Staff

Jennifer L. Braun, Esq.

Acting President & CEO

Jennifer L. Braun joined the Alliance in May 2017, bringing over thirty years of experience. Ms. Braun oversees the Alliance’s litigation and programmatic goals. Her duties include the management and training of the Alliance’s legal staff, oversight of the program-wide legal practice, helping to identify issues for policy change and impact litigation, co-counseling and supporting pro bono attorneys in administrative and court cases, and representing the Alliance at community forums. She is expanding the Alliance’s work with pro bono attorneys to include representation of young adults in consumer matters and benefits cases for children adopted through foster care. Before joining the Alliance, Ms. Braun was an Assistant U.S. Trustee with the U.S. Department of Justice, where she prevented financial abuses in the bankruptcy system. Earlier, Ms. Braun was a supervising attorney at Bet Tzedek Legal Services, assisting indigent Los Angeles County residents with consumer protection, housing, public benefits, bankruptcy, and probate matters, and she began her legal career litigating employment rights cases in private practice. Ms. Braun holds a B.A. from Pomona College, a M.A. in English from the University of Chicago, and a J.D. from the University of California at Berkeley School of Law.

Danilo Garcia

Chief Financial Officer

Danilo Garcia joined the Alliance for Children’s Rights in February 2018 as Chief Financial Officer. Mr. Garcia oversees operations, risk management, strategic planning, and the overall financial viability of the agency. In addition, Mr. Garcia is involved in enhancing the organizational processes and infrastructure to allow for growth and increase future sustainability. Prior to joining the Alliance, Mr. Garcia served as A Place Called Home’s Finance Director, where he managed, coordinated and supervised all financial functions in a period of intense and continuous growth. With a passion for helping the most vulnerable, Mr. Garcia has a track record of volunteer participation in various initiatives. He currently serves on the Nonprofit Insurance Alliance of California’s Board of Directors. Mr. Garcia holds a BS in Business Administration (Finance emphasis) and minor in Economics from CalState LA and an MBA (Finance emphasis) from CalPoly, Pomona.

Lara Holtzman, Esq.

Managing Attorney

Lara joined the Alliance as a staff attorney in 1998 and has since assumed the role of Managing Attorney.  During her tenure, she helped expand the organization to include programs such as Health Care, Legal Guardianship and Public Benefits.

Lara is a graduate of the State University of New York, Buffalo, with a JD and a MS in Public Policy focusing on children and family services.  Prior to joining the Alliance, Lara worked as a children’s attorney for the Children’s Law Center and as a Research Attorney for three consecutive presiding judges of the Los Angeles Juvenile Court.

Angie Schwartz, Esq.

Policy Program Director

Angie works to improve the well-being of children living in poverty and children placed in foster care or at-risk of dependency through systemic reforms. Angie has been instrumental in passage of several key reforms including the extension of foster care to 21, creation of a new state-only funding system for kinship foster parents, and development of a screening and application process to improve foster youth’s access to disability benefits. Angie earned her B.A., Magna Cum Laude, from American University, and her J.D. with distinction from Stanford Law School. She lives in Sacramento, California with her husband and her two children, ages 2 and 8.

Cathy Yacoub, Esq.

Pro Bono Director

Cathy received her JD from Georgetown Law Center and her BA in communications studies and political science from UCLA. Prior to joining the Alliance, Cathy worked with a non-profit foundation and also spent several years recruiting attorneys and managing summer programs at a large national firm. She has a background in environmental litigation and interned with the Federal Communications Commission while in law school.


Education Program

Jill Rowland, Esq.

Education Program Director

Jill is an expert in every area of education impacting foster youth, including early intervention, special education, general education, school discipline, and interrupting the school-to-prison pipeline. Jill’s vision has grown the Alliance’s Education Program in response to the needs of our clients: from pioneering legal representation for early intervention services to addressing the unique trauma-related education needs of foster youth. Her collaborative approach led to the creation of the Foster Youth Education Toolkit and its Court Companion, the training of thousands of school district and foster/probation system personnel (including social workers, probation officers, attorneys, and judges), and improved foster youth policies not put into practice in multiple school districts. Jill is passionate about providing foster and probation youth with an equitable education, so they can succeed in college, work, and life. She earned her JD at UCLA School of Law, specializing in Critical Race Studies. She majored in Communications and Sociology at UC Santa Barbara.

Sam Paneno, Esq.

Associate Director

Sam received his JD from UC Davis, where he also obtained a BS in Psychology. Sam suffered a college football injury that almost took his life and left him permanently physically disabled. His positive outlook during this time surprisingly garnered the attention of national media and organizations, leading to several distinguished awards. Ultimately, Sam’s injury served as the catalyst for joining his passion for social justice with the desire to assist disabled children. Prior to joining the Alliance, Sam ran a private special education practice and spent a year as a school district attorney.

Alaina Moonves-Leb, Esq.

Senior Staff Attorney, Statewide Education Rights

Alaina holds a JD from New York University where she was president of the High School Law Institute, and advocated for families navigating the New York education and dependency systems. In 2011 she joined the Alliance as an Equal Justice Works Fellow to dismantle the school to prison pipeline for foster youth. In this role she directly advocated for youth, worked within the schools and juvenile courts, and led the development of and trained on key policy efforts and legislation. At the conclusion of her fellowship, Alaina became a staff attorney, and continued this work. Prior to law school, she taught special education for two years, earned an MA in teaching through the Teach for America Program, and was honored nationally as their special education teacher of the year.

Megan Stanton-Trehan, Esq.

Staff Attorney

Megan received a JD from UCLA School of Law, where she helped found the Education Law El Centro Legal Clinic. Prior to joining the Alliance, Megan was a Staff Attorney with Legal Services of Northern California and a Budget Analyst in the Education Systems Unit at the California Department of Finance. Before law school, she taught high school and middle school at a private school in the San Francisco Bay Area. Megan earned a BA in History from UC Berkeley.

Lisa Winebarger, Esq.

Staff Attorney

Lisa received her JD from the American University Washington College of Law, where she served as a Student Attorney with the school’s Disability Rights Law Clinic. There, she assisted low-income clients with disabilities access necessary services, including special education. Prior to joining the Alliance, Lisa worked at a national animal advocacy organization, where she helped devise novel legal advocacy strategies aimed at reducing cruelty to animals used in agriculture and increasing transparency for consumers. Lisa also holds a BA in Psychology and Japanese Language and Culture from the University of British Columbia.

Eugene Yoo

Staff Attorney

Eugene Yoo earned his JD from Santa Clara University, where he clerked at offices of the public defender and helped represent low-income clients charged with a crime. Before joining the Alliance, Eugene worked in private practice as an attorney on special education cases. He represented parents of disabled students and obtained appropriate educational services that school districts were failing to provide. Eugene earned a BA in Business Management Economics from UC Santa Cruz.

Cindy Rodas

Special Education Advocate

Cindy serves as the Special Education Advocate in the Education Department. She graduated from California State University, Fullerton with a double major in Criminal Justice and Political Science. She then completed a Paralegal Certificate Program from the University of San Diego. Before joining the Alliance, Cindy interned at the Public Law Center in Santa Ana, the College Legal Clinic in Fullerton, and at the California State Attorney General’s Office.

Melisa Montano

Advocate/Trainer

Melisa Montano-Ochoa is a graduate of California State University, Fullerton with a B.A. and M.A. in Spanish Literature and Linguistics. She possess a varied skillset that includes experience working with at-risk youth, McKinney Vento students and the use of Restorative Practices to heal and build community. Her background and interest in the field of education began during her time at CSUF through her extracurricular leadership involvement within several organizations. Melisa has worked in other non-profits like OC Human Relations, based in Orange County, where she was able to positively impact school climate at various school sites throughout the county. She is passionate about social justice and empowering youth reach their potential.

Marisol Dominguez

Legal Assistant

Marisol holds a BA in English and a minor in Disability Studies from UC Berkeley. Before joining the Alliance, Marisol interned and worked at several nonprofits and most recently was at Yelp.

Bronty O'Leary

Legal Assistant

Bronty holds a BA in Psychology and a minor in Psychology and Law from the University of Southern California. Before joining the Alliance, Bronty worked as a forensic research assistant helping to support DCFS investigations, focusing on children’s testimony. Additionally, she enjoys volunteering at various non-profits like Foster Care Counts and the Phuket Has Been Good to Us Foundation. Bronty plans to attend law school in the future to pursue a career in public interest.


Benefits Program

Adam Cherensky, Esq.

Benefits Program Director

Adam holds a BA in History from Williams College and a JD from UCLA School of Law. Before joining the Alliance, Adam practiced commercial and securities litigation at Paul Hastings LLP, and civil rights disability access litigation at Metz & Harrison, LLP. In 2011, Adam received Public Counsel’s President’s Award for his pro bono work with Public Counsel’s CARES (Connecting Angelenos to Resources and Essential Services) project.

Liz Contreras

Legal Assistant

Liz Contreras graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Criminal Justice and double minored in Spanish and Counseling & Social Change. Prior to the Alliance she worked as a mentor and tutor in underrepresented communities in the San Diego county. Additionally, she interned with Neighborhood legal services where she helped low-income clients with divorce, child support and domestic violence cases. Elizabeth has interned and volunteered at several nonprofit organization.

Katie Walt

Legal Assistant

Katie Walt graduated from Occidental College with a BA in Sociology and a minor in Spanish. At Occidental, she worked as a writing adviser, a tutor for ELL middle and high school students within LAUSD, and spent a semester studying abroad in Madrid. Before starting at the Alliance Katie interned with the Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Services Innocence Program, working to exonerate wrongfully convicted individuals. Katie plans to attend law school in the future and pursue a career in public defense and policy reform.


Healthcare Program

Barbara Facher, MSW

Social Worker

Barbara joined the Alliance in 2001 as our Health Care Social Worker.  She works collaboratively with the Department of Children and Family Services to improve services and outcomes for pregnant and parenting teens living in foster care and to reduce the intergenerational cycle of entry into the child welfare system.  Barbara holds a BA from the University of California, Berkeley and a MSW from San Francisco State University.

Shiré Wortham, MSW

Social Worker

Shiré graduated from Mount St. Mary’s College with a BA in Medical Sociology. She holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Southern California. Prior to joining the Alliance, Shiré interned with Children’s Law Center’s Collaborative firm as a case manager for the CARE unit. She hopes to use her experience working with transitional age foster youth and promoting collaboration across multidisciplinary teams to improve services and outcomes.

Sherry Rendel, RN, BSN, PHN

Public Health Nurse

Sherry joined the Alliance’s Healthcare Program in 2005. Her previous work includes ten years with the Department of Children and Family Services as a public health nurse.

Julieta Ordonez

Guardianship & Healthcare Program Assistant

Julieta Holds a BA in Anthropology from UCLA. During her academic studies, she served as a BruinCorps member, a program which provides tutoring services to children in underserved communities achieve academic success. In her free time, Julieta enjoys volunteering for various events and causes!


Foster Care Adoptions Program

Cynthia Billey, Esq.

Program Director

Cynthia joined the Alliance in 2001 as the Adoptions Program Director. She has been a leader in the success of National Adoption Day and was part of a litigation team that won a lawsuit to protect the benefits of adopted children with developmental disabilities. Cynthia earned her BA from UCLA and is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law.

Anderson Stone

Legal Assistant


Legal Guardianship Program

Juan Guzman, Esq.

Staff Attorney, Legal Guardianship and Benefits Programs

Juan holds a BA from University of California, Santa Barbara in Political Science and a JD from Thomas Jefferson School of Law.  Before returning to the Alliance, where he held post as a Legal Assistant in the Benefits Program, he worked with minors in removal proceedings and served as a judicial extern at the Executive Office for Immigration Review.


Programs for Transition-Age Youth

Vincent D'Averso

Mentor Program Director

Vincent is a graduate of UCLA and has 24 years experience working with foster and probation youth. Prior to joining the Alliance, he worked at the Community College Foundation where he managed programs for foster youth ages 14-21. Since joining the Alliance in 2006 he has developed and managed our Mentor Program for transition-age youth. Vinny formerly served on the American Indian Commission.

Stephanie Lopez

Special Projects Manager

Stephanie has been working with transitioning foster youth for the past nine years, beginning as an Outreach Advisor for the Community College Foundation. She joined the Alliance in 2010. Being a former foster youth herself, she brings great insight and empathy to her work with transition-age youth.

Nisha Kashyap, Esq.

Staff Attorney

Nisha Kashyap received a JD from Stanford Law School, where she represented low-income clients in special education, housing, wage and hour, and benefits cases. She joined the Alliance as a Skadden Fellow in 2015 to improve access to education and employment opportunities for older foster youth. Prior to joining the Alliance, Nisha clerked for Judge Keith P. Ellison on the Southern District of Texas. Nisha holds a BA in Geography and Religious Studies from UCLA.

Robert Argomaniz

SSI Legal Assistant

Prior to joining the Alliance in 2011, Robert spent 16 years as an advocate with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA). There, he served in the Government Benefit and Community Economic Development Units. At the Alliance, Robert provides legal assistance in the SSI cases for older foster youth who are disabled and at risk of aging out of the system without necessary benefits and services in place.

Mitsu Klines

Legal Assistant

Mitsu graduated from Boise State University and holds a BA in Mass Communication. Prior to joining the Alliance, he interned at the Congressional Coalition on Adoption and the U.S. Senate, for Senator Mary Landrieu. He also brings his experience from the UCLA Community Base Learning Program.

Bettye Davis

Youth Advocate

Bettye graduated from Cal Poly Pomona and received her Bachelor’s in Psychology. Her long term goal is to advocate for policies on a state and national level which help disadvantaged communities.


Opportunity Youth Collaborative

Lauri Collier

Director of Provider & Youth Development

Lauri Collier is senior non-profit executive and is known for ensuring the highest level of service and productivity. Lauri has more than 20 years of experience working with vulnerable populations, and her expertise is working with child-welfare programs serving young people ages 13 to 24. She has eight years of operational experience overseeing a six-acre campus, and completing a capital facility modernization project. Lauri is both a leader and a mentor to the teams she has worked with. Lauri hails from a military family and made her home in Los Angeles. She attended Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina, earning a bachelor of arts with a double major in psychology and social work and relocated to Southern California, where she earned her executive master’s in business administration at Pepperdine University, while serving as division director of housing and operations at St. Anne’s.


Policy

Angie Schwartz, Esq.

Policy Program Director

Angie works to improve the well-being of children living in poverty and children placed in foster care or at-risk of dependency through systemic reforms. Angie has been instrumental in passage of several key reforms including the extension of foster care to 21, creation of a new state-only funding system for kinship foster parents, and development of a screening and application process to improve foster youth’s access to disability benefits. Angie earned her B.A., Magna Cum Laude, from American University, and her J.D. with distinction from Stanford Law School. She lives in Sacramento, California with her husband and her two children, ages 2 and 8.

Kristin Power

Senior Policy Associate

Kristin has a successful track record of developing and communicating winning government relations strategies on a variety of issue areas as a legislative and regulatory advocate in Sacramento and other state capitols across the West. She holds a MA in education and a BA in political science from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo where she has served as an active member of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences Dean’s Advisory Council since 2000.

Elise Weinberg, Esq.

Policy Attorney

Elise received her JD from UC Davis School of Law, where she founded a pipeline program to empower elementary school students to achieve their goals and also served as president of the trial practice program. Prior to joining the Alliance, Elise helped draft a successful ballot measure to improve Los Angeles County’s transportation system while practicing political law at Reed & Davidson, LLP. Elise holds a BA in International Affairs from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Shanti Ezrine

Legal Assistant

Shanti graduated from the University of California, Davis and holds a BA in Political Science-Public Service and Communication. Before joining the Alliance, he interned at Environment California and the Steinberg Institute working on environmental and mental health policy.


Client Intake

Yolanda McFarlane

Intake and Database Manager

Yolanda joined the Alliance in 2006 to manage our client intake process.  She came to the Alliance from Bet Tzedek Legal Services where she worked in Human Resources.  She is a graduate of Scripps College.

Michelle Garcia

Data Entry Clerk

Michelle earned her degree as a paralegal. She started working with the Alliance in 2014 as a volunteer and joined the staff in 2017. Prior to joining the Alliance she worked in the private sector.


Volunteer Program

Cathy Yacoub, Esq.

Pro Bono Director

Cathy received her JD from Georgetown Law Center and her BA in communications studies and political science from UCLA. Prior to joining the Alliance, Cathy worked with a non-profit foundation and also spent several years recruiting attorneys and managing summer programs at a large national firm. She has a background in environmental litigation and interned with the Federal Communications Commission while in law school.

Paulina Assaf

Volunteer Outreach Assistant

Paulina was born and raised in Los Angeles and graduated from the University of Southern California with a BA in Cognitive Science and a minor Gender Studies. Prior to the Alliance, she worked at various children’s organizations. She was also involved with mentoring, tutoring, and women’s rights organizations through USC.


Development

Kerry Buzzell

Alliance of Moms Director

Kerry possesses a unique professional history that includes a connection to youth in Los Angeles and a strong marketing background focused on LA women and moms. After earning a B.A. in Psychology and an M.A. in Education, Kerry began her career as an LAUSD teacher. She then moved on to marketing and business development work with lululemon and Sweaty Betty. Kerry is excited to lead Alliance of Moms forward by combining her passion for improving the lives of young women and children with her talent for branding, social media campaigns, and event planning.

Denise Binder

Database Coordinator

Maranda Easton

Alliance of Moms Administrative Assistant

Maranda holds a BA in Social Work from Gordon College. Before coming to the Alliance, she worked in a Juvenile Court to evaluate and implement programs aimed at helping youth involved in both the court and foster care systems.


Administrative

Kathy Brubaker

Director of Administration

Kathy has worked at the Alliance for 18 years and loves watching the services that we offer our children and caregivers expand over the years. A Los Angeles native, she is proud to serve her local community.

Debbie Cohen

Controller

Debbie joined the Alliance for Children’s Rights team as Controller in September 2017. For over 35 years Debbie supported a wide variety of not-for-profit organizations as a consultant until her decision to settle down at the Alliance for Children’s Rights, which has been one of her clients for over 20 years. Debbie is excited to step into a position in which she can be an active part of the Alliance’s continued growth.

Theresa Hernandez

Administrative Coordinator

Theresa joined the Alliance in 2011.  She is currently pursuing an AS in Human Resources Management at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut.

Ashley Zometa

Receptionist & Administrative Assistant

Ashley is currently working on obtaining her degree in social work at Cal State LA. Prior to coming to the Alliance she worked with children in behavioral health.


Jennifer L. Braun, Esq.
Acting President & CEO

Jennifer L. Braun joined the Alliance in May 2017, bringing over thirty years of experience. Ms. Braun oversees the Alliance’s litigation and programmatic goals. Her duties include the management and training of the Alliance’s legal staff, oversight of the program-wide legal practice, helping to identify issues for policy change and impact litigation, co-counseling and supporting pro bono attorneys in administrative and court cases, and representing the Alliance at community forums. She is expanding the Alliance’s work with pro bono attorneys to include representation of young adults in consumer matters and benefits cases for children adopted through foster care. Before joining the Alliance, Ms. Braun was an Assistant U.S. Trustee with the U.S. Department of Justice, where she prevented financial abuses in the bankruptcy system. Earlier, Ms. Braun was a supervising attorney at Bet Tzedek Legal Services, assisting indigent Los Angeles County residents with consumer protection, housing, public benefits, bankruptcy, and probate matters, and she began her legal career litigating employment rights cases in private practice. Ms. Braun holds a B.A. from Pomona College, a M.A. in English from the University of Chicago, and a J.D. from the University of California at Berkeley School of Law.

Danilo Garcia
Danilo Garcia
Chief Financial Officer

Danilo Garcia joined the Alliance for Children’s Rights in February 2018 as Chief Financial Officer. Mr. Garcia oversees operations, risk management, strategic planning, and the overall financial viability of the agency. In addition, Mr. Garcia is involved in enhancing the organizational processes and infrastructure to allow for growth and increase future sustainability. Prior to joining the Alliance, Mr. Garcia served as A Place Called Home’s Finance Director, where he managed, coordinated and supervised all financial functions in a period of intense and continuous growth. With a passion for helping the most vulnerable, Mr. Garcia has a track record of volunteer participation in various initiatives. He currently serves on the Nonprofit Insurance Alliance of California’s Board of Directors. Mr. Garcia holds a BS in Business Administration (Finance emphasis) and minor in Economics from CalState LA and an MBA (Finance emphasis) from CalPoly, Pomona.

Lara Holtzman, Esq.
Lara Holtzman, Esq.
Managing Attorney

Lara joined the Alliance as a staff attorney in 1998 and has since assumed the role of Managing Attorney. During her tenure, she helped expand the organization to include programs such as Health Care, Legal Guardianship and Public Benefits.

Lara is a graduate of the State University of New York, Buffalo, with a JD and a MS in Public Policy focusing on children and family services. Prior to joining the Alliance, Lara worked as a children’s attorney for the Children’s Law Center and as a Research Attorney for three consecutive presiding judges of the Los Angeles Juvenile Court.

Angie Schwartz, Esq.
Angie Schwartz, Esq.
Policy Program Director

Angie works to improve the well-being of children living in poverty and children placed in foster care or at-risk of dependency through systemic reforms. Angie has been instrumental in passage of several key reforms including the extension of foster care to 21, creation of a new state-only funding system for kinship foster parents, and development of a screening and application process to improve foster youth’s access to disability benefits. Angie earned her B.A., Magna Cum Laude, from American University, and her J.D. with distinction from Stanford Law School. She lives in Sacramento, California with her husband and her two children, ages 2 and 8.

Cathy Yacoub, Esq.
Cathy Yacoub, Esq.
Pro Bono Director

Cathy received her JD from Georgetown Law Center and her BA in communications studies and political science from UCLA. Prior to joining the Alliance, Cathy worked with a non-profit foundation and also spent several years recruiting attorneys and managing summer programs at a large national firm. She has a background in environmental litigation and interned with the Federal Communications Commission while in law school.

Education Program
Jill Rowland, Esq.
Jill Rowland, Esq.
Education Program Director

Jill is an expert in every area of education impacting foster youth, including early intervention, special education, general education, school discipline, and interrupting the school-to-prison pipeline. Jill’s vision has grown the Alliance’s Education Program in response to the needs of our clients: from pioneering legal representation for early intervention services to addressing the unique trauma-related education needs of foster youth. Her collaborative approach led to the creation of the Foster Youth Education Toolkit and its Court Companion, the training of thousands of school district and foster/probation system personnel (including social workers, probation officers, attorneys, and judges), and improved foster youth policies not put into practice in multiple school districts. Jill is passionate about providing foster and probation youth with an equitable education, so they can succeed in college, work, and life. She earned her JD at UCLA School of Law, specializing in Critical Race Studies. She majored in Communications and Sociology at UC Santa Barbara.

Sam Paneno, Esq.
Sam Paneno, Esq.
Associate Director

Sam received his JD from UC Davis, where he also obtained a BS in Psychology. Sam suffered a college football injury that almost took his life and left him permanently physically disabled. His positive outlook during this time surprisingly garnered the attention of national media and organizations, leading to several distinguished awards. Ultimately, Sam’s injury served as the catalyst for joining his passion for social justice with the desire to assist disabled children. Prior to joining the Alliance, Sam ran a private special education practice and spent a year as a school district attorney.

Alaina Moonves-Leb, Esq.
Alaina Moonves-Leb, Esq.
Senior Staff Attorney, Statewide Education Rights

Alaina holds a JD from New York University where she was president of the High School Law Institute, and advocated for families navigating the New York education and dependency systems. In 2011 she joined the Alliance as an Equal Justice Works Fellow to dismantle the school to prison pipeline for foster youth. In this role she directly advocated for youth, worked within the schools and juvenile courts, and led the development of and trained on key policy efforts and legislation. At the conclusion of her fellowship, Alaina became a staff attorney, and continued this work. Prior to law school, she taught special education for two years, earned an MA in teaching through the Teach for America Program, and was honored nationally as their special education teacher of the year.

Megan Stanton-Trehan, Esq.
Megan Stanton-Trehan, Esq.
Staff Attorney

Megan received a JD from UCLA School of Law, where she helped found the Education Law El Centro Legal Clinic. Prior to joining the Alliance, Megan was a Staff Attorney with Legal Services of Northern California and a Budget Analyst in the Education Systems Unit at the California Department of Finance. Before law school, she taught high school and middle school at a private school in the San Francisco Bay Area. Megan earned a BA in History from UC Berkeley.

Lisa Winebarger, Esq.
Lisa Winebarger, Esq.
Staff Attorney

Lisa received her JD from the American University Washington College of Law, where she served as a Student Attorney with the school’s Disability Rights Law Clinic. There, she assisted low-income clients with disabilities access necessary services, including special education. Prior to joining the Alliance, Lisa worked at a national animal advocacy organization, where she helped devise novel legal advocacy strategies aimed at reducing cruelty to animals used in agriculture and increasing transparency for consumers. Lisa also holds a BA in Psychology and Japanese Language and Culture from the University of British Columbia.

Eugene Yoo
Eugene Yoo
Staff Attorney

Eugene Yoo earned his JD from Santa Clara University, where he clerked at offices of the public defender and helped represent low-income clients charged with a crime. Before joining the Alliance, Eugene worked in private practice as an attorney on special education cases. He represented parents of disabled students and obtained appropriate educational services that school districts were failing to provide. Eugene earned a BA in Business Management Economics from UC Santa Cruz.

Cindy Rodas
Cindy Rodas
Special Education Advocate

Cindy serves as the Special Education Advocate in the Education Department. She graduated from California State University, Fullerton with a double major in Criminal Justice and Political Science. She then completed a Paralegal Certificate Program from the University of San Diego. Before joining the Alliance, Cindy interned at the Public Law Center in Santa Ana, the College Legal Clinic in Fullerton, and at the California State Attorney General’s Office.

Marisol Dominguez
Marisol Dominguez
Legal Assistant

Marisol holds a BA in English and a minor in Disability Studies from UC Berkeley. Before joining the Alliance, Marisol interned and worked at several nonprofits and most recently was at Yelp.

Melisa Montano
Melisa Montano
Advocate/Trainer

Melisa Montano-Ochoa is a graduate of California State University, Fullerton with a B.A. and M.A. in Spanish Literature and Linguistics. She possess a varied skillset that includes experience working with at-risk youth, McKinney Vento students and the use of Restorative Practices to heal and build community. Her background and interest in the field of education began during her time at CSUF through her extracurricular leadership involvement within several organizations. Melisa has worked in other non-profits like OC Human Relations, based in Orange County, where she was able to positively impact school climate at various school sites throughout the county. She is passionate about social justice and empowering youth reach their potential.

Bronty O’Leary
Bronty O’Leary
Legal Assistant

Bronty holds a BA in Psychology and a minor in Psychology and Law from the University of Southern California. Before joining the Alliance, Bronty worked as a forensic research assistant helping to support DCFS investigations, focusing on children’s testimony. Additionally, she enjoys volunteering at various non-profits like Foster Care Counts and the Phuket Has Been Good to Us Foundation. Bronty plans to attend law school in the future to pursue a career in public interest.

Benefits Program
Adam Cherensky, Esq.
Adam Cherensky, Esq.
Benefits Program Director

Adam holds a BA in History from Williams College and a JD from UCLA School of Law. Before joining the Alliance, Adam practiced commercial and securities litigation at Paul Hastings LLP, and civil rights disability access litigation at Metz & Harrison, LLP. In 2011, Adam received Public Counsel’s President’s Award for his pro bono work with Public Counsel’s CARES (Connecting Angelenos to Resources and Essential Services) project.

Liz Contreras
Liz Contreras
Legal Assistant

Liz Contreras graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Criminal Justice and double minored in Spanish and Counseling & Social Change. Prior to the Alliance she worked as a mentor and tutor in underrepresented communities in the San Diego county. Additionally, she interned with Neighborhood legal services where she helped low-income clients with divorce, child support and domestic violence cases. Elizabeth has interned and volunteered at several nonprofit organization.

Katie Walt
Katie Walt
Legal Assistant

Katie Walt graduated from Occidental College with a BA in Sociology and a minor in Spanish. At Occidental, she worked as a writing adviser, a tutor for ELL middle and high school students within LAUSD, and spent a semester studying abroad in Madrid. Before starting at the Alliance Katie interned with the Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Services Innocence Program, working to exonerate wrongfully convicted individuals. Katie plans to attend law school in the future and pursue a career in public defense and policy reform.

Healthcare Program
Barbara Facher, MSW
Barbara Facher, MSW
Social Worker

Barbara joined the Alliance in 2001 as our Health Care Social Worker. She works collaboratively with the Department of Children and Family Services to improve services and outcomes for pregnant and parenting teens living in foster care and to reduce the intergenerational cycle of entry into the child welfare system. Barbara holds a BA from the University of California, Berkeley and a MSW from San Francisco State University.

Shiré Wortham, MSW
Shiré Wortham, MSW
Social Worker

Shiré graduated from Mount St. Mary’s College with a BA in Medical Sociology. She holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Southern California. Prior to joining the Alliance, Shiré interned with Children’s Law Center’s Collaborative firm as a case manager for the CARE unit. She hopes to use her experience working with transitional age foster youth and promoting collaboration across multidisciplinary teams to improve services and outcomes.

Sherry Rendel, RN, BSN, PHN
Sherry Rendel, RN, BSN, PHN
Public Health Nurse

Sherry joined the Alliance’s Healthcare Program in 2005. Her previous work includes ten years with the Department of Children and Family Services as a public health nurse.

Julieta Ordonez
Julieta Ordonez
Guardianship & Healthcare Program Assistant

Julieta Holds a BA in Anthropology from UCLA. During her academic studies, she served as a BruinCorps member, a program which provides tutoring services to children in underserved communities achieve academic success. In her free time, Julieta enjoys volunteering for various events and causes!

Foster Care Adoptions Program
Cynthia Billey, Esq.
Cynthia Billey, Esq.
Program Director

Cynthia joined the Alliance in 2001 as the Adoptions Program Director. She has been a leader in the success of National Adoption Day and was part of a litigation team that won a lawsuit to protect the benefits of adopted children with developmental disabilities. Cynthia earned her BA from UCLA and is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law.

Anderson Stone
Anderson Stone
Legal Assistant

Legal Guardianship Program
Juan Guzman, Esq.
Juan Guzman, Esq.
Staff Attorney, Legal Guardianship and Benefits Programs

Juan holds a BA from University of California, Santa Barbara in Political Science and a JD from Thomas Jefferson School of Law. Before returning to the Alliance, where he held post as a Legal Assistant in the Benefits Program, he worked with minors in removal proceedings and served as a judicial extern at the Executive Office for Immigration Review.

Programs for Transition-Age Youth
Vincent D’Averso
Vincent D’Averso
Mentor Program Director

Vincent is a graduate of UCLA and has 24 years experience working with foster and probation youth. Prior to joining the Alliance, he worked at the Community College Foundation where he managed programs for foster youth ages 14-21. Since joining the Alliance in 2006 he has developed and managed our Mentor Program for transition-age youth. Vinny formerly served on the American Indian Commission.

Stephanie Lopez
Stephanie Lopez
Special Projects Manager

Stephanie has been working with transitioning foster youth for the past nine years, beginning as an Outreach Advisor for the Community College Foundation. She joined the Alliance in 2010. Being a former foster youth herself, she brings great insight and empathy to her work with transition-age youth.

Nisha Kashyap, Esq.
Nisha Kashyap, Esq.
Staff Attorney

Nisha Kashyap received a JD from Stanford Law School, where she represented low-income clients in special education, housing, wage and hour, and benefits cases. She joined the Alliance as a Skadden Fellow in 2015 to improve access to education and employment opportunities for older foster youth. Prior to joining the Alliance, Nisha clerked for Judge Keith P. Ellison on the Southern District of Texas. Nisha holds a BA in Geography and Religious Studies from UCLA.

Robert Argomaniz
Robert Argomaniz
SSI Legal Assistant

Prior to joining the Alliance in 2011, Robert spent 16 years as an advocate with the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA). There, he served in the Government Benefit and Community Economic Development Units. At the Alliance, Robert provides legal assistance in the SSI cases for older foster youth who are disabled and at risk of aging out of the system without necessary benefits and services in place.

Mitsu Klines
Mitsu Klines
Legal Assistant

Mitsu graduated from Boise State University and holds a BA in Mass Communication. Prior to joining the Alliance, he interned at the Congressional Coalition on Adoption and the U.S. Senate, for Senator Mary Landrieu. He also brings his experience from the UCLA Community Base Learning Program.

Bettye Davis
Bettye Davis
Youth Advocate

Bettye graduated from Cal Poly Pomona and received her Bachelor’s in Psychology. Her long term goal is to advocate for policies on a state and national level which help disadvantaged communities.

Opportunity Youth Collaborative
Lauri Collier
Lauri Collier
Director of Provider & Youth Development

Lauri Collier is senior non-profit executive and is known for ensuring the highest level of service and productivity. Lauri has more than 20 years of experience working with vulnerable populations, and her expertise is working with child-welfare programs serving young people ages 13 to 24. She has eight years of operational experience overseeing a six-acre campus, and completing a capital facility modernization project. Lauri is both a leader and a mentor to the teams she has worked with. Lauri hails from a military family and made her home in Los Angeles. She attended Meredith College in Raleigh, North Carolina, earning a bachelor of arts with a double major in psychology and social work and relocated to Southern California, where she earned her executive master’s in business administration at Pepperdine University, while serving as division director of housing and operations at St. Anne’s.

Policy
Angie Schwartz, Esq.
Angie Schwartz, Esq.
Policy Program Director

Angie works to improve the well-being of children living in poverty and children placed in foster care or at-risk of dependency through systemic reforms. Angie has been instrumental in passage of several key reforms including the extension of foster care to 21, creation of a new state-only funding system for kinship foster parents, and development of a screening and application process to improve foster youth’s access to disability benefits. Angie earned her B.A., Magna Cum Laude, from American University, and her J.D. with distinction from Stanford Law School. She lives in Sacramento, California with her husband and her two children, ages 2 and 8.

Kristin Power
Kristin Power
Senior Policy Associate

Kristin has a successful track record of developing and communicating winning government relations strategies on a variety of issue areas as a legislative and regulatory advocate in Sacramento and other state capitols across the West. She holds a MA in education and a BA in political science from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo where she has served as an active member of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences Dean’s Advisory Council since 2000.

Elise Weinberg, Esq.
Elise Weinberg, Esq.
Policy Attorney

Elise received her JD from UC Davis School of Law, where she founded a pipeline program to empower elementary school students to achieve their goals and also served as president of the trial practice program. Prior to joining the Alliance, Elise helped draft a successful ballot measure to improve Los Angeles County’s transportation system while practicing political law at Reed & Davidson, LLP. Elise holds a BA in International Affairs from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Shanti Ezrine
Shanti Ezrine
Legal Assistant

Shanti graduated from the University of California, Davis and holds a BA in Political Science-Public Service and Communication. Before joining the Alliance, he interned at Environment California and the Steinberg Institute working on environmental and mental health policy.

Client Intake
Yolanda McFarlane
Yolanda McFarlane
Intake and Database Manager

Yolanda joined the Alliance in 2006 to manage our client intake process. She came to the Alliance from Bet Tzedek Legal Services where she worked in Human Resources. She is a graduate of Scripps College.

Michelle Garcia
Michelle Garcia
Data Entry Clerk

Michelle earned her degree as a paralegal. She started working with the Alliance in 2014 as a volunteer and joined the staff in 2017. Prior to joining the Alliance she worked in the private sector.

Volunteer Program
Cathy Yacoub, Esq.
Cathy Yacoub, Esq.
Pro Bono Director

Cathy received her JD from Georgetown Law Center and her BA in communications studies and political science from UCLA. Prior to joining the Alliance, Cathy worked with a non-profit foundation and also spent several years recruiting attorneys and managing summer programs at a large national firm. She has a background in environmental litigation and interned with the Federal Communications Commission while in law school.

Paulina Assaf
Paulina Assaf
Volunteer Outreach Assistant

Paulina was born and raised in Los Angeles and graduated from the University of Southern California with a BA in Cognitive Science and a minor Gender Studies. Prior to the Alliance, she worked at various children’s organizations. She was also involved with mentoring, tutoring, and women’s rights organizations through USC.

Development
Kerry Buzzell
Alliance of Moms Director

Kerry possesses a unique professional history that includes a connection to youth in Los Angeles and a strong marketing background focused on LA women and moms. After earning a B.A. in Psychology and an M.A. in Education, Kerry began her career as an LAUSD teacher. She then moved on to marketing and business development work with lululemon and Sweaty Betty. Kerry is excited to lead Alliance of Moms forward by combining her passion for improving the lives of young women and children with her talent for branding, social media campaigns, and event planning.

Denise Binder
Denise Binder
Database Coordinator

Maranda Easton
Maranda Easton
Alliance of Moms Administrative Assistant

Maranda holds a BA in Social Work from Gordon College. Before coming to the Alliance, she worked in a Juvenile Court to evaluate and implement programs aimed at helping youth involved in both the court and foster care systems.

Administrative
Kathy Brubaker
Kathy Brubaker
Director of Administration

Kathy has worked at the Alliance for 18 years and loves watching the services that we offer our children and caregivers expand over the years. A Los Angeles native, she is proud to serve her local community.

Debbie Cohen
Debbie Cohen
Controller

Debbie joined the Alliance for Children’s Rights team as Controller in September 2017. For over 35 years Debbie supported a wide variety of not-for-profit organizations as a consultant until her decision to settle down at the Alliance for Children’s Rights, which has been one of her clients for over 20 years. Debbie is excited to step into a position in which she can be an active part of the Alliance’s continued growth.

Theresa Hernandez
Theresa Hernandez
Administrative Coordinator

Theresa joined the Alliance in 2011. She is currently pursuing an AS in Human Resources Management at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut.

Ashley Zometa
Ashley Zometa
Receptionist & Administrative Assistant

Ashley is currently working on obtaining her degree in social work at Cal State LA. Prior to coming to the Alliance she worked with children in behavioral health.