In 1992, the Edward Edelman Children’s Court of Los Angeles was built with the intention that Los Angeles would have a courthouse “that was friendly and sensitive to the needs of abused and neglected children whose cases are heard in our juvenile dependency courts”(Judge Michael Nash, 2016). The Rotary Club of Los Angeles led a public-private partnership that was the first of its kind to build and furnish the courthouse, raising over the stated goal and was necessary.
When the project was complete, the excess funds were left in the custody of LA5. The Club leaders at the time created a separate endowment, that lives under the supervision of the Foundation. Later, Club leadership determined that the yield of those funds should be used to support the Children of the Court.
As a result, today, the Club’s Children’s Court Committee distributes grants to children of the court for needs that cannot be addressed by their agents or foster families.
The Club has a long history of service in support of the Children of the Court - partnering with the Court Administration and other organizations such as the Alliance for Children’s Rights and the Department of Children and Family Services. National Adoption Day being a service project that represents this deep partnership.
The Children’s Court Committee oversees all gift acknowledgements, the grant distribution process, the request evaluation process, and the annual National Adoption Day service project.
In 2004-05 the Children’s Court Committee was reconstituted under the leadership of President Ben Tunnell. A generous legacy gift from Robert Gunzel, combined with funds previously designated for foster youth in Los Angeles, brought the fund to nearly $500,000. The mission of the newly formed Children’s Court Committee was to grant funding, up to $1,000 per child, for special needs for children who are wards of the court when no other funding is available. The Rotary Club of Los Angeles partnered with the Los Angeles County Department of Children Family Services and the Los Angeles County Dependency Court to find the most deserving applicants for these grants.
Los Angeles County provides for the fundamental needs for over 20,000 children within the foster care system. However, special needs that will help the children grow, prosper and enjoy their lives often times have no funding. Most children in the foster care system come from backgrounds where they have been physically, sexually or psychologically abused. They have been removed from their homes and made wards of the courts for their own protection. Often their parents are absent, incarcerated or deceased. Some have witnessed their own parent’s murder. Siblings are often separated and seldom get to visit with those they love the most. Needless to say these children have had very difficult lives.
The Children's Court Committee has 16 dedicated members who believe this is one of the most rewarding Rotary committees they have ever served on and feel blessed to be able to help these very needy young people. Morgan Stanley Smith Barney manages the money and distributes the checks to the individuals.
The committee distributes approximately $20,000 every year. The following examples illustrate how the money has been used:
5 young people who were emancipated from the foster care system upon reaching 18 years old were each given $1,000 college or trade school scholarships.
10 youth were sent to the Debutante Ball, sponsored by Supervisor Yvonne Burke, where they dressed formally, learned to dance and practiced social etiquette.
Funding to participate in cheerleading, drill team and sports programs.
Approval for medical expenses not available through MediCal, dental work, glasses and psychological treatments.
Senior expenses for class rings, year books, prom nights and photos.
Musical instruments and lessons.
Participation in the Young Marines and Law Enforcement Explorer programs were funded.
Funeral expenses were paid to help a young man bury his 2-year old son.
If you’d like further information, please email Bruce Murdoch.