We are pleased to announce the establishment of the Margaret Winchester Award to honor excellence in child welfare advocacy, in recognition of Margaret’s long-lasting and deep commitment to her CAFL clients and helping others provide high quality representation.
From the moment she took on the challenge of representing CAFL clients until her passing in 2015, Margaret Winchester was a zealous, committed advocate who believed with all her heart that children and parents deserved the highest level of advocacy. No one worked harder or took the responsibility of being a role model more seriously than Margaret. She brought her passion and her work ethic to every role she played for CPCS, and she inspired CAFL private attorneys and staff to follow her lead. Margaret made it her mission to teach and to model for others a sincere commitment to the highest quality representation for the families of Massachusetts. She did not merely talk about zealous advocacy; she lived it.
In every phase of her legal career, Margaret served as a teacher and model for staff and for private attorneys. Margaret joined the CAFL trial panel in 1990 and quickly stepped up to mentor others who had recently begun working as child welfare attorneys. Her mentees were uniformly well-trained; she supported them and taught them by example. She also held their feet to the fire, instilling in them a belief in the importance of the practice. Margaret next served as the Regional Coordinator for Worcester County, providing guidance and direction for her colleagues while ensuring that they received support from the CAFL administrative office. Margaret was an invaluable resource for the attorneys of Worcester County, as well as for the Worcester County courts and judges. In addition, Margaret handled dozens of appeals and mentored newly-certified appellate attorneys. In 2000 Margaret became Co-Director of the CAFL Program and as such provided oversight and support for CAFL attorneys throughout the state. Her teaching legacy continued as she conducted numerous trainings for staff and private counsel and helped oversee CAFL’s administrative staff.
With the expansion of CAFL’s staff operations in 2006, Margaret was the obvious choice to be the founding Attorney in Charge for the new Worcester office. Over the next eight years, the office grew from three attorneys, one social worker, and one support staff to more than 20 full-time staff. Margaret loved the challenge of managing an office comprised of mostly brand-new attorneys. As Attorney in Charge, she developed the gold standard for supervision. She also helped establish a model for the effective, client-centered use of social workers. Those who were lucky enough to work for Margaret knew that her expectations were high. But Margaret was also supportive of, and kind to, staff who were struggling. She was also generous with her time and assistance to the other Attorneys in Charge and the CAFL Training Unit.
Establishing the Margaret Winchester Award will help continue Margaret’s work by recognizing others who serve as model advocates for children and parents in Massachusetts.
Information about the May 24, 2016, awards ceremony and nominations will be announced soon.