child welfare cases in Mississippi.

In accepting the ABA’s award, Carlyn shared her personal motto: “Do the work. See a need, help a need.” The Parent Representation Program is proof that Carlyn has done the work needed to empower parents, protect Mississippi’s children, and strengthen our communities.