Mom on the Move Melanie Shapiro

Lives in: Baltimore County

Children: Isaac, 9; Miles, 6; Elias, 6

Occupation: Director of Juvenile Justice Policy, Maryland Office of the Public Defender

Tell us about your work and what sparked your interest in this field.

Photo by David Stuck

I work for the Maryland Office of the Public Defender and specialize in juvenile defense. A little over a year ago I had the opportunity to move into a policy-focused role, and I am now the director of juvenile justice policy, primarily working on systemic juvenile justice reform. I don’t recall exactly what sparked my interest in this work, but I have wanted to be a juvenile defender since elementary school. In high school, I held two related law internships, including one for an organization that I work with on a professional level now.

What is a typical week like for you?

There is no such thing as a typical week. My professional schedule varies greatly depending on the time of year, and my husband’s job involves some travel. My boys love sports, and I love watching them play. Most weeks are about making sure that everyone is where they need to be, when they need to be there and that they have whatever it is they need with them.

What has surprised you about your career?

I find it amazing that I continue to be challenged. One of the things I love about my job is that no two days are the same. There is always something new to learn. For example, we know so much more now than we did 15 years ago when I started my career as a juvenile defender about adolescent brain development and the impact of trauma on youth. I look forward to continuing to use this knowledge to advocate for juvenile justice reforms in Maryland.

How do you manage work-life balance?

I maintain a comprehensive calendar, and over the weekend, we review the schedule for the week ahead. I also have an excellent support system. My husband is very supportive of my career, and we take a team approach to managing our household. My mom is always willing to help out, and I have a great after-school babysitter. During Maryland’s legislative session, I am incredibly busy. I make every effort the rest of the year to attend school and sporting events and to be home in the evenings. My kids understand that just as there are things that are important to them, my work is important to me. I always try to be home for bedtime.

What is the best advice another mom has given you?

When my oldest son was a couple months old and I was preparing to return to work and second-guessing my decision on child care, another mother told me that no decision I made regarding his care needed to be permanent. She said that if I felt it was not right for him or us that I could change the situation. I have found that advice to be very true for many aspects of parenting, and I remind myself of it frequently as I try to make the best decisions for my children.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I enjoy spending time with my family. My boys call weekend and vacation days “Mommy and Daddy Days.” I also enjoy going out with friends and trying new restaurants. Being involved in the Jewish community is very important to me, so I am active with the Baltimore Jewish Council and Jewish Professional Women of the Associated.

What’s next for you?

Right now what is next is soccer on Saturday for my younger boys, followed by haircuts and baseball on Sunday for my older son.

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