August 01, 2013

New Mexico Lawyer Angela Adams Receives Child Welfare Award

Claire Chiamulera

The views expressed herein have not been approved by the House of Delegates or the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association, and accordingly, should not be construed as representing the policy of the American Bar Association.

New Mexico attorney Angela Adams received the second annual Mark Hardin Child Welfare Award for Scholarship and Systems Change in Washington, DC on July 12, 2013. The award honors child advocates who work to improve the lives of children and families through legal advocacy and systems reform, a hallmark of Mark Hardin, a longtime lawyer at the ABA Center on Children and the Law for whom the award is named.

The award ceremony kicked off the ABA Center on Children and the Law’s 15th Biannual Conference on Children and the Law, a national conference drawing over 250 child law practitioners on July 12-13, 2013. Mimi Laver, JD, director of state projects at the Center, gave the award to Adams at the conference.

“The people in child welfare are amazing people,” said Adams as she accepted the award. “You are passionate and compassionate and smart . . . I get to do work that I love with people that I think are amazing.” She also noted the significance of the award coming from the ABA: “The other thing that’s wonderful about this award is that it comes from the ABA Center on Children and the Law,” she said. “The [Center] has been so supportive of me personally, but also of the states and of our profession and it just means a lot to receive this award from them.”

Early in her career, Adams served as a child protective services social worker, conducting child protective services investigations, working with families and maltreated children, and performing home studies for adoptive families. In 1984 she began representing the public child welfare agency in New Mexico in dependency matters. Soon after, she was promoted to concurrently serve as the agency’s general counsel and chief children’s court attorney. She continued in the role of chief children’s court attorney for many years, except for periods when she served as director of the state child welfare agency from 1989-1991, then again from 2006-2009.

During her agency leadership, Adams emphasized that practice must address the needs and best interests of the children being served and must not occur in isolation from their families. Recognizing the importance of family and culture, she stewarded the state’s first intergovernmental agreements between the nation’s largest Indian tribes and the state under the Indian Child Welfare Act. She later helped develop the national process for certifying children’s attorneys through the National Association of Counsel for Children. She also led a statewide effort to rework the framework for representing children in New Mexico. 

Now retired from state service, Adams works to improve child welfare practice in other states and on a national level through work with the federal Department of Health and Human Services and the Children’s Bureau. She was recently selected by Unicef to work in Jordan to improve how they do child welfare work.

Adams has served on multiple boards in New Mexico and nationally. She is known for approaching her work with passion and commitment, always emphasizing collaborative inclusiveness and transparency. She has sought ways to bring voices to children served by the child welfare agency, including providing support for a state foster youth advisory board that consults on legislative advocacy for children in care. 

Known for focusing on relationships in all aspects of her work, whether in New Mexico or when working with other state or national organizations, Adams ensures children and families are safe and well served and brought together. Throughout her career, she has been a tireless advocate who recognizes and gives credit to others.