Jennifer Rodriguez, Executive Director

Jennifer Rodriguez, J.D., is Executive Director of the Youth Law Center (YLC), advocating to transform foster care and juvenile justice systems across the country so youth can thrive. Jennifer spent many years of her childhood in foster care and juvenile justice facilities, and has spent most of her life advocating to ensure justice, compassion and opportunity for system involved youth. Jennifer’s advocacy has resulted in significant national policy, practice and culture changes around the fundamental needs of youth and formally including system involved youth as part of all policy processes. Jennifer’s leadership at YLC has a special focus on ensuring youth in both child welfare and juvenile justice receive the parenting necessary to heal and thrive and live in conditions that meet their developmental and emotional needs. Before coming to the Youth Law Center in 2010, Jennifer served for eight years at the California Youth Connection, a nationally-recognized foster youth advocacy organization, leading efforts resulting in major legislative and policy accomplishments for California probation and foster youth, including stronger educational rights, higher education funding, increased funding for transition services, and promotion of normalcy and  permanence for teenagers. Jennifer received her G.E.D. from San Jose Job Corps, her B.A. from UC Davis, and her J.D. from UC Davis law school and is mother to two beautiful children.

Education:
J.D., University of California, Davis, 2004

B.A., University of California, Davis 2001

A.A., San Joaquin Delta College, Stockton, 1999

G.E.D.,  San Jose Job Corps, San Jose, 1994

 

Robin Allen, Consultant, Quality Parenting Initiative

Robin Allen joined the Youth Law Center’s Quality Parenting team after 25 years with Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), serving as Executive Director of the California CASA Association for 12 of those years. In her role as Executive Director, she served on the Chief Justice’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Foster Care and on the Child Welfare Council where she served as Co-Chair of the Permanency Committee, bringing the CASA voice to policy decisions at the state level. After retirement she continued to find ways to support the work and, most importantly, the children and youth who inspire her, serving as the Interim Executive Director of California Youth Connection, a youth led policy, advocacy and youth leadership development organization. When Robin retired, she said she wanted to help families love their children. The opportunity to work with the Quality Parenting Initiative fulfills that goal.

 

Jamie Grantham Averett, Consultant, Quality Parenting Initiative

Jamie G. Averett joined the Youth Law Center’s Quality Parenting Initiative team in January of 2017. Prior to joining YLC, Jamie served in child welfare in Northwest Georgia for 17 years. For 14 years, Jamie served as counsel for children and families in juvenile court. Jamie was certified as a Child Welfare Law Specialist in 2010 and recognized by the National Association Counsel of Children and the American Bar Association. As an attorney, Jamie was involved with the implementation of National Quality Improvement Center on the Representation of Children. In 2013, Jamie was appointed to serve as the Associate Judge for Bartow County Juvenile Court, where she presided over both dependency and delinquency dockets. As a judge, Jamie was proactive in Georgia Council of Juvenile Court Judges, serving on the Children in Need of Services committee, Permanency committee, and the Bench Book and Uniform Rules for Juvenile Court committee. Judge Averett was part of a specialized permanency committee designed to address out of county placements of children in foster, was a proactive member of the Court Improvement Initiative for Model Courts, as established by the Georgia’s Supreme Court Justice for Children. Additionally, she served on the steering committee and served as the judicial co-chair for the North West Georgia System of Care where she worked directly with Casey Family Programs to develop the first Region of Hope project, an initiative to focus on strengthening families and communities as a preventive effort to keep children in their homes, in their communities, and to build community relationships and support. Judge Averett brings to YLC her passion and commitment to serving children and families in child welfare, and her sincere belief that every child and every parent is an individual who deserve the best we have to offer every day.

Education:

J.D., University fo Tulsa College of Law

B.S., Florida State University

 

David Brown, QPI Coordinator (Florida)

David Brown joined YLC in 2014 to serve as Quality Parenting Initiative (QPI) Coordinator. In this role, he travels throughout the country to various sites and works with each site’s foster care program to develop a cohesive, collaborative system. David supports sites at various stages of development, from the very early stages of implementing QPI to established sites who have fully embraced QPI. David works closely with foster  families, social workers, leadership of child welfare organizations, and stakeholders nationally.  Prior to his position with YLC, David served as the Director of  Programs for a community based care agency in Southwest Florida, where he was responsible for coordinating  foster care recruitment, licensing, training, and support, kinship care, and the non-relative caregiver program for five counties.  David has worked in the field of child welfare for over a decade in the areas of foster care licensing, child protective investigations, and continuing education and curriculum development.

Education:

M.S.W., Florida Gulf Coast University, 2012

B.A., New England College, 2002

Honors: National Association Social Workers Southwest Florida, Social Worker of the Year, 2013

  

Lucy Salcido Carter, Policy Advocate

Lucy Salcido Carter joined the Youth Law Center in 2016 to serve as policy advocate, providing policy leadership and support to a wide range of YLC efforts including the Quality Parenting Initiative, grant-funded projects, and legislative reforms. For 25 years, Lucy has worked with nonprofits, public agencies, foundations, education institutions, and law firms to advocate for better laws, improve public systems, enhance communications, and implement innovative programs and policies for a wide range of issues including child welfare, violence prevention, higher education, racial equity, and criminal justice. Prior to working at YLC, Lucy was the policy director at a California-based innocence project where she successfully lobbied for the passage of key California bills to prevent wrongful convictions, strengthen legal claims of innocence, and increase compensation and services for exonerees. She also spearheaded innovative partnerships among innocence attorneys and prosecutors and facilitated restorative justice retreats for individuals harmed by wrongful conviction. Lucy’s other policy accomplishments include bringing national visibility and federal funding to the issue of child exposure to domestic violence.

Education:

J.D. Stanford University

M.A. New York University

B.A. Princeton University

 

Virginia Corrigan, Staff Attorney

Virginia Corrigan joined the Youth Law Center as an Equal Justice Works Fellow sponsored by Baker & McKenzie and Intel in September 2013 and became a staff attorney in 2015.  As an Equal Justice Works Fellow, Virginia’s represented probation-supervised youth in extended foster care in Contra Costa County and worked to improve conditions for youth in the juvenile justice system across California.  In law school, Virginia documented conditions in adult and juvenile detention facilities in Panama as a member of the Harvard International Human Rights Clinic.  After graduation, she served as a clerk for the Honorable David M. Lawson in the Eastern District of Michigan.

Education:

J.D., Harvard Law School, 2011

B.A., University of Michigan, 2007

 

Carol Edwards, Consultant, Knowledge, Development and Training

Carol Campbell Edwards, MSW, LCSW, joined the Youth Law Center as a consultant in 2016 after having been involved in Florida’s Quality Parenting Initiative implementation. Her work with the Youth Law Center focuses on training and professional development. Carol is a licensed clinical social worker and approved supervisor in the State of Florida with 27 years of direct and administrative service in Child Welfare, Juvenile Justice, Marriage and Family Therapy and School Social Work. She is an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Florida State University College of Social Work. Carol also works with the Florida Department of Children and Families as a member of the curriculum development team. Previously, she served as the Professional Development Director for Big Bend Community Based Care, Inc., and the statewide Training Manager for the Florida Professional Development Centers. Carol holds certifications from the Florida Certification Board, True Colors International, Langevin Learning Systems, and Florida’s Adoptions Competent Therapist program. Carol currently serves as the National Association of Social Workers-Florida, President-Elect. At FSU, Carol is the Faculty Diversity Committee Chair, and member of the Student Affairs Committee and Academic Affairs Committee. She also serves as the faculty advisor for the FSU Power of We Campaign. In the Tallahassee Community, Carol volunteers with Leon County Schools, the Foster Adoptive Parent Association, and mentors youth with foster care experiences. She is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated and the proud mother of two amazing daughters.

Education:
M.S.W., Florida State University, 1985
B.S.W., Florida State University, 1984
Honors: Florida State University Social Work Professor of the Year 2017; Florida Department of Children and Families 20 Years of Inspiration Award 2017; National Association of Social Workers-Big Bend Unit, Social Worker of the Year 2010

 

Janay Eustace, Consultant, Quality Parenting Initiative

Janay Eustace joined the Youth Law Center as a QPI Consultant in January of 2018. She is a graduate of Sacramento State University where she received a Master’s degree in Social Work. A former foster youth herself, she is a dedicated advocate and speaker for child welfare and was recognized and awarded by California State University, Sacramento as a Raising Star Distinguished Alumni. Janay has been a consultant on child welfare national and statewide policy and practice issues since 2016, and she specializes in youth engagement and empowerment, foster youth advocacy, group facilitation, as well as public speaking. Prior to joining YLC, Janay helped implement the California Fostering Connections to Success Act. She worked for California Youth Connection as a volunteer and employee for many years in many different roles. She also worked for the California Welfare Director’s Association, working closely with California’s county child welfare agencies in legislation. Janay has worked as a Sacramento County Child Protective Services Social Worker and for many years in mental health crisis response as a Medical Social Worker. Janay regularly volunteers and supports many community sponsored events in the Sacramento Community to provide scholarship funds for former foster youth attaining higher education goals.

 

Celina Granato, QPI Executive Administrator

Celina Granato joined the Youth Law Center in 2016 to serve as Executive Administrator for the Quality Parenting Initiative (QPI). In this role she is involved with various aspects of development, supporting project planning and implementation for the Youth Law Center and national QPI sites. Prior to this, she worked as a Foster Parent Trainer and Licensing Specialist in Northwest Florida where she became involved with QPI efforts to improve the local system of care and ultimately pioneered the first Foster Parent Mentor program for Bay County, Florida. Previously, she served youth and families as a Dependency Case Manager and she also coordinated services at a residential treatment program for teen girls involved in the juvenile justice system.  Celina has been involved in social services since the late 1990s. She has worked as an In-Home Family Preservation Counselor in Florida and Indiana. In addition to her child welfare and juvenile justice undertakings, she received invaluable experience working for the Boys and Girls Club in Bloomington, Indiana and Hospice of Citrus County, Florida.

Education:

B.A., Indiana University, Bloomington  1998

 

Terry Harrak, Consultant, Just Beginning

Terry Harrak, has more than a decade of youth advocacy, curriculum development, training and community outreach experience. She currently works on the Quality Parenting Initiative (QPI) and the Just Beginning Program (JB) at the Youth Law Center. Mrs. Harrak supports our organizational goals by ensuring young people have a voice in the QPI process. She works directly with QPI sites training youth and developing strategies for youth involvement.  Mrs. Harrak manages Just Beginning Program sites nationally. Prior to her work at Youth Law Center, she served as Project Manager for Child Welfare League of America and Director of Youth Engagement for Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative.  She has testified before congress and elsewhere on issues pertaining to youth services. Mrs. Harrak is the author of Guidelines for Development of Foster Care Handbooks: What Foster Youth Have to Say and co-creator of Strategic Sharing: a curriculum for youth public speaking. Mrs. Harrak created The National Foster Youth Advisory Board in 2000. The group was instrumental in the movement to increase foster youth participation in policy and advocacy. In addition to her professional experience Terry brings her personal experience with the foster care and juvenile justice systems to her work. Mrs. Harrak’s personal testimony was instrumental in the passing of the Foster Care Independence Act and John H. Chafee Independent Living Program.  She was invited to speak at The White House alongside First Lady Hillary Clinton at the 1999 White House Summit on Foster Care. Mrs. Harrak resides in Northern Virginia with her husband. In her free time, she enjoys travelling and being an aunt.  Her advocacy efforts are fueled by her dream that no child will ever experience a system and that every child will have the quality loving parenting they deserve.

 

Catherine A. Huerta, QPI Coordinator (CA)

Catherine Huerta joined YLC in 2015 to serve as the QPI Coordinator for the State of California, after having served as a consultant to the project for a number of years.  Prior to working with QPI and YLC, Ms. Huerta worked for over 37 years working to improve the lives of families of community of Fresno County, retiring in 2011 as Director of the Fresno Department of Social Services.  Prior to serving as director, Ms. Huerta served as Director and Assistant Director of the Department of Children and Family Services for eight years.

Education:

M.S.W., California State University Fresno, 2004

B.S.: University of San Francisco,1992

 

Mehrzad Khajenoori, Administrator

Mehrzad lived on three continents, in three countries, in three states, and worked at three different non-profits before coming to the Youth Law Center. She says that she has now found where she belongs. In addition to being the administrative accountant, finance officer, and controller for YLC, she also works with grant report financing and budgeting. Most importantly, Mehrzad is a Court Appointed Special Advocate, which makes her feel right at home at YLC.  

 

Maria Ramiu, Senior Staff Attorney

Maria Ramiu joined the Youth Law Center as a staff attorney in 1992 and currently serves as the Center’s Senior Staff Attorney.  She has litigated, trained, written and consulted on a wide range of legal and policy issues relating to children in the foster care and juvenile justice systems. She has served as lead or co-counsel on many of the Center’s cases including litigation to secure appropriate services, safe placements and permanency for foster youth and safe and humane conditions of confinement for securely confined youth. Maria has been involved in a variety of advocacy efforts to address disparate treatment of youth based on gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or disability. She has also served on local, state and national advisory boards and other entities convened to address safety, health and welfare issues of youth in out-of-home care. Prior to joining the Youth Law Center, Maria worked as a staff attorney for Contra Costa Legal Services Foundation in Richmond, California and as an associate with the law firm of Drinker Biddle & Reath in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Education:

J.D., Boalt Hall School of Law, Berkeley, 1986
B.A.,  University of Pennsylvania, 1983

 

Carole Shauffer, Senior Director, Strategic Initiatives

Carole Shauffer became Youth Law Center’s Senior Director, Strategic Initiatives in 2012 after serving as Executive Director since 1994, and before that, as a Staff Attorney since 1981.  Carole’s work has focused on improving outcomes for foster youth through developing better services for infants and young children in the child welfare system, working with faith communities to provide support and services for at-risk youth, and reducing the use of shelter care for foster youth, particularly for infants and toddlers.

Carole co-created the Quality Parenting Initiative (QPI) project, which is focused on developing positive culture change within the child welfare system.  She has also worked to improve access to community and family for youth in the juvenile justice system through introducing child welfare practices to probation departments in California. With Georgetown Professor Rachel Barr, Carole has developed a hands-on parenting project now being instituted in five facilities in California and one in Ohio.  Often referred to as the Baby Elmo Project, it provides at risk youth with parenting tools to communicate a build relationships with their children, thus positively affecting the development of the baby and the father. Before joining the Youth Law Center, Carole worked at the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana.

Education:

J.D., Northeastern University School of Law, 1978

M.Ed., Northeastern University, 1974 B.A., Smith College, 1971

Honors:

Zero to Three Harris Mid-Career Fellow, 2003 to 2005

 

Phyllis Stevens, QPI Coordinator

Phyllis Stevens joined the Youth Law Center in 2016 to serve as a Quality Parenting Initiative (QPI) Coordinator. In this role, she travels throughout the country to various sites and works with each site’s foster care program to develop a cohesive, collaborative system. Phyllis supports sites at various stages of development and works closely with the foster families at each site.  Phyllis is an adoptive mom and former foster mom. She is founder and Executive Director of Together as Adoptive Parents Inc, an organization that provides support, resources and advocacy for adoptive, foster and kinship families, as well as the President of the Philadelphia Resource Parents Association Inc., an advocacy Association for foster parents. Phyllis is also on staff with North American Council on Adoption Children (NACAC) and travels throughout the state doing various trainings for them. Phyllis has won many awards locally and nationally for her work with children.

 

Gretchen Test, Operations Director

Gretchen Test joined the Youth Law Center in 2017, where she manages operations and administrative functions, and oversees the Quality Parenting Initiative evaluation. Previously, at the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Child Welfare Strategy Group, she led consulting teams assisting state and local child welfare leaders to implement large public system reform efforts, and collaborated with YLC on the development of the Quality Parenting Initiative. She supported efforts to improve policies related to LGBT youth and families, co-created Every Kid Needs a Family (a national campaign to reduce use of group placements) and helped manage the Family to Family Initiative and related grants in 18 states. She served as Director of the National Association of Public Child Welfare Administrators, is a founding member of the Alliance for Racial Equity and the Center on Immigration and Child Welfare and spent seven years creating and leading culturally responsive domestic violence and family support programs in the Seattle area. Gretchen served as a faculty practicum supervisor for four schools of social work and is a board member with several national child welfare organizations.

Education:
Nonprofit Management Graduate Certificate, University of Washington, 1993
MSW, Community Organizing and Planning, University of Washington, 1992
BA, Political Science, University of Rhode Island, 1985

 

Selina Weiss, Executive Assistant

Selina Weiss joined the Youth Law Center in June of 2017. In her role at YLC, Selina focuses on internal and external communications, development and fundraising, and day-to-day operations. Selina was born and raised in San Francisco, CA. She left high school at 15 and attended City College of San Francisco and graduated from San Francisco State University with a bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies and Planning. Before joining YLC, Selina spent five years working in communications and development at ScholarMatch, a San Francisco-based non-profit organization that aims to make college possible for low-income first generation students. Prior to that, Selina worked for the Mayor of San Francisco in the office of Neighborhood Services, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors for Supervisor John Avalos, District 11, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and the San Francisco Arts Commission.  When not working, Selina is a dedicated volunteer in the Bay Area arts community. She has spent over four years volunteering as a mentor at First Exposures, a program that teaches photography to under-resourced Bay Area youth, and over 2 years serving on the San Francisco Symphony’s All San Francisco Committee. Selina can often be found running around her hometown with a camera in hand, doing embroidery, learning to garden, and spending time with family and friends.

Education:

B.A., San Francisco State University, 2011

A.A. City College of San Francisco, 2009

CHSPE, San Francisco, 2005

 

Stacy Young, Equal Justice Works Emerson Fellow

Stacy Young joined the Youth Law Center in 2017 as an Equal Justice Works Emerson Fellow. Her work aims to combat barriers to education equity and to improve educational outcomes of juvenile justice youth through the provision of direct legal services, community education, policy advocacy, and impact litigation. Stacy’s longstanding commitment to social justice and public interest law is demonstrated by her experience representing and supporting at-risk youth, families, community groups, and clients with substantial needs, in the areas of education, school discipline, criminal record expungement, housing, domestic violence, disability, discrimination, and disenfranchisement.

Education:

J.D. Stanford Law School, 2017

B.A. University of San Diego, 2011