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Leadership Team

Frank Farrow - Director

Frank Farrow has served as CSSP’s director since 2001. In that role, he has helped build the organization’s capacity for policy analysis and research, as well as technical assistance to federal and state governments and local communities. With CSSP’s board and leadership team, Farrow has focused CSSP on work that has a clear tie to improved results for children, families and communities; a commitment to equity and to CSSP’s evolution as an anti-racist organization; and to strategies that integrate service system reform, community change and policy analysis. Prior to becoming director, Farrow served as CSSP’s deputy director and as director of children’s services. From 1999 through 2009, Farrow also served as the director of community change initiatives at the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore, Maryland, where he implemented new approaches to technical assistance and managed a national place-based initiative. Farrow was the director of social services for the state of Maryland from 1983 – 1987. In that capacity he managed the state’s child welfare programs, services to the impaired elderly, community services for chronically mentally ill adults, child day care, services for the homeless and other social services. He has chaired national and international boards, most recently the board of the International Initiative for Children, Youth and Families. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Yale University and a master’s degree in social welfare policy and planning from the University of Chicago.

Judith W. Meltzer - Deputy Director

Judith Meltzer is responsible for co-directing all of CSSP’s work. A particular focus of her work is on policies and strategies for child welfare reform and the development of community partnerships for the protection of children. Meltzer helped pioneer efforts to strengthen child welfare systems through more productive, less adversarial approaches to resolving class action litigation. She serves as the federal court-appointed monitor of the District of Columbia and New Jersey’s child welfare systems which are subject to oversight as the result of class action litigation. In addition, she helps oversee technical assistance to child welfare agencies in Tennessee and Connecticut operating under court-ordered settlement agreements to improve child welfare systems. In 2005, Meltzer was honored by the American Public Human Services Association with the Peter Forsythe Award for Leadership in Public Child Welfare. Before joining CSSP, she was a research associate at the Center for the Study of Welfare Policy, a lecturer at the School of Social Administration at the University of Chicago and a planning and evaluation specialist for the Chicago regional office of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Meltzer graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in social welfare policy.

Executive Team

Phyllis R. Brunson - Associate Director

Phyllis Brunson manages CSSP’s Constituents Co-Invested in Change portfolio, helping communities form collaborative partnerships that promote community-based results accountability, resident engagement and community decision-making. Brunson is advancing a new body of work called the Customer Satisfaction initiative, which uses direct feedback from customers in a community to test, assess and rate the quality of services they use. Brunson also manages CSSP’s Internal Race Equity work, which builds staff capacity to identify and confront race inequity internally and externally. She also oversees CSSP’s International Learning agenda and serves as the United States’ board member on the International Initiative for Children, Youth and Families. Prior to joining CSSP, Brunson worked for the Maryland Governor’s Office for Children, Youth and Families where she served as the deputy director and acting director of the System Reform Initiative. She is a member of the board of directors of the Sheridan-Patterson Center for Holistic Health and the Elizabeth Ministry, Inc., which helps single teen mothers in the foster care system achieve financial independence and attend college. Brunson is a graduate of Lincoln University and earned her master’s degree in psychology from Washington University in St. Louis.

Christine Katz - Chief Financial Officer

Christine Katz oversees CSSP’s finance, accounting, grants management, human resources, operations and information technology functions. Previously, she was a director at the McQuade Brennan accounting firm in Washington, D.C. While there, Katz developed and managed the firm’s CFO Services Group, which focused on providing outsourced accounting services customized to the needs of nonprofit clients. She has more than 10 years of experience in public accounting within the nonprofit sector.  She graduated from the University of Maryland with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and is a certified public accountant.

Judy Langford - Associate Director and Senior Fellow

Judy Langford’s work for CSSP includes field research, policy and program analysis and technical assistance to foundations, governmental agencies and private organizations on the development and implementation of family supportive practices and policies. She is currently the national project director for Strengthening Families, a multidisciplinary approach to preventing child abuse and promoting healthy child development that is now used in more than 25 states. Langford is also part of the leadership team for the federal Quality Improvement Center on Early Childhood. She is the former executive director of the Family Resource Coalition and previously headed the Ounce of Prevention Fund in Chicago. She has been an advisor to numerous foundations, including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and Casey Family Programs.

Susan Notkin - Associate Director

Susan Notkin manages CSSP’s work in child welfare systems reform. In this capacity she advances CSSP’s role in promoting responsive, progressive public services for children and families involved in the child welfare system. Prior to joining CSSP, Notkin was the Director for the Children’s Program at the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation. During her 17 years with the foundation, she created and implemented a ten-year $50 million grant-making program that pioneered public/private efforts focused on preventing and reducing child maltreatment through reforming the child welfare system. Previously, Notkin designed the New York City Child Protective Services Training Academy and held positions in the Wisconsin Department of Health and Social Services, where she represented the rights of clients residing in mental health institutions, and directed the state’s policy agenda in child abuse prevention, child protection, early care and education and domestic violence. Notkin is a recipient of the LEAD! Award from Women and Philanthropy for her work to improve the child welfare system and combat domestic violence. She serves on the boards of the Institute for Community Peace and is the president of the board of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. Notkin graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a master’s degree in social work. 

Merilee Rutolo - Associate Director

Merilee Rutolo is responsible for helping set the future strategic direction of CSSP, and for developing the funding base for our work. Before joining CSSP in February 2015, Merilee served for 12 years as the chief operating officer of the Center For Family Services, a human services agency based in Camden, New Jersey. In that role, she managed community outreach, development and place-based initiatives. She has a broad background in community convening and collaborations, community engagement efforts, and program development and administration. Merilee holds a master’s degree in public administration and policy from Rutgers University and a bachelor’s degree in government and journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Akilah Watkins-Butler - Associate Director

Akilah Watkins-Butler leads CSSP's community change portfolio, which includes work supporting several federal initiatives, such as the U.S. Department of Education's Promise Neighborhoods initiative, the U.S. Department of Justice's Building Neighborhood Capacity Program and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Choice Neighborhoods, among others. She was previously the director of national partnerships for NeighborWorks America where she built strategic collaborations with public and private investors and created a national health and housing agenda. Watkins-Butler also worked at Leadership for Healthy Communities, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and at the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. Watkins-Butler earned her undergraduate degree from Empire State College in New York in community and human services. She is an alumna of Southern New Hampshire University, earning master's degrees in community economic development and business education. Watkins-Butler was the recipient of a Ford Foundation Diversity Fellowship and is currently completing her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois.

Senior Fellows

Uma S. Ahluwalia - Senior Fellow

Uma S. Ahluwalia is currently the director of the Montgomery County (Maryland) Department of Health and Human Services. With nearly 1,600 employees, the department is one of the largest agencies in Montgomery County and includes Aging and Disability Services; Behavioral Health and Crisis Services; Children, Youth and Family Services; Public Health Services and Special Needs Housing. Over a 24-year career in human services, Ahluwalia has progressively moved from case-carrying social work to executive leadership at the state and local levels. Prior to assuming the directorship in Montgomery County, Ahluwalia served as director of the District of Columbia Child and Family Services Agency and as director of Washington State’s Children’s Administration. She holds a master’s degree in social work from the University of Delhi in India and a specialist post-masters in health services administration from George Washington University.

Leonard D. Burton - Senior Fellow

Leonard Burton joined CSSP's team of senior fellows in December 2014 and will play a leadership role with CSSP's Youth Thrive initiative, helping engage and support public agencies implementing the program, a multi-year body of work to ensure healthy development and well-being for youth involved with child welfare and other public human services systems. He has been an advocate for vulnerable populations and at-risk young people his entire professional life, most recently as the Chief Operating Officer of the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative. In that role, Burton helped lead work in 18 states and nationally to make sure that youth exiting foster care have the resources they need, including education, jobs, housing and lifelong family connections. Burton previously served as Assistant Commissioner of Child Welfare and Regional Services for the Tennessee Department of Children's Services. He currently serves on the boards of directors for both Child Trends and Black Administrators in Child Welfare. Burton holds a bachelor's degree in public management from Austin Peay State University and a master's degree of education in administration and supervision from Tennessee State University.

Steve Cohen - Senior Fellow

Steve Cohen leads CSSP’s partnership with the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, with a particular focus on helping public systems take up emerging knowledge about child development to improve policy and practice. Cohen was previously vice president and chief program officer of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. His work there included extensive experience helping to reform child welfare systems facing class action litigation. Earlier in his career, Cohen served as associate executive director of the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services, a large, multisystem human services agency in New York City. He also held senior positions in child welfare and juvenile justice in New York City government. Cohen has a master’s degree in public affairs from the Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University, and a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University.

Amy Fine - Senior Fellow

Amy Fine helps shape CSSP's approach to integrating health, education, human services and other family supports at the community level, focusing on more preventive, developmentally-oriented service systems for children and families. In this role, she contributes to the content of multiple CSSP initiatives. With more than 25 years of experience working on issues related to maternal and child health, Fine has served as a consultant to federal and state health agencies, private philanthropies and national initiatives focused on improving results for children. Her previous work includes positions at the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Institute of Medicine and the University of North Carolina’s Child Health Outcomes Project. She has degrees from The University of Michigan and University of California, San Francisco and earned her master’s of public health from the University of North Carolina.

Mark Friedman - Senior Fellow

Mark Friedman is the director of the Fiscal Policy Studies Institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico and author of the book Trying Hard Is Not Good Enough: How to Produce Measurable Improvements for Customers and Communities. He has more than 30 years experience in public administration and public policy, including nearly two decades in senior positions with the Maryland Department of Human Resources. His Results-Based Accountability™ framework has been used in more than 40 states and in countries around the world.

James O. Gibson - Senior Fellow

James Gibson leads CSSP’s efforts to help promote responsible redevelopment initiatives in Camden, New Jersey, and is involved in the Alliance for Racial Equity in Child Welfare. He chairs the board of directors of PolicyLink, a national institution devoted to strengthening communities. Prior to joining CSSP, Gibson served as a senior associate at the Urban Institute and was the founding president of DC Agenda, a 10-year community assistance initiative in the nation’s capital. He has also served as a program director for The Rockefeller Foundation; president of the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation in Washington, D.C.; city administrator for planning and development for the District of Columbia; executive associate of The Potomac Institute and the former executive secretary of the Atlanta Chapter of the NAACP. Gibson has received numerous national awards for his work in civil rights, community development and philanthropy.

Charles M. Payne, Ph.D. - Senior Fellow

Charles M. Payne is the Frank P. Hixon Distinguished Service Professor in the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago, where he is also an affiliate of the Urban Education Institute. His interests include urban education and school reform, social inequality, social change and modern African American history. His books include So Much Reform, So Little Change (Harvard Education Publishing Group), which is concerned with what we have learned about the persistence of failure in urban districts. Payne is among the founders of the Education for Liberation Network, which encourages the development of educational initiatives that encourage young people to think critically about social issues and understand their own capacity for addressing them. Payne has taught at Southern University, Williams College, Northwestern University and Duke University. He has won several teaching awards and at Northwestern, he held the Charles Deering McCormick Chair for Teaching Excellence and at Duke, the Sally Dalton Robinson Chair for excellence in teaching and research. Payne holds a bachelor's degree in Afro-American studies from Syracuse University and a doctorate in sociology from Northwestern.

Lisbeth (Lee) B. Schorr - Senior Fellow

Lee Schorr helps lead CSSP’s work to assure social policy reform efforts are focused on achieving and sustaining measurable improvements in results for vulnerable children and families. She is a lecturer in social medicine at Harvard University, a member of the executive committee of the Aspen Institute's Roundtable on Community Change and has served in leadership positions for the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, the SEED Foundation, the National Center for Children in Poverty, the National Academy of Science's Board on Children and Families, the ECS National Commission on Governing America’s Schools and the Foundation for Child Development. From 1965 to 1967, she headed the health division of the Community Action Program at the federal Office of Economic Opportunity, helping lead the federal effort that created a national system of community health centers. Her 1988 book, WITHIN OUR REACH: Breaking the Cycle of Disadvantage, analyzed social programs that succeeded in effectively combating serious social problems. In her 1997 book, COMMON PURPOSE: Strengthening Families and Neighborhoods to Rebuild America, Schorr explored challenges to the spread and sustainability of successful programs

Dr. Robert Sege, M.D., Ph.D. - Senior Fellow

Robert Sege, M.D., Ph.D. is a practicing pediatrician, Chief of the Division of Family and Child Advocacy and medical director of the Child Protection Team at BMC and a Professor of Pediatrics at Boston University. He serves as a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Knowledge to Action think tank on child maltreatment prevention. He led the development of Connected Kids: Safe, Strong Secure program for the American Academy of Pediatrics, and received the American Academy of Pediatrics’ 2008 Fellow Achievement Award for his work on youth violence prevention. Dr. Sege teaches about evidence-based approaches to child maltreatment and violence prevention that use new scientific knowledge to support parents, children and teens in realizing their hopes and dreams. He received his bachelor’s degree from Yale College, his doctorate from MIT, his M.D. from Harvard Medical School and completed his pediatric residency 

Program Staff

Shanti Abedin - Senior Program Analyst

Shanti Abedin helps advance CSSP’s community change work, which helps distressed communities build the capacity needed to improve outcomes for children and families. Her work includes providing technical assistance to programs such as the Choice Neighborhoods initiative, the Promise Neighborhood initiative and the Building Neighborhood Capacity program.  Prior to joining CSSP, Shanti worked at the National Fair Housing Alliance where she led investigations, research and advocacy efforts around discrimination in the marketing and maintenance of bank owned properties. Shanti is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park and holds a master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Sydney.

Nilofer Ahsan - Senior Associate

Nilofer Ahsan leads the Strengthening Families initiative, which works with states and national partner organizations to improve outcomes for parents and children by through the Protective Factors Framework.  She also helps advance CSSP’s work to improve conditions for families in low–income neighborhoods by supporting efforts to mobilize communities to achieve and sustain results, and build the capacity of resident leaders.  Prior to joining CSSP, Ahsan served as director for knowledge and policy at Family Support America, where she helped lead the FRIENDS National Resource Center, helping states around the country develop family support initiatives. In 1998, she received the Rockefeller Foundation’s Next Generation Leadership Fellow award. Ahsan currently serves a number of organizations actively promoting an equity agenda for women and people of color.  Ahsan earned a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Chicago.

Bill Bettencourt - Senior Associate

Bill Bettencourt leads CSSP’s get R.E.A.L initiative, which works to improve healthy sexual and identity development for those involved in the child welfare system.
He also provides technical assistance to the Pregnant and Parenting Youth project and is partnering with the University of Illinois, Chicago on work in California focused on improving services and outcomes for Latino children and families involved with the child welfare system. Prior to joining the staff, he was a consultant on CSSP’s Institutional Analysis team. Bettencourt has 40 years of experience working in the social services field, spending more than 26 years at the city and county of San Francisco, the last four as the director of child welfare. He has also served as a program officer with the Stuart Foundation, a senior consultant for the Annie E. Casey Foundation and led system improvement efforts in California aimed at improving outcomes for LGBTQ children, youth and families involved with the child welfare system. Bettencourt is an advisor to the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University, and has served on numerous boards and advisory councils. He received his bachelor of arts degree from San Francisco State and his master’s from the University of San Francisco.

Charlyn Harper Browne - Senior Associate and Director of Quality Improvement Center on Early Childhood

Charlyn Browne manages the Quality Improvement Center on Early Childhood (QIC-EC), a five-year project of the federal Administration for Children and Families, the Children’s Bureau, the National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families and the Alliance of Children’s Trust and Prevention Funds that is coordinated by CSSP.  In that capacity, Browne helps generate and disseminate new knowledge and evidence about programs and strategies that prevent child maltreatment and promote healthy child and family development. Prior to joining CSSP, she served as an associate professor of psychological studies at Clark-Atlanta University, teaching graduate psychology courses and chairing the Department of Counseling and Psychological Studies. Previously, she served as vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty at Morris Brown College, and as a professor of psychology at Atlanta Metropolitan College.  Browne received the 21st Century Fellow award from the National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families in 2007 and is a former visiting minority scholar for the Educational Testing Service.  She holds a doctoral degree from Georgia State University in early childhood education, a master’s degree in educational psychology from Atlanta University and is a graduate of Spelman College.

Alexandra Citrin - Policy Analyst

Alexandra Citrin helps advance CSSP’s child welfare work as part of the team focused on monitoring and providing technical assistance to child welfare systems operating under federal consent decrees to improve practice for children and families. Prior to joining CSSP, she was a family advocate at the Center for Family Representation, Inc. in New York, where she worked with parents and families involved in the child welfare system. Citrin currently serves on the Board of Directors for Our House, a nonprofit based in Ann Arbor, MI that is working to provide opportunities for youth aging out of foster care. She is a graduate of Middlebury College and earned both a master’s degree in social work and public policy from the University of Michigan.

Lizbeth (Beth) Leeson - Senior Associate

Beth Leeson works to promote sustainable community change efforts in disinvested neighborhoods using a results-and-strengths -based approach in Promise Neighborhoods and other jurisdictions around the country. Prior to joining CSSP, Leeson had a consulting business that provided support to nonprofit, governmental and philanthropic efforts with leadership mentoring, results accountability, financial analysis, creative problem-solving and policy/advocacy efforts. That included 12 years working with The Annie E. Casey Foundation on the Making Connections initiative. Leeson has also served as Deputy Commissioner of Michigan’s Department of Mental Health, Executive Director of Child Abuse Prevention Services in Ingham County, Michigan and was a partner and practicing Certified Financial Planner in the firm of Practical Money Management, Inc.  Over the last 30 years, she has taught college-level economics and political science classes and served on numerous local, state and national boards, commissions and task forces.  She holds a bachelors of arts degree in social work from Michigan State University and a master’s in public administration from Western Michigan University.

Jonathan Lykes - Policy Analyst

Jonathan Lykes supports CSSP’s community change and race equity priorities. His work includes helping the organization address disproportionality and disparities, with a particular focus on men and boys of color. Prior to joining CSSP, Lykes worked for Woodlawn Children’s Promise Community, teaching resiliency and strengths-based modules to youth of color. He’s also worked as a community organizer with several organizations, including Equal Education in Cape Town, South Africa and Ohio Youth Voices. Lykes currently serves as a member of the coordinating council for Black Youth Project 100. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago, where he also received his master’s degree from the School for Social Service Administration.

Megan C. Martin - Senior Associate

Megan Martin leads CSSP’s public policy work, which helps federal and state elected officials develop policies, funding and practice in ways that help ensure better results for children and families.  Prior to joining CSSP, Martin was a guest researcher at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, where she helped conduct comparative poverty research on social safety net policy in the United States and the European Union.  In 2007, she was recognized as a “new voice” in social policy for an article on segregation in Detroit published in Qualitative Social Work. Martin has worked for the U.S. Senate as well as for the State of Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services. She also served as a Presidential Management Fellow.  She is a graduate of Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and the University of Michigan’s Graduate School of Social Work.

Sarah A. Morrison - Senior Associate

Sarah Morrison helps advance CSSP’s child welfare system reform efforts. She is co-director of the Child Welfare and Supportive Housing Resource Center providing technical assistance to five federally funded demonstration sites around the country. Formerly, she was one of two federally appointed monitors of a class action consent decree in Georgia. Prior to joining CSSP, Morrison was a senior evaluator at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). While there, she was responsible for designing, managing and reporting on evaluations of programs authorized or expanded by the Family Support Act of 1988, including transitional benefits and child support enforcement. Morrison’s additional experience includes management consulting in Ernst and Young’s public sector practices in Chicago and Washington, D.C., and public opinion research polling and teaching at the University of Missouri at St. Louis. She is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College and the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration.

Oronde A. Miller - Senior Associate

Oronde Miller advances CSSP’s work to achieve race equity in the nation’s child welfare system, within a broader portfolio of work to improve results for all children. Prior to joining CSSP, Miller was the chief of staff at the Maryland Department of Human Resources. Miller’s professional experience includes direct service, program development and management, community engagement as well as child welfare and educational system reform efforts.  Before working in child welfare, Miller was involved in urban public school system reform efforts addressing race, cultural socialization, teacher training and institutional bureaucracy. He is the author of “Facing the Rising Sun: Perspectives on African American Family and Child Well-Being.” Miller earned his bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master of science in developmental psychology from Howard University, where he is also currently a Ph.D. candidate.

Cailin O'Connor - Policy Analyst

Cailin O'Connor coordinates the Strengthening Families National Network, supporting states and jurisdictions in their implementation of the Protective Factors Framework to improve outcomes in a variety of child and family serving systems. She has been involved with Strengthening Families since she began coordinating Wisconsin’s state efforts in 2005. Since then, O'Connor has worked with several states and national organizations on their Strengthening Families work. With a background in evidence-based programs and their dissemination and implementation, she also contributes to CSSP's efforts to mobilize residents to achieve and sustain improved outcomes at the neighborhood and community level. O'Connor is a graduate of Macalester College, and earned a master's degree in Human Development and Family Studies and a graduate certificate in Prevention and Intervention Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Rachel Paletta - Senior Associate

Rachel Paletta is responsible for monitoring and providing technical assistance to child welfare systems operating under federal consent decrees to improve practice for children and families.  Prior to joining CSSP, she was a child advocate attorney with the Council for Children’s Rights in Charlotte, North Carolina where she worked on a variety of issues, including child welfare, mental health and education.  Prior to that, Paletta had internships with  the Office of the Child’s Representative and Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center in Denver, CO, the Public Defender’s Office in St. Louis, MO and Family and Juvenile Drug Court in Providence, RI.  In 2010, she was certified as a Child Welfare Law Specialist through the National Association of Counsel for Children.  She earned a law degree and a master’s degree in social work from the University of Denver.

Lisa Primus - Program Analyst

Lisa Primus works on CSSP’s child welfare team, currently focusing on the pregnant and parenting youth in foster care and Youth Thrive initiatives. She is also part of the team responsible for monitoring and providing technical assistance to child welfare systems operating under federal consent decrees. Prior to joining CSSP she was a trainer with the Research Foundation of CUNY where she trained child welfare workers in New York City on best practice for safety and risk assessments with a focus on promoting the transfer of learning. Primus also worked in partnership with private agencies providing them with technical assistance in support of plans for sustaining the transfer of learning.  She has also directed a foster care placement prevention program and department of social services in a family homeless shelter in New York City. She is a graduate of the Temple University, and Columbia University's Graduate School of Social Work.

Martha Raimon - Senior Associate

Martha L. Raimon leads the CSSP team that monitors New Jersey’s compliance with a consent decree to improve the state’s child welfare system. She also advances CSSP’s work to achieve reforms in family court. Prior to joining CSSP, Raimon directed the Incarcerated Mothers Law Project for the Women’s Prison Association, which provides incarcerated and formerly incarcerated parents with information about their rights and responsibilities to their children. She also directed the Family Law Unit at South Brooklyn Legal Services and was an editor of Interrupted Life: Experiences of Women in Prison in the United States. In 2009, Raimon was awarded the Cornell Law School Alumni Exemplary Public Service Award. She is an attorney with 20 years of experience working in the field of child welfare and has special expertise in the intersection of child welfare and criminal justice policies.

Rigoberto Rodríguez - Senior Associate

Rigoberto Rodríguez supports CSSP’s community change work through work in Los Angeles County and Fresno, California. A practitioner of neighborhood-based approaches to community development, Rodríguez has more than 20 years of experience with community organizing, resident leadership development, organizational capacity building, multi-stakeholder community planning processes, building multi-agency service collaboratives and local policy and systems change. He is also an associate professor of Latina/o Public Policy at California State University, Long Beach. Rodríguez’s academic work examines the politics involved in the use of public-private partnerships (i.e., new modes of local governance) to foster multi-sectoral cooperation to design, implement and evaluate social policies for disadvantaged populations. He holds a master’s degree in urban and regional planning and a doctorate in urban geography. 

Gayle Samuels - Senior Associate

Gayle Samuels helps advance CSSP’s child welfare system reform work, focusing on evaluating frontline practices in children's mental health and child protection. Prior to joining CSSP, she directed the qualitative case practice review program within the Office of Quality Improvement of the New York City child protection agency. Samuels’ additional professional experience includes assisting the legal representation of children and youth in family court in dependency, status offense and juvenile delinquency cases and coordinating a Head Start-based research and intervention project aimed at reducing violence. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park and Columbia University's Graduate School of Social Work.

Anand Sharma - Senior Program Analyst

Anand Sharma helps advance CSSP’s community change work, which assists distressed communities in building the capacity needed to improve outcomes for children and families. Focusing on neighborhood investment, his work includes providing support and technical assistance to communities engaged in place-based revitalization efforts through the federal government’s Promise Neighborhoods initiative and Building Neighborhood Capacity Program. Prior to joining CSSP, Sharma taught at a New York City public school and served as a legislative correspondent at the New York City Council. He holds a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

Carla M. Taylor - Senior Associate

Carla Taylor plays a leading role managing CSSP’s efforts to support and advance the Promise Neighborhoods initiative and to strengthen partnerships with federal agencies and national organizations. Taylor has 15 years of experience in similar capacity-building roles across a range of organizational and community contexts. Prior to joining CSSP, Taylor worked with colleagues from FHI 360 to oversee implementation of the Citi Postsecondary Success program and provide technical assistance to participating sites. She also served as a research assistant with the John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities, contributing to a formative evaluation of emerging community schools and investigating cross-sector collaboration as a community change strategy. Prior to that, Taylor managed a multi-million dollar Ford Foundation initiative structured as a learning community of twelve youth development and civic activism agencies and four international fellows.  She holds a Master of Science in Community Services Management from Andrews University and received her PhD in Education from Stanford University.  

Kristen Weber - Senior Associate

Kristen Weber serves as a senior member of the CSSP team that monitors New Jersey’s compliance with a consent decree to improve the state’s child welfare system.  She also coordinates the Institutional Analysis project—a qualitative review process to analyze laws, policies and practices that contribute to racial disparities in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Prior to joining CSSP, Weber was an attorney at Legal Services for Children in San Francisco, where she specialized in the legal representation of children impacted by HIV/AIDS and in the legal issues faced by runaway and homeless teenagers.  She is a graduate of Yale University and earned a law degree from the University of California at Berkeley.

Lauren Wechsler - Senior Program Analyst

Lauren Wechsler is part of CSSP’s community change team, which works with distressed communities to build their capacity to achieve better results for children and families. Her work includes providing support and technical assistance to place-based revitalization efforts, such as the federal government’s Building Neighborhood Capacity Program and First 5 LA’s Best Start initiative. Prior to joining CSSP, Wechsler worked at the Pew Economic Mobility Project and the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford University. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and a master’s degree in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

Francie Zimmerman - Senior Associate

Francie Zimmerman is a senior associate working primarily on the Youth Thrive initiative that focuses on adolescents in the child welfare system. She coordinates Youth Thrive’s National Network and supports New Jersey and Philadelphia’s implementation efforts. Previously, Zimmerman was director of family services for Acelero Learning Head Start centers in North Philadelphia and Camden, NJ. In philanthropy, Zimmerman established and operated the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s Child Abuse Prevention Program for over a decade. She also worked for the F. B. Heron Foundation, which promoted homeownership and economic development strategies in low-income communities. Early in her career, she was an advocate for children in foster care, a special needs adoption caseworker and assistant to the director of a secure detention facility for children. She has served on several national advisory boards, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Knowledge into Action Committee. Zimmerman holds a master’s degree in social work from Hunter College School of Social Work and a bachelor’s degree from Barnard College, Columbia University.

Administrative & Operations

Arthur Argomaniz - Project and Research Assistant

Arthur Argomaniz supports several CSSP projects including First 5 LA's Best Start initiative, EC-LINC and also helps run the Los Angeles office. He also is a member of CSSP's community change team, which works with distressed communities to build their capacity to achieve better results for children and families. Prior to joining CSSP, Argomaniz served as a youth advocate and case manager for a South LA based YouthBuild program and interned at the Institute for Community Peace. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California and holds a bachelors degree in sociology with a minor in Chicano Studies.

Theresa Becchi - Program Associate

Theresa Becchi is a part of CSSP’s child welfare team, providing support to the ongoing pregnant and parenting youth in foster care and Youth Thrive initiatives. She helps manage CSSP’s New York office, coordinating meetings and conferences, as well as providing logistical and programmatic support to staff. Prior to joining CSSP, Becchi worked as deputy operations director for Organizing for America, Virginia and in the Connecticut lieutenant governor’s office. She is a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA.

Gina R. Chaney - Executive Assistant/Meeting Planner

Gina Chaney is the executive assistant to the director and also CSSP’s meeting planner, with more than 25 years of experience in event management and as an administrative professional. In addition, she also serves as the main point of contact and liaison for all of CSSP’s technology needs. Prior to joining CSSP, she provided administrative support to the senior leadership of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States National Veterans Service.

Gina Charusombat - Program and Research Assistant

Gina Charusombat helps to advance the community change work, which helps distressed communities build capacity needed to improve outcomes for children and families. Her work includes providing research and program support to the team’s involvement with the Choice Neighborhoods initiative, the Promise Neighborhood initiative and the Building Neighborhood Capacity program. Gina joins CSSP following an AmeriCorps VISTA service year with Higher Achievement, an expanded learning time program for underserved middle school youth, where she worked with the Development team to expand national funding and secure resources for the organization. Gina stays connected to social service organizations by volunteering with Higher Achievement as a literature mentor to youth and as a grant writer for Organization Neighborhood Equity DC (ONE DC). She has a bachelor’s degree from Smith College in Economics and American Studies.

Amelia Esenstad - Program and Research Assistant

Amelia Esenstad provides support to CSSP's child welfare team. Her work includes assisting with the monitoring of child welfare systems operating under federal consent decrees, the getR.E.A.L initiative to improve healthy sexual and gender identity development for youth in the child welfare system, and the expectant and parenting youth program. Prior to joining CSSP, Amelia was a research assistant at Tulane University. She has held internships at the Center for American Progress, D.C. Public Schools, and Americans for the Arts. She is a graduate of Tulane University in New Orleans, LA and has a bachelor's degree in sociology with minors in political science and Spanish.

Natasya Gandana - Program and Research Assistant

Natasya Gandana helps to advance CSSP’s policy and program goals through policy research and general staff support. Prior to joining CSSP, Gandana was active in campus organizations at the University of California, Berkeley that analyzed and reviewed equitable admissions policies with the goal of increasing diversity in higher education, while also organizing grassroots campaigns in support of making that education more affordable. Gandana previously held internships at CSSP (public policy) and PolicyLink (economic development research). She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, where she was a Berkeley Scholar. Gandana’s primary research focus is in poverty and equity. She has a bachelor’s degree in social welfare and a minor in public policy.  

Candace McGee - Receptionist

As the Center’s receptionist, Candace hospitably greets calls and visitors at the Washington, D.C., office. She also serves on the Administrative team to aid in smooth operations of the organization. Prior to joining CSSP, Candace worked with numerous nonprofit organizations, including Health Services for Children with Special Needs – a Medicaid insurance company for physically and mentally challenged youth and The Epilepsy Foundation.

Kanchan Sakya - Accountant

Kanchan Sakya is responsible for various duties of the accounting department. Prior to joining CSSP, she served as an accounting assistant for Buckingham Badler Associates in New York, providing accounting services to a broad range of clients.  Sakya graduated from the University of Phoenix with masters of science in accountancy.

Denise Thompkins - Assistant Office Manager and Contracts Manager

Denise Thompkins is CSSP’s contracts manager and serves as program assistant to CSSP’s deputy director and the CFO.  She also works with CSSP’s child welfare system reform team.  Prior to joining CSSP, Thompkins was an administrative secretary in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Howard University, assisting faculty and the school’s Appointments and Promotions Committee.  She also attended Howard University on a part-time basis while employed there.

Susan Tran - Accounting Manager

Susan Tran is responsible for overseeing and assisting in the daily operations of CSSP’s finance and accounting department. Prior to joining CSSP, she spent more than five years working at LTBD, an outsource accounting firm based in McLean, VA. While there, Tran provided a wide range of accounting services to clients in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors across the Washington, DC area. She graduated from James Madison University with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and is currently a CPA candidate.

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