Black History Month 2019

In honor of Black History Month, the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy would like to focus on two extremely influential Black leaders from Evanston. As an organization focused on keeping youth in school and out of prison through integrated legal and social work services, we chose two Black leaders from these fields. Namely, Dr. James T. Morton, Jr. and Norman Amaker who practiced in the fields of clinical psychology and civil rights law respectively, both of whom have a connection to Evanston and Chicago.


The Moran Center would like to thank Dino Robinson, founder of Shorefront Legacy Center, for his help with these profiles. If you would like to learn more about the history of Black residents on the North Shore, we highly recommend visiting Shorefront. Not only is the space warm and inviting, but it houses more than 250 linear feet of archival material on the local Black community. Shorefront was officially founded in 2002 as Mr. Robinson’s passion project, which he began in 1995. Shorefront has grown so much since then in its goal to create a repository, non-circulating library detailing the history of the Black community on the North Shore. In honor of Black History Month, Shorefront hosted a lecture series whose attendees included, the widow of Norman Amaker, Mattie Amaker.


Dr. James T. Morton Jr., Clinical Psychologist

Although, Dr. James Thomas Morton, Jr. was born in Greenwood, South Carolina he was raised right here in Evanston. While attending high school in Evanston, Morton volunteered his time teaching classes on Black History to members of the Evanston community and local church groups. Morton went on to receive his Bachelor of Arts Degree (B.A.) in psychology from the University of Illinois at Champaign in 1934. From there, he returned to Evanston to attend Northwestern University in order to pursue his Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in clinical psychology. During this time, Dr. Morton participated in social activism though his fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha’s graduate chapter at Northwestern. It was also while attending Northwestern that Morton met his future wife, Lorraine Morton, who was attending the university to pursue her master’s in education. Not long after meeting, the pair married. The Mortons then moved to North Carolina where Morton taught at Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina from 1936 to 1940, prior to him earning his Ph.D. During that same time, Dr. Morton was drafted into the United States Army as a private.

Following his army service, Dr. Morton finished his Ph.D. at Northwestern in 1942. That same year, Dr. Morton was named Dean of Bennett College where he previously taught. The Mortons moved to Tuskegee, Alabama where Mrs. Morton taught at the Tuskegee Institute Laboratory School and Dr. Morton worked as the chief psychologist for the Tuskegee Veterans’ Hospital. Dr. Morton was the first Black American chief psychologist for the Veteran’s Administration. Dr. Morton’s research included an unpublished study of Black psychologists, which he used to recruit more Black scholars into psychology. As a pioneer for Black professionals in the field of clinical psychology, Dr. Morton was a staunch advocate for equal education and employment opportunities for minorities. Following his appointment in Tuskegee, Dr. Morton went into private practice where he continued to work with the Veteran’s Administration. In 1948, Dr. Morton was named one of the first Designated Diplomate in Clinical Psychology by the American Psychology Association. The Mortons moved back to Evanston in 1953, after Dr. Morton received a job as a clinical psychologist at Evanston Hospital, now called the NorthShore University Health System’s Evanston Hospital. Dr. Morton died in 1974, leaving behind his wife, Lorraine Morton, and their one daughter and now two grandchildren.

Norman Amaker, Civil Rights Attorney

Norman Amaker was born in New York City on January 15, 1935 to Gladys and Casey Amaker. His parents were social activists in Harlem, which ultimately inspired Amaker to take a leading role within the American Civil Rights movement. Amaker left New York City in 1952 to pursue his Bachelor’s degree from Amherst College. Amaker graduated from Amherst cum laude in 1956 as the only Black graduate. After earning his Bachelor’s, Amaker returned to New York City to attend law school at Columbia University. Again, Amaker was the only Black graduate in his class. When Amaker graduated from Columbia in 1959 the Civil Rights Movement was at its height. According to the Loyola University Chicago Law Journal, a year after graduating Amaker was encouraged to accept a position by, Thurgood Marshall, at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (“NAACP”) Legal Defense and Education Fund to serve as one of the attorneys for the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama. As stated by the Loyola University Chicago Law Journal, “during this period, Professor Amaker represented his good friend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and thousands of others in the civil rights protest demonstrations that were instrumental in reshaping America’s social and legal landscape.” Amaker even had a hand in getting Dr. King’s famous, “Letter From a Birmingham Jail,” published. According to the Chicago Tribune, Amaker took the draft from Dr. King while he was in jail and delivered it to a printer for distribution. Amaker worked with the NAACP for the remainder of the 1960’s in a variety of legal cases related to racial discrimination involving education, employment, housing, and more.

In 1971, Amaker left the NAACP to become the Executive Director of the Neighborhood Legal Service Program in Washington, D.C. The mission of the organization resonated greatly with Amaker’s social activism as the organization provided, “free legal information, advice and representation to low-income District of Colombia residents on civil legal matters.” Amaker stayed in this position for two years before leaving to serve as general counsel for the National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing.

In the 1970s, Amaker started his scholarly career by accepting teaching positions at the University of Maryland School of Law, Rutgers Law School, and finally at the Loyola University Chicago School of Law where he would remain until his death. As with law school, Amaker was the only African American tenured faculty member at Loyola. This pushed Amaker to work on diversifying law school faculties given his belief, “that diverse law school faculties were more likely to be rich sources of the sorts of creative ideas that would help American law continue its evolution toward a more just and open society.” This passion led Amaker to co-found the Midwestern People of Color Legal Scholarship Conference (“MWPOC”) with the primary goal of creating a “parallel institution within the legal academy,” where professors of color could come together to present and critique each other’s scholarly work. The idea was that this conference could provide professors of color space to receive feedback and not feel as isolated within the field as they may have felt at their home institutions. It aimed to help professors of color receive tenured university positions which in turn led to greater diversity within law school faculties. The first meeting of the MWPOC was at Loyola University Chicago School of Law in February 1990. The concept soon spread across the country and by 1999 there were six regional conferences that met all together in Chicago at The John Marshall Law School for the first National People of Color Legal Scholarship Conference (“NPOC”). These conferences still take place today, and in March 2019 the NPOC will meet for the fourth time in Washington, D.C at American University Washington College of Law where more than 500 law professors and scholars plan to attend according to the conference’s website.

The length of Professor Amaker’s legacy is long – from representing demonstrators arrested during Martin Luther King, Jr. ’s voter registration drive in Selma, Alabama to demanding greater diversity within America’s law schools. Mr. Amaker died in 2000, leaving behind his wife Mattie and three children, several of whom still live and work in Evanston and Chicago.

We lift up Dr. Morton and Professor Amaker as examples of local leaders, who made incredible national contributions to the mental health and legal sectors. With roots deeply planted in Evanston, Dr. Morton and Professor Amaker demanded justice and changed systems. We honor their memory.


Parent Partners Program Applications Open

Request for Parent Partner – Apply Online Here!

The purpose of the Parent Partner Program is to empower caregivers to successfully navigate their special education meeting and improve outcomes for their child.  Attending school meetings alone can be intimidating and overwhelming.  If you’d like someone to sit by your side and guide you through the process, a Parent Partner can help.

Parent Partners have received training provided by Evanston CASE and the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy. Partners have also had personal experience with the special education system.


  1. Fill out an application for a Parent Partner. Submit one month, or at a minimum two weeks, in advance of your scheduled school meeting.
  2. You will be informed about your acceptance for the service, or given a referral to an alternate resource within 48 hours after processing your application.
  3. You will be matched with a Parent Partner based on your individual needs.
  4. After matching you with a Parent Partner, you will receive a phone call from your Parent Partner to schedule a pre-meeting planning session.

Please note…

Partners have volunteered to attend 1-2 meetings with a caregiver.  Additional meetings will be considered on a case by case basis.  If you would like to utilize the program in future meetings, you must reapply.  We cannot guarantee that you will be matched with the same Parent Partner at future meetings.

Parent Partners are not professional advocates or attorneys.  They cannot offer legal advice or speak on your behalf.

This program is co-administered by Evanston CASE and the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy and is made possible by a generous grant from the Evanston Community Foundation.

Community Highlight – The Collective

The Moran Center has been given the opportunity to work with eight other Evanston-based organizations that work with youth and their families through a grant awarded by Evanston Cradle to Career with funds from the United Way. Our partners are the City of Evanston’s Youth & Young Adult Division, Connections for the Homeless, Curt’s Café, Erie Family Health Centers, Infant Welfare Society of Evanston, PEER Services, Youth Job Center, and Youth & Opportunity United. This grant will allow these organizations to join together to empower youth, families, and front-line providers to improve organizational and institutional systems with the ultimate goal of providing Evanston families with a stronger foundation in readying their children for kindergarten.

The Collective will identify barriers to services by hiring Evanston youth, who have used the Collective member organizations’ services, to perform interviews with Evanston residents in order to assess barriers, strengths, and challenges in accessing youth and family support services. These interviews will shed light on how the Collective and other organizations in Evanston can make changes to improve services. Under the leadership of a Project Coordinator, the youth leadership team will present a summary of their findings and recommendations in a public forum that Evanston community members will be able to attend. The Collective will also use this process to establish an ongoing feedback loop and partnership with consumers. 

The Collective aims to not only improve systems of support for clients, but also to empower the community – ensuring that clients/patients are part of our organizations’ leadership and decision-making going forward.

The Moran Center and the Collective, as a whole, hope that this initiative will help dismantle barriers and improve clients’/patients’ entry into systems of care, as well as coordination of community-based services.

Donor Highlight – The Dove Foundation

The Dove Foundation was founded in 1986 by Ted and Elaine Welp with the mission to further educational and community opportunities for individuals with disabilities. The foundation initially focused solely on educational initiatives for the Deaf because of the Welp’s personal experience in securing supports and services for their son, Tom. He was born with Usher Syndrome, a disease marked by profound hearing loss and progressive blindness. When Elaine approached Tom’s primary school to request a sign language interpreter for Tom, she was met with a single answer: no. That one word began Elaine’s 50-year journey advocating for deaf and hard of hearing students American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation, better wages for interpreters, and the inclusion of the  Deaf and hard of hearing people in the community, which evolved to broader initiatives supporting educational opportunities for all students with disabilities.

At the beginning of his education, Tom was not allowed to attend school with his neighborhood friends. He received non-inclusive schooling where he was forced to learn the only communication system allowed in schools at that time – lip-reading and speech. By the time Tom finished kindergarten the only word he could say was “stupid,” and he used it to describe himself breaking his mother’s heart. This all changed when one day, a girl from an ASL school taught Tom sign language and gave him a whole new way to communicate. After that, the entire Welp family learned ASL and moved to Arizona so Tom could attend a public school for the Deaf and blind where the classroom instruction was in ASL. Suddenly, Tom was excelling in school, an active student athlete, and became known for his great sense of humor.

When speaking to Lori, Elanie’s daughter and now Board Chair of the Dove Foundation, she mentions how her mother always said that Tom’s story illustrated how students just need the right supports and a positive learning environment to thrive in school. The Dove Foundation now seeks out organizations that advance that educational vision. Lori says she believes the relentless advocacy of the Moran Center’s staff reflects the fearless spirit of her mother’s advocacy for students with disabilities throughout her life. The Moran Center came to the attention of the Dove Foundation because of its holistic approach, combining legal and social work services. The Dove Foundation truly believes the Moran Center’s staff is key to its model’s success. The Moran Center’s compassionate social workers, zealous lawyers and advocates, and creative development team allow it to continually address both pressing and long-term, systemic problems to build a more just and equitable educational system.

When asked about her favorite aspect of the Moran Center, Lori mentioned that the Education Advocacy attorneys have a special place in her heart because of the work they do to leverage the broader community in better understanding “disabilities,” as well as closing the gap for students with disabilities in school and keeping kids out of the school-to-prison pipeline.

DIRECTORS’ SHOWCASE: Chair – Betsy Lehman

Congressman John Lewis and Betsy at the Moran Center's Justice in Action 2018 Benefit.

Evanston born and raised, Betsy Lehman always knew she would come back to Evanston to raise her children. She believes growing up in Evanston was instrumental in shaping her worldview, values, and career choices. Evanston holds a special place in her heart, but she also recognizes that our community is not without its flaws. This is one of the reasons Betsy joined the Moran Center Board more than seven years ago.

Prior to joining the Moran Center Board, Betsy had worked as an attorney at the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago before returning to school to get a master’s in social work. She made this decision after coming to the realization that while her clients all had immediate legal needs, at the root of many of their problems were more systemic challenges. Without addressing those issues in a holistic way, Betsy believed that it would be extremely difficult for her clients to avoid further legal issues. Betsy saw that if the goal was to achieve meaningful, lasting change for clients, their legal cases could not be viewed in isolation of other pressing social, environmental, and economic concerns. Betsy would later learn that this is exactly what the Moran Center’s integrated model provides for its clients.

Before joining the Board, Betsy was also involved in another aspect of the Moran Center – restorative justice! In 2012, Betsy began volunteering as part of the Evanston Police Department’s Restorative Justice Diversion program and with the Evanston/Skokie School District 65 Restorative Justice Project. She saw firsthand the transformative power of peace circles to form connections between people, even when on the surface it might seem that the participants had little in common. Not only that, Betsy found that restorative justice was a unique way to afford a person who caused harm an authentic and honest opportunity to hear and see how their actions affected the person they harmed, as well as the community more broadly. Often, the person committing harm has needs that are not being met, so in addition to providing a process for harm to be repaired, restorative justice holds the community accountable for all its members, providing an opportunity to identify, and rectify, challenges that are keeping community members from their optimal growth and success. Betsy sees restorative justice as an effective way to strengthen our community, provide a meaningful opportunity for personal growth, and keep youth in school and out of broken institutions. With the same goals in mind, Betsy has also recently started volunteering as an academic tutor at Evanston Township High School.

Betsy has served as the Chair of the Moran Center’s Board of Directors for the past two years. While she has had experience on a variety of different boards, such as the ACLU of Illinois and Planned Parenthood of Illinois, Betsy says her experience at the Moran Center has been uniquely rewarding. Being able to work with a smaller organization and see the direct impact of her efforts has been incredibly gratifying. She also feels extremely honored to be able to work alongside the dedicated staff and volunteers of the Moran Center, who work tirelessly to advocate for youth and their families in Evanston. Betsy has witnessed substantial growth during her tenure at the Moran Center, including the addition of educational advocacy, alternative to suspension programming, and, most recently, the opening of a school-based civil legal clinic. She is so proud of the Moran Center’s ability to now serve clients’ needs more fully.

Betsy wants all Evanston youth to be able to reach their own individual potential and not be held back by past mistakes, the color of their skin, their socioeconomic status, their learning differences, or anything else. She is committed to making Evanston more equitable and just for all its residents.

Governor Commutes Sentences of Youth in IDJJ Custody Who Were Unfairly Prosecuted and Denied Justice

On December 28, 2018, Governor Bruce Rauner righted an outrageous wrong by commuting the sentences of six youth who were unfairly prosecuted in Saline County due to childish behavior occurring at the Illinois Youth Center-Harrisburg (“IYC-Harrisburg”).


These six youth were sentenced for criminal charges which were the result of staff, acting as private citizens, going to law enforcement with what were mostly minor incidents – allegations ranging from pushing, shoving, spitting or grabbing – that either did not result in any physical injuries or resulted in only minor injuries.  These types of incidents should have been addressed solely through the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice’s (“IDJJ”) institutional grievance process.  While the IDJJ grievance policy had historically included the use of solitary confinement, ongoing litigation compelled IDJJ to create and institute new policies resulting in a ban of the use of solitary as a disciplinary response. These new restrictions – consistent with national best practices – were not welcomed by a few of the IDJJ staff, and administrators struggled to effectively introduce new tools to garner staff buy-in for these new protocols and practices. This impasse ultimately led staff at IYC-Harrisburg to go outside the institutional grievance structure to seek “appropriate” consequences for youth misbehavior. The Saline County State’s Attorney prosecuted over twenty new cases against these youth, seeking and shockingly securing long prison sentences for many of them in the adult prison system. Far from home and with insufficient support from local defense services, the youth pled guilty, often with little due process (without having been presented with the evidence against them, an opportunity to ask questions or provide information and with little understanding of the charges and potential penalties they faced). Adding insult to injury, despite all of these youth being indigent, fines and fees were tacked onto their prison terms.


The Governor’s action in commuting the sentences of these six youth is a critical beginning in addressing the harm caused by the internal system failure of IDJJ, a handful of disgruntled IDJJ staff, an excessively punitive prosecutor, and an absence of procedural justice.  The John Howard Association, Juvenile Justice Initiative and the Moran Center for Youth Advocacy applaud the Governor for responding to requests for relief for these youth.


The issue of these shockingly unfair prosecutions and sentences would never have come to light without the oversight of the IDJJ Independent Ombudsperson, Kathleen Bankhead.  As the John Howard Association Executive Director Jennifer Vollen-Katz states: “Without the Office of the Independent Ombudsman for the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, the system failure evidenced by the increased and unfair prosecutions coming from IYC-Harrisburg would have continued undetected with devastating consequences for many more children in state custody.  Every youth deserves a chance to move forward and have a successful future. Multiple years in adult custody for rude but not dangerous behavior is a both a perversion and denial of justice.”

“First and foremost, facilities must be safe for youth in custody and the staff who work there. Time and time again, evidence shows that this cannot be accomplished in large penal institutions.  Safety, rehabilitation, and respectful and fair treatment demands closure of large youth centers and a move to community-based services and small, regional residential facilities that can provide needed treatment and support.”


Check out news coverage: 6 Young Men, Given Adult Sentences for “Minor” Infractions, Are Freed in Illinois

Advisory Council Showcase – Ann Adams

As the Associate Vice President of Research at Northwestern University, Ann Adams works to support world-class research. Ann is also committed to improving the community in which she lives and works, not only as a long-time donor to the Moran Center but also through her active participation in the organization as a member of the Advisory Council.

Adams credits her time in law school for sparking her interest in the work that the Moran Center does to end the school-to-prison pipeline. Adams says she was particularly attracted to the Moran Center because of our efforts to clear individuals’ criminal records at the Expungement & Sealing Help Desk.

Adams says that she’s continually impressed with Executive Director Patrick Keenan-Devlin and the entire Moran Center staff for doing extremely important work with limited resources –  changing people’s lives. On this point Ann asks, “Who wouldn’t want to support that?” We agree, Ann!

Directors’ Showcase: Treasurer – Val Weiss

Val Weiss has been on the Moran Center’s Board of Directors for the past 10 years, recruited by former Executive Director Naria Santa Lucia for her extensive business and non-profit management experience. From the start Val says she was impressed by the staff’s extraordinary dedication, and she has been humbled to be a part of the Moran Center team. Val affectionately calls the staff and board “the dream team,” because of their shared passion for the mission of the organization and for their collaborative support of each other’s work. Val is “proud of the work that we do to support some of the most vulnerable kids in our community. I’ve loved getting to know the staff and the board. We truly enjoy our time together. We joke that we even keep the fun in FUNdraising.”

Val’s board involvement reflects her passion for helping grassroots organizations thrive. Since joining the Moran Center’s Board, Val has witnessed the agency’s growth and it’s deepened commitment to the community. “I’m very proud of the sustainable growth. During the past eight years, the Moran Center has quadrupled its budget and met all of its strategic goals. We now serve more clients and expanded the portfolio of our programs. It’s particularly exciting to see the launch of the Moran Center’s School-Based Civil Legal Clinic and our restorative justice work.”

Val feels extremely lucky to live in Evanston, appreciating the diversity of this community while recognizing that many continue to be burdened by systemic disinvestment and prejudice. Val finds it unacceptable that we live in a “free” country that has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and is inspired by Bryan Stevenson who says, “we all have a responsibility to create a just society.”

Midterm Voting Guide

The Illinois Midterm Election | Nov. 6, 2018


Why Should I Care About the Midterm Election?

  • The Midterms are important because they decide the make-up of Congress for the next two years. In this Midterm, 35 US Senate seats and all US House of Representative seats are being voted on.
  • Who wins these seats will have a huge impact on state-level policy debates such as the 24/7 juvenile detention review, raising the age of juvenile court to 21, and access to mental health services
  •  The next Governor and Attorney General will be in charge of and develop numerous policies and programs regarding youth justice reform, mental health services treatment, and changes in the criminal justice system. Read more about how this will impact the Moran Center by clicking this link:


How Do I Vote?


How Do I Figure Out Who to Vote For?


HB5104 Vetoed

HB5104 abolishes the $5 co-pay Illinois prisoners must pay to see a doctor. Governor Rauner, however, recommended simply reducing the current $5 co-pay for inmates to $3.90. Reducing the co-pay amount by $1.10 does not support Illinois’ ability to meet its obligation to provide adequate correctional health care to the entire incarcerated population. This change will perpetuate the same dysfunctional correctional healthcare outcomes currently present in a system that is rife with flaws in both the quality and delivery of services. Override!