Meet Cara Baldari, Legal Counsel and Senior Policy Director at First Focus

I connected with Cara via social media after I stumbled upon her professional bio on her company website.  Cara is conducting interesting and meaningful work.  Read about her story here: 

1) Can you please provide a brief summary of your professional background?

I have been with First Focus since graduating law school in 2011. I started at First Focus as a Policy Research Associate, where I supported the legislative and regulatory advocacy work of the First Focus policy staff in the areas of child poverty, child welfare, children’s health and mental health, children’s environmental health, and child nutrition.

In 2014, I became the Senior Policy Director for Poverty and Family Economics, Housing and Homelessness and Legal Counsel. In this position, I lead advocacy efforts for policy reform to increase low-income family budgets and lift children and families out of poverty and homelessness.

2) While in law school, did you know that you wanted to work in your current field?

I went to law school with the intent to do policy work, and so I aimed for experiences to explore what this meant and how a law degree could be utilized for policy work. For example, I worked as an intern at a legal aid, where I represented low-income clients in landlord/tenant disputes. This experience was invaluable in illustrating how federal benefit programs are implemented and where reform is needed. I also completed an internship in DC with the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, which gave me firsthand experience with policy advocacy work in the areas of homelessness and poverty.

3) You are the Senior Policy Director and Legal Counsel at First Focus.  Could you tell the readers about these positions?

In my current position, I do federal advocacy, education and research on policies to improve family economics security and lift children out of poverty and homelessness.

Some of my day-to-day activities include working with Congressional offices on the introduction, passage, and reauthorization of legislation, as well as with federal agencies and the Administration on executive and regulatory actions. I attend Congressional hearings and briefings, as well as attend and conduct coalition meetings that include other advocates and stakeholders.

In addition, I spend a lot of time drafting advocacy materials such as letters of support, fact sheets, Congressional testimony, blog posts, and action alerts, as well as educational materials such as reports.

4) What causes and issues does First Focus address? 

The mission of First Focus is to ensure that children are a priority in federal budget and policy decisions. We lead a comprehensive advocacy strategy on a range of policy areas affecting children, including but not limited to: family economics, housing and homelessness, child health, child nutrition, child welfare, childcare, early childhood education, K-12 education, children of immigrants, children in the federal budget, tax policy, child safety, and child rights.

5) Do you have any final advice for newly minted female lawyers/JDs who are embarking on their careers?

Do not limit your job search to just the practice of law. A JD provides you with a range of knowledge and skills that are transferable to many fields and types of positions.  Even if you begin on a path that you do not enjoy, there is always a way to sell the experience you gained for a different job and therefore, don’t view any opportunity as a waste of time. Networking really does make a difference. Take the time to research the organizations or companies in the area of law or career field you are focusing on, and reach out to a range of people for informational interviews.

6) Is there anything that I did not mention that would be helpful for the readers to know about your career or your current positions?

Please feel free to reach out to me, I am happy to offer further advice and be helpful with job searches.

Cara Baldari is the Senior Policy Director for Family Economics and Legal Counsel at First Focus, a national bipartisan children’s advocacy center dedicated to making children and families the priority in federal policy and budget decisions. In this role, she aims to increase federal investment in economic supports that can make a dramatic difference in low-income family budgets and lift children and families out of poverty.

In her time at First Focus, she has worked a number of issues affecting children living in poverty, including child and family homelessness, child welfare policy, childhood asthma, child nutrition, and children’s health policy. Her role also included assisting in the project management of the State Policy Advocacy & Reform Center (SPARC), a national resource center aimed at improving outcomes for children and families involved with the child welfare system, and the Childhood Asthma Leadership Coalition (CALC), a national, multi-sector effort to improve policymaking around childhood asthma.

In addition, she co-authored America’s Report Card 2012: Children in the U.S., which was co-released with Save the Children and provides a holistic picture of unmet needs in five areas of a child’s life: economic security, early childhood education, K-12 education, permanence and stability, and health and safety.

Before coming to First Focus, her previous experiences focused on the areas of affordable housing and homelessness, which included her work advising and representing low-income clients in landlord tenant disputes in Pittsburgh, PA. Through this work, she witnessed firsthand the policy changes that are needed to prevent homelessness and better assist low-income families.

Cara received a BA in History and Political Science with a minor in Legal Studies from the University of Pittsburgh, and a JD from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

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