At the Polls Part 4: 24/7 Juvenile Detention Review

The Moran Center supports the 24/7 review of children’s detention. Currently, when a child is placed in custody, they are subject to waiting up to 40 hours before appearing before a judge. Whether a youth is detained or not has lasting ramifications for that youth’s future behavior and opportunities. Carnegie Mellon researchers have shown that incarcerating juveniles may actually interrupt and delay the normal pattern of “aging out” of offending since detention disrupts their natural engagement with families, school, and work. See Golub, A. (1990), The Termination Rate of Adult Criminal Careers. Pittsburgh: Carnegie Mellon. By instituting a 24/7 review of children’s detention, children would be afforded the same review standard most often applied to adults in the criminal justice system. In mandating an immediate review of a child’s detention, the court provides an opportunity for children to potentially return home, where community and family-based interventions may be put in-place – supports that have consistently been proven to be more effective than detention. The Moran Center also strongly supports every child being appointed a skilled and trained attorney before and throughout a detention proceeding. Read more about this issue from our partner the Juvenile Justice Initiative!

At The Polls Part 2: Voters’ Guide

The Illinois Primary Election will take place on Tuesday, March 20th, with the polls open from 6:00 AM to 7:00 PM. As a state with an open primary, voters do not have to declare a party affiliation in advance of the Primary Election, but instead are given the opportunity to select a party ballot at the polling station. You can enter your address at Vote Illinois to generate your personalized sample ballot!.

Evanston residents can find all voting-related details, including early voting and grace period registration (which allows you to register and vote on the same day beginning on Thursday, February 22nd and running through 7:00 PM on the Primary Election Day, Tuesday, March 20th) information on the City of Evanston website. If you live outside of Evanston, please visit the State Board of Elections for all voting-related information.

We encourage you to visit candidates’ websites, and track publications posted by our partners, like the Illinois Justice Project, in understanding candidates’ positions on criminal and youth justice issues. And, when it comes to learning about other “hot button” issues in this election, we recommend checking out the Chicago Sun Times Primary Voting Guide.

“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they turn their backs to the fire and get scorched in the rear, they’ll find they have to sit on the blister.” President Abraham Lincoln.  

Don’t get scorched! Read up, get fired up, and vote!

In case you missed yesterday’s blog post:
Moran Center Justice In Action At The Polls Part 1



At The Polls Part 1: Why the Illinois midterms matter

Welcome to Part 1 of our midterm 2018 primary series! Over the next 20 days, we will be highlighting how the outcome of the 2018 primary elections could impact youth justice in our state and our community. Part 2 thru 9 will be posted on social media. Follow along as we “march” toward the primary…

#YouthJustice #IllinoisPrimary2018 #Midterms2018


Please note, as a 501(c)3 organization, the Moran Center for Youth Advocacy will not be endorsing any specific candidates. The intent of our “At the Polls” series is to educate and inform the community about important issues that impact our mission and our clients. 

On March 20th, Illinois voters will have the chance to shape the direction Illinois takes by voting in the 2018 Illinois Primary Election. The primary election is important as voters will have the chance to decide who will be on the ballot on November 6 and potentially who their new Governor and Attorney General will be. Overall, this election will decide which path Illinois will follow for the next four years, and thus its importance should not be understated.

This election will not just shape the direction of Illinois, but also the work of the Moran Center, and, most importantly, the lives of our clients. 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. New policies aimed at easing or toughening these measures can pave the way toward achieving our mission, or create barriers to equity and justice that hinder our work and put our clients at risk of disconnecting from our community.

Specifically, there are several issues that Moran Center supporters and youth advocates should pay attention to. Examining the degree to which candidates support programs such as Redeploy Illinois or TeenReach demonstrates how far these candidates are willing to go in changing the youth justice system. This is especially important as the Moran Center supports raising the age of juvenile court to 21, a 24/7 review of decisions to incarcerate children within a detention center, and assurance that every child has a skilled and trained attorney with them before and throughout the detention proceeding. In addition, the Moran center urges you to consider how far each candidate will go in strengthening treatment capacity in the mental health sector through Medicaid rate reform and supporting investment in critical prevention and intervention programs as children age out of childhood prevention programs. By supporting these changes and investment, candidates demonstrate their public commitment to working with the Moran Center in pursuing. Your vote can make a difference! 


Eligible voters must complete the online voter registration by March 4th in order to participate in the March 20th primary. Keep in mind that 17 year olds who will turn 18 before the date of the General Election are eligible to register to vote. The youth vote matters so make sure all of the young adults in your life are registered and motivated to vote. 

Patricia Gladden: A Decade of Putting Justice In Action

Pat Gladden has been involved with the Moran Center for over 10 years! After becoming exposed to the Moran Center (then called the Evanston Community Defender) in 2008 while working on a project for the Evanston Community Foundation, Pat jumped in with both feet in 2009 when she assumed the role of Board President and, in partnership with Executive Director Naria Santa Lucia, worked to evolve, grow, and modernize the little-known agency into what is currently known as the James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy. Pat has continued to guide and lead the organization, serving as Board Secretary since 2013 and on the Strategic Planning Committee since 2014. Pat has never shied away from “going deep” to pursue justice.

From a young age, Pat recalls always having a strong sense of justice. As an “Army brat,” Pat’s family moved frequently and lived in far-flung places such as Taiwan and Alaska. As a young adult, she served in the Peace Corps in Chile. Inevitably, these impactful experiences shaped her ability to make astute observations, empathize with people, and embrace diversity.

After receiving her J.D. from Loyola Law School in 1978, Pat spent the bulk of her career at Washington National Insurance Company, serving as Corporate Counsel, Secretary, and Vice President, and Vice President of Human Resources for the Employee Benefits Division. During this time she also worked as an attorney for the Midwest Immigrant Rights Center, handling asylum cases. After leaving the company in 1993, Pat focused her energies and legal talents on pursuing school reform and assisting families and children with guardianship issues. These pursuits, in turn, led her to the Moran Center where she fully embraced the holistic model of providing youth with integrated legal aid and social work services.

Ten years later, Pat’s enthusiasm for the Moran Center is sustained in equal parts by her passion for the mission and her respect for the staff and her fellow board members. Pat says, “I admire the staff and what they do. All of them have good hearts and care a lot about the kids, even though it can be heartbreaking work. The board is committed, easy to work with, and our time together feels like time spent with friends.”

Fellow Board Member and Treasurer, Val Weiss, works with Pat on the Strategic Planning committee, which is currently in the midst of its second strategic planning process. According to Val, “Pat is deeply engaged in the strategic planning process.  Her vast experience, thoughtful approach, and sense of humor are invaluable to our team. She makes the process fun!  We’re grateful that she’s willing to give so generously of her time.”

When asked how the Moran Center has impacted the Evanston community, Pat suggests, “As someone who has lived in Evanston off and on for 48 years, I have seen the positive feeling that people have once they become acquainted with the important work that is being done. It makes us a more caring community… Given the cruelty and disregard that we see directed toward the poor and the stranger from our current national leadership, anything we can do to help families overcome their challenges is a worthwhile pursuit.”

Pat is a life-long learner and continues to expand her horizons by travelling and taking classes. In her “free time,” Pat enjoys spending time with her grandchildren and is thrilled that two of them are currently attending Evanston schools.

Access to Mental Health Care

Improving access to mental is a keystone of our “going deep” strategy. During the past couple of years, we have developed several key partnerships that are now primed to create a network of supports by which we can address the gap that persists for low-income minority youth who need access to urgent psychiatric care. In alignment with the efforts of Evanston’s Cradle to Career Health, Wellness, & Safety Action Team, the Evanston Health Department, and the Mental Health Board, we seek to catalyze Evanston health and mental health providers to develop innovative strategies to close the mental health care gap. This community-b ased focus on mental health care creates an environment in which meaningful synergies can be realized.

To further deepen and strengthen the mental health care safety net, last year we established a partnership with Erie Family Health Center and launched the Access to Mental Health project. This project, funded with a Responsive Grant from the Evanston Community Foundation, will put the wheels of mental health justice into action for Evanston families by providing coordinated care for urgent psychiatric consultation.  

Moran Center clients, like many disconnected families in Evanston, are challenged by complex social and economic determinants of health, including poverty, homelessness, racism, and trauma. While our social workers provide quality counseling and support, some clients need immediate psychiatric services for stabilization, medication consultation, and monitoring. Barriers to accessing such services are well documented — long wait lists, lack of insurance, few psychiatrists who accept Medicaid, and poor follow-up.

As one example, a recent Moran Center client who was in acute mental health distress was hospitalized six times in five different psychiatric facilities in the last six months without any coordination of care, only to be discharged after a few days with no psychiatric follow-up for medication management and no continuity of care plan. Cuts in state funding have caused many mental health providers to reduce services or close programs, or limit the number of clients they can see, causing long wait times and a patchwork of care.

This is clearly a crisis on a national and state level that warrants the attention of policy makers, health care systems, and providers. But meanwhile, we are taking action on a local level by going deep to create linkages, partnerships, and pathways to help our clients get the help they need.

Diving Deep Into 2018

From Executive Director and Juvenile Justice Attorney Patrick Keenan-Devlin:

Patrick with Common and Moran Center Board Member Jonathan Samuels.

I was fortunate enough to kick off 2018 by spending a special day at the Kennedy Forum of Illinois’ Annual Meeting. “Bending Toward Justice: A Summit for Mental Health Equity” was a powerful day of inquiry, exploring the intersection of justice, mental health, and education. 

There were many fabulous speakers (Common, Michael Phelps, Patrick Kennedy, to name a few), but I must say that I learned the most from some of the less famous voices at the Forum. These were the voices of individuals who have experienced firsthand the equity gaps in mental health justice, criminal justice, and education justice. Stories such as Angelica Diamond Garcia who, after being raped at age 15, began engaging in risky behavior that ultimately resulted in her being arrested and handcuffed in her school cafeteria. Angelica spent the next four years bouncing in and out of Illinois’ youth prison system. Fortunately, Angelica got involved with Storycatchers Theatre while she was incarcerated. Through her involvement with Storycatchers and the meaningful relationships that she developed with her teachers and coaches, Angelica is on a hopeful path of healing. Since 2011, she has acted as a spokesperson and performer for Storycatchers. Angelica’s experience should inform policymakers, inspire youth who are caught up in the system and enlighten those of us who are looking for practical ways to make a difference.

Here is a video of the panel discussion from the Kennedy Forum of Illinois:


I came away from the Kennedy Forum resolved to “go deep” in 2018. To go deep in understanding the complexities of mental health, trauma, brain development, and resiliency. To go deep in building partnerships so that we can provide children and their families with the supports that they need. And to go deep in advocating for youth and helping them stay in school, connected to our community, and out of any pipeline that tries to funnel them into prisons or other broken institutions. Let’s reframe the narrative around “giving kids a second chance.” Because what we are really talking about, is providing every child a FIRST chance!

Thanks for your continued support. Together, let’s go deep to put Justice In Action!

Meet Reggie

We met Reggie when he was just eight years old, making him one of our youngest clients. While his story is still evolving, we would like to share it with you because we think it illustrates how your donation to the Moran Center for Youth Advocacy puts the wheels of justice into action for youth in our community. 

After less than three years in the public school system, Reggie had received 40 disciplinary referrals. Although Reggie had an excellent attendance record and was consistently described by his teachers as smart, it was difficult for him to make connections with his classmates and his grades indicated that he was under-performing in school. Reggie’s grandmother and legal guardian, Lorna, was growing concerned. It was painful for her to see Reggie, a child who had always liked school, feeling insecure and questioning his ability to learn. Lorna reached out to the Moran Center to get Reggie the support he needed.

The Moran Center assembled an integrated team consisting of a special education attorney and a social worker. After helping Lorna navigate the complicated Medicaid and mental health care systems, Reggie received a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation and started taking medication to help with his diagnosed ADHD. We even helped Lorna with transportation and childcare arrangements so she could take Reggie to his appointments. 

Throughout 2017, the Moran Center met with school officials to negotiate a plan that addressed Reggie’s unique needs, including receiving critical help from a reading specialist. Over the summer, we partnered with Reggie’s school to provide the family with YMCA summer membership passes, Evanston beach passes, swim lessons at the YWCA, and tuition for summer camps. Reggie’s favorite part of summer was going to the beach where he reconnected with some of his classmates! 
As Reggie enters the 3rd grade, we will continue to assist him and his family, providing advocacy, counseling, and case management as they navigate the daunting maze of the special education and mental health care systems to ensure that Reggie receives appropriate services and support.  

Please consider a generous gift today so we can put the wheels of JUSTICE in ACTION for youth who deserve justice in the courtroom, access to the classroom, and support in the community. 

To protect client confidentiality and privacy, client names have been changed and images are not of actual clients. 

Justice League Meets Justice Challenge – Press Release



Evanston Community Foundation’s Partners for the Future Grant Supports Youth Justice

The James B. Moran Center for Youth Advocacy (“Moran Center”) has successfully completed a“Partners for the Future” (PFF) challenge grant from the Evanston Community Foundation (“ECF”), receiving $100,000 in matching funds. The Moran Center publicly launched the “Justice Challenge” in January 2017, asking donors to join the “Justice League” by making a commitment to close the justice gap for kids in our community. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and the Moran Center completed the terms of the matching challenge well in advance of the one-year deadline.

The Partners for the Future challenge grant is a donor-advised ECF initiative that invests in the capacity of high-performing Evanston non-profits ready to develop greater support. The challenge to the Moran Center was to raise new or increased gifts of $5,000 from individual donors; each qualified gift was then matched by ECF.

On November 1, 2017, the Moran Center hosted a celebratory luncheon at The Barn in Evanston. Executive Director, Patrick Keenan-Devlin shared with donors that the funds raised through the Partners for the Future challenge grant will go toward creating a school-based civil legal clinic, broadening access to mental health supports, and advocating for critical systemic reforms.

Moran Center Board Chair Betsy Lehman presented the Moran Center’s long-term vision of creating a “Restorative Justice” city in Evanston. “By creating safe and welcoming spaces, a sense of belonging for our youth, and advocating for community-based solutions, as opposed to pushing kids out of our schools and our community, we can restore trust, build respect, and enhance the social-emotional competencies of all Evanston residents, and most importantly, of some of our most vulnerable children and families.”

“The Partners for the Future challenge grant is intended to help organizations go to the next level in their ability to raise major gifts to realize their missions,” said Marybeth Schroeder, Vice President for Programs at ECF.  “The Moran Center board and staff did an incredible job inspiring both longtime donors and new supporters.  They’ve built a strong foundation for continued growth.”

“This challenge grant propels the Moran Center’s capacity to deliver our unique model of advocating for kids and their families by providing integrated legal representation and social work services. We are very grateful to the Evanston Community Foundation for providing us with this opportunity, and even more grateful to our ‘Justice Leaguers’ who generously supported our vision for building a more just, accessible, and supportive community for Evanston’s’ kids,” said Patrick Keenan-Devlin, Executive Director of the Moran Center.

The Moran Center’s Director of Strategic Partnerships Joi-Anissa Russell adds, “It is very compelling to offer our donors the chance to double their impact. Their generosity allows us to ‘go deeper’ in seeking equitable and just solutions for our clients.”

Photos by Rich Foreman Photography.

Directors’ Showcase: Jonathan Samuels Advocates for Local Youth

From a very early age, Jon Samuels witnessed his family’s commitment to the community.

“My parents never pushed politics but they were passionate through their work in the medical and mental health fields as well as their broader commitment to the community. They strongly believe in fairness and justice for everyone. That had a big impact on me.”

Samuels was a keen observer of electoral politics in high school and college, specifically the 1992 and 1996 Presidential campaigns. However, his true political awakening came when he took his first full-time campaign job in 1997 after meeting then congressional candidate Jan Schakowsky. At the time, Samuels was a program director with the McGaw YMCA where he was organizing expanded programming for the Justin Wynn Leadership Academy. He was part of a team that mentored a group of 5th-12th-grade students in leadership development activities and planned community service projects. The first student-led project was to march against gun violence.

“I was proud of the students for taking on such an important issue, but I expected a small crowd when we went to ETHS to kick off the march.”

“The students clearly tapped into something important to Evanston because nearly a thousand people showed up. The Evanston Police Department had to shut down Lake Street to traffic as we marched to a planned rally in Fountain Square.”

Samuels says he went to that march following the lead of his students. For him, it was a life changing event, as it was during that march that Jan Schakowsky introduced herself to Samuels and convinced him to go back to her campaign headquarters to meet her team. Reflecting on that day, Samuels said: “I had no idea that Jan would have such a profound impact on the trajectory of my life and career.  I will always count her as a member of my family.”

“It took about 3 seconds for me to realize that this person was so extraordinary that I had to recruit him to work on my campaign for Congress.” That’s when Congresswoman Schakowsky says she “kidnapped” Jon Samuels, grabbed his arm and brought him to her campaign office in the Rotary Building. She recaps that was one of the smartest moves of her life!

Samuels’ interest only grew when he moved to Washington D.C. in 1999 to work for Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky during her first four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

“Jon then worked for me for eight years, and his skill, dedication, and effectiveness were apparent to all – eventually landing him in the White House serving as an invaluable Assistant to President Barack Obama. I was in the room when the President gave a big heartfelt farewell to Jon, extolling his virtues and accomplishments.”

Congresswoman Schakowsky said she was bursting with “motherly” pride and still is after 20 years. “For me, to meet Jon Samuels was to love him.”
Having been introduced to the Moran Center by current board member Adam Chiss, Samuels says, “It is an incredible honor to serve as a Board Member. I have been so thoroughly impressed with the staff, their commitment to youth in our community and their hard work and talent. It is humbling to serve alongside the other distinguished members of the board.”

Chiss feels just as humbled by Samuels and his commitment to service, “When considering prospective candidates to nominate to the Moran Center’s Board of Directors, I thought how lucky we’d be if we could successfully recruit Jon, knowing what a doer he is; knowing his passion for working towards progressive, inclusive public policies; knowing his talents in working with a range of diverse personalities and harnessing different viewpoints; and knowing he was moving back to his hometown of Evanston after nearly two decades in D.C. and was looking to get involved in a meaningful, impactful way.”     

Samuels believes that President Obama framed the importance of the Moran Center’s mission and the services it provides, as well as the need to reform our criminal justice system, best when he said:

“Justice is not only the absence of oppression-it is the presence of opportunity. Justice is making sure that every young person knows that they are special and their lives matter. Justice is living up to the common creed that I am my brother’s keeper and I am my sister’s keeper. Justice and redemption go hand in hand.”

When asked what Samuels hoped that youth would gain in their involvement with Moran Center programs and services, Samuels shared thoughtfully, “This work is not just about the individuals it serves. Although helping young at-risk Evanston youth meet their potential is reason enough to support the Moran Center, our entire community benefits when we are able to help create better outcomes for our youth. I hope we are able to carry that message to an increasingly broader audience so that even more young people in Evanston (and beyond) and the broader community can benefit even more from the great work done by the Moran Center. The Moran Center is able to make an enormous impact with a relatively small amount of resources and the model is one that should be adopted elsewhere.”