Have You Met?
Hometown: Los Angeles
Education: Juris Doctor/Georgetown University; BA University of Southern California
Profession: Managing Partner, The Shanker Law Firm, PLC
Story by: Colleen Westberg
Have You Met Tamera Shanker?
A petite 5’1” frame belies the fact that Tamera Shanker is a force to be reckoned with. “I’ll admit that some people have even described me as a ‘pit bull’….it’s all good.” She laughs. But in her professional law career and nonprofit work, she uses this tenacity to address the needs of Arizona’s large foster children population. “I abhor injustice, and can be quite outspoken about my beliefs. Occasionally people appreciate that!”
As managing partner with her husband, Howard, at The Shanker Law Firm, PLC, Tamera focuses on Children’s Advocacy, Adoption Law, Juvenile Law, and Civil and Administrative Appeals. She advocates for children’s interests in the foster care system, and has represented hundreds of abused and neglected children. “I also serve as legal counsel for the Navajo Nation regarding Indian Child Welfare Cases in state court. I live and breathe foster care 24/7.”
So it was a natural step for Tamera to devote her nonprofit time to the Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation (AFFCF). “You might say I got involved with AFFCF purely selfishly. I was a Guardian ad Litem for foster children in Arizona and saw first-hand so many things these children needed, but CPS (Child Protective Services) can only provide the basics. I knew that many children could benefit from activities such as music therapy, tutoring, participation in sports, arts, and other organized activities, etc. I was invited to an AFFCF board meeting nearly two decades ago by a fellow Juvenile Law attorney and board member. I realized AFFCF filled in the gaps left by CPS, and provided a viable resource where foster children’s needs could be met. I joined AFFCF, heart and soul, 17 years ago and have felt privileged to be a part of this organization all these years. ”Tamera took over the reins of AFFCF’s Scholarship Program 15 years ago as its Program Chair. “One of my proudest accomplishments is the development of the Blavin/AFFCF Scholar Program at Northern Arizona University.”
Shanker arrived in Phoenix by a circuitous route. “I left California as a teen to go to boarding school in England, while my family lived and worked in the Middle East. I then returned to California years later to study for my undergraduate degree. I earned my Juris Doctor in Washington, DC. My husband and I were courted to come to Arizona in 1993 and have been here since. What I appreciate most about Arizona is its distinct physical beauty. Within hours we can go from the metro area to the mountains and other rural areas. There are many hidden treasures in Arizona, and we have a diversity that is easily accessible.” In Tamera’s rare spare moments she enjoys running three trailheads near her home that abuts South Mountain, and writes her fascinating blog: http://boo-bee-trap.blogspot.com/ that details her unique way of dealing with metastatic breast cancer.
She remains excited and confident of AFFCF’s abilities and contributions to Arizona: “We have accomplished so much in our 29 years of existence! Our goal is to touch the life of every child in foster care -- and I’m proud of the creativity we use to meet the growing challenge of addressing the needs of these children. We are a private foundation, the only one of its kind in the state. I’m also pleased with the growth of our Scholarship Program. We not only provide funds for education and training, but we also strive to be a resource for former foster youth pursuing post-secondary educations. We will go with these youth to freshman orientation, match them up with mentors, and provide information and assistance as they develop their independence and self-sufficiency. Nationally, only 2-3% of former foster youth go on to engage in any form of post-secondary education or training. Through AFFCF’s efforts, nearly 9% of Arizona’s former foster youth are pursuing an education. It is our aim to increase this number ten-fold. ”
Tamera Shanker tenaciously believes Nelson Mandela’s statement: “He said ‘There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children’. If we don’t take communal responsibility and address the needs of abused and neglected children in our society, we will all pay the price.”
What are your local volunteer activities? 17 years on the Executive Committee of the Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation (AFFCF); Planning Committee for the first National Adoption Day Event for the Pinal County Superior Court; Judge Pro Tem (3 years), Maricopa County Superior Court; and 4 years on the Maricopa County Foster Care Review Board.
Who inspired you to give back to your community? The faces of the children whom I strive to help each and every day – they are what get me motivated each and every day.
Which fundraising event is your favorite? AFFCF’s "Foodie Fare for Foster Care", which is scheduled for October 21.
Favorite restaurant? Eddie’s House for special dates and occasions; Pomegranate Café for guilt-free healthy fix.
Whom do you most admire, and why? The 12,000+ children currently in foster care in the state of Arizona – each and every one of them is living through situations they cannot control nor comprehend, and which none of us can ever fully appreciate.
If your life were a movie, who would you want to play your part? Vanity’s answer is: Catherine Zeta-Jones; but I am probably more a Frances McDormand type!
Do you have any pets? 12 year old pound-mutt named “Dusty” (who has cataracts and is going deaf); very chubby guinea pig named “Charlie” who yells at us daily; and a beta-fish named “Monty” who survives despite living with us.
When you move, what will your home tell its next owner about you? Eclectic, eccentric, indulgent…take your pick or all of the above.
What’s the best lesson you’ve learned through the years? Ask questions, and then confirm the answer is what you thought you heard.
What was your first job? First real-life responsibility outside of the home was volunteering for the LA Special Olympics. My first paying job, however, was silk-screening t-shirts for concerts in LA at age 13.
What is your greatest indulgence? Getting lost in a compelling book for hours.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement? Raising 2 intelligent and self-sufficient young women (22 and 20 yrs. of age) … their little brother (11 yrs.) is still a work in progress (but he is looking very promising).
What is your most treasured possession? I can’t think of a “possession” that I could not live without.
What is the quality you most like in people? Honesty…no matter how brutal.
Favorite books/Writers? “Lord of the Rings” Trilogy; Sir Terry Pratchett; J.R.R.Tolkien; Garth Nix; Arianna Huffington.
What is the trait you most deplore in others? Unwillingness to take personal responsibility for their own choices and actions.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? Any type of physical activity…except volleyball….I totally suck at volleyball.
What would we be most surprised to know about you? That I am only 5’1” tall. Many people say I appear and sound taller than I am. I’ve been described as having a “large” presence.
What is the best advice you have ever received? Never be intimidated but choose your battles wisely; and never be afraid to admit you were wrong.
What are some challenges facing nonprofits? Meeting increased demand while dealing with a finite pool of resources – both a result of a tenuous economy.