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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

David Batts - Director of Strategic Partnerships

David Batts manages CSSP's fund development activities. He has more than 20 years of nonprofit and development experience advocating for children and families through fundraising, communications, strategic planning, civic participation and public policy. He was most recently the Director of Strategic Planning and Development for the Council for a Strong America, which helps children and youth succeed by mobilizing law enforcement leaders, retired admirals and generals, business leaders, pastors, athletes and coaches for investments in research-based programs. He served as the Development Director for Children’s Express, Development Director for the Alliance for Justice, Associate Director of Communications and Outreach for the Alliance To End Childhood Lead Poisoning and Associate Director/Development Specialist for Project VOTE! David holds a bachelor's degree in political science and public communication from the American University.

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.

Amy Fine - Associate Director and 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.

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.

Megan C. Martin - Policy Director

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.

DeQuendre Neeley-Bertrand - Communications Director

DeQuendre Neeley-Bertrand directs CSSP's communications activities, including publications, media relations, the organization's digital and online properties and internal communications. She brings 20 years of experience in various writing, editing and communications management roles, with positions at daily newspapers, nonprofit organizations and government agencies. She has been honored by the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the National School Public Relations Association, the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals, Association Media & Publishing and the National Association of Government Communicators. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from New York University and a master's degree in sociology from The George Washington University.

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. 

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 brings over twenty-five years of executive leadership, youth development and systems improvement experience to CSSP's Youth Thrive™ initiative. He is helping engage and support public agencies implementing the Youth Thrive™ framework; 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. Leonard 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 led 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. He launched a successful co-investment strategy, bringing additional investments of regional and national foundations to support local sites and the national initiative. Leonard 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.

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

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.

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 - Senior 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.

Rosalynd Erney - Policy and Research Assistant

Rosalynd Erney joined CSSP as a policy/research assistant in 2015 following a year of service with the Lutheran Volunteer Corps. She held previous positions with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, where she focused on issues related to refugee resettlement, unaccompanied migrant children and immigration enforcement practices and their effects on migrant families. She also interned with the Strive Partnership, where she researched early childhood education initiatives. Rosalynd stays involved in the DC community by volunteering with the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project. She holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, politics and the public from Xavier University.  

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.

Alexis Grinstead - Program and Research Assistant

Alexis Grinstead is a part of the Systems Change team, supporting the Youth Thrive, Expectant and Parenting Youth and other child welfare reform initiatives. She helps manage the New York City office, providing logistical and administrative support to staff. Prior to coming to CSSP, Alexis held an internship in a Congressional Office in Washington, D.C. She has also interned with PIBLY Residential Programs and Rosebud House in the Bronx, and she worked as a research assistant with the Middle School Diversity Project in California. Alexis holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles. She earned a master’s degree in social work at Columbia University, where she was awarded the Fisher-Cummings Fellowship. 

Tashira Halyard - Senior Associate

Tashira Halyard is a member of CSSP’s child welfare team, leading the Alliance for Race Equity in Child Welfare. The Alliance provides national leadership in support of improved outcomes for children and families of color involved with the nation’s child welfare systems. Halyard has both a direct service and policy background, having worked in the education, homeless services, juvenile justice and child welfare fields over the last decade. Prior to joining CSSP, she was the Deputy Director at Washington DC’s Homeless Children’s Playtime Project, leading the organization’s program staff and supporting its fundraising and advocacy efforts. She’s also worked as a guardian ad litem at DC’s Children’s Law Center where she served as a legal advocate for children involved in the child welfare system. Halyard is a graduate of Florida State University and earned a law degree from Georgetown University. She’s also a member of the board of directors for DC’s ACLU, serving as the affiliate’s Equity Officer.

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 is a Black queer artist, activist and policy analyst. He currently works at the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP), addressing disproportionality and disparities that effect LGBTQ and gender non-conforming youth impacted by deep-end systems (child welfare, mental health, homelessness and criminal justice). He is the former artistic director of Performing Arts for Effective Civic Education (PAECE) Program at the University of Chicago, where he used interdisciplinary art and performance to help youth realize their roles as civically active members of the community who thrive toward the achievement of systemic change and social justice. Jonathan’s interdisciplinary approach to art, activism and anti-oppression work, merges policy change, artistic expression and activism. Combining these forms of social transformation—and harnessing their synergy—Jonathan works to create awareness, promote personal healing, surmount institutional barriers and generate systemic change. Jonathan’s current position as the Project Lead of the getR.E.A.L Initiative’s youth engagement plan at the CSSP, situates him to merge his multidisciplinary artistic background with public policy reform, community engagement and systems change work. Lykes is also a community organizer, currently serving as the co-chair of the DC Chapter of Black Youth Project 100, a movement of young adults using a black queer feminist lens to advocate for community and systemic change. 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.

Melanie Meisenheimer - Program and Research Assistant

Melanie Meisenheimer joined CSSP in 2015 as a program and research assistant, working closely with our new Young Children and their Families team and supporting multiple projects, including EC-LINC. Before CSSP, she was a Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellow with the Congressional Hunger Center and worked with the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board to improve food security in affordable housing communities. She also worked with the Food Research & Action Center, where she provided research and recommendations to improve SNAP accessibility for people with disabilities. She is a graduate of Gettysburg College and holds a bachelor’s degree in globalization studies and public policy.

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.

Cailin O'Connor - Senior 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, with a focus on improving parent representation. Martha is also a senior member of the Youth Thrive initiative, which focuses on adolescents, primarily adolescents in the child welfare system. 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

Rhiannon Reeves - Policy and Research Assistant

Rhiannon Reeves joined CSSP as a policy/research assistant in 2015. Prior to joining CSSP, Rhiannon was a research assistant for the Child Care and Early Education team at CLASP, providing research support and analysis on federal and state-level child care and early education policies that support healthy child development and the needs of low-income working parents. She also worked at SisterSong, a network of regional and national grassroots organizations working to advance reproductive justice for women of color. Rhiannon is a graduate of Georgia State University and holds a bachelor's degree in African American Studies with a minor in sociology. 

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 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. She also serves as a senior member of the getR.E.A.L team that works at the local, state and national level to support the healthy sexual and identity development of youth in foster care, with a particular focus on youth who identity as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and youth who are gender nonconforming. Kristen also is part of teams at CSSP monitoring federal consent decrees focused on improving the child welfare system in Washington, D.C., and the state of New Jersey. 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

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.

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 - Executive Assistant/Contracts Manager

Denise Thompkins is CSSP’s contracts manager and executive assistant to the CFO and Deputy Director. While managing all aspects of CSSP’s contracts, she also helps to manage the Washington, DC office and handles personnel matters. Prior to joining CSSP, Thompkins was an administrative secretary in the College of Medicine and 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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