Location: Phoenix, AZ
Industry: Public Interest Law and Policy for Abused Children
Darcy Olsen had planned to serve as a foster parent to a teen until she had an encounter with a social worker, who told her there were newborns sleeping in offices who needed cribs. She left the hospital that day cradling an abandoned infant.
Within a few years, Olsen had fostered 10 children and adopted four. She recalled one baby who was unable to recover from the abuse he had suffered and died after only 56 days.
“I could not turn away from the brokenness,” she said.
In 2017, Gen Justice was formed to stop violence against children, and Olsen serves as its CEO. The organization serves pro bono in abuse proceedings for children, strengthens laws with support across political lines and protects the constitutional rights of abandoned, abused and trafficked children through legal work.
Gen Justice intends to become a national leader in rescuing children from violence. As it expands its advocacy, pioneering initiatives and public interest law nationwide, it aims to see all abandoned, abused and trafficked children better protected under the law.
Gen Justice launched Arizona’s first and only pro bono Children’s Law Clinic to provide free legal help to abused children. “Serving children and families on a personal level gives the organization a constant view of the real world, leading from where children and communities stand rather than lecturing from the top down,” Osen’s team said. “In a few years, Gen Justice is transforming Arizona’s child welfare landscape and today receives calls daily from families across the country hoping to bring similar change to their local communities.”
Gen Justice has been a leader in extending the right to an attorney to abused children in foster care and helping children grow up with their families, if possible, by requiring immediate searches for relatives who might take them in. The organization also has brought awareness to the sex trafficking of children and moved a reform package to protect children from predators, including stronger penalties for trusted adults in foster care, the immediate reporting of any child who goes missing and a free ID system integrated with search and rescue systems recommended by law enforcement so searches can be effective.
In 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services presented Olsen with its Adoption Excellence Award. The same year, she was also named an Angel in Adoption by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.
The Arizona Capitol Times has recognized Olsen’s leadership several times, including in 2021 as Best Charity Honoree, in 2020 for “leadership and innovation” during the pandemic, in 2019 as Best Activist and in 2017 with its Up and Comer award.
Olsen said that of all Gen Justice’s accomplishments, she is most proud of her associates at the organization, all of whom left successful careers to join a new initiative because they believed so deeply in protecting children.
“Gen Justice doesn’t focus on how to remain influential,” she said. “We are influential because we focus on the work at hand. No drama. No gimmicks. Help the children and make it matter.”
Darcy learned to speak French living in Biarritz and Aix-en-Provence, France.