Executive Director, Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights
Maria Woltjen is the Executive Director and founder of the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights. The Young Center’s primary work is to advocate for the best interests—safety and well-being—of unaccompanied and separated immigrant children. As part of this work, the Young Center serves as Child Advocate (best interests guardian ad litem) for trafficking victims and unaccompanied immigrant children pursuant to the Wilberforce Trafficking Victim Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008. Ms. Woltjen’s focus is on reforming the immigration system to incorporate a best interests standard and developing a dedicated immigration justice system for children. Throughout her career, Ms. Woltjen has focused on children’s rights, at the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, the ChildLaw Center at Loyola University of Chicago School of Law, and now at the University of Chicago Law School. Ms. Woltjen is the recipient of the 1996 Public Interest Law Initiative Distinguished Alumni Award, the 2013 American Constitution Society Ruth Goldman Award and the 2017 UNICEF Chicago Humanitarian Award.