Roslyn Sterling (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Roslyn Sterling (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

As a state attorney, Roslyn Sterling saw foster kids in need

She helped found Totes for Kids, which provides backpacks of essentials at a traumatic time.

This is one of 12 finalists for the Herald Business Journal’s Emerging Leaders award, which seeks to highlight and celebrate people who are doing good work in Snohomish County. The winner will be named at an event on April 12.

Name: Roslyn Sterling

Age: 34

Profession: Assistant attorney general, DSHS

It’s never easy for a child to be taken from a home due to abuse or neglect and placed into foster care.

But there are things that can be done to ease the suffering and limit the trauma and shame.

That’s why Roslyn Sterling co-founded Totes for Kids, a nonprofit that provides a backpack of essentials for children in those first critical hours.

Sterling is an assistant attorney general who works with the Department of Social and Health Services in Snohomish County.

Sterling has witnessed the professionalism and service of many social workers trying to protect children in an all-too-often thankless situations.

“I believe social workers are first responders just like firefighters and EMTs,” Sterling said. “They are often first responders to horrendous situations. They’re often the ones who call the police to do a PC or protective custody.”

It’s a tough job to deal with cases of child molestation, abuse and neglect.

When Sterling saw that too many children didn’t have necessities, she helped create the Totes for Kids nonprofit to provide age-appropriate necessities, such as diapers and stuffed animals for younger children and deodorant, a journal or earbuds for teens. She continues to serve on the board and describes it with her characteristic humor.

“This board that I sit on for Totes for Kids has judges and attorneys, who are just difficult people to work with in general, so I should just win the award for that,” Sterling joked.

The backpack program is just one of the reasons that Sterling was nominated for the Emerging Leader award for 2018. She is described as making a difference in everything she touches in this county.

“She is definitely among the most promising and energetic emerging leaders in our region,” her nominator wrote.

Sterling helps advise the Everett Community College Board of Trustees, serves on the Leadership Snohomish County board and was a keynote speaker for that program’s Leadership Day.

In her career, she’s made mistakes. That has left her with the humility to understand and accept errors by others.

“I have a lot of empathy,” Sterling said. “I’m able to find common ground with just about anybody. I’m a strong advocate for causes and people who are underserved.”

She also doesn’t just live in Snohomish County — she grew up in Mukilteo. Her parents, like many people in the county, lived here but commuted to King County for jobs. As she was growing up, she felt many people identified themselves with Seattle.

“Half of us all drain out of here to buy our lunch and food,” Sterling said. “My dentist (growing up) was in Shoreline because that was easier for a working mom to negotiate getting me there and back.

“I think we’re moving away from that,” she said. “I think we’re poised to really create our own identity.”

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