Barton Child Law and Policy Center

Table of Contents

Legal advocacy reimagined . . .

Preventive legal advocacy and pre-petition programs across the country are reimagining what it means to provide high quality legal representation to vulnerable parents and families at-risk of facing family separation.

About the PLA/PP National Cohort

Preventive legal advocacy and pre-petition programs play a crucial role in  reducing over-reliance on the child welfare system by focusing on early legal intervention and hollistic support for at-risk families and parents facing child protection investigations. These programs address underlying civil legal issues and other barriers impacting family stability before they lead to family separation. By providing legal guidance, social services, and resources to at-risk families, early legal advocacy programs promote family integrity, protect against the trauma of child welfare interventions, and reduce entries into foster care.

The PLA/PP National Cohort brings existing and emerging early legal advocacy programs and stakeholders together to provide an invaluable opportunity for collaboration and knowledge exchange. Despite new widespread interest in these types of programs, preventive legal advocacy and pre-filing defense remains a relatively new field. By fostering a sense of community among programs, advocates, and community stakeholders, the cohort serves as a free space to explore common practices and share resources, ideas, and information to enhance program impact and further the field of early legal advocacy.

Sometimes the strangeness of proactive legal work in the area of family preservation feels daunting, and it is very helpful to me to know that others are doing it successfully and effectively.”

– Kristen Foster, Family Advocacy and Support Team Clinic, Arizona

Monthly Meeting Information

Meeting Schedule

Next Meeting: July 16, 2024

The Cohort meets via Zoom on the third Tuesday of each month from 1:00 – 2:30 p.m. EST to explore topics relevant to program design and implementation and the effective practice of early legal advocacy. 

Each meeting is recorded and the Cohort maintains an archive of these sessions. If you are interested in viewing these materials, or joining us for our next meeting, please use the form below to join the Cohort and access meeting archives and other program resources.

Meeting Topics

Upcoming Meeting Topic:

To be announced 

Past Meeting Topics:

  • New Rule title IV-E Legal Rep.
  • Mandated Reporter Education
  • Strength Based Intake Assessment 
  • Common Funding Sources
  • Outcome Measures 
  • Radical Early Defense
  • Know Your Rights Advocacy
  • Effective Community Partnerships
  • The Role of Peer Partners
  • Family Miranda Efforts
  • Hidden Foster Care
  • NPRM for Title IV-E Legal Rep.
  • Principals of PLA & PP Rep

Cohort Members by State

Click on a state below to view members from each jurisdiction. To view national partners, click on the National Orgs section. 

PLA Cohort Members Map
California Oregon Washington Arizona Nevada Utah Idaho Montana Wyoming Colorado New Mexico South Dakota North Dakota Kansas Nebraska Oklahoma Texas Illinois Iowa Missouri Arkansas Louisiana Mississippi Tennesse Kentucky Minnesota Wisconsin Indiana Alabama Georgia Florida South Carolina North Carolina Virginia Washington D.C. West Virginia Ohio Michigan Maryland Delaware Pennsylvania New Jersey New York Connecticut Rhode Island Massachusetts Vermont New Hampshire Maine Alaska Hawaii National Organizations

California

A New Way of Life
Andy Mazingo
Leah Moritz
Ashle Walcott

Casey Family Programs
Justin Lee

Center for Families, Children & the Courts
Marymichael Smrdeli
Melani Snider
Erin Thurston

Children’s Law Center
Tiffani Cortez
Jody Green
Maria Griglio
Kaveh Landsverk
Lucia Murillo

Dependency Advocacy Center
Sara Cook
Katie Joh
Hillary Kushins

East Bay Family Defenders
Eliza Patten

Legal Assistance for Seniors
Kristen Boney
Mariel Kusano

Legal Services for Prisoners with Children
Arielle Reisman
Meredith Wallis

Los Angeles Dependency Lawyers
Jessie Bridgeman
Pari Lucero

Public Counsel
Sharon Balmer

UC Berkeley School of Law
Addie Gilson
Kyndra Cleveland

Oregon

Juvenile Court Improvement Program
Jayne Cooper
Heidi Strauch

Oregon State Bar Legal Services Program
Keren Farkas

Youth, Rights & Justice
Jennifer Stoller
Liz Kay Williams

Washington

Amara Family FOCUS Program
Bill Jones

Casey Family Programs
Rob Wyman

F.I.R.S.T. Clinic
Taila Ayay
Adam Ballout

Nevada

Unfortunately, we don’t have any participants from the state of Nevada at this time. Interested in joining the Cohort? Please use the form at the bottom of the page to register!

Utah

Unfortunately, we don’t have any participants from the state of Utah at this time. Interested in joining the Cohort? Please use the form below to register!

Montana

Child Protection Unit
Brooke Baracker-Taylor

Montana Legal Services
Michelle Weltman

Office of the State Public Defender
Kelly Driscoll
Lisa Woodward

Private Attorney
John Guinn

University of Montana
Fred “Brett” Fisher
Jeff Folsom

Wyoming

Unfortunately, we don’t have any participants from the state of Wyoming at this time. Interested in joining the Cohort? Please use the form below to register!

New Mexico

Unfortunately, we don’t have any participants from the state of New Mexico at this time. Interested in joining the Cohort? Please use the form below to register!

South Dakota

Unfortunately, we don’t have any participants from the state of South Dakota at this time. Interested in joining the Cohort? Please use the form below to register!

North Dakota

Unfortunately, we don’t have any participants from the state of North Dakota at this time. Interested in joining the Cohort? Please use the form below to register!

Kansas

Kansas Department for Children and Families
Arielle Erwine

Kansas Legal Services
Shila Estes
Noah Hahs
Marilyn Harp
Will Hartenstein
Jennifer Irwin
Alex Pearsona
Megan Storiem
Anson Tullis

University of Kansas
Stef Sloan
Megan Cizek

Oklahoma

Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma
Aubrie Comp
Gwendolyn Clegg

Oklahoma Department of Human Services
Ronald Baze
Brittnay Hunt-Jassy

Texas

Casey Family Programs 
Anne Heiligenstein
Tiffany Roper
Robin Sage

Central Texas Parent Advocacy Group
Michelle Cummings

Foster Care Advocacy Center
Tara Griggs Green

Texas Children’s Commission
Dylan Moench

Texas Legal Services Center
Sarah Bryant

Travis County District Court
Hon. Aurora Martinez Jones
Hon. Leigh Mathews Rodriguez

Texas Public Policy Foundation
Andrew Brown

Texas RoiGrande Legal Aid, Inc.
Cindy Dyer

Illinois

Ascend Justice
Sara Gilloon
Emory Robertson
Elizabeth Newland

Cook County Public Defender 
Catherine Diebel

Family Defense Consulting
Diane Redleaf

Legal Aid Chicago
D’Laney Gielow
Melissa L. Staas
Leah Yaris

Moran Center for Youth Advocacy
Megan McClung

Iowa

State Pubic Defender
Jeff Wright
Nicole Mundy

Missouri

Jackson County CASA
Claire Terrebonne

Arkansas

Louisiana

Mississippi

Department of Child Protection Services
Ta’Shia Gordon
Caroline Johnson

Tennesse

Kentucky

Unfortunately, we don’t have any participants from the state of Kentucky at this time. Interested in joining the Cohort? Please use the form below to register!

Minnesota

Blahnik, Prchal & Stoll
Mallory Stoll

Children’s Justice Initiative 
Rebecca Vanden Hanen

Health Equity Legal Project
Hannah Burton
Anne Carlson
Hannah Dietrich
Loan Mai
Brittany Metzger
Jessica Ryan

The ICWA Law Center
Shannon Smith

Wisconsin

Indiana

Casey Family Programs
Dan Cowan

Child Advocates
Phyllis Armstrong
Cynthia Booth
Toby Gill

Indiana Health Advocacy Coalition
Kerry Hyatt Bennett

Indiana Public Defender Commission 
Julia Stevens

Indian Public Defender Council
Torrin Liddell

Alabama

Unfortunately, we don’t have any participants from the state of Alabama at this time. Interested in joining the Cohort? Please use the form below to register!

Georgia

Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation
Ayanna Jones-Lightsy

Barton Child Law & Policy Center
Melissa Carter
Emilie T. Cook

FLOTE Services
Amber Walden

The Law Office of Arianne E. Mathe’, P.C.
Ari Mathe

The Office of Public Defender, Atlanta Judicial Circuit 
Emma Brown-Bernstein
Renee Cooper

Together With Families
Debora Childs
Sarah Winograd

Wellroot Family Services
Christina Lennon

Florida

Casey Family Programs
Jessica Hanak-Coulter

Citrus Family Care Network
Allison Schild

Community Law for Families and Children
Octavia Brown
Valentina Villalobos

Cooke Law, PA
Stewart Cooke

Florida Department of Children and Families
April E. Rolle

Florida Department of Public Health
Nathan Scott

Heart Gallery of Tampa
Christy Lee

Jacksonville Center for Children’s Rights
Betsy Dobbins

Bay Area Legal Services, Inc.
Jennifer Hodges

Miami Law Children and Youth Clinic 
Alex Cinney
Kele Stewart

NAMI Sarasota and Manatee Counties
Blake Neathery
Sonya Johnson

Office of Regional Counsel – Region 3
Isis Gonzalez
Margaret Julien

Office of Regional Counsel – Region 4
Grace Cambareri
Kristen DeSimone

Parent Defense Council 
C. Michael Kelly

South Carolina

Casey Family Programs
Christopher Church

North Carolina

Andrews Law Office (Rowan County)
B. Ashley Andrews

Pisgah Legal Services
Jaclyn Kiger, JD, MSW

Virginia

Court Improvement Project
Jennifer Newman

Legal Aid Justice Center
Fallon Speaker

Washington D.C.

ABA Center on Children and the Law
Prudence Carr
Cathy Krebs
Jey Rajaraman

Children’s Law Center
LaShanda Adams
Jennifer Masi

Lash Consulting, LLC
Karen Lash

Mother’s Outreach Network
Reana May Alcantara
Beverli Wynn Euell
Shezreh KhanMelody Webb
Danielle McCoy

West Virginia

Unfortunately, we don’t have any participants from the state of West Virginia at this time. Interested in joining the Cohort? Please use the form below to register!

Ohio

Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc. (ABLE)
Christina Brown
Ryan Davis

Cuyahoga Office of the Public Defender
Jennifer Simmons

Erie County Public Defender
Doug Clifford
Kelli Jelinger

Office of the Prosecutor, Cuyahoga County
Anthony Beery
Michelle Meyers

The Ridge Project
Heidi Hathaway

Summit County Juvenile Court
Heidi Day Hall
James Warner

Supreme Court of Ohio
Debra Copeland, MS

Wayne County Parent Representation Pilot
Chelsea Wallace

Maryland

Maryland Family Network
Melissa Rock

Office of the Public Defender
Natasha Khalfani
Hayley Lichterman
Alexa Richardson
Nena Villamar

University of Baltimore School of Law
Shanta Trivedi

Delaware

Unfortunately, we don’t have any participants from the state of Delaware at this time. Interested in joining the Cohort? Please use the form below to register!

Pennsylvania

HELP MLP
Mackenzie Libbey

New Jersey

New York

Action Research
Emily Rodriguez

Bronx Defenders
Miriam Mack

Brooklyn Defender Services
Jessica Marcus

Center for Family Representation
Malena Arnaud
Ysmerlyn Baez
Shayne Larkin

Columbia Law School
Josh Gupta-Kegan

CUNY School of Law
Julia Hernandez
Tarek Ismail

Legal Services of the Hudson Valley
Tornisha Destin
Joanne Sirotkin

Judicial Commission on Justice for Children
Kristen Conklin

NYU School of Law
Christine Gottlieb

Connecticut

Rhode Island

Unfortunately, we don’t have any participants from the state of Rhode Island at this time. Interested in joining the Cohort? Please use the form below to register!

Massachusetts

Children’s Law Center of Massachusetts
Jessica Berry

Committee for Public Counsel Services
Andrew Don

Community Legal Aid
Madeline Blanchette
Sophie Chambers
Sara Conroy
Brianda Miranda
Corinne Ryan

Child Welfare Court Improvement Project
Sally Padden

Greater Boston Legal Services
Alyssa Rao

Harvard Law School
Rebecca Greening

Harvard Legal Aid Bureau 
Elizabeth Tuttle Newman

Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Susan Elsen

MetroWest Legal Services
Kirsten Root
Elizabeth A. Soule

Northeast Legal Aid
Maureen Lynch
Lorainee Medrano

Northeaster Univ. School of Criminology
Katherine Hazen

South Coastal Counties Legal Services, Inc.
Kris Lyons

Vermont

New Hampshire

Unfortunately, we don’t have any participants from the state of New Hampshire at this time. Interested in joining the Cohort? Please use the form below to register!

Maine

Hawaii

Unfortunately, we don’t have any participants from the state of Hawaii at this time. Interested in joining the Cohort? Please use the form below to register!

National Organizations

ABA Center on Children and the Law
Prudence Carr
Jey Rajaraman

ABA National Alliance for Parent Representation
Susan Jacobs

ABT Associates
Frank Alexander

Care Access Strategies
Sara Manns

Casey Family Programs
Jessica Hanak-Coulter
Rachel Konrad
Sheri Freemont
Cecelia Rivas
Kristin Rudlang-Perman
Robin Sage
Carol Self
Brooke Silverthorn
Sheldon Spotted-Elk
Rob Wyman

Coalition to End Hidden Foster Care
Josh Gupta-Kegan
Dianne Redleaf

Friend’s Research Institute
Dr. Mishka Terplan

National Association of Counsel for Children
Allison Green

National Center for State Courts
Alicia Davis
Miguel Trujillo

National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges
Erick Chavez
Andrew Wachter

National Center for Lesbian Rights
Danielle King

Participatory Action Research Collective
Dr. Stef Sloan

The ICWA Law Center
Shannon Smith

The Imprint
John Kelly

Think of Us
Jesse Noonan
Whitney Robertson
Susmita Sukla

Zero to Three
Erinn Havig

Learning Center

Review the principles and components of effective early legal advocacy.

Resource Library

Browse resources exploring topics relevant to PLA programs and pre-petition representation.

Program Spotlights

Explore the groundbreaking work of early legal advocacy programs across the country.

Join the PLA/PP National Cohort

Interested in learning more about the Cohort? Please fill out the adjacent form to join. While we’re always excited to welcome new programs to the group, you don’t have to be part of an existing PLA/PP program to participate in the Cohort. The Cohort is intended to serve as a free resource for any stakeholders interested in learning more about early legal advocacy and its capacity to prevent unnecessary family separation. For questions about the Cohort, please e-mail Emilie Cook at etcook2@emory.edu. 

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