Category: Georgetown Magazine, Spring 2023

Title:Advocating for others

Author: Gabrielle Barone
Date Published: April 17, 2023
a woman sits on a bench with four children, all wearing red
Darcy Olsen, pictured here with her family, started an organization that has helped 500,000 children. Photo: Sandra Tenuto

Even before founding The Center for the Rights of Abused Children, an organization to protect and advocate for children, Darcy Olsen (SFS’93) was working for social change.

While her family was reading the comics and sports, Olsen was searching the newspaper for the op-ed pages. “I knew that I wanted to be in public policy to make things better and to do my part for social change,” says Olsen, “and then it was just really a question of what shape that would take over the years.”

In college, Olsen was part of the District Action Project, a service-minded housing option in Copley Hall, and volunteered for the Coalition for the Homeless.

“At Georgetown, there were just endless opportunities for service all around,” says Olsen, who embraces the biblical concept, “Love never fails.”

“Love can take the shape of buying an extra sleeping bag and donating it to a local shelter where they need it,” she says. “It can take the shape of being an advocate for somebody who doesn’t have an attorney in the courtroom. It can even take the shape of changing laws.”

This became apparent when Olsen adopted her four children, and realized she, the adoptive parent, wasn’t asked about the child until the end of the courtroom proceedings. She realized the child, “who should be the most important part of the proceeding… has no voice at all.”

Inspired by that moment, Olsen founded The Center for the Rights of Abused Children, formerly Gen Justice, in 2017 while raising her family.

“Foster care is nothing but a system of laws,” says Olsen. “If you don’t have someone to enforce those laws on your behalf, they’re essentially meaningless.”

The center estimates they’ve helped 500,000 foster children. They have been involved with enacting Arizona state and federal legislation to provide foster children with free photo identification, establishing guidelines so children’s family members can more quickly be reunified, limiting delays in foster children’s court cases, and appointing an attorney to every child in foster care.

The Arizona Capitol Times named Olsen a 2022 Leader of the Year in Public Policy for Social Services, and she was awarded the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Adoption Excellence Award in 2020. The Center was recently awarded $1 million from the Arizona Governor’s office to provide pro bono legal support for children in need.

Eventually, Olsen wants to address missing persons and foster-child trafficking, and the foster care aging-out pitfall. “If we can stop that, every child will get a family before their childhood is over.”

More News

a woman comes out of a set of glass doors

Part of an ever-growing experiential learning ecosystem, the Capitol Applied Learning Labs offers undergraduate students of all majors the opportunity to live and work in downtown DC for a semester.

students posing by glacier

Students in the Science, Technology, and International Affairs program gain practical skills for careers in a wide range of fields, including environmental science, technology policy, and global health.

Clockwise from top: Amy Kenny, the inaugural associate director of the university’s Disability Cultural Initiative and author of My Body Is Not a Prayer Request; Tiffany Yu (B’10), founder of the student group Diversability, now a nationwide community network; and Dominic DeRamo (C’23), student advocate and member of the Georgetown Disability Alliance.

The Disability Cultural Initiative is the most recent among an expanding number of academic and student programs designed to promote disability access, awareness, and empowerment.