One of the nation’s top plaintiffs’ lawyers in the area of children’s law is moving across the country to join a similar but smaller outfit in New York City.
Children’s Rights announced earlier this month that it has hired Leecia Welch as lead counsel for the East Coast firm. Welch is leaving the Oakland, California-based National Center for Youth Law after 16 years in the Bay Area. Her most recent post was senior director of child welfare and legal advocacy. She specialized in child welfare, mental health, immigration and education issues.
Welch has been closely involved in some of the most high-profile cases in youth law of recent years, including the Flores v. Garland case, a nationwide class action on behalf of detained immigrant children that resulted in an enforcement settlement governing children’s release from and treatment in federal immigration custody.
Welch is no stranger to Children’s Rights. She previously served as co-counsel with that firm in M.B. v. Tidball, a groundbreaking settlement regarding the use of psychotropic medications on children in Missouri’s foster care system, and M.B. v. Howard, which addressed extreme housing instability and inadequate mental health care services for foster children in Kansas, Children’s Rights said in announcing the hiring.
“Leecia has an incredibly impressive record of litigation that has demonstrably improved the lives of thousands of children around the country,” said Sandy Santana, executive director of Children’s Rights. “I am thrilled to have her join our team after years of work together, and I look forward to working with her more closely to hold governments accountable for the well-being of children in their care at a time when the COVID-19 crisis has made the need for reform even more urgent.”
Welch is leaving her old post just a month after she was named the winner of the 2021 Janet Reno Endowment Women’s Leadership Award, a Georgetown University-affiliated award for which the National Center for Youth Law’s executive director, Jesse Hahnel, quietly nominated her.
“I feel fortunate to be able to devote my career to children’s advocacy, and it’s an honor and a privilege to be joining Children’s Rights’ legal team,” Welch said of her new move. “I am thrilled to work with Children’s Rights in this new role as we continue our fight to secure systemic reforms that support the well-being of children and families and advance racial justice.”
Welch earned her law degree from Loyola University Chicago School of Law in 1996. She began working in her new role on Sept. 14.