Sharon Chickering

At the end of my junior year in high school in the early 1970’s, as I transitioned to the University of Georgia early admission, who knew that the majority of my career would be spent in the practice of law? Sesame Street was all the rage, and I went to journalism school to work in children’s television programming. Having spent that junior year living with my sister, her husband, and two children aged 3 and 5, I was wowed with power of children’s programming to reach and change children’s lives — regardless of their financial status. Sesame Street and the Electric Company harnessed the power of learning and Mr. Rogers the comfort of a safe, secure and kind world. Having worked at two daycares at that point in my life, I knew the importance of nurturing both the intellectual and emotional in children to give them the best start in life. 

I never became the children’s television programmer I envisioned at 17, but the desire to make a difference in children’s lives never went away. I continued to work at daycare centers while attending college, and although I did not have children of my own, I threw myself into the blessing of many nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews. My legal practice was primarily focused on domestic relations (including work as a guardian ad litem and representing children in delinquency cases), and on a daily basis I navigated the domestic world of the child in all its facets —  the difficult situation children with separating parents faced, the brick wall that poverty and want often imposed between children and their learning and health, and the dark world of abuse and neglect. To the extent that my role allowed, I tried to make the child’s experience better by pushing a parent to see the situation through their child’s eyes, when I represented the parent; by advocating directly to the court for the child’s best interest, when I represented the child as guardian ad litem; by getting my juvenile clients, when facing delinquency charges, into programs that could improve the trajectory of their lives; and by working with opposing counsel to get our clients to reach arrangements that were best for their children, even if it meant that neither of them “won”. I certainly saw and recognized what a difference programs such as CHIP and CASA and Family Service could make in family’s lives.  

Right now, I am a retired professional, not a retired person, having recently concluded 36 years of the practice of law in Roanoke, Virginia, primarily focused on all aspects of family law. I am a 1986 graduate of George Mason University School of Law and hold an undergraduate and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in English from Virginia Tech. Prior to attending law school, I worked as a copy editor at newspapers in Georgia and Virginia and taught Freshman English while working on my master’s degree at Virginia Tech. I am a past state president and board member of the Virginia Women Attorneys Association. Through service to CHIP of the Roanoke Valley, I hope to  further the betterment of children and families in a concrete way.