Paige Pierce, (CEO)- Chief Executive Officer

Families Together in NYS on Twitter: "Our CEO Paige Pierce representing the  family and youth voice at the Joint Mental Hygiene Budget Hearing this  week! Check it out! #HealthyMindsHealthyKids #3for5 #EnforceParityNOW  https://t.co/Jdzqj1EbuvPaige Pierce has been with Families Together in New York State since 1999.  As CEO, she works in shaping policy and implementing systems change at the state and national levels and serves as a liaison between families and policymakers.  

Recognized as a leader throughout New York State in the children’s mental health and family peer support movement, Ms. Pierce has been successful in developing and sustaining relationships with policymakers and non-profit organization leaders and serves on several committees and coalitions, forging alliances with a wide range of stakeholders. 

A strong advocate for children and families, Ms. Pierce leads Families Together in New York State in addressing health care reform, mental health, juvenile justice, special education, child welfare, and many other issues facing children and families.  

Ms. Pierce earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Skidmore College. She is the mother of four children and has personal experience advocating and navigating multiple systems to meet her child’s needs. 

Email: PPierce@ftnys.org           Phone:

Yvette Mcintosh-Sauer, (CFO)- Chief Financial Office

Daphnne Brown, Deputy Director

Daphnne provides support and technical assistance to families, service providers, advocates and Families Together Chapters in the areas of family support, systems advocacy and parent empowerment. She works closely with the regional Families Together Chapters, and is the Family Engagement Consultant for System of Care and Project Director for the Statewide Family Network. Daphnne is the parent of five children; two of her children are classified and are being served by the local school district with IEPs. Daphnne has experience with different child serving systems and received her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from SUNY at Brockport.

Email Address: dbrown@ftnys.org     Phone: 585.489.8282 

Communications

Cameron Macdonald, Communications Director

Ian Kundel, Communications Manager

   Ian Kundel assists in the communcations, design and public realtions efforts of Families Together. He is a dedicated systems advocate with a background in public health and disabiltiy policy. His expertise lies in health policy and management, focusing on projects ADA compliance, gender-affirming care, housing insecurity, and equity in BIPOC mental healthcare access. With a background in Autism Spectrum Disorder legislation and Community Health Advocacy, Ian navigates complex healthcare systems and addresses social determinants of health.

Ian was welcomed to Families Together as a Policy Intern and has since been welcomed to the Communications team where he currently resides. His lived experience in juvenile justice enables him to represent families with social and behavioral challenges in the pursuit of inclusion and justice. As an actively engaged community advocate, Ian seeks to coordinate equitable care for behavioral health services. Ian’s involvement in mental health awareness, LGBTQIA+ inclusion, adoption, foster care, and addiction support showcased his dedication to improving lives.

Email: IKundel@ftnys.org                 Phone:

 

Priscilla Romero, Family Communications Coordinator

    Priscilla was born in Manhattan, raised and educated in the Bronx. She is an Afro-Latina of Dominican decent, with a wealth of knowledge in the field of advocacy for educational and behavioral assistance and support services. Her son was diagnosed at 18 months with Autism and at 9 years old with ADHD. He was also born with a Congenital Diaphragmatic hernia, which required multiple surgical revisions and a G-Tube placement in his stomach. He was diagnosed with a medically fragile tittle (Med-F). Priscilla Advocated and ensure that her son received the appropriate therapy/services for his condition, ranging from Early intervention to Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech therapy, Feeding therapy, and Nursing services. Priscilla continued her educational journey, obtaining her Certified Nursing Assistant certificate, Phlebotomy technician certificate, and a Certified waiver service provider for Day-habilitation Services, Bridges 2 Health (B2H) and OPWDD. She gained An Associate of Science (AS) degree in Community Health. Subsequently, she became a Registered Behavior Technician, offering Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services to children within the spectrum disorder. After graduating from Hosto’s Community College, Priscilla obtained a B.A. in Psychology from Lehman College. Prior to this, she worked as an OPWDD Residential Regional Manager TBI/NHTD ISP Writer/ Waiver Service Coordinator,  followed by her initial role at FTNYS as a Regional Parent Advisor for Families Together in New York State (FTNYS). Currently, she is employed as the Communications Family Coordinator for Families Together in New York State.

 

“My goal is to advocate for families and ensure they have access to the information and resources they require to succeed both academically and socially, as well as to implement strategies to increase the success rate of families. My aim is to provide families with the necessary resources and support to enable them to succeed in both the community and home, and to implement strategies that ensure families are informed and supported in order to increase the likelihood of success.

I went through what I went through so that you don’t have too”.

Email: Promero@ftnys.org               Phone: 917.937.0292

 

Community & Systems Engagement

Pam Brannan, Community Engagement and Outreach Director

Pam Brannan is a mother and grandmother with lived experience raising a child and grandchild with social, emotional, and behavioral needs. She has both personal and professional experience within the OMH, OCFS, OPWDD, and OASAS systems. She has worked for 17 years as a Family Advocate along with managing a Community Based Family Support Program. She is a co-founder and previous President of Camp Get-a-Way located in Western NY.

 

Email: PBrannan@ftnys.org                Phone:

Laurie Rivera, Systems Engagement Project Director

Laurie has been employed with Families Together for over 20 years. In her current position, Laurie is responsible for assuring that the reporting guidelines set forth by our funders are met, she supports the goals and objectives of the grants, she supports Special Projects as well as being the Staff Liaison to the Board of Directors.  She supports the Director of Outreach as needed. She brings a wealth of both lived and professional  experience to Families Together and she hopes that every struggling parent has a support person to lean on and empower them to be their own best advocate for their child.  Laurie is the mother of four children.

Email: lrivera@ftnys.org   Phone: 518.432.0333 ext. 17

Kristin Rivera, Youth Engagement Specialist

Kristin Rivera is a driven, ambitious leader who strives to eliminate barriers in recovery systems. Her passion stems from her personal experience living with mental illness and facing difficulties in navigating the mental health system during her childhood and into adulthood. Kristin was the first of her family to pursue higher education where she graduated from Binghamton University (SUNY) with degrees in Psychology (B.A.) and Sociocultural Anthropology (B.A.). Before joining Youth Power, Kristin had the privilege of working with youth, young adults, and geriatric communities to assist in educating and empowering individuals on their road to recovery using peer recovery programs, direct care management, and community-based services. Kristin’s favorite phrase is, “be the change you wish to see in the world,” which she embodies in her personal and professional life. Having grown up in the Central New York Region, Kristin aspires to fulfill the YP mission in her community as well as create a safe space across mediums for youth members to establish and maintain a sense of community during their advocacy journey.

Email:Krivera@ftnys.org

Phone: 315-276-6650

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Kim Keiser, DEI Director

Kim is the proud Mom of a son with Autism Spectrum Disorder and has 35 years’ experience working in mental health, disability, and recovery services. Kim is passionate about advocating for family voice, and grassroots initiatives in the areas of parent education, mental health, developmental disabilities, crisis intervention, juvenile justice, recovery, and community engagement. She is a speaker, artist, and the co-founder of an International Autism Advocacy Initiative providing training, support, and empowerment within under-served communities

 Kim is passionate about educating and strengthening families, communities, and cross-system delivery for families and youth.

Email Address: KKeiser@ftnys.org     Phone:

Simcha Weinstein, DEI Family Coordinator

Weekend with Simcha Weinstein - JewishNCO.comSimcha Weinstein is a best-selling author, syndicated columnist, and peer family advocate. He is the diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) coordinator for Families Together in New York State and the founder of the Jewish Autism Network. Named “New York’s Hippest Rabbi” by PBS, he resides in Brooklyn, New York.

Email Address: SWeinstein@ftnys.org     Phone:

Finance

Frances Prince, Finance Assistance

Frances Prince assists the CFO with various accounting functions including payroll, human resources, accounts payable, and accounts receivable. She graduated in 1987 with an Associate’s Degree in Accounting and has been gainfully employed in various aspects of accounting such as Staff Accountant, Cost Accountant, and Workers’ Compensation Supervisor in different industries including the non-profit and private sector.
                                                                                                                                                                Frances is the mother of 2 children – a biological daughter who is 44 years old and an adopted son who is 28 years old and was born with FAE and cocaine addiction. She is also the proud grandmother of 7 grandchildren. Frances was hired at her current position on 10/2/2017 and is approaching 6 years with FTNYS. Frances loves being part of a team of coworkers that has a true family vibe. She enjoys the family-like atmosphere at work and values her relationships with her coworkers. After earning her accounting degree in 1987, Frances has built a strong career doing important accounting work for various organizations over the years. Her experience in multiple accounting roles and industries makes Frances a versatile accounting professional. In addition to building her career, she has raised a family and now enjoys being a grandmother. Frances finds fulfillment in both her work and family life.                                                                                                              
  Email: Fprince@ftnys.org                        Phone:

public policy

Brad Hansen, Public Policy Director

Brad Hansen - Public Policy Director/Project Director/Organizer - Families  Together in NYS | LinkedInFor 10 years, Brad Hansen has been the Public Policy Director at Families Together in New York State, organizing impacted families and young people with lived experience navigating systems of care and oppression to advance policy reform and systems change.

Raised in rural Northern New York, Brad Hansen moved to the big city- Albany, NY- to earn his education at the University at Albany and pursue a career in public policy. However, his true education began as a child oscillating between working poor and middle class, surviving a both loving and traumatic upbringing with a parent seeking recovery, and spending his adolescent and adult years healing. His time being inspired by and working alongside marginalized people has been a crucible both personally and professionally. Today, he’s proudly a person in recovery from trauma, addiction and toxic relationship patterns.

Brad leads with empathy, fairness, a healthy amount of anger, and a deep passion for being correct- all while being reasonably funny. As both a leader and follower in social movements, Brad has a deep knowledge of social service systems and the political process-  and is committed to earning the title of ally in the fight to realize a more equitable world.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Email: BHansen@ftnys.org            Phone:                

Cheryl Williams, Public Policy Family Coordinatoor

Cheryl Williams is a Native of Guyana, my journey in advocacy begun many years ago after being frustrated in accessing services within various systems that resulted in lots of un-answered questions and more challenging hurdles to jump through. I allowed that frustration to become the passion and fuel that ignited me to get involved in all cross-systems services at all levels to ensure that all families have access to meaningful services and care for their children. I have dedicated my life’s work to improving outcomes for children and families by looking at policies that affect access to Mental Health, Physical, and emotional health services, especially for children with other abilities.

My focus is continued collaboration with all systems and communities to benefit all families. I am a recognized community leader and is on multiple Boards and Foundations. I am a professional, dynamic advocate, speaker, strategic planner and collaborator invested in positive outcomes for all on National, Statewide, and Regional levels. I was exposed to policies that affect services for families. (PBIS) which was a collaboration with NYS ED, NYS OMH, and FTNYS, Inc.

I have over 20 years of experience in coordinating events, facilitating trainings and executing them which resulted in my expertise in contracts, policies and negotiations. I was awarded 2017 “Woman of Distinction” awarded by NYS Assemblywoman Kimberly Jean-Pierre, 2018 “Martin Luther King Legacy” Award by NYS Senator Phil Boyle and referenced in 2018 Transferring Stigma book by Mike Veny. Based on my history, experience and skills this led to my position as Statewide Family Policy Coordinator.

Zach Kilmer, Public Policy Youth Coordinatoor

Zack Kilmer is an autistic LGBTQ+ young adult who has had a passion for activism and civics since he was a child. He works in the FTNYS policy department in order to coordinate and inject youth voice into our systemic/policy change efforts. Before joining Youth Power, Zack graduated from SUNY Brockport with a bachelor’s degree in English & Political Science and ran for public office in his hometown of East Greenbush. He is also an aspiring writer and a proud dad to two fur-babies. 

Training & Workforce Development

Carrie Ann Rollier , Senior Director of Training & Workforce Development

Carrie Ann has been a Family Peer Advocate since 2015, first working at a community-based organization and currently with Families Together in New York State since 2022.  Her passion for peer support and supporting its workforce is what led to her position as Senior Director of Training and Workforce Development at Families Together, leading a team that oversees the credentialing process and training of Family Peer Advocates and Youth Peer Advocates across the state.  As a mother of three young adults with Autism, she struggled navigating the complicated children’s systems without support and watched as her children struggled during their childhood without the support and services they deserved.  Carrie Ann is dedicated to building an abundant, strong, highly trained Family and Youth Peer workforce throughout the state to support as many families and youth as possible who are experiencing similar challenges.

Email Address: @ftnys.org     Phone:

Joanna Ahlatis , Workforce Development Specialist

Joanna AhlatisJoanna Ahlatis is a Workforce Development Specialist with the Training & Workforce Development Department. She has been with FTNYS for over 6 years, supporting the growth of the statewide youth and family peer workforce with the overall mission to empower children/youth, young adults, and caregivers successfully engage with systems and treatment providers throughout their journey to recovery. Her work supports the training and credentialing program to demonstrate core competencies, expand reimbursement possibilities, and to provide opportunities for professional growth and collaboration.

Joanna currently resides and works in the NYC Region and volunteers for nonprofits dedicated to supporting individuals impacted by homelessness, domestic violence, systemic racism, and the criminalization of undocumented immigration status achieve dignity and justice. Joanna is excited to continue her higher education in 2023-2024 with the CUNY Nursing Program.

Email Address: @ftnys.org     Phone:

Heather Tafuro, Family Training Coordinator

Heather, once a Parent Advisor for the Long Island Region has been with Families Together for 8 years. She has an extensive background in Family Support, Foster Care & Adoption. She has experience in these systems from both sides of the fence; professionally as a supervisor and personally as a parent. Heather is committed to ensuring that the needs of children and families remain the top priority and that the Family Voice is heard, always!

Email Address: HTafuro@ftnys.org     Phone:

Susan Lewis , Family Workforce Development Coordinator

Sue Lewis has 30-plus years of personal, volunteer, and professional experience with families and their children with disabilities. The journey started with her own family, researching services and opportunities for her child. As a mother with no experience with school systems, IEP’s, or the service provider system, and finding that no one she knew had similar needs, she had to learn all there was available to make necessary decisions for her child’s growth. It was a continuing process as situations arose and she knew at that time she would want to be available to other parents and as involved in the community and systems needed to support families in similar situations.

Her previous role as a Families Together Parent Advisor, she worked to; build the advocacy network, increase regional credentialed family peer advocates for the Central Region, provided a platform for families to be heard, and brung statewide information to local Family Peer Support Services, Chapters of Families Together. Lastly, she facilitated communication between NYSOMH and families and advocates within the region.

Email Address: SLewis@ftnys.org     Phone:

Meghann Simpson , Youth Workforce Development Coordinator

Meghann Simpson is an ambitious leader motivated to reform and develop support services for youth and adults. Her experience with trauma and mental illness, and her dedication to persevere ignited a passion to support others along their healing journey. Meghann has dedicated herself to healing from neglect, sexual violence, interpersonal violence (IPV), and mental illness. Her experiences have given her insight into the need for trauma-informed mental health services. Meghann graduated with an Associate degree in Social Science and Human Services and is actively pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Social Science and a Minor in African-American Studies. In addition to Meghann’s college education, she is passionate about pursuing certificates to improve her skills in the human services and mental health field. Meghann has experience working with various populations including but not limited to youth and adults experiencing serious mental illness, re-entry felons, LBTQAI+ individuals, and children coping with severe behavioral and emotional health challenges. Recently, Meghann co-founded Now She Speaks, a domestic and interpersonal violence non-profit organization, to provide a peer-support perspective to those experiencing IPV. Meghann hopes to inspire youth to know as fact that they can live a happy and successful life regardless of trauma and mental illness.  

Email Address: Msimpson@ftnys.org      Phone: 716.339.7777

youth power

Justice Wolcott, Director of Youth Power

Justice, born to Jamaican immigrant parents, is a tenacious and dynamic young scholar, who aims to empower those in underserved and marginalized communities. Growing up in such a community, coupled with her experiences with mental health, medical care, immigration, and education, fueled her passion for diversity and inclusivity. She aims to create access to equitable care and education for all youth in every community. Justice strives to empower not only communities but equip individuals who advocate for their communities with support and resources. Her favorite phrase is “Each one, teach one” and with this ideology, she aspires to create communities of advocates who have the courage and support to change their lives and the world. Obtaining her Bachelor’s Degree of Social Welfare while concentrating her studies in Sociology at the University at Albany, has certified her love for advocacy. Justice encourages youth from all walks of life to share their narratives because she believes there are so many beautiful things to find and learn from amongst our differences!

Email Address: Jwalcott@ftnys.org   Phone:518.432.0333 x 43

Onyx Walker, Youth Engagement Specialist

“Onyx Walker is a Queens born Brooklyn native. Growing up in Cypress Hills, East New York, he has spent 10 years organizing with and for young people at a local, state and a federal level on numerous different issues (Youth homelessness, school to prison pipeline, Know Your Rights) that disproportionately affect BIPOC communities. He found a desire to change after experiencing no tolerance policies in schools and experiencing homelessness in his younger adult years.

He remains committed to ensuring young people are empowered to tell their stories and follows the belief that the best experts are the ones who have been through it. “

Email:OWalker@ftnys.org

Phone: 

Precious Lugo, Statewide Youth Engagement Specialist

Precious Lugo, 29, a Statewide Youth Engagement Specialist. She is a passionate advocate for young people. Having struggled with her own challenges, she wanted to turn her struggles into her success. Precious grew up in Buffalos’ West Side with her mother who identified as bi-sexual and a father who was incarcerated. As a result, she experienced bullying, community issues, and a behavioral increase at school. Making it past the challenges, she was the first in her family to graduate high school and received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at Buffalo State University. 

Precious is committed to supporting young people facing similar struggles. She has volunteered at community events, led support groups, and provides mentorship to those in need. Through her advocacy work and personal life experience, Precious is making a positive impact on the lives of troubled youth in her community. 

Email: Plugo@ftnys.org | Phone: 716.334.5900 

Precious Lugo, Statewide Youth Engagement Specialist

Image previewCamerin is an Upstate New York native, is driven by a deep passion for advocacy and
empowerment. Armed with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from University at Albany (SUNY), Camerin’s personal journey navigating through various systems and overcoming adversity has ignited her commitment to engage with the cross-systems advocacy community. As a certified peer educator and mental health advocate, Camerin has tirelessly worked to enhance wellness awareness and improving resource accessibility for her peers and has dedicated her time to leveraging her skills to support marginalized communities and amplify the voices of those navigating complex systems. Camerin is eager to merge her passion for advocacy with collaborative efforts to inspire and create positive change!

Email: Crivera@ftnys.org | Phone: 518.920.4316 

erie county, FAMILY ENGAGEMENT advocates

Aqueelah Sumpter, Erie County Family Engagement Specialist

Aqueelah Sumpter is a dedicated and compassionate Family Peer Advocate with a strong commitment to assisting families navigating the complexities of the child welfare system. With expertise in connecting families to essential resources and providing comprehensive support, Aqueelah plays a vital role in empowering families to overcome challenges and achieve positive outcomes. 

 With a profound understanding of the unique struggles faced by families involved with the child welfare system, Aqueelah brings empathy and a non-judgmental approach to her work. By actively listening to families’ concerns, she can assess their individual needs and provide tailored guidance and assistance. 

 As a Family Peer Advocate, she is highly skilled in connecting families to valuable resources within their community. Through extensive research and networking, she identifies relevant support services, such as counseling, educational programs, financial assistance, and parenting resources. By effectively linking families with these resources, she empowers them to develop the skills and tools necessary for self-advocacy and success. 

Lisa Winter, Erie County Family Engagement Specialist

Lisa Winters is a parent who has navigated multiple systems. She is a family peer advocate and currently works with families in Erie County that are involved in the child welfare system. She assists families to create goals and action plans that are tailored for the needs of their family. She helps families to address safety concerns from Child Protection staff (CPS). She partners with families to connect with community-based resources and support. Lisa strives to encourage and support families by using her lived experience to instill hope and confidence, educate families of their rights and responsibilities, and support families to create trusting relationships. 

Regional FAMILY POLICY ADVISORS (ocfs)

Melinda Agnew, Regional Family Policy Advisors (OCFS), Syracuse

 

 A person smiling for the camera Description automatically generated with medium confidence Melinda Agnew is a parent with intersectional lived experience. She began her career with Families Together in New York State because the organization understands the unique dynamics that make up the family unit. As the Family Policy Advisor located in the Syracuse Regional Office, Melinda’s goal is to continue learning legislation to help shape policies at the state level that will enhance New York State families who encounter child welfare.

With her own lived experience as a parent, Melinda brings an important perspective to her work at Families Together. She joined the organization specifically because of its commitment to supporting the diverse needs of whole families. In her role as Family Policy Advisor out of the Syracuse office, Melinda aims to deepen her knowledge of relevant legislation. Her purpose is to help inform state-level policies that will improve outcomes for New York families interacting with the child welfare system. Melinda is dedicated to leveraging her parental experience and policy knowledge to advocate for families through her work.

Kristen DiFilippo, Regional Family Policy Advisors (OCFS), Rochester

  Kristen is a mother of 3 thriving young adult children whom she raised independently. With over 20 years of professional experience, Kristen brings passion and expertise to her new role as Family Policy Advisor with Families Together in New York State and the Office of Children and Family Services.

Throughout her life, Kristen has navigated numerous systems including domestic violence services, family court, mental healthcare, special education, and child protective services. By drawing on support from family, friends, and colleagues who believed in her, Kristen overcame struggles to succeed as both a parent and professional. Most recently, Kristen worked with OPWDD and Strong Pediatric Behavioral Health and Wellness, where she became an accredited Professional Family Advocate in 2017. Her professional experience spans two decades across multiple fields.

In her current position, Kristen is excited to leverage her personal and professional experience to empower families facing crises. She is deeply committed to keeping families together by providing resources, education, and support to strengthen them through challenges.

Kristen brings passion, expertise, and a strong voice to advocate for families. She has multiple relevant certifications and extensive experience delivering family advocacy services. Kristen strongly believes in promoting self-care and identifying strengths to help families find their voice.

Email:                                                    Phone:

Nancy Fortunato, Regional Family Policy Advisors (OCFS), New York City

    Nancy graduated from the Child Welfare Project Known as (CWOP). Nancy’s professional work has included Senior Parent leader with Rise Magazine, a magazine led by parents impacted by the injustices of the family policy system. Nancy worked as a   parent advocate with the Center for Human Development and Family, along with the Jewish Childcare Association (JCCA). 

Nancy has a passion for supporting families of color, and all impacted families to collectively create strong communities that invest in safe environments.  

“I believe that as a parent impacted by the child welfare system, I can relate and understand what it feels like to be in a parent’s shoes,” Fortunato said, adding that she looks forward to bringing her lived experience with a parent’s perspective to find real solutions to systemic issues. 

 

Tanya Hernandez, Regional Family Policy Advisors (OCFS), Buffalo

  Tanya Hernandez is the Family Policy Advisor for the WNY region with Families Together in New York State and the Office of Child and Family Services. As a mother of 3 sons and 5 grandchildren who personally navigated Juvenile Justice, Child Welfare, and the mental health systems, she brings a wealth of lived experience to her work.

Having worked one-on-one with families for 18 years as a bilingual, credentialed advocate, Tanya has always assisted families in finding their “voice” to champion the services they need. She now brings that voice to another level, advocating in systemic spaces.

Tanya will leverage her skills to ensure marginalized groups are central in meaningful conversations and family-driven solutions. With a passion for advocacy, she steps into this role eager to “build bridges” between systems and the communities they serve. Using a DEI framework and lived experience, Tanya will bring the family perspective to Child Welfare policies, driving necessary change. She believes that together, we can build services to assist families on their healing journeys. It takes a village!

Carolyn May, Regional Family Policy Advisors (OCFS), Home Office

   As the mother of two children and for her family’s wellbeing, Carolyn May has navigated several child-serving systems including OCFS, OPWDD, OMH, and NYSED for special education services. Her professional journey began with volunteer work as a family support parent, and from there she provided family peer advocacy services as a member of a mobile crisis response team. Carolyn has also supported families through family peer support in the community through two OMH programs on a per diem basis. Her lived experience allows Carolyn to share perspective, promote family-driven care, and advocate for policy that meets the needs of children, families, and service provision organizations in the community.

Christine Patterson, Regional Family Policy Advisors (OCFS), Native American Services

 Media  Christine Patterson is a Proud Mohawk Onkwehonwe woman. Christine was born and raised in Buffalo N.Y until the age of sixteen. Most summers were spent on her Reservation, Six Nations, Canada Ontario. This is where her heart is, and where she raised her Six Children. Christine also has ten amazing grandchildren that keep her feeling young!

She is currently residing in Buffalo, where she is employed by FTNYS alongside OCFS as The Native American Services Family Policy Advisor of New York State. Christine has had the opportunity to work with so many people in different spaces and the privilege to genuinely listen to their stories, assisting whenever and wherever she can. She walks with her values every day in the practice of kindness, honesty, love, loyalty, and humility. Christine cares for those around her and for those who will someday cross her path. Our communities are steadily growing and with growth comes the need for more services. She is grateful for the role she’s been entrusted with. The freedom to think and talk in two worlds; a strong determined helper and learner determined to take on the difficult yet rewarding work of revitalizing and sustaining our beautiful families and our beautiful culture for the next seven generations.

Jessica Cooper, Regional Family Policy Advisors (OCFS), New York City

  Jessica Cooper, who prefers to be called “Queen,” is a mother of seven and grandmother of two. She has personally navigated the child welfare, mental health, domestic violence, and educational systems. Jessica was a foster care Parent Advocate, and she helped parents to effectively communicate for themselves and their children.

Jessica is very proud and honored to be one of New York State’s family policy advisors. She looks forward to utilizing her lived experience in her work with OCFS and Families Together. Jessica is enthusiastic about supporting families in emergencies, engaging them to succeed, and keeping them together as a solid unit.

With her extensive personal experience navigating multiple systems as a parent and grandmother, Jessica brings an invaluable perspective to her role as a family policy advisor. Her background as a foster care Parent Advocate equips her to assist other parents in advocating for themselves and their families. Jessica is eager to leverage her lived experience to support New York families through challenges, empower them to achieve success, and promote strong, united families.

Raleighn William, Regional Family Policy Advisors (OCFS), Westchester

Raleighn Williams is an accomplished professional with over 30 years of experience advocating for policies that support family well-being and stability. With deep knowledge of the complex issues facing families, she has played a key role in developing evidence-based policies addressing critical challenges like child welfare, healthcare, education, and parental support.

Throughout her career, Ms. Williams has collaborated with agencies, nonprofits, and advocates to drive change locally. She provides strategic guidance rooted in data to inform impactful policies prioritizing family wellness. Known for exceptional leadership, she fosters cooperative environments where innovative ideas take shape.

Ms. Williams shares her expertise through the Worker Development Committee and as a Counsel Advisor for Healthy Minds Healthy Kids Community Leadership Counsel. Her ability to communicate complex concepts makes her a respected voice in family policy. She stays actively engaged in professional development and remains passionate about championing policies to strengthen families and communities.