VIRGINIA BURNS Obituary (2022) – Boston, MA

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BURNS, Virginia M. (Ginny) Social Worker and Children’s Rights Activist Social worker and children’s rights advocate passed away peacefully on February 10, at the age of 96. A Boston native, Burns was a graduate of Dorchester High School for Girls, and Boston University, where she earned her master’s degree in social work and was twice named Social Worker of the Year. She was also a graduate of the London School of Economics, where she was a Fulbright Scholar. Early in her career, she worked to establish programs to support young people in the juvenile justice system and convened the first “National Conference on Girls in Crisis”. She served as a special assistant in the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and served as a special assistant in the Kennedy administration, working with Robert F. Kennedy in the Department of Justice. A fervent civil rights activist, she participated in the 1963 March on Washington and was an early supporter of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. After returning to Massachusetts in the 1980s, she became director of the Division of Substance Abuse Rehabilitation for the Mass. Department of Mental Health, then served as director of advocacy for Mass. Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and served as a children’s advocate for Boston Children’s Services. In addition to receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Social Workers, she received the Violet Sieder Memorial Award from the Massachusetts Human Services Coalition. A 1989 article in the Boston Globe noted, “In addition to being the most outspoken advocate for children in the entire state, she has had distinguished careers in national and international social work politics and in academia.” Known for her skills in building alliances, Burns was a leader in the movement to pass an adoption law guaranteeing all parties access to adoption records. The coalition of adoptees, parents and adoption professionals that she helped create still exists today. In retirement, she taught a popular course on social work policy and social justice at Smith College and Salem State College, where she influenced a new generation of social workers. In addition to her career, Ginny has dedicated her time to many causes. She served on the board of the Institute for Health and Recovery and Incarcerated Mothers’ Aid. She had many deep friendships and was a devoted aunt to 12 nieces and nephews. She loved cooking, gardening, traveling and especially playing Scrabble. Ginny was the daughter of the late Thomas P. and the late Katherine (Dempsey) Burns. She was predeceased by her four brothers, Thomas E. Burns, Richard Burns, Paul J. Burns and David J. Burns. She is survived by her sister-in-law, Constance Burns; 11 nieces and nephews, as well as several great-grandnieces and nephews. A celebration of his life will be held in June in Boston.

View the online memorial for Virginia M. (Ginny) BURNS

Published by Boston Globe from February 24 to February 27, 2022.

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