Bar Examinee's Foster Experience Fuels Pursuit of Change
By Csaba Sukosd | August 23, 2022
Each Ohio Bar Examination is full of people who want to improve the legal system. For prospective attorney Laila-Rose Hudson, her passion is to reform child welfare.
Hudson, who overcame struggles as a foster child, recently took the two-day exam among 970 applicants - the most people to sit for the test since 2016. The bar exam - administered twice a year by the Supreme Court of Ohio - is the last step for Hudson and the others to become a lawyer.
"The best thing that my life experiences did for me were to help me become resilient," she said.
Throughout her time in foster care, Hudson endured educational interruptions, housing instability, as well as sexual and emotional abuse. Even as a youth in Alabama experiencing all that trauma, she knew many other children were also suffering. That awareness and motivation to prevent other kids from similar hurt is what inspired Hudson to pursue a career in law.
"I took seriously that I was in a position to do something about it. I knew it wouldn't be easy, but I knew firsthand just how much it mattered," she said.
Like most foster youth, Hudson didn't have financial or personal support when considering college. Those disadvantages for foster kids have resulted in a less than 3% graduation rate from a four-year university, according to a study by the University of Chicago. Hudson beat the odds with her devotion to a larger cause and her work ethic. She secured scholarships and juggled a full-time job as she graduated college with honors.
Managing a large workload prepared the alum for demanding studies the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law and the complex matters of child welfare policy. During summers, Hudson interned at state and federal organizations that review the foster system and develop recommendations to improve the experience for children and families. Her work with the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute - a national nonprofit - is where she realized a complete reversal of what she encountered as a foster child. She went from feelings of being ignored and forgotten in the system a decade earlier to being heard by influential people about necessary systemic change.
"The first summer I interned, we were invited to brief First Lady Melania Trump," Hudson said. "I'll remember that forever, that I do have something important to say and important people do care to hear it."
Hudson's dedication to learn about the law and help others remains a guide for her legal and personal journeys. On top of macro-level improvements, she wants to have a direct impact on foster youth through guardian work and, eventually, as a foster parent.
"Choosing to love these children and youth, advocate for them and provide them a stable and safe home are some of the most difficult tasks facing society. But these actions matter more than words can convey," Hudson said.