Lanetta Haynes is a straightforward, no-nonsense person. She does not mince words. When she is talking you can almost hear the smile; you most certainly can see it.
Lanetta grew up in a foster home. “It wasn’t a wonderful foster home; it wasn’t a great experience. I was placed in the home with my three siblings. One day, pretty much out of the blue, our foster mom picked us up and we were all very suddenly moved to Denver. We were yanked out of one system (Chicago) and moved to another. It took awhile for Chicago to catch up with Denver and it took almost as long for Denver to catch up with us. Once they did, things didn’t change much. If I thought we needed something, I’d call the caseworker and remind the system that we were still around.
“There were problems in our foster home – abuse and neglect. I will however give my foster mom credit for instilling in me that education was the way to rise above the circumstances in which we found ourselves. That message came through and has served me well.”
Lanetta, her two sisters and brother were returned to Chicago. Two of her siblings were placed in Maryville’s care. Lanetta went straight to a dorm at Northwestern. She graduated in 2000 with a Bachelor’s in Education and Social Policy. She remembers Kathleen Samuelson, who mentored the youth in the Maryville scholarship program. After graduation, Lanetta continued her education and received her Juris Doctor from Loyola University.
“Since a very early age, I have always been focused – first on the importance of education and then recognizing that I wasn’t a normal kid. We, my siblings and I, had been denied many of our rights. I wanted to right those wrongs and help children get what I didn’t. I felt I had an excellent perspective of the child welfare system – because I had experienced it I could contribute even more as an advocate for kids like me – to make it better for them than it was for me.”
Today, Lanetta is the Executive Director of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Cook County where she oversees the day-to-day operations; is responsible for financial management; staffing; program evaluation; policy; and procedures.
Lanetta earned her way. She served as a legal aid for the Cabrini Green Legal Aid Clinic; as an assistant corporate council for the City of Chicago; as a staff attorney for Lifespan Center for Legal Services. She served for two years as a member of the CASA Board of Directors prior to being named CASA Executive Director.
From foster child to avid student to attorney to today: Lanetta Haynes has indeed come “full circle” in advocating for those with whom she so identifies.