Staff

Janis Spire

President and CEO

Janis is a true champion for the most vulnerable children in our community and an expert at helping growing organizations develop and realize their potential. Since joining the Alliance for Children’s Rights in 2002 as the Chief Executive Officer, she has expanded the scope and impact of its programs significantly, while leading a major strategic planning process to develop key goals.

Before joining the Alliance, Janis served eight years as the Chief Operating Officer of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation. Prior to that, she worked for more than a decade as a leader in healthcare and medical practice management. Janis was born and raised in New York City. She earned a BA in Early Childhood Education at City University of New York, Queens College and a MBA from Pepperdine University.

Michael House, PhD

COO and VP of Strategy

Michael joined the Alliance in 2011 as the Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of Strategy. Prior to joining the Alliance, Michael was the CEO of The Painted Turtle – a Paul Newman charity. He earned a PhD from the University of Florida where he later served on the faculty. He then worked for the University of Florida Foundation for 18 years serving last as the Assistant Vice President.

Laura Streimer, Esq.

Legal Director

Laura joined the Alliance in 2005 as the Legal Director.  She has overseen and led the expansion of organization’s legal services and litigation efforts.

Laura received her law degree from the University of Maryland School of Law and is admitted to practice in Maryland and California.  After three years of civil litigation, she joined the public interest firm of Bet Tzetek Legal Services where she worked for 15 years, first as a Managing Attorney and later as their Director of Litigation.

Laura has also served as adjunct faculty at UCLA School of Law and for the National Institute of Trial Advocacy.

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

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.

Amy Heibel

Communications Director

Amy began her career in journalism, at the Center for Investigative Reporting, contributing to an award-winning PBS Frontline documentary and related online reporting about campaign finance corruption. She spent two decades working with museums and cultural sites around North America and Europe, including 8 years at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) as head of web and digital media, building and managing websites, mobile apps, and other initiatives. She also founded the Art + Technology Lab, an interdisciplinary program that supports the development of new artist projects, which garnered coverage from the New York Times, the LA Times, NPR and other outlets. She is a foster/adoptive parent and advocate for youth in foster care, with a particular passion for the issues that confront older children in foster care, and plays a lot of basketball.


Education Program

Jill Rowland, Esq.

Education Program Director

Jill holds a JD from UCLA School of Law.  She has practiced special education law since 2004, initially at a private firm before joining the Alliance in 2006.

Nisha Kashyap, Esq.

Skadden Fellow

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.

Danielle Tenner, Esq.

Staff Attorney

Danielle received her JD from Harvard Law School, where she also represented low-income clients in housing and benefits cases for two years as a member of the student-run Harvard Legal Aid Bureau.  Before joining the Alliance, she practiced complex business litigation at O’Melveny & Myers LLP.  Prior to law school, Danielle taught middle school in the Los Angeles Unified School District, serving her first two years as a Teach For America corps member.  She earned an MA in Education from Loyola Marymount University and holds a BA in Psychology from UC Berkeley.

Alaina Moonves Leb, Esq.

Equal Justice Works Fellow: School to Prison Pipeline Project

Alaina holds a JD from New York University. In 2011 she joined the Alliance as an Equal Justice Works Fellow to dismantle the school to prison pipeline for foster youth. Alaina advocates for youth in special education meetings and at school discipline and delinquency hearings. Prior to law school, she taught special education for two years and earned an MA in teaching through the Teach for America Program and was honored nationally as their special education teacher of the year.

Sandy L. Perez, Esq.

Staff Attorney

Sandy holds a BA in Political Science from UCLA and a JD from the University of La Verne College of Law. Prior to joining the Alliance, she interned at the Disability Rights Legal Center working on special education issues in the Inland Empire.  Sandy has also volunteered at other non-profits like the Riverside Legal Aid and Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County.

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.

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.

Estela Chung

Legal Assistant

Estela holds a BA in Business Administration from Loyola Marymount University and an MA in International Politics from City University, London. Prior to joining the Alliance, Estela interned and volunteered at several nonprofit organizations.

Karla Minero

Legal Assistant

Karla holds a BA in Sociology-Social Inequality from the University of California, San Diego. Prior to joining the Alliance, Karla interned at several nonprofit organizations.


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.

Jackie Zamarripa, Esq.

Staff Attorney

Jackie received her JD from American University Washington College of Law, where she participated in the International Human Rights Law Clinic and presented before the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva, Switzerland, as well as the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Mexico City. After earning her JD, Jackie was a Human Rights Fellow at Maryland Legal Aid in Baltimore, MD, where she applied principles of international human rights law to local public interest practices. Jackie holds a BA in Political Science and International Relations from UC Irvine.

Cynthia Ochoa

Legal Assistant

Cynthia holds a BA from UCLA, where she studied Global Studies and Public Affairs. Before joining the Alliance, she was a Project Director at UCLA’s Proyecto de Jornaleros, a project that provides services to LA’s day labor population. Cynthia was also a tutor at UCLA’s BruinCorps, where she worked with low income youth throughout the greater Los Angeles area. Additionally, she interned at the American Bar Association, Commission on Immigration in Washington, DC. While at the ABA Cynthia was able to help ICE detainees throughout the country with their immigration and asylum cases.

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.


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.

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!


Alliance of Moms

Jessica Vaquero Goodman, MSW

Program Coordinator, Alliance of Moms

Jessica holds a BA in Legal Studies from the University of California at Berkeley. She volunteered at the Alliance in 2010 in the Guardianship Program before she obtained a MSW from the University of Southern California. In graduate school, she received a California Social Work Education Center stipend to specialize in Public Child Welfare and she led a project to assist Expectant and Parenting Youth in foster care. Prior to returning to the Alliance, Jessica worked for the Department of Children & Family Services in South Los Angeles. She is currently pursuing a certificate in Nonprofit Management from the University of California, Los Angeles.


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

Legal Clerk, 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.


NextStep Program for Transition-Age Youth

Allison Newcombe, Esq.

Staff Attorney, CSEC Program

Allison received her JD from UCLA School of Law, with a specialization in Public Interest Law and Policy. While in law school Allison worked with the Presiding Judge of the specialized STAR Court, a court that works with victims of commercial sexual exploitation. Allison joined the Alliance as a Skadden Fellow in 2013 to develop a program that examines the intersection between human trafficking and the child welfare system, and to address the legal needs of commercially sexually exploited children. Allison holds a BS in International Business and Law from Drexel University.

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.

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, NextStep

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. Being a former foster youth, she is able to connect with the TAY population in a way that comes from a place of compassion. She hopes to use her prior experiences to motivate and uplift others. She also plans to go back to law school in the near future.


Opportunity Youth Collaborative

Thomas Lee

Opportunity Youth Director

Thomas Lee has been a driving force for creating the conditions for change for transition-aged youth (TAY). His decade of leadership as the Division Director of TAY for Hillsides Youth Moving On broadened the scope of care and outcomes for youth, clearly evidenced by his innovation in the areas of workforce development, affordable housing, support services, and education. The building of strategic partnerships, tireless advocacy, and knack for serving underserved populations will be on full display in his role as the Director of Los Angeles Opportunity Youth Collaborative.

Before Hillsides, Thomas taught English at San Gabriel and King Drew Magnet High Schools. He is humbled repeatedly by process of watching youth grow and succeed when they are properly inspired and supported. The guiding principle of his service has always been rooted in social justice and developing safe spaces for youth to thrive. He is a native of Southern California, a graduate of Cal State Los Angeles and National University, a doting father, and he lives locally with his spouse and two children.

Valerie Esquivel

Program Coordinator

Prior to joining the Alliance in 2014, Valerie worked at Children’s Institute, Inc. (CII), Children Youth and Family Collaborative (CYFC), and at Bell Gardens High School in the Montebello Unified School District. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from California State University, Fullerton, and is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Social Entrepreneurship and Change from Pepperdine University.


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.

Adina Kuncz

Policy Assistant

Adina holds a BA in Political Science from the University of California, Davis. Prior to joining the Alliance she served as student senator, worked on political campaigns, and interned for an Assemblymember at the state capitol in Sacramento.


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.

Merry Antone

Data Entry Specialist

Merry holds a BA in Psychology from California State University, Dominguez Hills. During her academic studies she served as the undergraduate co-chair for the Emerging Young Leaders program. Before joining the Alliance, she worked as an Intake Volunteer at the Alliance.


Volunteer Program

Cathy Yacoub

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.

Cameron Stark

Volunteer Outreach Assistant

Cameron holds a B.A. in Communication from Southern Oregon University. Prior to joining the Alliance, Cameron served as a student ambassador and worked as a Volunteer Management Intern at the Alliance. She has held several volunteering positions in the arts and special education.


Development

Laurel Adcock, Esq.

Grants Manager

Laurel received her JD from Northwestern University School of Law. She graduated magna cum laude from the University of California, Irvine with a B.A. in Criminology, Law and Society.  Prior to joining the Alliance, Laurel litigated complex environmental as well as employment and business cases.  She is a Court Appointed Special Advocate for foster children and has served as a volunteer mediator and arbitrator.

Nora Gilbert-Hamerling

Associate Director of Development & Special Events

Nora received a BA in Psychology from the University of California, Berkeley. Before coming to the Alliance, she worked in the fields of market research, branding, and entertainment business management.

Denise Binder

Database Coordinator

Sarah Villarante

Development Assistant

Sarah is originally from Kansas City, Missouri and studied Sociology at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. She has served in a variety of development intern roles including for Make-A-Wish-Foundation, Baby2Baby, and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.


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.

JoAnn Parrilla

Receptionist/Administrative Assistant

JoAnn came to the Alliance with experience in the fields of Interior Design and Professional Makeup Artistry. Before pursuing education in those fields, she was a client advocate for the House of Ruth, a shelter for battered women and their children, and later worked for a private law firm. Combining these interests with her passion for helping and working with people led her to the Alliance.

Theresa Rodriguez

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.