Impact Report 2023

Letter from the Executive Director

Thank you for your interest in the Council for Children’s Rights and the positive impact we have on the children in our community. Your interest affirms that you value our children as much as we do, and that you share our belief that all children deserve to be healthy, well-educated, safe, and have a future filled with opportunity. Every year, we reflect on the critical role we play in the lives of children and how we can continue to protect their rights and support their well-being.

In the years since the pandemic, our children have needed us more than ever. Prior to 2020, we typically managed around 1,400 cases per year. In this past year, we handled over 4,000 cases, demonstrating just how many more children are now in need of our essential services.

I cannot end a reflection of the last year without recognizing one of the most valuable and important parts of this work—you! When we join together to fight for our children’s well-being, we are fighting for their futures, and for ours. Their lives impact us now, and will continue to impact us, our community, and our shared future. Our children can’t do this alone. Through your support, you prove to them that they are not alone, that they are worthy, and that they live in a community committed to providing them support and equitable opportunity. Thank you for caring so deeply about our children.


In all we do, children come first

  • Education Law Program: Advocates for meaningful access to education through the direct representation of students with disabilities, students impacted by exclusionary discipline, and court-involved youth with unmet or underserved learning needs.
  • Mental Health Team: Protects the legal rights of all children confined to a hospital inpatient psychiatric unit or residential treatment facility to ensure a safe and healthy reintegration back to their family, school, and greater community.
  • Children’s Defense Team: The only specialized juvenile public defender in the state, protects the constitutional rights of youth, advocates for rehabilitation, and fights for equitable opportunities for youth.
  • Custody Advocacy Program: Represents and advocates for the best interests of children who are caught in the middle of high-conflict custody cases. Our services ensure safety, household stability, and increased well-being of our community's children.
  • Research and Policy Team: Leverages information and outcomes of individual cases to become the catalyst for policy advocacy and reform.

Our Approach

Our work is built on the foundation of the four pillars of social justice. They enable us to challenge the system and cultivate change that will improve the lives of groups that have historically been marginalized based on race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, age, and disability.

  • Equity: Dedicate efforts to ensure there is an unprejudiced distribution of necessary resources and service
  • Access: Guarantee that ALL critical resources are available and accessible to all that need them
  • Participation: Ensure every child’s voice is heard, especially when it comes to decisions that affect their lives.
  • Rights: Protect, advocate, and fight so that human rights are granted to every child in our community.

Why We Exist

We lead the community in the protection of children’s rights. We ensure laws designed to protect children are upheld in the areas of education, custody, mental health, and juvenile justice. We take action so every child has an opportunity to have a positive and safe childhood and provide critical support so they grow into a future in which they can thrive.


We are serving more children in more cases than ever before – Council’s four legal teams provided support to 2222 children in 4086 legal cases this past fiscal year.

That is a 10% increase in children served since 2022.



The pandemic exposed and exacerbated longstanding learning, behavioral, and mental health issues within the community. Funding inequities have left schools under resourced and under understaffed, leading schools to simply remove children with behavioral needs from classrooms. The combination of these factors, among others, has led to our children experiencing more expulsions and long-term suspensions than ever.


This past year Council was able to help close dozens of cases that were left stagnant and unresolved from the pandemic. While the courts have begun to recover, it is clear that children’s mental health has not, especially in times of family instability. We are still seeing the disturbing effects of isolation on children and their families which makes our work more important than ever. This team assists children and families not only in court, but in finding appropriate and quality counseling and treatment.


There are not enough specialized service providers, not enough placements in treatment facilities, and inadequate long-term planning after kids are released from treatment. When children receive treatment in hospitals or residential treatment facilities, they often aren’t receiving adequate education services at these centers, putting them further behind their peers.


Poverty, racial discrimination, mental health crises, family instability, violent neighborhoods, and lack of stable housing are underlying causes of juveniles being referred to the juvenile delinquency system. There is a growing trend of punishment and exclusion versus rehabilitation and life-changing services. Our advocacy addresses the underlying causes of trauma and uncovers unmet needs. By reaching deeper into a child’s life, we stabilize the whole child, addressing their educational, health, housing, and family needs.


Our team are experts in their field…

Education Law Program Director Caitlin Whalan Jones sat down for an interview with WCNC Charlotte on how North Carolina relies on lengthy exclusionary discipline for students with disabilities more than any other state.

Council Staff Attorneys Daniel Brown & Sarah Vimont represent Council as the 2023-2024 Chair and Vice Chair of the Juvenile Law Section of the Mecklenburg County Bar.

Council CDT Staff Attorney Breanne Mercer was selected for the Mecklenburg County 2023 Bar Leadership Institute. This selective program helps identify and develop leaders for the Mecklenburg County Bar & Foundation.

Our Volunteers help change the lives of children…

Council has over 325 active volunteers that help change the lives of children every day. To learn more about becoming a volunteer, email

We were thrilled to present our annual Pro Bono Awards to Alston & Bird and Carrie Casello in recognition of their impactful volunteer work.

Director of Custody Advocacy Patti Tutone training a new cohort of Council Volunteers at Alston & Bird.


Council held our inaugural A New Day for Children luncheon where we honored legendary volunteer Sis Kaplan with our inaugural H.O.P.E. award for her decades of dedication to Charlotte’s children. We also heard first-hand how Council has changed lives from one of our former child-clients, Luke Drago.

Link to the full report

I don’t know who I would be if it weren’t for the work the Council for Children’s Rights put into this case.”

—Luke Drago


You can donate online at

Or by sending a check to: ATTN: Council for Children’s Rights, 601 East 5th Street, Suite 510, Charlotte, NC 28202.

Please email with any questions and to learn more.