Leaders of The Pack

Director and Founder, Brooklyn Family Defense Project

Lauren Shapiro has devoted her legal career to representing low-income communities and providing families with the tools to stay together and improve the quality of their children’s lives. A member of the NYC Bar Association’s Council on Children and Families, her years of experience include co-chairing the Kings County Family Court Domestic Violence Working Group, teaching externship classes at Brooklyn Law School, and directing efforts at the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. So, it’s not a huge shocker that Shapiro is also a recipient of the New York County Lawyers Association Public Interest Award. Now, after 20 years with South Brooklyn Legal Services, founding its HIV Unit (one of the first in the country) and managing its Family Law Unit, she directs a diverse team of attorneys, social workers and parent advocates at the Brooklyn Family Defense Project. It’s challenging stuff—BFDP represents half of parents named in child welfare cases filed in Brooklyn by New York City’s Children’s Services. These clients are overwhelmingly low-income families of color who are in the system as the result of underlying poverty in the family, not because of alleged abuse, Shapiro points out. Luckily, we have her and her colleagues working to change the systemic practices that punish families just for being poor.