Art: Speaker Biographies Spring 2018

Below are the biographies for CAP’s Art of Social Change: Child Welfare, Education, and Juvenile Justice spring 2018 speakers.

Elizabeth Bartholet

elizabeth-bartholetElizabeth Bartholet is the Morris Wasserstein Public Interest Professor of Law and Faculty Director of the Child Advocacy Program (CAP) at Harvard Law School, where she teaches civil rights and family law, specializing in child welfare, adoption and reproductive technology. Before joining the Harvard Faculty, she was engaged in civil rights and public interest work, first with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and later as founder and director of the Legal Action Center, a non-profit organization in New York City focused on criminal justice and substance abuse issues.

Crisanne Hazen

PeopleCrisanneHazenCrisanne Hazen is the Assistant Director of Harvard Law School’s Child Advocacy Program. Crisanne joined CAP in the summer of 2016.  She came from San Jose, California, where she worked as a supervising attorney at Legal Advocates for Children and Youth (LACY), a program of the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley. Starting at LACY as an Equal Justice Works Fellow in 2006, Crisanne developed a “know your rights” curriculum for pregnant and parenting teens, which she taught at 6 area high schools. Over the 10 years at LACY, she represented hundreds of teen parents in family law and restraining order matters, as well as directly represented children and youth of all ages in a variety of civil proceedings including family law, guardianships, housing, benefits, special education, and school discipline. She helped to start and later manage a medical-legal partnership clinic in the Pediatric Department of Valley Medical Center in San Jose. She also managed other population-based projects, including a CSEC project, transition-age foster youth project, and a foster youth identity theft project. Crisanne is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of California-Davis School of Law.

Charles Nelson

Charles A. Nelson III, PhD, is Professor of Pediatrics and Neuroscience and Professor of Psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Elsewhere at Harvard he holds faculty appointments in the Harvard School of Public Health and the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and sits on the steering committee for the Harvard Center on the Developing Child and the Harvard interfaculty initiative on Mind, Brain, and Behavior. In addition, he holds the Richard David Scott Chair in Pediatric Developmental Medicine Research at Boston Children’s Hospital, and is Director of Research in the Division of Developmental Medicine. His research interests center on a variety of problems in developmental cognitive neuroscience, including developmental trajectories to autism; and the effects of early adversity (including psychosocial deprivation) on brain and behavioral development. He chaired the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Early Experience and Brain Development, and served on the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) panels that wrote From Neurons to Neighborhoods, and more recently, New Directions in Child Abuse and Neglect Research.  Among his many honors he has received the Leon Eisenberg award from Harvard Medical School, an honorary Doctorate from Bucharest University (Romania), was a resident fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center (Italy), and has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Claudia Postelnicescu

Claudia Postelnicescu has been a lawyer in Bucharest since 2000. She currently has her own firm, Claudia M. Postelnicescu Law Office, which engages in Civil Law/Family Law, strategic litigation in Human Rights, Constitutional Law & Administrative Law. Her activism includes working as an UNV for UNHCR Romania on refugee, migrants and asylum-seekers rights, human trafficking, child protection and women’s rights. Recently, she got involved in legal aspects of electoral issues, civil rights and legal matters related to government corruption and governance in Romania. She has formerly worked as a legal counselor for the Romanian Presidential Administration, as a legal consultant for the Romanian Chamber of Deputies and as legal counsel for the Romanian Ministry of Finance, where she worked on behalf of the Romanian State in fiscal and tax litigation cases, including international arbitration and legislative reform in the financial & tax legislation prior to joining the European Union. In this role she also acted as a legal representative to United Nations Commission on International Trade Law Commission in New York, and part of a legal team that negotiated a loan agreement with the World Bank and IMF. She holds a law degree from University of Bucharest; master’s degree in political science and international relations also from University of Bucharest; a master’s degree in European studies and Globalization & Governance from University of Birmingham.

Deborah Dentler

Deborah Dentler is a lawyer in private practice in Pasadena, California. She represents and advises foster parents, relative (or “kinship”) caregivers, biological parents and children in California juvenile dependency courts and California’s appellate courts.  She holds bachelors and master’s degrees in history from Boston University and a J.D. from UCLA.

In 2001, Dentler and her husband took in (and later adopted) a relative’s child after learning the 10-year old had lived in a dozen different foster homes. The foster parenting and adoption experience marked a major career shift for Dentler, who had no previous training in child welfare law. In 2003, she co-founded the first non-profit organization in the U.S. to inform foster parents and prospective adoptive parents about court procedures, and to train caregivers to participate in court hearings.  Dentler also drafted and lobbied successfully for passage of new laws in California to improve the foster parenting experience, and to ensure that foster parents are provided with critical information about the child at the time of placement, including contact information for reaching the child’s attorney, and other laws to improve the family life experience for children living in foster homes. An example is the California “Babysitting Rights” law, allowing licensed foster parents and kinship caregivers to select and hire short-term babysitters of their choice, subject to a “prudent parent” standard.
From 2013-2017, Dentler and her co-counsel successfully litigated a civil suit against the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services. The case reformed the way social workers notify caregivers of their rights to notice of court hearings, and strengthened procedures for objecting to unnecessary sudden removals of foster children for placement into new foster homes.

Dentler is a frequent presenter at child welfare and adoption conferences and a contributor to journals and books in the field of child welfare. She is a chapter author for California Juvenile Dependency Practice (

Garrett Therolf

Garrett Therolf is a reporter for the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley and Common Sense Media where he is currently focused on projects with The Atlantic Magazine and documentarian Brian Knappenberger. He previously worked for the Los Angeles Times for a decade, focusing on stories about children and families living in poverty. He also completed assignments for The Times in Iraq following the fall of Saddam Hussein and Egypt during the Arab Spring. Prior to that, he worked for the St. Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times), The Tampa Tribune, The (Allentown, Pa.) Morning Call and the Associated Press. Therolf received The Times’ award for best explanatory reporting, the Price Child Health and Welfare Journalism Prize three times, and recognition as a Livingston Award finalist twice. He is a graduate of the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. For the past seven years, he has volunteered as a creative writing teacher at the mental health unit for boys incarcerated at Los Angeles County’s Central Juvenile Hall.

Mark Hamlin

Mark Hamlin has both personal and professional experience with foster care and adoption. Growing up, Mr. Hamlin’s family served as a foster and adoptive home to a number of children. This experience encouraged Mark to pursue advocacy opportunities for children in need of stability during his time at Harvard Law School. Following his first year of law school, Mark interned with the Child Services Appeals division of the Indiana Attorney General’s Office. In that role, Mark worked on preparing appellate briefs on behalf of the state relating to decisions to terminate the parent-child relationship. Beginning in his second year of law school, and as part of Harvard’s Child Advocacy Program, Mark began participating in the lawsuit against the Los Angeles Department of Child and Family Services (LADCFS) by Advokids.

Through this lawsuit, Advokids sought to enforce existing laws that required LADCFS to provide foster parents with opportunities to receive notice of and participate in hearings concerning children in their care. The lawsuit also alleged that LADCFS failed to provide written notice and an opportunity to object and be heard when foster children are removed from their homes, as required by law. Mark supported Advokids in this effort throughout the remainder of his law school career.

Following graduation from law school, Mark joined the environmental department of Baker Botts L.L.P. In this capacity, Mark Hamlin has represented clients in a variety of environmental matters, including federal and state regulations, enforcement actions, permitting, environmental litigation and transactional matters. Mark’s practice includes representing clients in government enforcement actions brought under the federal Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, as well as under state and local regulations. Mark has also represented industry coalitions and multi-client litigation groups in litigation and rulemaking challenges related to air regulations at the state and national level. In addition, Mark regularly advises clients on a broad range of environmental compliance matters and regulatory developments, with a particular focus on air regulations.

Outside of the professional world, Mark is a husband to Niki and father to Zoe, Max, and Gus.

Dorothy Stoneman

Dorothy Stoneman is the founder and former CEO of YouthBuild USA, Inc. the support center for 260 YouthBuild programs in the U.S., and 80 in 21 other countries including South Africa, Mexico, Iraq, and Israel.

Since 1994, over 165,000 YouthBuild students have produced over 33,000 units of affordable housing in America’s most hard-pressed urban and rural communities while earning their own high school diplomas. Over $1.7B federal US dollars have been awarded to local YouthBuild programs to achieve these results.

Stoneman graduated from Harvard in 1963 and joined the grassroots storefront Harlem Action Group in NYC. In 1965 she worked as a teacher at PS 92 in Harlem and then moved to the parent-controlled East Harlem Block Schools, first as a teacher, then was promoted by the parents to be director of their Head Start Center, then Executive Director of the full Block Schools complex. She started the first YouthBuild program in 1978 in East Harlem in partnership with local teenagers. She orchestrated its NYC scaling with City funds in 1984, then nationally with foundation funds in 1988. In 1992 in partnership with Senator John Kerry she won a Federal line item for broader scaling which has continued ever since due to YouthBuild’s ability to win bi-partisan support through five administrations.

YouthBuild is the most comprehensive program engaging the most disadvantaged young adults in urban and rural communities in 46 States. A full-time year-long program, it incorporates education, hands-on job training, personal and peer counseling, leadership development, community service, stipends for services provided, and placement supports and follow-up. Eighteen independent evaluations have documented its success.

Stoneman has served on many boards and coalitions, including Stand for Children, Ford Foundation Leaders for a Changing World, Harvard’s Saguaro Seminar on Civic Engagement, Save AmeriCorps Coalition, Task Force on Poverty at the Center for American Progress, America’s Promise Alliance for Youth, Voices for National Service, Public Allies, Opportunity Youth Network, America Forward, Emerald Cities Collaborative, Harvard Public Service Board of Advisors, and the Reconnecting Youth Campaign.

Among other honors, she has received the MacArthur “genius” Fellowship (1996), the John Gardner Leadership Award (2000), the Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship (2007), Harvard Call to Service Award (2011), and America’s Promise Award (2017). In 2013 she was invited to speak on the Mall at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Freedom and Justice.

In 2012, with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Stoneman convened a group of national non-profits to create a National Council of Young Leaders. This group was comprised of young adults who had found pathways out of poverty through the various education, job training, and service programs represented by a group of non-profits. The Council members were both hopeful and passionate about the need to spread these opportunities for their peers and to diminish poverty for all. The Council produced its Recommendations to Increase Opportunity and Decrease Poverty in America which members disseminated widely. In 2015 they launched a new movement called Opportunity Youth United, designed to build a robust grassroots network of deeply engaged and ethical young leaders uniting all racial and ethnic groups, from both urban and rural communities. Stoneman is currently the senior advisor to this Council, building Opportunity Youth United (

The Hon. Jeri Cohen

Judge Jeri Beth Cohen is a circuit judge in the Dependency and Criminal Drug Court Divisions in Miami-Dade County, Florida.  She received her Bachelor of Arts degree at Boston University, her Master of Arts degree at Harvard University, and her Juris Doctorate at Georgetown Law. While Judge Cohen has presided in several divisions of the County and Circuit Courts since 1992, her primary assignment and true passion has been in the Dependency Division of the Juvenile Court. Judge Cohen has used her experience in the areas of substance abuse, mental health, early childhood development and trauma to create an innovative approach to the treatment of addiction in both the criminal and dependency drug courts.

In 1999, Judge Cohen established the first Dependency Drug Court in Miami and one of the first in the nation. The Miami Dependency Drug Court serves as a Family Drug Court Peer Learning Court for Children and Family Futures and the National Family Drug Court Training and Technical Assistance program. It continues to be recognized as an exemplary court. Judge Cohen’s strong belief in treatment court and the unique role the judiciary and community partners play in protecting children from abuse and neglect is what defines her. Since 2013, Judge Cohen has also presided over the Miami-Dade County Adult Criminal Drug Court where she has incorporated family centered interventions into her criminal docket.

Judge Cohen is nationally recognized as an expert on issues relating to child welfare, substance abuse and mental health. She has worked on a national level with the Department of Justice and the National Drug Court Institute to develop curricula and train drug courts across the country. She has also taught at statewide and national conferences and judicial colleges, and published several articles on family drug courts and child welfare. Judge Cohen has been very influential in integrating child welfare with behavioral health in Miami-Dade County.

Judge Cohen currently chairs the Florida Association of Drug Court Professionals, sits on the Board of the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, and on the Executive Committee of the South Florida Behavioral Health Network. She is the past chair of the Statewide Court Improvement Project responsible for bringing state dependency courts into compliance with federal child welfare requirements. She served in this capacity for four years setting up the statewide Model Court program for Florida and the Florida Dependency Bench book.

Judge Cohen has received several grants during her career from inter alia, NIDA, CSAT, SAMHSA, HHS and BJA. The majority of these grants have funded randomized studies in both the community and the court.

Frank Vandervort

Frank E. Vandervort, JD, is a Clinical Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School where he co-founded and teaches the Juvenile Justice Clinic and also teaches in the Child Advocacy Law Clinic. He is the Immediate Past President of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, and a former Chair of the Children’s Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan. Between 1999 and 2012, he served as an appointed member of Michigan’s Child Death Review State Advisory Committee and until 2015 was a member of Michigan’s Citizen Review Panel on Child Death, which reviews every child maltreatment related death in the state. He has been a practicing lawyer for 26 years and is a nationally recognized expert in the law relating to child abuse, neglect and juvenile delinquency. Professor Vandervort is a co-author of the book Seeking Justice in Child Sexual Abuse: Shifting Burdens and Sharing Responsibilities, numerous book chapters and scholarly articles. He is a frequent contributor to practice oriented legal publications. He previously served as a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Forensic Social Work and is an ad hoc peer reviewer for several scholarly journals, including the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Child Maltreatment and Children and Youth Services Review. He is a recipient of the Pro Humanatate Award from the North American Resource Center on Child Welfare, the Betty Tableman award from the Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health, and the Ray Helfer Child Advocate of the Year Award from the Michigan Professional Society on the Abuse of Children. He was recognized with the 2016 Outstanding Service to APSAC Award by the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children.

Dr. Michael Hinojosa

Dr. Michael Hinojosa returned to Dallas Independent School District for his second term as superintendent in 2015. He has served six public education systems during his more than 22 years as a superintendent/CEO, including two of the 25 largest school systems in America – Dallas ISD in Texas, and the Cobb County School District in suburban Atlanta, Georgia. His career in public education, from teacher and coach to superintendent/CEO, spans more than three decades. Based on his firm belief that education, and not environment, is the key to a student’s success, Dr. Hinojosa has led several school districts to improved student achievement.

His track record of improving student achievement in urban school districts has garnered awards and recognition. In 2002, he was named Superintendent of the Year by the Texas Association of School Boards, and in 2005, he was selected Superintendent of the Year by the University of Texas at Austin. The College of Education at Texas Tech University honored him as Distinguished Alumnus. A past president of the Texas Association of School Administrators, Dr. Hinojosa has also been named Outstanding Latino Educator by the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents.

A proud graduate of the Dallas Independent School District, Dr. Hinojosa holds a doctorate in education from the University of Texas at Austin. He and wife Kitty have two sons, graduates of Princeton University and Harvard University. His son from a previous marriage graduated from Texas Tech University. All three attended Dallas ISD for a significant portion of their K-12 education.

Richard Kahlenberg

Richard D. Kahlenberg is a senior fellow at The Century Foundation with expertise in education, civil rights, and equal opportunity. Kahlenberg has been called “the intellectual father of the economic integration movement” in K-12 schooling and “arguably the nation’s chief proponent of class-based affirmative action in higher education admissions.” He is also an authority on teachers’ unions, private school vouchers, charter schools, turnaround school efforts, labor organizing and inequality in higher education. He is the author of six books: A Smarter Charter: Finding What Works for Charter Schools and Public Education (with Halley Potter) (Teachers College Press, 2014), Why Labor Organizing Should Be a Civil Right: Rebuilding a Middle-Class Democracy by Enhancing Worker Voice (with Moshe Marvit) (Century Foundation Press, 2012); Tough Liberal: Albert Shanker and the Battles Over Schools, Unions, Race and Democracy (Columbia University Press, 2007); All Together Now: Creating Middle Class Schools through Public School Choice (Brookings Institution Press, 2001); The Remedy: Class, Race, and Affirmative Action (Basic Books, 1996); and Broken Contract: A Memoir of Harvard Law School (Hill & Wang/Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1992.)

In addition, Kahlenberg is the editor of ten Century Foundation books: The Future of Affirmative Action: New Paths to Higher Education Diversity after Fisher v. University of Texas (2014); Bridging the Higher Education Divide: Strengthening Community Colleges and Restoring the American Dream, Chaired by Anthony Marx and Eduardo Padron (Executive Director) (2013); The Future of School Integration: Socioeconomic Diversity as an Education Reform Strategy (2012); Affirmative Action for the Rich: Legacy Preferences in College Admissions (2010); Rewarding Strivers: Helping Low-Income Students Succeed in College (2010); Improving on No Child Left Behind: Getting Education Reform Back on Track (2008); America’s Untapped Resource: Low-Income Students in Higher Education (2004); Public School Choice vs. Private School Vouchers (2003); Divided We Fail: Coming Together Through Public School Choice. The Report of The Century Foundation Task Force on the Common School, Chaired by Lowell Weicker (Executive Director) (2002); and A Notion at Risk: Preserving Public Education as an Engine for Social Mobility (2000). Kahlenberg’s articles have been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New Republic, and elsewhere. He has appeared on ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, C-SPAN, MSNBC, and NPR.

Previously, Kahlenberg was a Fellow at the Center for National Policy, a visiting associate professor of constitutional law at George Washington University, and a legislative assistant to Senator Charles S. Robb (D-VA). He also serves on the advisory board of the Pell Institute, the Albert Shanker Institute and the Research Advisory Panel of the National Coalition for School Diversity. In addition, he is the winner of the William A. Kaplin Award for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy Scholarship. Reflecting on Kahlenberg’s work on higher education, William G. Bowen and Michael S. McPherson wrote that he “deserves more credit than anyone else for arguing vigorously and relentlessly for stronger efforts to address disparities by socioeconomic status.” He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College in 1985 and cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1989.

Matt Cregor

Matt joined the Lawyers’ Committee in 2014, where he serves as its Education Project Director and handles a variety of education matters including school discipline, racial harassment, affirmative action and student assignment. Before that, Matt coordinated the Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline Initiative for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), partnering with national civil rights groups and parent-led, student-led, and teacher-led organizations in the Dignity in Schools Campaign to secure the issuance and introduction of discipline-related federal policy guidance and legislation. Prior to his time at the Lawyers’ Committee and LDF, Matt worked on local, state, and federal education matters as a staff attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama. He is a 2006 graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center.



Eliza Byard

Eliza Byard is an accomplished mission-driven executive and leader for social justice and systemic change. Byard has designed and executed strategic initiatives that have transformed K-12 education in the United States to respond to the unique challenges and needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth. As a speaker, fundraiser and ambassador for educational equity and access, Byard brings people from across the political spectrum together on common ground, and has secured tens of millions of dollars from diverse individual, corporate and institutional funders.

Byard currently serves as the Executive Director of GLSEN, an organization recognized worldwide as an innovative leader in the fight for equality for LGBT students and respect for all in K-12 education. She joined GLSEN as Deputy Executive Director in 2001, and has led the growth of GLSEN’s public education and advocacy efforts; youth leadership development programs; professional development training for educators; research and program evaluation capacity; and in-school programming. She has crafted advocacy and legislative strategies that have won bipartisan support and widespread acceptance of the urgency and importance of LGBT issues in education. President Barack Obama honored GLSEN as a “Champion of Change” and, in 2013, the organization was named a Top National Non-Profit for its impact on LGBT equality.

As an expert on education, youth development, and LGBT issues, Byard has appeared on AC360, CNN, ABC World News, Fox News, MSNBC, CBS This Morning, ABC 20/20 and National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation, among other programs. She has served on numerous boards and commissions for LGBT youth and educational
equity, and is currently a Trustee of the America’s Promise Alliance.

Byard began her career in public television and worked on numerous award-winning documentaries, including “School Colors,” a FRONTLINE examination of public education on the 40th anniversary of Brown v. Board. She had the remarkable formative opportunity to work for Bill Moyers at Public Affairs Television on projects spanning more than a decade. The veteran journalist inspired Byard’s lifelong commitment to what he terms “the conversation of democracy” and the public engagement needed to preserve fundamental values embodied in democratic institutions.

Byard holds a PhD in United States History from Columbia University, and lives in her native New York City with her wife and their two children.

John Affeldt

affeldt_johnJohn Affeldt is a managing attorney at Public Advocates in San Francisco, where he focuses on educational equity issues through litigation, policy advocacy and partnerships with grassroots organizations. John served as a lead counsel on Williams v. California, which resulted in a breakthrough 2004 settlement guaranteeing California’s students sufficient instructional materials, decent facilities and qualified teachers. He is also lead counsel on Community Coalition v. LAUSD, a challenge to the district’s undercounting its obligation to support high need students by $450 million annually, and the Campaign for Quality Education v. California suit challenging the state’s underfunding of public schools.

John brought the only lawsuits in the country to enforce the teacher quality provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, which required states and districts to provide fully credentialed teachers in equal measure to low-income students and students of color. These actions led to a state court voiding the improper labeling of some 4,000 provisionally-certified teachers as “highly qualified” and a Ninth Circuit, U.S. Court of Appeals ruling striking down a federal regulation that unlawfully labeled teachers still in training across the nation as “highly qualified.”

John has worked on numerous school finance, teacher quality, equitable opportunity and accountability policies in Sacramento. In 2013 and 2014, John helped to shape several key provisions of California’s new school funding law known as the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). These new laws require schools to provide increased or improved services for high need students in proportion to the billions of dollars of additional funds generated by such students, establish parental involvement as a new state priority, and require new levels of community engagement and transparency in school planning and budgeting statewide.

John is a founding member of various grassroots, community-based and advocacy coalitions working on statewide policy advocacy campaigns to improve educational opportunities for low-income students of color and to build power in low-income communities.

John has been recognized as an Attorney of the Year in California three times, in 2010 by The Recorder, and twice by the California Lawyer magazine, once in 2005 and again, most recently, in 2018. John graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1990 and Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University in 1984.

Saa’un Bell

Grounded in her southern roots of Greenville Alabama and Eastern Samar, Saa’un is the oldest of six, from a serious, but comical, working class Black and Filipino immigrant family. As a former English Language Learner student from Long Beach Unified School District and 1st generation college graduate, Saa’un is committed to building a public education infrastructure where all students have the opportunities to fulfill their highest aspirations. Saa’un joined CFJ in 2009 as an Organizer where they organized community college students and youth of color in Oakland schools. Currently, Saa’un oversees all communications & narrative strategy for CFJ’s regional and statewide campaigns. She is also an Associate at the Center for Story-based Strategy where students get to apply their story & strategic wizardry on statewide & national communication projects. Saa’un holds a BA in Philosophy.

Stan Eichner

Stan Eichner is Director of Litigation at the Massachusetts Disability Law Center. He has been a public interest lawyer for more than 43 years. During his 15 years at DLC he has had a leadership role in the Law Center’s investigation of excessive restraint and seclusion at Bridgewater State Hospital, which led to a far-reaching settlement to remedy those problems and established DLC as the monitor of that agreement. He has also had a significant role in a series of investigations of public and private schools in Massachusetts. Over the course of his career, Stan has litigated cases across almost all areas of civil rights law and at every level of state and federal courts, including Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 US 424 (1983), in the United States Supreme Court, and Commonwealth v. Adams, 416 Mass. 558 (1993), in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. He has lectured widely on disability rights laws and is co-editor of the first and second editions of The Legal Rights of Individuals with Disabilities.


Jenifer McKim

Jenifer McKim is the senior investigative reporter at the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, a nonprofit news center based out of Boston University and WGBH public radio. McKim focuses on exposing injustice and government accountability with investigations into sex trafficking, child welfare, criminal justice and special education. Her stories have led to criminal convictions, legislation, public hearings and new laws. Among her journalism honors, McKim was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in Public Service and awarded a 2011 Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. Her NECIR stories on child welfare and debt were the recipient of four consecutive Publick Occurrences awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association and a 2016 Freedom of Information Award from the New England First Amendment Coalition. McKim has worked at NECIR for four years and before that as a staff writer at the Boston Globe, the Orange County Register in Southern California and the San Juan Star in Puerto Rico. McKim was a 2008 fellow at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University and a graduate of Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

Marsha Levick

Levick, Marsha headshot 2014Marsha Levick is the co-founder, Deputy Director and Chief Counsel of Juvenile Law Center, America’s oldest public interest law firm for children. Levick has published many articles on children and the law, and has participated in numerous cases before the US Supreme Court as well as federal and state courts nationwide. Notable cases include Roper V Simmons, Graham v Florida, and Miller v Alabama, all cases striking severe adult sentences for juveniles in the criminal justice system, and JDB v North Carolina, requiring consideration of youth in the Miranda custody determination. Levick also served as co-counsel in Montgomery v. Louisiana, where the Supreme Court ruled Miller retroactive across the country. Levick spearheaded Juvenile’s Law Center’s work in the Luzerne County Pa “Kids for Cash” judges’ scandal, the subject of both a book and an award winning documentary film. Levick serves on the board of the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights, and is a member of the Dean’s Council of the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs. Levick has been honored for her work by the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and American Bar Associations, the American Association for Justice, and received the Philadelphia Inquirer 2009 Citizen of the Year Award (co-recipient). Levick was also the inaugural recipient of the 2013 Arlen Specter Award, established by the Philadelphia Legal Intelligencer, and the recipient of the 2015 Philadelphia Award. Levick is an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and Temple University Beasley School of Law.

Jason Szanyi

Jason Szanyi is Deputy Director of the Center for Children’s Law and Policy, where he oversees the Center’s work to end dangerous and inhumane conditions for youth in custody, collaborates with communities to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system, and helps public officials reduce the unnecessary incarceration of children. Jason also has extensive experience helping jurisdictions implement the federal Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) in juvenile justice facilities. Since joining the Center in 2009, Jason has worked with or trained officials in over two dozen states, cities, and counties. He provides long-term technical assistance to jurisdictions that are implementing systems change, in addition to engaging in research, writing, and administrative and legislative advocacy for juvenile justice reform. In 2015, Jason was recognized by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation as a Next Generation Champion for Change because of his leadership in youth justice reform. Jason joined the Center in 2009 as a Skadden Fellow. As part of his project, he partnered with the District of Columbia Public Defender Service’s Juvenile Services Program, representing incarcerated children from the District in a variety of legal proceedings. Jason has also worked with the Government of India on reforms to its juvenile justice system as part of Harvard Law School’s Child Advocacy Program. Jason co-teaches a seminar on juvenile justice at American University’s Washington College of Law and has lectured on the juvenile justice system at several other law schools and universities. In 2013, Jason was named a Wasserstein Public Interest Fellow by Harvard Law School’s Office of Public Interest Advising. Jason is a graduate of Northwestern University and Harvard Law School.

Peter Forbes

Peter Forbes was appointed Commissioner for the Department of Youth Services (DYS) in June 2013. Commissioner Forbes has extensive experience in human services, public administration and adolescent development. Prior to his appointment as Commissioner Peter served as the Department’s Deputy Commissioner where he managed field operations as well as ensured quality residential programming, community transition and supervision critical to the effective daily operation of the Department. Commissioner Forbes’ long-standing commitment with DYS began in 1983 when he was first hired as a direct care worker at a long term secure treatment program in Boston. Throughout his career with the Department Peter has held numerous direct-care and managerial roles with DYS. As the Regional Director in Boston for more than a decade, Peter established a series of constructive relationships with public agency and community based partners that improved the services and outcomes for DYS youth. Commissioner Forbes is committed to sustaining efforts that ensure low-risk youth do not penetrate the deep end of the juvenile justice system and that youth in custody receive appropriate and effective services where and when they need them. Peter holds a Master of Science in Human Services from the University of Massachusetts, Boston and an undergraduate degree in Sociology from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.

Tim Decker

Tim Decker was appointed as the Director of the Missouri Division of Youth Services in January 2007 and transitioned to the role of Director of the Missouri Children’s Division in November 2013. Tim has served for over 32 years in a variety of leadership positions with the Missouri Department of Social Services and the Greater Kansas City Local Investment Commission (LINC); one of Missouri’s innovative public/private community partnerships focused on citizen engagement, local governance, natural helping networks, and neighborhood-based services.

During his tenure as Director of the Missouri Division of Youth Services, the agency won the 2008 Harvard Innovations in American Government Award for Child and Family System Reform and Missouri hosted site visits from over 20 states. Under his leadership, the agency increased educational completion rates by over 87%, reduced recidivism and increased productive involvement rates, and safely reduced the number of young people in state custody. Community partnerships and services were expanded and family engagement increased.

University partnerships were developed in areas such as leadership development and telemedicine, and educational options were expanded including as significant increase in college placements and opening of virtual school for at-risk students. Professional and leadership development opportunities for leaders and staff were expanded and an innovative framework for assessment, treatment and transition planning was implemented.

Tim Decker frequently serves as national speaker on topics such as juvenile justice and child welfare system reform, leadership and professional development, organizational culture change, and results-based accountability. He regularly provides consultation, mentoring, and other support for jurisdictions implementing system change initiatives.

Tim was elected national president of the Council of Juvenile Correctional Administrators (2010 – 2012). He served on the Georgetown Public Policy Institute CJJR Juvenile Justice Leadership Network since its inception in March 2010. The network is composed of 12 reform-minded leaders selected from state and local jurisdictions around the country.

Tim Decker led Missouri’s development of a Crossover Youth Policy Team composed of leaders from child welfare, juvenile justice, mental health, health education, and the court system. The team launched Crossover Youth Practice Model sites in four court circuits, along with conducting extensive research and implementing policy and practice reforms.

Tim Decker is one of the co-founders of a Youth in Custody Certificate Program launched at Georgetown University in August 2013. He currently serves as an instructor for the Youth in Custody and Multi-System Integration Certificate Program’s leadership and culture change modules.

Tim Decker previously worked in a runaway and homeless youth shelter, managed a group home for abused and neglected children, and served as a program manager and administrator with the Division of Youth Services from 1984 – 1993. During this time, the agency was engaged in major system transformation toward more humane, therapeutic, developmental, and effective approaches to juvenile justice. Tim managed programs throughout Missouri’s continuum of care including community, moderate and secure care facilities; serving as an Assistant Regional Administrator in the Northwest Region.

Tim Decker worked from 1994-1995 with the Missouri Family & Community Trust statewide system change initiative; and has served as a social worker, trainer, and treatment coordinator with agencies in the private non-profit sector.

Tim Decker was certified as a national trainer for Families and Schools Together from 1999 – 2007, exemplary model prevention program with the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP).

Tim Decker earned his degree in Social Work and Psychology in 1982 from Park University in Parkville, Missouri. Tim completed the Institute for Education Leadership Education Policy Fellowship Program in 2007 and currently serves as a guest lecturer for the program. He completed the Georgetown Juvenile Justice and Child Welfare: Multi-System Integration Certificate Program in October 2013 and currently serves as a member of the Policy Fellows Network.

Tim Decker was previously certified as a National Accreditation Endorser with the National Afterschool Alliance, and as a certified trainer in Results-Based Planning and Accountability and High Performance Transformational Coaching.

Vincent Schiraldi

Vincent Schiraldi has extensive experience in public life, founding the policy think tank, the Justice Policy Institute, then moving to government as director of the juvenile corrections in Washington DC, and then as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Probation. Most recently Schiraldi served as Senior Researcher at the Harvard Kennedy School Program in Criminal Justice and Senior Advisor to the New York City Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice. Schiraldi gained a national reputation as a fearless reformer who emphasized the humane and decent treatment of the men, women, and children under his correctional supervision.  He pioneered efforts at community-based alternatives to incarceration in NYC and Washington DC. Schiraldi received a MSW from New York University, and a Bachelor of Arts from Binghamton University.