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 85 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 and 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.
- Ari Chiarella, LMSW, Social Work Supervisor/ Co-Director of Queens Practice
- Anne Conroy, Director of Development and Communications
- Wendell Cruz, Esq., Director of Holistic Practice; Litigation Supervisor, Criminal Defense Practice
- Payal Dalal, LMSW, Director of Human Resources and Operations
- Wanjiro Gethaiga, LMSW, Social Work Supervisor/ Co-Director of Manhattan Practice
- Maura Keating, Esq., Director of Litigation
- Corinne Lundstrum, Esq., Litigation Supervisor/ Co-Director of Queens Practice
- Alexandra (Sandy) Rosin, Esq., Litigation Co-Director, Manhattan Practice
- Danny Alicea, Esq., Litigation Supervisor, Immigration
- Christine Bruno, Esq., Litigation and Training Supervisor
- Virginia Christ, LMSW, Social Worker Supervisor, Queens Practice
- Tehra Coles, Esq. Litigation Supervisor, Government Affairs and Policy
- Dalaisé (Ally) Hickey, LMSW, Social Worker Supervisor, Manhattan Practice
- Allegra Leitner, Esq., Litigation Supervisor, Manhattan Practice
- Anastasia Rivera-Bonilla, Esq., Litigation Supervisor, Manhattan Practice
- Ginelle Stephenson, LMSW, Social Worker Supervisor, Manhattan Practice
- Julie Suh, Esq., Litigation Supervisor, Queens Practice
- Christine Waer, Esq., Litigation Supervisor, Queens Practice
Senior Staff & Managers:
- Malena Arnaud, LMSW, Senior Staff Social Worker, Manhattan Practice
- Ben Chan, Information Technology Manager Queens Practice
- Dionne Dublin, Senior Staff Social Worker, Queens Practice
- Samantha Elliott, Manager of Accounting & Reporting
- Jennifer Feinberg, Esq., Senior Staff Attorney, Manhattan Practice
- Amanda Franzen, Esq., Senior Staff Attorney, Queens Practice
- Gordon Hamm, Information Technology Manager Manhattan Practice
- Anna Ishii, LMSW, Senior Social Worker, Queens Practice
- Michael Kwon, Manager of Donor Relations & Institutional Giving
- Kelly Latham, Esq., Senior Staff Attorney, Queens Practice
- Ada Lozada, Administrative Manager
- Linda McCarthy, Esq., Senior Staff Attorney, Queens Practice
- Lauren Mitchell, Esq., Senior Staff Attorney, Manhattan Practice
- Maggie Nieves, Senior Family Advocate, Queens Practice
- Katie Wojewoda, Esq., Senior Staff Attorney, Queens Practice