Congratulations to the Vermont Paralegal Organization’s (VPO) Robyn Sweet for winning this year’s Individual Pro Bono Award during the National Federation of Paralegal Association’s (NFPA) convention in Cleveland. The VPO Board nominated Robyn for this award in recognition for the many hats she wears at home and in the community.
She is a biological parent, a stepparent, an adoptive parent, and a foster parent. At the time of her nomination, she was a paralegal at Cleary Shahi & Aicher, PC in Rutland Vermont and she served as Secretary on the Board of the Vermont Foster/Adoptive Family Association (VFAFA). She recently transitioned to a Risk Management Specialist position to Rutland Regional Hospital and resigned her board position.
To paraphrase a recent story in the Rutland Herald, as a foster parent, Robyn signs up for a little bit of heart break to help another family be successful. Foster children are abruptly thrown into a legal situation they often don’t understand when the state takes custody of them for their protection. They are among the most vulnerable populations involved in the legal system. They succeed when they have positive adults in their lives – people like Robyn – who show them that they care.
Robyn opens her home to children, at times on short notice and with no real expectation of how long they will be with her. She advocates for the child’s needs wherever it is necessary: at school, in medical settings, with Vermont’s Department of Children and Families (DCF), and everywhere else. She becomes their caregiver while their parents work through services to help them become safer parents. She and her husband, Bill, have been foster parents since 2014. They have had over 40 children in their home, sometimes for a day and sometimes for a year or more.
Robyn has been involved with VFAFA for about 7 years. She helps enact their mission “…to empower, support, and unify foster and adoptive families by strengthening the systems that care for Vermont’s children.” She has served as Vice President in the past. Robyn’s primary role as Secretary is to communicate with foster and kinship families to make sure they have the information they need to best care for the children in their homes. Additionally, she is helping them revise their bylaws. VFAFA president Debbie Boyce greatly appreciates her paralegal expertise as they make these revisions. The organization has been in existence for 40 years and the bylaws have not historically had the attention they have needed. Robyn also helps the Board award funds for children in care to participate in special activities or for scholarships for higher education.
In addition to these tasks, Robyn is working with Vermont’s Foster/Kin Care Manager to develop a welcome letter for all who accept children in their homes through DCF. Because of Robyn’s past experiences, she has a unique perspective to offer to those who are welcoming children in their homes.