Maria Shriver Meets with Center Clients and Staff

In the simple surroundings of the Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law, four women—former and current clients of the Center– gathered around a table with philanthropist and former First Lady of California, Maria Shriver (pictured left with Harriett Buhai Center Executive Director Betty Nordwind). A journalist by trade, Shriver eased the women into a conversation about their lives. Each woman shared with Shriver the circumstances that led her to seek help from the Center. Engrossed in their personal stories, Shriver was particularly focused on what policy-makers could do to help women facing their challenges. One client explained, “When I went from making $8 an hour to making $10 an hour I no longer qualified for government assistance.” She stressed, “But I still needed it, and had to constantly prove that I was a worthy poor person deserving of government assistance.”

When asked by Shriver what they might do to teach their daughters differently, one client responded that she “would have not returned to her abusive relationship after leaving the first time.” Through their stories the women painted a vivid picture for Shriver, who expressed great admiration for the women for braving the twin obstacles of poverty and abuse.  Afterwards, the women reflected on the special occasion to share their stories with someone as influential as Shriver. One client said she “appreciated the opportunity to share the circumstances that led to where she is now” and that “she would not be in a good situation without the guidance of the Center.”

Since 2009, Shriver has collaborated with the Center for American Progress, putting forth The Shriver Reports, examinations of current cultural transformations affecting American women and families. The third report will be published in the fall and focuses on the economic insecurity of women in America. In a follow-up message to the Center’s staff, Shriver graciously said her visit “was so informative and the work you do is so inspirational.” The experience was beneficial for everyone involved, and the Center hopes to collaborate with Shriver again to improve the lives of women living in poverty.