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March 26, 2024

2024 Mark Hardin Award Recipients Announced

The ABA Center on Children and the Law is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2024 Mark Hardin Award for Child Welfare Legal Scholarship and Systems Change are Professor Theo Liebmann from Hofstra University School of Law and Kristen Weber from the National Center for Youth Law.

Professor Theo Liebmann

Professor Liebmann teaches ethics and clinical courses at Hofstra University. He serves as the Executive Director of the Freedman Institute for the Study of Legal Ethics, and has directed the Youth Advocacy Clinic since its inception 25 years ago. Professor Liebmann and his students have represented hundreds of immigrant children in family and appellate courts, as well as in immigration proceedings and removal cases in federal immigration courts. Professor Liebmann has written law review articles and legal journal columns on the overlap between child welfare and immigration law, the impact of family law legal standards on the physical and emotional well-being of youth and children, and ethical problems in the representation of children. He has served as a Special Advisor for the ABA Youth at Risk Commission since 2015, and co-chairs New York State’s Advisory Council on Immigration Issues in Family Court. Prior to his current position at Hofstra, Professor Liebmann was a lawyer for children in dependency and juvenile delinquency cases at the Manhattan office of the Legal Aid Society's Juvenile Rights Division, an investigator at the New York City Commission on Human Rights, and a Community Worker at the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem.

As Mr. Liebmann’s nominators noted:

the care and attention to youth and families that Professor Liebmann provides, if emulated by every lawyer and social worker, would create the safest and kindest child welfare system our nation ever had. When I first heard about the Mark Hardin Award for Child Welfare Legal Scholarship and Systems Change, I had no doubt in my mind that such a distinction was created to recognize Professor Liebmann... [he] created spaces for students to have wonderful discourse and feel heard and seen in a field that often overlooks those from disadvantaged backgrounds. We students are proud to have been in his classroom, observe his integrity and work ethic, and hope to undergo a career that honors all he has instilled in us.”

Kristen Weber

Ms. Weber is the Senior Director of Child Welfare at the National Center for Youth Law where she leads the organization's efforts to transform and build alternatives to child welfare systems. Throughout her career, she has been dedicated to long-term and collaborative work to dismantle structural and institutional racism so that children and youth are safer than they are today and with their families and communities.  She coordinates policy, litigation, and communication strategies to support safer, healthy, and thriving communities and prevent the trauma of family separation. She has written reports about child welfare system contributors to racial disproportionality and disparities experienced by Black and Latine children, youth, and families; systems’ responses to survivors of intimate partner violence and their children; and system contributors to the lack of safety and affirmation experienced by LGBTQIA+ youth and families. In 2020, she helped create and launch the upEND movement, an effort focused on abolishing the current child welfare system and building many different alternatives that will support the safety, care, and healing of children and youth. 

As Ms. Weber’s nominators noted:

Through her leadership and advocacy, Kristen is significantly changing the narrative across the country on society’s responsibility to care for children and families in need without the use of forcible family separation… She deeply embodies the humility, leadership, and compassion for children and families that this award is dedicated to honoring.”

The Mark Hardin Award for Child Welfare Legal Scholarship and Systems Change was created in 2011 to honor the work of Mark Hardin, who served for almost 30 years as the Director of Child Welfare at the ABA Center on Children and the Law. Mark has long been recognized as an early innovator in the child welfare legal field. Child welfare law and practice changed greatly across the country because of Mark’s consistent and humble leadership over three decades.  Previous recipients of this award include:

  • Diane Nunn, California Judicial Council Center for Families, Children & the Courts
  • Angela Adams, JBS International Consultant from New Mexico
  • Frank Cervone, Support Center for Child Advocates, Philadelphia, PA
  • Bob Schwartz, Juvenile Law Center (ret.), Philadelphia, PA
  • Debra Alsaker-Burke, Court Improvement Director, ID
  • Margaret Burt, Attorney, Rochester, NY
  • Amy Karp, Committee for Public Counsel Services, Children and Family Law,  MA
  • Bill Grimm, National Center for Youth Law, Oakland, CA
  • Martin Guggenheim, New York University, NY, NY
  • Judge Ernestine Gray, Orleans Parish Juvenile Court, New Orleans, LA