The Children’s Trust is honoring local heroes who make the lives of children better. Winners include Judge Cindy S. Lederman, who will receive the David Lawrence Jr. Champion for Children Award and Earl Maulding, director of theater for young audiences at Actors’ Playhouse, who will receive the Excellence in Direct Service Award.
The awards will be presented during a June 14 ceremony at Jungle Island.
“Cindy Lederman really stood out to us this year,” said Emily Cardenas, The Children’s Trust director of communications. “She has brought science into the courtroom. She has played a key role in bringing all kinds of research into the courtroom. So judges, when they make decisions about children, they can do it with knowledge.”
Judge Lederman is thrilled to be recognized for her work. She became a lawyer because she thought she could help stop injustice.
“I went into law thinking that; then I went into public service, which I liked much better. Then I went to being a judge,” she said. “To me, [juvenile court] it’s the most important court in the trial system. You have the opportunity to change lives. It’s where the most compassionate people work, and everyone works together.”
Juvenile court judges see more than 100-125 families a week, usually 20 cases a day. Those numbers are daunting, but Lederman has kept her compassion and her will to do more for the children.
She said the parents who end up in her courtroom would do well to try to see the world through the eyes of their children.
“And know everything they do impacts their child,” she said.
Lederman is a fan of the foster care system when it works.
“The research shows kids in foster care, their academic performance improves,” she said. “There are a lot of good things that happen in foster care. Most of the families we help. Most of the children we help.”
The success stories include kids who go on to college out of foster care, which might not have been possible otherwise.
“We have a child at Georgetown Law School, one at Mt. Holyoke,” Lederman said. “Aside from the ones that are in school locally at FIU and UM. They would never have been able to achieve those things without foster care.”
Children who have been in foster care receive help to go to college.
Maulding is happy to be recognized for his work.
“I’ve the fortunate opportunity to be with Actors’ Playhouse since the beginning and started the theater for young audience programs — the shows, the classes, the outreach projects with schools,” he said.
This is the eighth year of the Young Talent Big Dreams program Actors’ Playhouse puts on in conjunction with The Children’s Trust.
Maulding also does a program with the City of Miami’s Department of Disabilities every other year.
Because of his work, there are young people working on Broadway or touring the world as actors.
“The award is for a body of work and all the lives I’ve touched,” he said.
Over that time, they have hosted 1-1.5 million youngsters.
“We bring in 50,000-60,000 kids every year,” he said.
He started as a performer in the first two shows at Actors’ Playhouse. They knew he had extensive experience at children’s theater and asked him to join the company. He was happy to do so.
“Fortunately, 30 years later it’s worked out very well, for me for the community and the theater,” he said.