Joint Contractor Conference Presenter Details

Jeffrey Adams: Prior to joining OCLA, Jeffrey (he/him) spent twelve years advocating for parents and children in the child welfare system, including extensive work with Native American families as part of Spokane County’s Indian Child Welfare Act court team. Beyond this legal work, Jeffrey has lectured on the Indian Child Welfare Act for the American Bar Association, the OPD, and OCLA. Jeffrey also served as a court commissioner pro tem in Spokane County, Board Chair of KSPS, the local public television affiliate, and has taught as an adjunct professor at Eastern Washington University.

Katrina Avent. Katrina Avent is the Parenting Program Supervisor for the Parent Sentencing Alternative with the Washington State Department of Corrections.  Katrina has worked with the department for 24 years and works closely with staff and other outside agencies to ensure that the program provide eligible incarcerated parents with the opportunity to bond with their minor children.  Each participant will have intense supervision and individualized programming to assist them in gaining the necessary parenting and childhood development skills through education and external support systems, for a successful transition into the community.  Katrina has played an integral role in the implementation of this program, with establishing policies, procedures and screening criteria for offenders participating in the program.

Taila AyAy. Taila AyAy is a graduate of Seattle University School of Law. Taila has been a parents’ representation attorney since 2009 and her practice focuses mainly on representation of parents and children in dependency litigation, administrative law, and family law. Taila also has experience in tribal representation and has worked as guardian ad litem. Taila is passionate about social justice and increasing equitable access to resources for her clients, their families, and the community. Taila has worked remote from her home in California ever since moving from Washington a few years ago. This arrangement works well for her number one boy, a sweet golden retriever, named Dax.

Jodi Backlund. Jodi Backlund is an appeal attorney in Olympia, Washington. Jodi and Manek Mistry have worked together as public defenders since 1993, focusing on appeals for at least the last 15 years. Jodi and Manek were the appeal attorneys on In Re Welfare of GJA (197 Wash.2d 868 (2021)), which will remain one of their very proudest accomplishments. Please form a line and Jodi will be happy to sign your copy of the Opinion.

Tammy Bacigalupo. My name is Tammy Bacigalupo, I am a contracted Office of Public Defense Social Services Worker for Mason County. My previous work experience includes Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Advocate, group facilitator and prevention education specialist as well as being a DOSA counselor at Washington Corrections Center for Men and a SUDPT at different treatment centers. I am individual in long term recovery from substance use disorder, domestic violence, sexual assault and other forms of trauma. I have lived experience from past personal involvement with DCYF and have professionally helped many parents overcome challenges and barriers while navigating different systems to be able to have reunification with their children while in different employment roles. I have lived experience in overcoming many barriers from homelessness, abuse, addiction, criminal charges and trauma. It is because of that lived experience that it is my passion to help those who face similar situations in life that I have. I feel that being a decent human being and providing unbiased support and just listening to others is very impactful to helping them feel less alone, heard, understood and seen. Giving others hope and these things truly can help individuals have a better quality of life.

In 2017 I received my degree in Chemical Dependency Counseling, Certificate of Proficiency in Chemical Dependency Professional, and Certificate of Recognition in Human Services- Case Aide. I am certified Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Advocate, Certified Peer Counselor, Certified Recovery Coach and SUDPT. I was recently awarded Advocate of the Year for Washington State and currently one of three finalists for Citizen of the Year for Mason County. I am an active member in our local WE-CAN alumni group, part of the MAC PAC, a member of multiple steering committees and subcommittees which include families without children chronically homeless, BoS CoC lived experience, member of Mason Counties Opioid Stakeholders, one of the original members of Mason County Substance Abuse Coalition.

Brett Ballew. Brett Ballew is a Parents Representation Program Lead Attorney for the Washington State Office of Public Defense (OPD). Prior to joining OPD, Brett was appointed in every type of court in the state for just about every type of case for which an attorney can be appointed, including the representation of parents in dependency and termination cases from 1996 to 2007. Since joining OPD, Brett has given numerous presentations across the country about the effective representation of parents. Brett received his undergraduate degree from the University of Washington and his Juris Doctorate from the University of Montana.

Adam Ballout. Adam Ballout has been a public defender for 13 years working to help reunify families. Frustration and disappointment with how the legal system treated families and separated infants and new mothers led him to help create the FIRST Clinic and its medical-legal partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics. Adam is a former board chair of the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WSCADV) and the Domestic Violence services of Snohomish County (DVS).

Jim Bamberger. Jim Bamberger is Director of the Washington State Office of Civil Legal Aid (OCLA), the independent state judicial branch agency dedicated to funding and supporting the delivery of civil legal aid and related services. After 25 years of service as a legal aid program attorney and leader in Washington State, Alaska and nationally, Jim was appointed by the Washington State Supreme Court to lead OCLA in 2005. In the 18 years since Jim has led OCLA’s transformation from a single purpose civil legal aid funding and support agency to an agency underwriting civil justice services across a spectrum of programmatic areas, most notably for this conference OCLA’s Children’s Representation Programs (Legally Free and HB 1219).

Terren Beeman. Terren is working as a Parent Navigator for the Department of Corrections. Terren started with DOC in March of 2023 and has lived experience in the child welfare system and incarceration. He is stationed out of headquarters and physically works at Airway Heights Correctional Center near Spokane Washington where he teaches parenting classes and works individually with fathers who are currently incarcerated and have open DCYF/CPS cases.

Jason Bragg. Jason Bragg has been a consistent advocate for birth parents, especially fathers, for nearly a decade. His impact has been broad and profound. He brings his advocacy to all stakeholders – birth parents, foster parents, and children and youth, as well as to leaders in social services and the judicial branch – reminding them of the importance of including birth parents and especially fathers in ongoing conversations and decision-making. He is involved with state and local advisory groups in his home state of Washington, including the Department of Children, Youth and Families Citizens Review Panel where he is engaged with the child and family services reviews process and participates on court improvement committees.

A single father, Jason experienced the child welfare system when he found himself battling a relapse with addiction, facing criminal charges and a child protective services investigation, which led to an out-of-home dependency. Successfully navigating the dependency system with the help of a parent ally, he graduated from Family Drug Treatment Court and reunified with his young son. In 2014, he began work for the Washington State Office of Public Defense as a contracted social service worker. He continues in this role assisting attorneys, parents and stakeholders in breaking down barriers to help reunify families involved in child welfare. Through his work, Jason gives parents, and fathers in particular, the assurance they need to remain involved so that they get their children back.

Sarah Burns. Sarah supports dependency court improvement projects including the State Action Plan to reduce racial injustice in our child welfare system. In her prior role as Spokane’s Family and Juvenile Court Improvement Program (FJCIP) Coordinator, she worked with families in the dependency system to complete family law cases, facilitate complex change conversations between stakeholders, and manage juvenile court projects.

Sarah comes to the courts with knowledge and experience in trauma responsive practices and the change process for the implementation of those practices. Knowing that wellness is the foundation of a trauma responsive organization, she encourages a culture of wellness for the professionals and families involved with the court system.

Heather Cantamessa. Heather Cantamessa (she/her) has the privilege of being a mother to six amazing children. Heather is dedicated to strengthening the Parents for Parents (P4P) program as the Director of Family Impact for Children’s Home Society of Washington. As a recovering addict and parent who successfully navigated the child welfare system, Heather elevates the skills of peers and compassion for child welfare partners and community to engage and empower parents currently involved in the child welfare system. Heather is a member of local, state, national, and global parent advocacy groups. The driving force behind Heather’s passion is her belief that “The best way to help kids is to help their parents. Kids want to be with their parents and parents want to be what their kids need.”

Bonney Carpenter. Bonney Carpenter is contract Social Worker for the Washington State Office of Public Defense (OPD), Parent Representation Program. Ms. Carpenter is also a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker in Washington State. Prior to joining OPD, Ms. Carpenter worked as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, Child and Family Welfare Service Worker, Child Protective Services Family Assessment Response Worker and as a Foster Home Licensor.

From her work in both the private and public sector, she has gained specific knowledge, skills, and abilities to assist clients and their families in addressing social, psychological, developmental and economic impacts of illness, injury and chronic disease. Throughout her career, she has completed comprehensive assessments to help individuals from diversified backgrounds. Ms. Carpenter enjoys her role as a contract social worker and assisting families achieve the best possible outcome.

Gabrial Cisneros-Lassey. Gabrial Cisneros-Lassey is the happy dad of two amazing kiddos he is blessed to be able to have in his life. He uses his experiences with DCYF and addiction to fuel and focus drive and desire to help elevate others out of those same situations. Through his work with the local Parents For Parents program and Spokane Parent Advocacy Network, the Washington State Parent Ally Committee and national Zero to Three therapeutic court evaluation workgroups, Gabe is dedicated to bridging the gap between family wellbeing and the community.

Tarena Coleman. Tarena has been contracting with OPD Parent Representation Program as a Social Worker in Spokane County for over 16 years, providing comprehensive case management and advocacy for parent’s. In her experience as a PRP Social Worker, homelessness, unsafe, and unaffordable housing continue to be a primary reason for referrals, while the barriers to obtain safe, affordable housing continue to increase exponentially in the Spokane community. Tarena and her Spokane County PRP colleagues work tirelessly to maintain their working knowledge of the ever-changing housing resources and eligibility requirements, and to cultivate positive working relationships with key housing providers in their community. As such, they have long-established themselves as “the housing experts” for Child Welfare involved families.

Marci Comeau. Marci Comeau (she/her) is a Managing Attorney for the Washington State Office of Public Defense (OPD) Parents Representation Program. Prior to joining OPD, Marci worked as an Administrative Law Judge for the Washington State Office of Administrative Hearings, serving in both the Social and Health Services and Employment Security Divisions. From 2012 to 2020, Marci worked for the King County Department of Public Defense, representing primarily parents in child welfare cases. From 2006 to 2012, Marci worked as an Assistant Attorney General, representing DSHS in child welfare cases. Throughout her career, Marci has enjoyed providing local, statewide, and national trainings on various topics, including dependency practice and procedure, discovery, the harm of removal, and anti-racist practice. Marci received her undergraduate degree from the University of Washington and her Juris Doctorate from Seattle University.

D’Adre Cunningham. D’Adre Cunningham is the Incarcerated Parents Project (IPP) Attorney at Washington Defender Association in Seattle, Washington. D’Adre provides legal information and referral to incarcerated parents, formerly incarcerated parents, their families, and case assistance to their attorneys upon request. She develops legal resources, such as briefing and legal trainings, for parties to criminal and child custody cases. She was a public defender for 15 years in King County, WA, defending adults and children providing criminal and family defense to adults and children. In D’Adre’s last five years as a public defender, she also supervised family defense attorneys.

Jacob D’Annunzio. Jacob D’Annunzio, J.D., is a managing attorney of the Parents Representation Program at the Washington State Office of Public Defense (OPD). He began his career as a public defender at the Skagit County Public Defender. Here, besides working with juvenile and dependency cases, he was involved in creating the Family Treatment Court, working towards increasing visitation available for families, and working toward a foster mentor program. Prior to joining the team at OPD, Mr. D’Annunzio worked at the Court Improvement Training Academy (CITA) providing training and support to attorneys and judges working in dependency and termination cases. He held a second position with the Society of Counsel as an attorney representing parents and children at Shelter Care hearings. Mr. D’Annunzio serves on the Washington State’s Citizen Review Panel, the Innovative Dependency Court Collaborative, and various other committees where he works towards improving the state’s child welfare system.

Lisa Dabalos-McMahon. Lisa Dabalos-McMahon, J.D., has been a managing attorney with the Washington State Office of Public Defense (OPD) Parents Representation Program (PRP) since November 2020 (a hot minute). Prior to joining OPD, Lisa worked as a contract attorney with OPD in the Parents Representation Program in Pierce County. Lisa represented parents from 2011 until November 2020 with a little break in between to live in Kansas with her husband. Prior to representing parents in dependency and termination cases Lisa represented claimants in Workers Compensation cases. In a long-ago life, Lisa worked for the Office of the Attorney General as a Pierce County AAG in the DSHS and Labor and Industries units. Her dream is to no longer have a job, because parents and children remain together without court interference. Lisa would like to remind the attorneys in her counties to please continue to ask for experts, to enter your time in CATTS and say thank you to an OPD social worker.

Raymond Delos Reyes. Raymond Delos Reyes is a first-generation Filipino American, born in Seattle and a native of the Rainier Valley neighborhood, where Raymond continues to reside. Currently the owner of Delos Reyes Law, PS, Raymond provides public defense services in King County to parents who are subject to dependency/CPS petitions. Raymond received his undergraduate degree from the University of Washington, graduating with a BA in Sociology. Raymond later received his JD from Seattle University School of Law, enrolled in their part-time program while working full-time at The Boeing Company.

Rebecca Dombcik. Rebecca Dombcik is currently self-employed and contracted for over four years with the Washington State Office of Public Defense to represent parents in dependency actions in Yakima County. Previously she was employed with the Yakima County Office of Assigned Counsel for about twelve years mostly as a parent attorney in dependency actions, but has also represented children in dependency proceedings, and done a little juvenile offender and BECCA work in the past. When Rebecca was a brand spanking new attorney out of law school, she worked for Columbia Legal Services in Tri-Cities with families on housing and benefit issues. Rebecca was a social worker for several years before going to law school. Got her MSW with a specialty in community development and ran her own program for Catholic Charities in St. Louis called “Project Welcome Home” where she worked with homeless veterans and families. She has also been a VISTA volunteer, a grant writer, a portrait photographer (for ten years) and a sleep technician (made more money doing this then as a social worker or a lawyer and it paid her expenses and tuition during law school) and also got to read brain waves (which was very cool) and fitted people for CPAP masks. Other occupations include but are not limited to being a Disneyland Merchandise Hostess, a waitress where she served Budweiser, french fries and Kung Pao chicken generally ordered together and a cashier at a fancy men’s store at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas where you could pay thousands of dollars for a nice Italian suit. Rebecca also graduated from kindergarten in 1976 from the Albert Einstein Hebrew Day School and proudly displays her diploma in her law office to assure her clients she is more than qualified to represent them.

Jennie Fitzpatrick. Jennie Fitzpatrick is the Parenting Program Administrator for the Parenting Sentencing Alternative program in the Washington State Department of Corrections. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and comes from 18 years in the TANF and WorkFirst world of case management and working with families. There’s a shared population with the Department of Corrections with overlapping needs that impact the individual and their families. She also provides lived experience as she has an incarcerated sibling. She believes we need to provide wrap-around services and resources to help individuals reentering the community to find their way back to their families and society, in a productive and legal way. Her goal is to be a steward of change for those in their care and turn the vision towards seeing it as a helping profession, rather than one just of supervision and enforcing laws. Jennie believes the Parenting Sentencing Alternative Program is a good step in that direction. In her free time, she loves to kayak, read, explore outdoors and spend time with her family.

Elaine “Missy” Farr. Missy is a Corrections Specialist for the Strength in Families (SIF) program within the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC). She manages recruitment for the program and also supervises the program’s Case Managers who provide direct support and advocacy for the program’s incarcerated parents and their families. Over Missy’s 24+ years with DOC, she has worked in a variety of roles both within the prison system and in community corrections. Her last 5 years working in the SIF program have inarguably been the most rewarding years of her career thus far as working in SIF has allowed her to try and help be a part of the solution from the inside, out.

Johni Gibson. Johni Gibson is a fun-loving free spirit and a mother of two sons and a wife of 22 years. She has served as the Parents for Parents Program Coordinator in Whatcom County for the last 8 years. She loves supporting parents by utilizing her lived child welfare experience to provide them with connection, resources, support, and most importantly hope. She believes in the power of generative capacity, where when you help two people, who help two people, you build a community of love and acceptance. Johni also believes in the importance of investing in professional development to build other leaders in the Parent Ally work in Washington state. As a certified Peer Counselor, she meets people where they are and walks beside them as they navigate their journey.

Rebecca Harris. Rebecca is a parent with lived experience with both the child welfare system as well as with housing systems. Prior to contracting with OPD, Rebecca worked with unhoused families to secure permanent and stable housing options. She has experience working with families from diverse backgrounds exiting homelessness. Rebecca is also involved in advocacy groups at the local and state levels.

Michael Heard. Michael Heard has been the managing social worker with the Washington State Office of Public Defense (OPD) Parents Representation Program since 2006. He has been federal consultant for Child and Family Services Reviews (CFSR) since 2007. He is also an affiliated instructor with the University of Washington School of Social Work since 2014. Prior to joining OPD, Mr. Heard worked for Washington State’s Children’s Administration and the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe. He has undergraduate degree in sociology from the University of Utah and an M.S.W. from the University of Minnesota.

Jasmine Hodges. Jasmine Hodges has been working for Department of Children, Youth and Family Services in Washington State since 2013. She has a bachelor’s in arts in Psychology from Seattle University and a master’s in counseling from Webster University, Geneva Switzerland. While at DCYF, Jasmine has worked as a child protective services case worker, investigations, family assessment response and family voluntary services supervisor, program manager of dependency courts and a quality practice specialist coaching and supporting practice improvement. Jasmine is currently the statewide program manager for child safety at DCYF. Prior to working for DCYF Jasmine practiced as a play therapist and behavioral specialist writing IEPs in Geneva, Switzerland.

Abbie Jardine. Abbie Jardine has been working as an OPD Social Worker for the past 3 years. She holds a Masters Degree in Social Welfare from the University of Washington and was a graduate of the Child Welfare Training Advancement Program. Abbie has worked in Early Intervention as a Specialist supporting parents of children with social / emotional delays and offering Promoting First Relationships as a certified instructor. Abbie has worked within DCYF as a CFWS Social Worker along with experience serving youth at risk and survivors of domestic violence. Abbie is passionate about serving parents and families involved in the child welfare system and supporting them to feel empowered, connected, and together.

Larry Jefferson. Larry Jefferson was appointed in April of 2021 by the Washington Supreme Court to become the new Director of Public Defense for the State of Washington.  In 2020 Larry was named the Attorney of the Year and received the Daniel Bigelow award from the Thurston County Bar Association. He has worked as a public defender in King and Thurston County’s since 1996.  He is a graduate of The Evergreen State College and Seattle University School of Law.  Larry is currently serving as a Board member with the Campaign for Equal Justice and the Thurston County Diversity and Inclusion Section.  He is past President of the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and Thurston County Bar Association. Larry is a devoted husband, father of two wonderful adult children and a self-proclaimed mama’s boy. He enjoys spending time transforming justice, standing by his barbecue and cheering for the Seahawks.

Lisa Johnson. Lisa, a proud mother of nine beautiful children who uses her journey of overcoming drug addiction, mental health, and her involvement in child welfare system to support those families most in need. Lisa has been the Parents for Parents Program Coordinator since April 2022 in Benton and Franklin Counties Lisa provides vital resources and guidance to parents involved in the dependency system, empowering them to overcome their own obstacles and pave a pathway for reunification. She is actively involved in the community, giving back to those support systems she once leaned on in her own times of struggle. “I strive to be the person that I didn’t have while going through my Dependency case. I want to be a support for them and help parents/people overcome their barriers, and have the ability to access resources and succeed.”

Renee Jones. Renee Jones has had a long-standing passion to combat system injustice for marginalized people. Like many who seek a calling in Social Work, she began her journey through her own personal experience in navigating systems. In 2010, as a mother to two young children, Renee found herself homeless as a result of Domestic Violence, forcing her to navigate a system that she was forced to quickly learn and navigate. From this experience, she decided to go back to school with the goal of assisting families like her own to overcome their own barriers.

In 2015, Renee was no longer homeless, had successfully transferred to the University of Washington in Seattle and had graduated with both her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Social work. Throughout her time in school, Renee was a paid employee for the Department of Children Youth and Families, became a foster parent, and volunteered with families through local DV agencies.

Renee has been a contracted social worker with Washington State Office of Public Defense in King County, WA since 2016. In her role, Renee has the opportunity to do all that she is passionate about: to assist parents in overcoming barriers to meaningfully engage in their case and reunify with their children. Renee has developed a niche in working with parents with intellectual disabilities, housing navigation and creative service plans to navigate complex systems.

Jacqueline Justice. Jacqueline Justice is a Washington native and Tacoma based attorney whose practice focuses on representing children in dependency matters. Jacqueline graduated from the University of Oregon Law School in 2007. Following graduation, she worked as an assistant professor for a law faculty in Ethiopia. Upon her return, she has worked in both family law and was an attorney advisor for the Social Security Administration. Jacqueline first began advocating for children when she became a volunteer guardian ad litem in 2010. She began focusing full- time on youth advocacy in 2018. In 2017 Jacqueline was honored to serve as a fellow in the Washington Leadership Institute, a program designed to develop diverse leaders in the Washington State Bar. She currently serves as the Chair of the Goodwill of the Olympic and Rainier Regions’ Board of Directors and serves on the Board of Trustees for the Tacoma Art Museum. In her spare time, Jacqueline enjoys spending time with her partner, two dogs, and two cats. Her hobbies include traveling, roller skating, and more recently, golfing.

Jennifer Justice. Jennifer Justice is a dedicated parent with previous involvement in the child welfare system. She initially entered the system in 2015 due to struggles with substance use disorder and unaddressed mental health issues. Her journey through the dependency system ultimately concluded with the termination of her parental rights. Nevertheless, Jennifer has maintained a strong and nurturing connection with her children, as they found placement with caring relatives. In 2020, Jennifer faced a family voluntary case, but thanks in part to the exceptional support of the F.I.R.S.T Legal Clinic Team, she promptly addressed her parenting style. Remarkably, her family voluntary case was resolved and dismissed within a mere six months. Jennifer’s profound personal experiences within the child welfare system have ignited a passionate commitment to preventing new mothers from encountering similar challenges. In 2021, she joined the WSPAC (Washington State Parent Advisory Committee) and took her dedication a step further by obtaining her Associate of Applied Arts Degree in Legal Administrative Assisting in 2022. August 2022 marked a significant milestone in Jennifer’s journey as she embarked on her career as a Parent Ally with the F.I.R.S.T Legal Clinic, continuing her impactful work within the realm of child welfare.

Leah Legee. Leah Legee is a proud single mother of three beautiful children. She uses her knowledge and strength of overcoming addiction and homelessness along with her lived experience in the child welfare system as a parent and former foster child to empower and support parents. One of the ways she does this is as the Parents for Parents (P4P) Coordinator in Pierce County. She believes that the power of peer support is vital in engaging parents to be proactive in their case and teach self-advocacy to help parents be successful in their reunification goals. Leah is passionate about making sure that all parents have equitable access to services, support, and resources. She wants to ensure that no family falls through the cracks! Leah knows the importance of working with all community partners to ensure parents are connected to the support of P4P.

Laurie Lippold. Laurie Lippold is a graduate of the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Social Work. Laurie has worked with pregnant and parenting teens in Chicago, served as the clinical coordinator of Youth Advocates’ Therapeutic Family Home (a residential treatment program), and worked at Children’s Home Society of WA in a number of roles, including as their public policy director for many years. Other organizations she has worked for include the Children’s Alliance and the Family Policy Council, and as the lobbyist for the WA Chapter American Academy of Pediatrics, the Mockingbird Society and A Way Home WA. Since 2012, Laurie has been the Public Policy Director at Partners for Our Children. Laurie also services on the Children’s Alliance Public Policy Advisory Committee, Citizen Review Panel, the Family Treatment Court Advisory Committee, and Northstar Advocates.

Brenda Lopez. Brenda is a Corrections Specialist 4 Parent Navigator with the Washington State Department of Corrections. She was hired in February of 2023 to develop a program to support incarcerated parents with reunification and guardianship efforts. She also teaches parenting classes to the incarcerated parents. Brenda is stationed out of Headquarters and physically working at the Washington Correction Center for Women. She is a Parent Ally with lived experience in the child welfare system and incarceration. She developed the Parent for Parent program with Pierce County Juvenile Court and system stakeholders in 2006. Brenda worked as a contracted Social Worker with the Washington state Office of Public Defense Parents Representation Program for more than 12 years. Brenda’s core belief is that people do change and families can reunite if given the support, education and opportunities needed.

Tonia McClanahan. Tonia McClanahan is the Washington State Office of Public Defense Parent Voice Advocacy Manager. Tonia was formerly the Parent4Parent Program Director for Thurston, Mason and Lewis Counties as well as a contracted Social Services Worker for the Washington State Office of Public Defense Parent Representation Programs. She has been working collaboratively with attorneys, parents and stakeholders to help parents navigate the Children’s Justice Systems and come to a resolution in the Dependency Court process for over 18 years.

Tonia also sits on various committees and boards at the state and local levels. She had mentored parents in the Dependency process in one capacity or another since 2005, has testified to help support Legislative work to improve child welfare systems since 2006, She is the first Parent to be commissioned on the Washington State Supreme Court Commission on Children in Foster Care. She sat on Family Recovery Court teams in 3 counties, A member of the State Safe Babies Advisory Team, is a member of a local Executive Dependency Advisory Group, a member of a local Drug Court Foundation named respectfully after Judge Strophy, a member of the State Background Check Workgroup, A co-chair on the Statewide Reunification Steering Committee, A champion of the Protein for All program and Hangry Carts in two counties, A champion of the Mockingbird Society, an active member of local Alumni Groups, a long-standing member of the Washington State Parent Advocacy Committee, along with many other advocacy groups. If nothing else Tonia believes in helping parents regain hope in rebuilding their families and elevating the Parent voice.

Tera McElravy. Tera is a Corrections Specialist for the Strength in Families program within the Washington State Department of Corrections. She provides education and guidance to releasing incarcerated fathers in an effort to enhance a positive and healthy reconnection with their children and families. The majority of her 23 years with the Department has been spent managing and creating enrichment programs for incarcerated individuals and their families. She has observed first hand the support opportunities and unique struggles of the incarcerated when trying to return back home.

Celeste Miller. Celeste Miller is the KCBA Statewide Kinship Care Legal Aid Coordinator, and the supervisor of the new statewide Legal Advice and Referral for Kinship Care (LAARK) program. Previously she ran a solo low bono family law firm for seven years. In her practice, she focused on cases that involved domestic violence and parenting restrictions. She also has immigration law experience in the specific areas of Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) and DACA. She is familiar with the dependency system from interning at Northwest Defenders Association (now Division) and the Portland Juvenile Rights Project in law school, as well as representing minors in private dependencies for SIJS cases through KIND, NWIRP, and her private practice. She is a 2010 graduate of Seattle University School of Law. She is a past chair of the Low Bono Section.

Kelsey O’Sullivan. Kelsey O’Sullivan grew up with a white-picket-fence life in the small town of Woodinville, WA. By appearance, her life was perfect and she was a very well taken care of child. However, when the door closed, it was a very different story. She grew up in a home full of child abuse and maltreatment, where DCYF wasn’t involved until she was 17 years old. As a child, she experienced the effects of drug and alcohol and how they could be used to numb the pain and suffering she carried with her from her childhood experiences. When she found recovery, she was broken, beat-down, and desperate for a solution. She has now found a new beginning, absent of the effect of drugs, alcohol, and addictive food. She is a woman in recovery, which means she hasn’t used a mind-altering substance for over 11 years. Through her recovery journey, she was presented with the diagnosis of Anxiety and PTSD with a Dissociated Identity Disorder component. As she has learned in recovery, she has dealt with her mental health through a proactive approach. What happened to her in her past is not her fault, however it is her responsibility to deal with the results of those events. She is not allowed to hold the world responsible for her life circumstances! She participates in Eye Movement Desensitization, Reprocessing (EMDR) and continuously attends recovery meetings. She has become the best version of herself by learning to be realistic with her mental health and exercise appropriate boundaries within her career. It has given her the unique ability to empathize with her clients and their life experiences. It takes someone who has seen the depths of hell to get someone out. She is grateful to be the hand that clients reach out to, by turning her pain into hope!

Anya Perret. Anya Perret is a family defense attorney at Northwest Defenders Division of the King County Office of Public Defense. Anya worked in child welfare for five years before going to law school to represent parents and youth trapped in the dependency system. Anya is a pacific northwest native and graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and Dartmouth College.

Shawn Powell. Shawn Powell is currently the Program Coordinator for the Parents for Parents Program in King County. Shawn has been in this role for almost 5 years. “Working for this program allows me the opportunity to give back to the community where I received so much support during my own experiences with CPS and the dependency system.” Shawn has a degree in Social and Human Services and is also a Certified Peer Counselor. Before accepting the position with the Parents for Parents Program, Shawn worked for three years in a residential treatment center for people with little to no income. 10 years before this Shawn had a career in cosmetology as a stylist, as well as an instructor for several high-end schools in the industry. The combination of Shawn’s love for teaching, and supporting others pairs nicely with her lived experience and gives her the opportunity to be a part of the wonderful work happening with families.

Ambyr Rose. Ambyr Rose was introduced into the Child Welfare System at the very young age of two, where she spent seven-teen years. After fifteen placements, Ambyr emancipated with two children in tow, but shortly after found herself in an intimate partner abuse relationship and homeless. Ambyrs’ children were subsequently removed.
After two years of successfully navigating the Child Welfare System to reunify with her children, Ambyr came back to Child Welfare a few years later to help other families successfully navigate the system. Not only did she work full time, but she also began attending school, while raising her 5 young children.

Ambyr was a Parent Partner with the Los Angeles DCFS Parents in Partnership Program for almost 10 years. Ambyr quickly moved up and was in an Administrative Lead position that with her DCFS counterpart supervised five Regional DCFS offices, and provided supervision to the front line Parent Partners in each office and Edelman’s Children’s Court. Ambyr has been trained in the Project Fatherhood MIRG group facilitation, where she facilitated support groups for incarcerated fathers at one of Los Angeles County’s largest male incarceration facilities. Ambyr sat on the Invest LA Board, was a member of the Directors Advisory Council, and participated in the Thriving Families Workgroup, ERDD workgroups, along with other various inner-office Implementation groups.

Ambyr has been able to travel throughout the country to share her lived experience with various Initiatives in different states and counties. She also has been the speaker at DCFS office openings, Domestic Violence Symposiums, quoted in various newspaper stories highlighting family engagement, and continues to make herself available to the changes taking place in the Child Welfare work.

Ambyr has recently relocated to the state of Washington with her family to join the Children’s Home Society of Washington team, as the Parents for Parents Program Specialist.

Shrounda Selivanoff. Shrounda Selivanoff is the Social Service Manager at the Washington State Office of Public Defense Parent Representation Program. She brings a fierce and passionate voice advocating for systemic change for parents and their children involved with the child welfare system. She was previously involved with the system due to a severe drug and alcohol addiction. Through life challenges, she has preserved. At present, she continues to learn more about the child welfare system from a kinship caregiver’s perspective to
her grandson.

Shrounda’ s child welfare experience birthed an advocate seeking to destigmatize parents and move towards a system that empowers and values parents as partners. Shrounda’ s work prioritizes marginalized and disenfranchised families and relentlessly pursues policy change and system reform towards preserving and strengthening families. She has a keen understanding of change agents’ power, the impacts and barriers of policies, and the overall importance of personal and societal transformation.

Shrounda has extensive work experience as the Director of Public Policy Children’s Home Society of Washington, King County Parents for Parents Program and other programs such as the Perinatal Treatment Services and the University of Washington Fetal Alcohol Drug Unit Parent-Child Assistance Program.

Shrounda is the recipient of the 2021 Casey Excellence for Child Award and the 2021 Unsung Hero Award by the Department of Children, Youth, and Families Strengthening Families in partnership with Seattle Child. She is also a member of the Washington State Parent Ally Committee, a founding member of the Birth Parent National Network, Executive Board member of Family Treatment Court of King County, the Co-Chair of the Department of Children, Youth and Families Oversight Board, a national consultant for Casey Families and the Children’s Trust Fund serving multiple jurisdictions across the United States. She provides a parent lived experience perspective on the state, local and national platforms, all in pursuit of justice and family preservation.

Phyllis Stricklan. Phyllis Stricklan joined Children’s Law Center in 1998 as a staff attorney where she was later promoted to Supervising Attorney, and in 2010, became Firm Director. A Child Welfare Law Specialist, Ms. Stricklan’s many years of experience in dependency includes representing youth in the County of San Bernardino. In addition to her legal background, she is also a Registered Nurse, and in that capacity she has been employed as a Head Nurse, Clinical Nurse Specialist and assistant professor of mental health nursing. Ms. Stricklan was honored as part of National Foster Care Awareness Month and the 2nd Annual Brightest Star Awards in 2012 as an “outstanding, unsung hero“ dedicated to serving the needs of abused, abandoned, and neglected children in a leadership capacity in the Inland Empire (San Bernardino & Riverside Counties) and Pomona Valley (Los Angeles County). In 2017, Ms. Stricklan received the Game Changer Award from Project Fatherhood at the Children’s Institute, and in 2019, presented at The International Coalition for Children with Incarcerated Parents (INCCIP) at the University of Hudersfield in England. She serves on the Steering Committee of the Los Angeles County Eliminating Racial Disproportionality and Disparity workgroup. For the past several years, Ms. Stricklan has taught an educational program for family and friends of individuals with mental health conditions for the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI).

Flint Stebbins. Flint Stebbins was trial counsel in The Matter of A.E.T.H. where he and Adam Ballout exposed misconduct and systemic abuses by the Snohomish County VGAL Program. Flint and Amanda Ullrich, his partner in their new firm, have continued to attack state misconduct in a recent case where the successfully moved for disqualification of the Attorney General’s local office for conspiring to have their client arrested during trial. For the past 10 years, Flint’s practice has focused on dependency litigation and challenging the Department and CASAs/VGALs misconduct and the imbalance of power in the system. Flint went to Chapman University School of Law, then worked for several years in the Snohomish County Superior Court and as the law clerk to the Honorable David A. Kurtz.

Flint Stebbins has a scientific background with his Bachelor’s degree in Biology and graduate studies in molecular development of the fruit fly, the molecular structure and operation of the Acetylcholine neurotransmitter receptor, and studies of infectious diseases including Hantavirus and West Nile Virus.

Jamison Tessneer. Jamison Tessneer represents the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska in cases involving their children in Washington state. He has represented parents involved in child welfare cases for ten years, first in Minnesota, and currently in Washington. He continues to represent parents in Mason County.

Amanda Ullrich. Amanda Ullrich burst into dependency practice immediately fighting the Department on medical neglect and abuse cases with great success for her clients. Amanda aggressively confronted the Snohomish County VGAL Program’s improper withholding of discovery, leading to the recusal of the Snohomish County bench requiring the case be transferred to a different county. Amanda’s relentlessness was also demonstrated as trial counsel in In re L.C.S., recently decided by the WA Supreme Court. Amanda’s new firm, with Flint Stebbins, focuses on offensive litigation against the Department looking to shift the leverage in favor of parents. Amanda originally began her career with motor vehicle torts, medical malpractice, slip and falls, and other personal injury torts, and has provided pro bono legal assistance for immigrant youth seeking asylum and who are eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status.

Amanda graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature with a focus in creative writing. In 2014, Amanda graduated from the University of San Diego School of Law. Amanda received an Excellence in Trial Advocacy Award, and in 2013 she won first place in the San Diego Defense Lawyers national mock trial tournament.

Laura Vogel. As the Child Welfare Training and Court Improvement Specialist for the Administrative Office of the Courts, Laura (she/her) coordinates training and court improvement efforts for child dependency courts. Previously, she was employed by Thurston County Superior Court as the Family Recovery Court Coordinator, and subsequently as the Safe Babies Court Community Coordinator. Laura holds bachelor’s degree from North Dakota State University and a Master of Public Administration degree from Kent State. Laura is a Certified Trauma Support Specialist and a board member for HeartStrides Therapeutic Horsemanship. More information on Laura can be found here.

Gina Wassemiller.Gina Wassemiller is the Parent Ally for the FIRST Legal Clinic. She is also a contracted Social Service Specialist with the Office of Public Defense Parent Representation Program. Gina has been actively involved in a number local and national organizations and support groups, including Snohomish County Table of Ten, Snohomish County Parent Ally Committee, Washington State Parent Ally Committee, the Birth Parent National network, and the Parent for Parent program at the YWCA.

Gina brings passion and hope to the work she does with families. She was one of the parents she works with today. Her case ended in a relinquishment of her parental rights by choice. She believes a positive outcome is one a parent can live with forever. She knows this from her own experience. Gina is a survivor of domestic violence and a recovering addict. She meets parents where they are at and instills hope into each parent she works with.

Amelia Watson. Amelia Watson (she/her) has been with the Washington State Office of Public Defense (OPD) Parents Representation Program (PRP) since 2006, and her most recent position is Lead Attorney. Prior to joining OPD, Ms. Watson worked for the Pierce County Department of Assigned Counsel where she had the honor of representing parents in dependency and termination of parental rights proceedings under the PRP Pilot. Ms. Watson received her undergraduate degree from the University of Washington in Women Studies and her law degree from Northeastern University School of Law. Ms. Watson is a founding member and CoChair of the National Alliance for Parent Representation of the ABA Center of Children and the Law, an executive team member for the Family Justice Initiative, and a founding participant advisor for the Washington State Parent Ally Committee. In 2012, Ms. Watson’s article A New Focus on Reasonable Efforts to Reunify was published in the Child Law Practice by the ABA Center on Children and Law. In her spare time, Ms. Watson enjoys hiking, cooking, playing with her cockapoo Charlie and spending time with her extended family. Additionally, as a longtime YWCA Olympia board member, she actively works to demand social justice in her community through the YWCA’s mission of eliminating racism and empowering womxn.

Neil Weiss. Neil Weiss is a passionate attorney who has contributed hundreds of pro bono hours for FIRST client representation and program development. While he has a background in accounting, his legal practice includes parent and child representation in juvenile dependency, criminal defense, family law, protection orders, civil litigation, and administrative law. He has experience as a commissioner and judge pro tem in King County Superior Court, Snohomish County District Courts, and Monroe Municipal Court. He has presented at multiple statewide training programs regarding representation in child welfare cases. He enjoys cooking and plays ice hockey in local leagues.

Chelsey Welch. Chelsey was born and raised in Juneau, Alaska. She is an enrolled citizen of Central Council Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. Chelsey has been the Child Welfare Coordinator at Tlingit & Haida’s Seattle Office since it opened in March 2021.

William Wolf. William Wolf has worked for the Pierce County Department of Assigned Counsel for 25 years, 17 of them in Dependency Court. William is a dedicated soldier in the fight to reunify children and their parents and a strong advocate in making sure the system is just and fair for all parents. “When it comes to Dependency Law, I think I drank the kool-aid and I like how it tasted.”

Bailey Zydek. (she/her) Bailey is the current manager of OCLA’s Children’s Representation Program, which underwrites and oversees the delivery of standards-based legal representation of children and youth in dependency and termination proceedings across Washington State. Prior to coming to OCLA, Bailey was in private practice in Tacoma, WA where she owned and operated the firm Wildwood Legal. For eight years Bailey had the honor of representing children and parents in dependency and termination proceedings at Pierce County Juvenile Court, the last 3 of which were dedicated exclusively to children’s representation. Bailey has presented on a variety of topics concerning children’s representation over the years and has served as a co-editor of the dependency and CHINS/ARY chapters of the WSBA’s Family Law Deskbook. She is currently the Chair of the WSBA’s Juvenile Law Section and the designated State Coordinator for the National Association of Counsel for Children.