Children's Rights benefit brings compelling stories to light, raises awareness

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A crowd of approximately 300 guests gathered for the Ninth Annual Children’s Rights Benefit on Wednesday, October 29, to honor several extraordinary individuals whose efforts have made a difference for children in foster care, and to raise awareness and support for the national advocacy organization’s tireless work to bring sustainable change to failing child welfare systems across the country.

“We see these kids as our children,” Sandy Santana, interim executive director of Children’s Rights, told the crowd gathered at the Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan. “Think of the rejection, abandonment and fear a 7-year old child feels when he hears a knock on the door and is taken away from his parents … imagine that that 7-year-old never finds a forever family, turns 18 and has to face the world homeless and alone.”
Keynote speaker Crystal Bentley gave a gripping account of her experience in foster care and eventual road to success.

“In some homes, I was beaten or verbally abused by the foster parents. In others, I was molested by their children,” she bravely began. “When I aged out of foster care, I was lured into the life of prostitution….this happens to so many young women right under our noses.”
Bentley described an arduous path to rebuilding her life, which brought the crowd to tears and inspired a standing ovation. “My past is the best fuel to drive me forward, and I look at it from a different perspective: I am no longer a victim.”

Children’s Rights was incredibly proud to honor human rights activist Molly Gochman, Grammy Award-winning artist Shaffer “Ne-Yo” Smith, and Jared Bobrow of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, with a Children’s Rights Champion Award for their outstanding commitment to improving the lives of children in foster care.

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