Claire James, a CFR Board Member, writes on her experiences serving on the Board and Junior Board of CFR.
I found CFR during my first year of law school while looking for a public interest organization to join. I had written my master’s thesis on the child welfare system and wanted to get involved in an organization in New York working to improve the system. CFR’s Junior Board was a perfect fit. When I joined, there were only a few members and the Junior Board was still trying to figure out what its role within CFR should be. We reshaped it to mimic the Board of Directors’ structure and identified our responsibilities as fundraising and fostering awareness of CFR and its mission among young professionals.
At first, I didn’t fully appreciate CFR’s model, which combines the skills of a social worker, a lawyer and a parent advocate to work with a family in crisis. However, I came to realize that this model is the answer to breaking the inter-generational cycle of poverty and foster care. The vast majority of cases that are labeled as parental neglect involve issues rooted in poverty (housing, food, clothing, etc.). CFR works with a family to access services and resources and in so doing, enables a family to live together safely with as little disruption to the child’s life as possible.
During my nearly four years on the Junior Board, my favorite event was definitely the Backpack Drive! The Drive is an annual effort to raise funds and donations to provide backpacks stuffed with school supplies to CFR’s families, to ensure children get off to a good start each school year. During the four years I was involved with the Junior Board, it was really rewarding to watch CFR grow both in terms of the number of families it was able to serve and the increasing use of its model by other organizations and systems throughout the country. When I graduated from school, I started thinking that it might be interesting to transition to the Board of Directors, which is tasked with, among other things, helping CFR make strategic decisions regarding the direction of the organization. In early 2012, I transitioned onto the “Big Board.”
My service on both Boards has been really rewarding professionally and personally. Board service has helped me learn to forge relationships with people in different fields and with different backgrounds and it is a fulfilling complement to my job as a corporate lawyer. My involvement with CFR has helped me feel connected to a cause that is important to me and I would encourage everyone to become involved with the organization.
Many young professionals think they are too busy or they do not have the resources to be involved with a charitable organization. But my experience has been that as long as you are clear about your capacity, organizations are happy to accept whatever assistance you can provide. Whatever your level of involvement, the experience is really what you make of it. My experiences on the Board and Junior Board have been deeply rewarding because I know CFR’s mission is important to improving society.
Claire James is an Associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP in the Mergers & Acquisitions Group. She has been a member of the CFR Board of Directors since 2012 and was previously a Junior Board member since 2008. She graduated from New York University School of Law in 2010.