CFR’s founders set out to dramatically change outcomes for families who experience the child welfare and family court systems. To meet this ambitious goal, the agency began with seasoned professionals who knew from experience that the most important way to help at risk children was by strengthening their parents and families in the first instance. More than 75% of our management and supervisory staff hail from legal organizations that represented children or from child welfare agencies whose goal was to protect children, including ACS.
CFR achieves its outcomes by recruiting, hiring, training and retaining talented staff. Starting with just 2 employees in 2002, the organization now employs more than 65 people in Manhattan and Queens.
Michele Cortese, Esq. was named the Executive Director of the Center for Family Representation in New York City in January of 2016. She joined the organization as Deputy Director in 2002. Since joining CFR, Ms. Cortese has personally conducted more than 175 training sessions, and has presented or provided TA to practitioners from more than 15 states. She supervised the development of interdisciplinary models of representation for parents in CFR’s child welfare cases. In addition to representing parents, Ms. Cortese served as an Attorney for the Child (law guardian) for over a dozen years and has also represented foster care agencies in trial and appellate proceedings. She worked at the NYC Legal Aid Society Juvenile Rights Practice, as the Director of Professional Development, where she coordinated and conducted training citywide for attorney, social work, paralegal and management staff. She also served as the Attorney-In-Charge of JRP’s Manhattan trial office that represented 12,000 children annually in child protective, delinquency and PINS proceedings. Ms. Cortese has been a member of the faculty of the Practicing Law Institute, the New York State Judicial Institute and the Child Welfare League of America, and has written for the American Bar Association’s Center on Children and the Law. In May of 2010, Ms. Cortese received the Kathryn A. McDonald award from the New York City Bar Association for Excellence in Service to the Family Courts. Ms. Cortese is a graduate of Columbia University School of Law and Colgate University.
Susan Jacobs, Esq., is the founding Executive Director of the Center for Family Representation (CFR) and now serves as CFR’s Special Counsel. Additionally, she is:
Co-chair of the American Bar Association’s National Parent Representation Steering Committee.
Manager of a unique study of legal representation of parents conducted by New York University Law School and supported by Casey Family Programs
Ms. Jacobs started CFR in 2002 building it from a staff of 2 and budget of $250,000 to a staff of 85 and a budget of $8 million. CFR serves over 2,000 indigent families in NYC and provides training and technical assistance to jurisdictions and states around the country in its unique interdisciplinary model of strengthening families whose children are at risk of foster care placement. Ms. Jacobs has been appointed to numerous Family Court and child welfare advisory boards in New York City including the Mayor’s Children’s Cabinet Advisory Board, the New York City Executive Committee on Child Welfare and the Administration for Children’s Services Commissioner’s Task Force. Ms. Jacobs has 25 years of experience as a family law attorney representing adults and children in Family Court, New York State Supreme Court and in Federal Court. In addition to her law degree, she has a Master’s Degree in early Childhood, Special Education. She has been recognized for her contribution to family law with several awards including from the Center on Children and the Law of the ABA, the New York State Bar Association, and Brooklyn Law School. Ms. Jacobs earned a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School, an M.S. in Special Education from the University of North Carolina and a B.S. from Cornell University. She is the author of articles on confidentiality and parents’ legal rights and is a frequent speaker at national conferences on access to justice, nonprofit management, and family law and child welfare.
Genevieve Christy, Chief Financial Officer, oversees CFR’s fiscal operations. Ms. Christy worked as a Management Consultant in finance and systems applications at Deutsch, Inc. and Zenith Media Services Inc. for 9 years, running projects with budgets of over $180 million. Prior to that, she worked in finance at Time Warner, Inc., and ultimately was Finance Manager of the Editorial Division of Time Magazine where she supervised with an annual budget of more than $100 million. Ms. Christy is responsible for CFR’s strategic fiscal planning, establishing budgets and forecasting income and expenses. She creates monthly cash flow reports for the General Management team and for CFR’s Board Finance Committee. Ms. Christy has a B.A. from Duke University and pursued postgraduate studies at University College in London.
Ada Lozada, Administrative Manager, joined CFR in 2005 and works closely with the CFO and the Executive Director on a variety of fiscal and administrative operations, including human resources, information systems, and information technology. Prior to joining CFR, Ms. Lozada worked at The Legal Aid Society in the Capital Division, the Criminal Defense Division, and the Juvenile Rights Practice. At Legal Aid, Ms. Lozada worked as both an administrator and as a paralegal, assisting investigators, conducting interviews, providing case management, and advocacy for clients and conducting legal research. While at the Capital Division, Ms. Lozada worked closely with the team’s social work staff in retrieving life history records of each client for mitigation purposes in order to help the client avoid the death penalty. Ms. Lozada attended Queens College and is a bilingual in English and Spanish.
Co-Directors of the Manhattan Practice
Wanjiro Gethaiga, LMSW, Social Work Supervisor
Maura Keating, Esq., Litigation Supervisor
Co-Directors of the Queens Practice
Rick Barinbaum, LMSW, Social Work Supervisor
Elizabeth Fassler, Esq., Litigation Supervisor
Manhattan Practice Supervisors
Ginelle Stephenson, LMSW, Social Work Supervisor
Anastasia Rivera-Bonilla, Esq., Litigation Supervisor
Sandy Rosin, Esq., Litigation Supervisor
Christine Bruno, Esq., Litigation Supervisor
Queens Practice Supervisors
Wendell Cruz, Esq. Criminal Litigation Supervisor
Corinne Lundstrum, Esq., Litigation Supervisor
Julie Suh, Esq., Litigation Supervisor
Ari Schnabel, LMSW, Social Work Supervisor
Carolyn Walther, Esq., Litigation Supervisor