Susan Conwell, Kids Matter Inc.
Law degree received from: Harvard University, 1992
After spending years advocating for foster children in her care, Susan Conwell thought there must be a better way.
So in 2000, she created Kids Matter Inc., an organization designed to improve the lives of Milwaukee County children involved in the child welfare system.
She said she started the organization after encountering difficulties getting basic services for foster children.
“My husband and I are both attorneys, and we were surprised by how often we had to use our legal skills to get basic services for the kids,” Conwell said, “basic services like health care.”
Before starting Kids Matter, Conwell was an attorney at Foley & Lardner LLP and Legal Action of Wisconsin.
“Sue works tirelessly on behalf of the many foster and kinship families Kids Matter serves, which is more than 2,000 every year,” said Sibylle Tasker, who serves as president of Kids Matters’ board of directors. “Sue provides that crucial connection between our communities’ neediest youth with the services they need most.”
Conwell said she uses her legal background every day. In addition to providing individual legal representation, she also works for systematic change.
“When we saw that disabled and cognitively impaired teens were falling between the cracks in the transfer from foster care to adult services,” she said, “we were able to work with the state, county and court systems to develop a new process that keeps very vulnerable young people safe and protected.”
Kids Matter created programs to provide career counseling to youth or advice on how to finance a college education as they left the foster care system. Conwell said one of her biggest achievements was seeing “her” kids succeed.
“I remember being in the green room getting ready to do a TV interview with a few young adults who had been in foster care and were now getting advanced degrees,” she said. “The producer looked at these very lovely young women getting master’s degrees and asked if I was their mother. They looked at me and said, ‘Well, you could say that.’ I am not their mother. However, it has been enormously rewarding to encourage them along the way to becoming such successful adults.”