Fostering Hope and Smiles: Leslie Lacy ‘91

Fostering Hope and Smiles: Leslie Lacy ‘91

Whether protecting foster children in court or assisting them in procuring braces at the orthodontist, Leslie Lacy is passionate about helping kids. By day, this energetic attorney advocates for youth through Mental Health Advocacy Service in Baton Rouge. And in her off hours, she seeks to brighten children’s smiles through Fostering Hope Louisiana, the nonprofit she founded with husband Dr. Fred Lacy. It’s work that Lacy asserts she was born to do, and in the next breath confesses she never imagined for herself.

After graduating from Governor’s, Lacy earned her bachelor’s in international affairs from Lafayette College and moved to Washington, DC for a job with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, the country’s collective scientific national academy. When she decided to pursue a J.D. at Louisiana State University, she set her eye on civil law. “I was going to get my law degree and change the world,” she recalls with a chuckle. “I certainly didn’t go to law school with the intent of representing abused and neglected children.”

As so often happens, however, things played out differently. Lacy embraced Baton Rouge and decided to open her own practice in the city. “There were a great many families seeking help in the area of special education law, so that’s where I initially focused my attentions,” she explains. But Lacy soon realized the specialty wasn’t feasible and at a friend’s urging applied to be a contract attorney for the state’s juvenile court, representing parents accused of child abuse. A 2008 change in Louisiana law ended her contract and she decided to switch sides and represent children in foster care. She has never looked back. “It’s certainly not what I set out to do, but it has turned out to be what I was meant to do,” she observes.

It was through this work that she discovered her next calling. “I had a young, 16-year-old client, Brittany Butler, who was incredibly bright and struck me as having great potential,” she recalls. “Despite being dealt a rough hand, she never succumbed to frustration or despair.” Sadly, Lacy continues, there was one thing about the young woman that made her cringe—her teeth. “It was heartbreaking because I knew Brittany was being adversely affected by a situation she couldn’t control.” 

Lacy enlisted the help of Baton Rouge orthodontist Dr. James Frugé, and after transforming Brittany’s smile, the two knew they were onto something. Realizing she couldn’t continue bankrolling the effort privately, Lacy sought help from area non-profits. “Everyone I spoke to was incredibly supportive, but the program didn’t fit within anyone’s mission, and I finally realized, ‘no one else has the calling on their heart to do this like me.’” And with that, Fostering Hope Louisiana was born. “The way it’s come together has been nothing short of miraculous,” Lacy enthuses. “People in our community have rallied, donating their time, money and services to help these children. It’s been amazing.”

Lacy insists she is grateful to have the ability to help foster children expand their horizons, just as the Academy expanded hers. “Governor’s was a phenomenal experience for me—I will always look fondly on my time there,” she enthuses. “The school gave me valuable exposure to the larger world and encouraged me to push myself mentally and physically.” And nearly three decades later, the school’s motto remains a source of inspiration. ‘Not for self but for others’ – that sentiment continues to resonate,” she concludes.