Rebekah Rashidfarokhi
Chicago Volunteer Legal Services
Children’s issues, guardianship

Rebekah Rashidfarokhi has long been an advocate for the most vulnerable members of society. As an undergraduate and law student, Rashidfarokhi volunteered for programs dedicated to supporting immigrants, refugees, and victims of domestic violence. These programs included, among others, an immigrants’ rights organization at the U.S.-Mexico border and a human rights project in Bogota, Colombia that targeted the crime of human trafficking.

It’s little surprise, then, that Rashidfarokhi has pursued a career with Chicago Volunteer Legal Services, providing free representation to low-income Chicagoans.

Rashidfarokhi spent her first four years at CVLS working on a variety of matters, including family law, guardianship of adults and children, and mortgage foreclosure defense. In 2011 Rashidfarokhi was named director of CVLS’ Guardian Ad Litem for Minors Program. She now supervises more than 200 volunteer lawyers, including those from some of Chicago’s largest law firms, helping them to make a real difference for children in need.

Bob Glaves, executive director of The Chicago Bar Foundation, says that Rashidfarokhi works on cases that often involve high stakes for children. By the time these children reach the Probate Division, their parents have been unable to care for them. Now, these minors are caught in the middle of litigation over who can best care for them going forward. Many have suffered significant trauma, including abuse, neglect, the death of one or both parents, homelessness or exposure to violence.

Rashidfarokhi has been a tireless advocate for these children, Glaves said.

“Rebekah is trusted by all concerned: the court, her many volunteers and, most importantly, the kids and families whose lives are being decided,” Glaves said. “Rebekah uses her wisdom and experience to improve policies impacting these cases. She has worked with The Chicago Bar Association and a diverse range of stakeholders on both court rules and policies as well as legislation. She brings that same mix of experience, skills and a keen ability to bring people together to build consensus.”

Susan DeCostanza with Ruben M. Garcia & Associates in Wilmette said that Rashidfarokhi has the perfect temperament for the work she does. As DeCostanza says, Rashidfarokhi’s cases do not wrap up quickly. Children who are getting acquainted or reacquainted with parents or guardians need time and support. This work is always difficult. But DeCostanza says that when working with low-income families, finding resources to support children and adults often takes heroic efforts.

“Rebekah is not only a leader in the Illinois legal community, but she is absolutely the future of Illinois legal aid,” DeCostanza said. “Rebekah is already looked to and relied upon professionally by everyone from lawyers fresh out of law school to lawyers who are 30 years into their career.”

Over the past year, Rashidfarokhi has gathered and trained a large team of volunteers to respond to the urgent needs of Chicago’s immigrant community. With the support of pro bono attorneys, Rashidfarokhi has held over 30 community clinics, helping hundreds of undocumented parents create legal guardianship plans for their children in the event of the parents’ deportation.

Rashidfarokhi has also found time for volunteer work outside of her duties with CVLS. She actively supports the work of the National Immigrant Justice Center and has held leadership roles at The Chicago Bar Association, including serving as chair of the CBA Legal Aid Committee this year. She also serves on the Child Law Section Council of the Illinois State Bar Association, the Pastoral Council of Saint Clement Parish and the Board of Trustees of the Blowitz-Ridgeway Foundation.