Staff

Kathy Abarca, Youth Advocate Social Worker: Kathy was born in Los Angeles, California, moving to northern Utah as a teenager and later completing a joint Bachelor degree at Westminster College in Justice Studies and Sociology. In 2015, she spent a year studying at Pepperdine School of Law and completed a clerkship at the Housing Rights Center of California. Kathy decided to pursue advocacy and equity work outside of the legal world and earned dual Masters in Social Work and Public Administration at the University of Utah.  She has worked with youth and advocated for/with marginalized people in many roles. She’s worked as a teacher assistant in a preschool, a volunteer teacher in a juvenile detention center, and a mentor for youth activists.  She also advocated for legislation, researched for a national project about trauma-informed care, and started a pilot program to ensure the graduation of former foster youth entering higher education. She is thrilled to come back home to California and serve youth here. Kathy loves watching cooking competition shows, natural bodies of water, carbs, and showing you pictures of her new service dog in training, Miles!  

Lauren Aguirre, Staff Attorney: Lauren earned her B.A. in Psychology from Seattle Pacific University and her J.D. from Santa Clara University School of Law. Passionate about advocacy and social justice, Lauren has interned with Northwest Adoption Exchange in Washington State, Bay Area Legal Aid, and Santa Clara County Counsel. After graduating from Santa Clara, Lauren worked as an Associate Attorney at Allan & Martelle, LLP, representing parents and children in custody related matters throughout Santa Clara County. In her current role as a Probate Staff Attorney at EBCLO, Lauren represents children in guardianships throughout Alameda County. In addition to representing her clients in court, Lauren also advocates for their educational rights, mental health needs, and overall best interests.

Collin Baker, Supervising Attorney: Collin is thrilled to be a part of the dedicated team at East Bay Children’s Law Offices. In high school and college, Collin worked as a mentor and tutor with youth in his home state of Arizona. During law school, Collin focused on dependency through the Child Advocacy Clinic at University of San Francisco. Before joining EBCLO, he served on the Dependency Representation Panel in San Francisco. Collin graduated cum laude from the University of Arizona and holds a law degree from the University of San Francisco School of Law. He is a member of the National Association of Counsel for Children.

Carol Barnett, Senior Staff Attorney: Carol comes to the office with over 10 years of experience representing children in foster care in Alameda County, first with the Alameda County Public Defender and now with EBCLO. Prior to coming to Alameda County, Carol represented indigent parents in all phases of the juvenile court proceedings in Santa Clara County. In addition, she was a member of the Santa Clara County Juvenile Justice Court Systems Committee and a member of the Executive Committee where she worked to develop and participate in the implementation of new policy and protocol related to the intersection of child maltreatment and domestic violence. Carol began her legal career advocating for women and children victims of domestic violence as a staff attorney in a Santa Clara County domestic violence shelter. Now 17 years later, Carol remains a dedicated advocate to her clients and for all children and youth in the foster care system. She is also the parent of two boys who keep her on her toes.  Se habla español!

Regan Bradley-Brown, Staff Attorney: Regan earned her BA in Political Science and a Minor in Sociology at San Francisco State University. Her passion for politics led her to intern for the United States Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, and United States Representative, Jackie Speier.  She received her J.D. from Santa Clara University School of Law, where she served as President of the Black Law Student Association. Regan’s passion has always been rooted in community service and bringing meaningful access to the law to her community. Regan worked as a Law Program Youth Facilitator at Fresh Lifelines for Youth, which sparked her interest in youth advocacy. Regan is proud to be part of a passionate team of child advocates and thankful for the opportunity to work with EBCLO in its zealous advocacy for children in the Bay Area.

CJ Connolly, Ralph Abascal Fellow:  CJ earned her B.A. in Psychology from UC Berkeley in 2018 where she worked with incoming students in the residence halls and recognized the great disparity amongst their educational experiences.  She then went on to earn her J.D. from UC Hastings, College of the Law in 2021.  In her time at Hastings, CJ was heavily involved with youth advocacy and education related programs and clinics, even spending her first legal internship here at EBCLO. She is excited to serve as the 2021-2022 Ralph S. Abascal and Legal Services Funders Network Fellow completing a project focused on providing educational and placement stability to foster youth. Outside of EBCLO, CJ enjoys hosting dinner parties with friends, playing board games, and spending too much time on TikTok!

Larita Cortez, Office Manager: Larita came to East Bay Children’s Law Offices after eleven years of providing all levels of administrative support to a large staff at Telecom, Inc. She has also spent many years at O.co stadium and Oracle Arena serving VIP clientele. Larita attended Western Career College and obtained a Medical Assisting Certificate. She shares EBCLO’s passion for serving youth and looks forward to helping EBCLO clients.

Christie de Guzman, Senior Youth Advocate Social Worker: Christie holds a BA in Sociology (2009) and a Masters in Social Work (2013)—both from California State University East Bay. After working at Seneca Center as a classroom counselor/Mental Health Assistant, she knew she wanted to do more to help children and their families. During graduate school, she worked at Alameda County’s Juvenile Hall doing individual and group therapy. She also worked at New Haven Unified School District as a School Social Worker providing therapy to with children in grades K-12 and their families. She enjoys volunteering at a hospice for children, food banks, schools and other non-profits. She also enjoys taking photos, documenting, helping others, creating events, and collaborating with others in her community. Christie loves living in the Bay Area, going to conferences, spending time with her family and friends, painting, crafting, crossing items off her bucket list and working with children.

Haley Fagan, Director of Education Advocacy Program:  Haley has worn many hats since starting at EBCLO in 2012.  She began as a Fellow providing advocacy to EBCLO’s crossover youth involved in both dependency and delinquency court, spent some time as a staff attorney in dependency court and is now working to enforce our clients’ rights at school.  Prior to her time at EBCLO, Haley participated in Harvard’s Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative, clerked for the justices of Boston Juvenile Court and interned at the Human Exploitation and Trafficking Unit of the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office.  She received her B.A. from U.C. Berkeley and her J.D. from Harvard Law School.

Nikki Garcia, Staff Attorney: Nikki earned her BA from San Francisco State and JD from Southwestern Law School with a concentration in Public Interest Law.  Prior to joining East Bay Children’s Law Offices, she represented parents in Children’s Court for the Los Angeles Dependency Lawyers.  She has previously clerked for an L.A. Superior Court dependency judge, the Los Angeles County Counsel, and EBCLO.  She is thrilled to be back in the Bay Area advocating for Alameda County’s foster youth.

Chris Han, Staff AttorneyChris is a Bay Area native and former Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA).  He graduated with Highest Distinction from UC Berkeley, where he tutored incarcerated students at San Quentin State Prison.  He graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he represented teenagers through the criminal defense and education law clinics.  Following law school, Chris was an associate of Steptoe & Johnson, an international law firm.  After having worked with EBCLO as a CASA, Chris is excited to join EBCLO as a legal advocate standing with children and teenagers of Alameda County.

 

Lovena Henry, Staff Attorney:  Lovena earned her BA in Criminal Justice from University of Delaware and her Juris Doctorate from University of West Los Angeles School of Law. Prior to joining EBCLO, she was a Deputy District Attorney prosecuting a variety of criminal offenses. With a commitment towards social justice and being a voice for others, she is thrilled to zealously advocate for the children in the Bay Area. In her spare time, Lovena enjoys running, travelling, listening to house music and spending time with her family and friends.

 

Suzan Kotch, Director of Social Work: was born and raised in the East Bay, graduated from UC Davis, and went on to get her Masters in Social Welfare from UC Berkeley. She graduated from the Title IVE Public Child Welfare training program with a concentration in Child and Family Services. Suzan has worked in a group home, as a family preservation social worker and as field work instructor for social work interns.  For the thirteen years prior to joining EBCLO Suzan was a Child Welfare Worker in Alameda County where she worked in various programs including Family Reunification, Services Enhancing Early Development (SEED) and Adoptions.  Suzan completed training in Early Childhood Mental Health and is passionate about serving children and families in the foster care system.  Suzan and her husband live in Oakland with their two young children. 

Tenisha Lewis, Case Manager: Tenisha Lewis is a graduate from California State University, East Bay with a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and a minor in Sociology. Her passion for working with and servicing youth dates back to her college years, where she worked directly with marginalized and vulnerable student populations in an after school program.  As a program coordinator, she began to recognize the need for sustainable support systems to foster and promote student success.  She has brought these skill sets with her to Chabot’s ASPIRE program and finally to EBCLO.  Her time with EBCLO has varied from intake and case administration, to case reporting and assessment on behalf of the adolescents being served by EBCLO, all which come from different social and economic backgrounds. She looks forward to helping East Bay Children’s Law Offices continue to meet the needs and more of every young person EBCLO serves.

Ginger Lewis Dole, Supervising Attorney: Ginger is a passionate advocate for social justice and an experienced trial attorney. Prior to working in Dependency, she was a Deputy District Attorney prosecuting all manner of criminal offenses, including intimate partner violence, human trafficking, and crimes against children. She earned a B.A. in International Relations from Michigan State University and her Juris Doctorate from Golden Gate School of Law. Ginger is whole heartedly committed to giving children the representation they deserve and opportunities to thrive.

Kristin Mateer, Executive Director: Kristin Mateer co-founded EBCLO in 2009 and served as one of its Managing Attorneys from 2009 until 2018 when she became the Executive Director. She is a Child Welfare Law Specialist and has practiced in Alameda County representing both parents and children in the juvenile dependency system since 1998, first for the Alameda County Public Defender’s Office and now for EBCLO. Prior to becoming an attorney for children, Kristin began her work with the juvenile dependency system as a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) through San Francisco CASA where she mentored the same child from the time he was 11 years old through his emancipation from the foster care system at age 18. She is still in touch with him today.  Kristin then sat on the Advisory Board of Court Appointed Special Advocates of Alameda County for nine years, and was the Chair of the Advisory Board for seven years. Kristin is a graduate of UCLA and holds a law degree from UC Hastings College of the Law. She is a member of the National Association of Counsel for Children, the Alameda County Bar Association and she is also the mother of two amazing girls.

Sarah McElhinney, Supervising Attorney: Sarah is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley and Georgetown University Law Center. She comes to the East Bay Children’s Law Offices from the County of Santa Barbara where she was a Deputy County Counsel for seven years. At the Office of County Counsel, Sarah practiced in the areas of labor and employment law, civil litigation and juvenile dependency. Sarah is excited to join EBCLO and focus her career on advocating for foster youth.

Jess Meeks, Staff Attorney:  Jess earned her BA in Political Science from the University of California at Berkeley.  Jess received her JD from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.  She is a Bay Area native who is excited to be working in Oakland.  She is thrilled to join EBCLO as a Staff Attorney, representing and zealously advocating on behalf of children in the dependency system.  Prior to joining EBCLO, she spent many years practicing commercial litigation.  She also spent many years exploring her passion for youth education by working as a substitute elementary school educator. 

Marcie Neff, Staff Attorney: Marcie is an East Coast transplant to the Bay Area who graduated from Bates College in Maine with BAs in English Literature and Psychology. Before moving to California to attend law school at UC Berkeley, Marcie taught English in Costa Rica for a year and worked as a residential supervisor in an emergency shelter for children in Dorchester, MA. After obtaining her JD in 2000, Marcie practiced private criminal defense and family law before joining the Alameda County Public Defender’s Dependency Unit in 2003 where she represented foster children up through the transition to EBCLO in 2009. Marcie left EBCLO in 2011 to focus on raising her two children and recently returned to EBCLO as part of the Probate Unit. Marcie is excited to be back working among such passionate advocates for children’s rights and is enjoying the challenge and complexity of working with the families in probate proceedings. Se habla español!

Cristina Quiñónez, Staff Attorney: Cristina was proudly raised in San Francisco. She graduated from San Francisco State University where she double majored in Criminal Justice and Latino/a Studies. During undergrad, Cristina taught empowerment classes to female inmates at the San Francisco County Jail and tutored formerly incarcerated individuals to prepare for the ACT and SAT. Cristina obtained her JD from the University of San Francisco where she served the immigrant community through the Immigration and Deportation Defense and Policy Clinics. She conducted Know Your Rights trainings throughout the Bay Area and Central Valley. Cristina also volunteered with Al Otro Lado in Tijuana, Mexico where she prepared asylum seekers for their credible fear interviews. As a human rights and family unity advocate, Cristina is passionate about building and sustaining healthy familial relationships and teaching families of their right to remain together while promoting individual growth. Cristina enjoys working closely with clients through a holistic approach and teaching her clients of their right to be heard. In her free time, Cristina enjoys reading, going for urban hikes throughout the Bay Area, taking yoga classes and spending time with her friends and family. Se habla español! 

Kim Rhody, Staff Attorney: Kim comes to EBCLO excited to be back at legal advocacy. Kim was a Deputy Public Defender in Contra Costa County for 11 years, handling criminal as well as juvenile and dependency cases. After taking time off to be with her children, she returned to work in special education as an instructor and advocate. Kim worked as a Court Appointed Special Advocate for foster youth for the last 3 years and was the Chair of the CASA Advisory board and a member of the Friends of CASA board. She has worked as an advocate for domestic violence victims for the S.F. Family Violence project and as a group home counselor. Kim is thrilled to join the dedicated and lively staff at EBCLO.

Roxanne Romell, Managing Attorney: Roxanne brings a wealth of child welfare law experience and a great sense of humor to EBCLO as of 2015. She has previously represented both parents, as part of Juvenile Dependency Counselors, and the Alameda County Social Services Agency through the Office of the County Counsel, and she is thrilled to now be representing the children in Alameda County’s dependency system. Outside of her child welfare experience, Roxanne’s areas of expertise include tenant law, commercial real estate, and residential real estate law. Her litigation experience outside juvenile court includes representation of 39 low-income, immigrant families in a habitability case against a slumlord who owns 18 properties in Oakland, and representation of four Chinese-American families in a suit against a multi-millionaire developer. She is a member of the Women Lawyers of Alameda County, National Legal Aid & Defenders Association, East Bay Tenant’s Bar Association, ACORN and local bar associations in the East Bay, and she is the past-president of the Board of Directors of the HERA (Housing & Economic Rights Advocates).  She also chairs the Advisory Board of Alameda County CASA.

Jessie Conradi Slafter, Mental Health Attorney & Social Worker: Jessie is an Oakland native who passionately represents young people who have experienced psychiatric hospitalizations, sexual exploitation, or contact with the juvenile justice system. She is also the Project Leader on Parents & Caregivers for Wellness, a statewide Mental Health Services Act Stakeholder Collaborative. She holds a Doctor of Jurisprudence with Highest Honors from Golden Gate University School of Law, a Masters in Social Work from Catholic University of America and a Bachelors in Social Work from the University of Utah. She began at EBCLO as an Equal Justice Works Fellow. Utilizing her background in mental health, Jessie seeks to bring a trauma informed lens to her representation, advocacy, and training. In her spare time, Jessie is a Crossfit athlete and performs with Mortified.

Tatiana Smith, Youth Advocate Social Worker: Tatiana is an East Bay native. She graduated from Oakland High School and then Cal State East Bay with a degree in sociology with the social services option. She then earned her masters through Walden University in Human and Social Services. She has worked as a registered behavior therapist for Behavioral Health Works in Hayward where she provided one-on-one Applied Behavioral Analysis techniques to individuals diagnosed with Autism and related disorders. She is passionate about mental health and early intervention services for children who have developmental disabilities. She loves traveling with her husband, cooking and spending time with her family.

Amy Spierling, Operations Manager: Amy hails from the Pacific Northwest. Born and raised in Missoula, Montana, she attended the University of Washington and then settled in Oakland. After a career in Retail Management, she was excited to transition into nonprofit operations, first at Bay Area Wilderness Training, and now at EBCLO. She is passionate about youth and justice, and also volunteers as a CASA in Contra Costa County.

 

 

Emma Ryals Ward, Youth Advocate Social Worker:

Emma was born and raised in San Francisco, and is deeply committed to her Bay Area community. She graduated from Fordham University with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and went on to earn her Masters of Social Work from California State University, East Bay. She is dedicated to serving communities impacted by legal systems, as well as working alongside lawyers to provide holistic and client-centered services. Before working with EBCLO, Emma interned with the East Bay Community Law Center in the Education Defense and Justice for Youth Unit. She is passionate about dismantling systems of oppression and fighting for an equitable future for marginalized peoples the world over. Emma loves dancing, spending time with her family, writing poetry, and eating too many Takis.

Emily Zia, Staff Attorney: Emily is originally from Honolulu, Hawai’i, and a graduate of Wellesley College and the University of California Berkeley School of Law. Before going to law school, she was a 7th and 8th grade special education teacher in Hawai’i and received a post-baccalaureate certification in special education from the University of Hawai’i. While at Berkeley Law, she served as the Co-President of the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association and Co-Chair of the Coalition for Diversity. After graduating from law school, she worked briefly at law firm Goodwin Proctor, then at D.C. nonprofit Bread for the City, and then as a Child in Need of Assistance attorney at Maryland Legal Aid, where she represented youth in foster care in Prince George’s County, Maryland. She’s incredibly excited to return to the Bay Area and continue doing dependency work with EBCLO! In her spare time, she loves running, baking, cheering for the Golden State Warriors, hanging out with friends, and going on hikes with her husband Ben and puppy Bailey.

Aubrey: Aubrey is a loving companion and support to children and adults experiencing trauma. Aubrey, a golden retriever lab mix, is a certified assistance dog expertly trained by Canine Companions for Independence. Aubrey loves kids, belly rubs, sitting on your feet and ice cubes.

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