On June 15, Andy Block was presented with the Virginia State Bar’s 2007 Legal Aid Award. The award recognizes creativity and innovation in advocacy, experience and excellence in service and influence beyond the recipient’s area of service. Block was selected by the state bar for the creation of and his work with JustChildren, the child-advocacy program he founded in 1998 and has since grown to a staff of 11. Both Legal Aid Justice Center Executive Director Alex Gulotta and the First Lady of Virginia, Anne Holton, wrote letters of strong support to the Bar on his behalf.
"His work in the area of children’s rights particularly with respect to special education law has been remarkable," wrote Holton. "He and his staff—in the program he’s created out of nothing—have done extraordinary work with life-changing results for individual young people and families and have also focused successfully on bringing about systemic change."
In his letter of support, Gulotta calls Block "one of the most successful and influential child advocacy attorneys in the United States." Block and his staff attorneys represent children in the Virginia Juvenile Justice System, as well as organize community outreach and education for families throughout the state. JustChildren has helped hundreds of children and their families access critical services, such as education, health and mental health. It also trains thousands of lawyers state-wide to act as effective child advocates. Block and his staff also work in Richmond to help craft a more just state policy toward children.
Because Virginia has a citizen legislature and is not overly bureaucratic, Block says there are fewer levels of government to wade through, though its size does present different challenges. "It’s somewhat lean and mean," Block says. "Your ability to contact and interact with state legislatures and decision makers is probably greater than it might be in other states."