At the Center – Jan-Mar 2015
Neha Desai Joins NCYL as Staff Attorney
Neha Desai has been working with and on behalf of vulnerable families for over a decade. After graduating from Berkeley School of Law in 2006, Neha was a Zubrow Fellow and then a staff attorney at the Juvenile Law Center where she represented children in dependency proceedings, drafted amicus briefs to federal courts, conducted trainings, and served as a member of the legal team litigating the infamous “Kids for Cash” scandal.
Neha has also worked extensively with immigrants and refugees, representing victims of child trafficking, asylum seekers, and battered undocumented women. Additionally, Neha has worked abroad at non-governmental organizations focused on the human rights of women and children.
Before joining NCYL, Neha was the Policy Advisor of Santa Clara County’s Dually-Involved Youth Initiative where she advised and managed a MacArthur Foundation reform initiative designed to improve outcomes for youth that touch both the child welfare and juvenile justice system, a significant portion of whom are commercially sexually exploited children.
Neha’s work at NCYL will focus on developing and implementing trauma-informed responses to child trafficking.
Lizzy Laferriere – NCYL’s New Policy Advocate
Elizabeth “Lizzy” Laferriere is a Policy Advocate with NCYL’s Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) team. She comes to NCYL with diverse experience spanning city government, human rights, campaign management, and think tank research. Lizzy previously served as Legislative Lead at the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women, where she managed a broad policy portfolio and the gender analysis program. While at the Department, she advocated for paid family leave and workplace equity at the 110th session of the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva. Lizzy serves on the San Francisco Women’s Political Committee Board of Directors and is a graduate of Emerge California. She received an MPP from Georgetown University, spending a semester at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore, and a BA from Wellesley College.
Minsun Park Meeker – Director of FosterEd: Los Angeles
Minsun Park Meeker is Director of FosterEd: Los Angeles. She brings extensive experience in child welfare program and policy development, implementation, and evaluation. As Outcomes and Evaluation Manager at United Friends of the Children (UFC), an education and housing provider for current and former foster youth in Los Angeles County, she led the organization’s implementation of a framework to better track and evaluate program data and outcomes. Before her time at UFC, Minsun served as the Senior Policy Director for the Child Welfare Initiative (CWI), where she partnered with public and private child welfare agencies to improve housing, employment, mental health, and transition programs and policies for current and former foster youth. Prior to joining CWI, Minsun worked as a Fiscal and Policy Analyst at the California Legislative Analyst’s Office and was responsible for evaluating the fiscal and programmatic impact of legislative and gubernatorial child welfare and labor proposals. She has also worked for the University of Southern California’s Center on Educational Governance; the Los Angeles Commission for Children, Youth, and Families; and Union Station Homeless Services. Minsun holds an M.P.P. from the University of Southern California, and a B.S. in Economics and a B.A. in International Studies and German from the University of Pennsylvania.
Jennifer Harris – Education Liaison for FosterEd: Arizona
Jennifer Harris is an Education Liaison with FosterEd: Arizona. She attended the University of Arizona, majoring in Family Studies. Her interest in child welfare began when she interned with Child Protective Services and continued to develop through her work at Casa de los Ninos children’s shelter. In 2003, Jennifer began her service in the United States Peace Corps in the Pacific country of Vanuatu as a Youth Development Volunteer, working with youth in rural communities to develop programs around gender advocacy, sexual and reproductive health, and education. She remained in Vanuatu after her service, working at a local non-governmental organization as Research Manager and Youth Center Manager for 8 years before returning to Tucson. Jennifer’s 18 years of experience in multi-cultural settings working with at-risk children and youth has given her insight in working with children in the foster care system and the unique challenges they face.
Arayah Larson – Volunteer Coordinator for FosterEd: Santa Cruz
Arayah Larson is the Volunteer Coordinator for FosterEd: Arizona. Arayah comes from a family of educators and is passionate about youth advocacy and educational rights. Arayah attended Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC and graduated in 2013 with a B.A. in Political Science and Global Studies. She returned to her hometown of Tucson, AZ, after 5 years in North Carolina working with volunteers in political campaigns and organizations devoted to LGBT marriage equality in the South. A consistent and devoted volunteer since age 11, Arayah has long been committed to helping others help! She is a firm believer in giving to the community as a way of growing and succeeding as a person.
American Constitution Society Award Honors NCYL
On March 17, 2015, the Bay Area Lawyer chapter of the American Constitution Society honored the National Center for Youth Law for its 40 years of work “defending the reproductive rights of adolescents, especially teens in vulnerable communities.” The award was presented to Director John O’Toole and Senior Attorney Rebecca Gudeman by Elizabeth Gill of the ACLU of Northern California.
In her introduction, Ms. Gill noted that NCYL fought for reproductive health access through the 1980’s and 1990’s despite regular threats from the federal government to have funding removed for working on such issues. Ms. Gill also praised NCYL’s more recent efforts including its work advocating for the reproductive rights of foster youth.
The event also recognized the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the case Griswold v. Connecticut, the landmark case in which the Supreme Court first ruled that the U.S. Constitution provides a right to privacy. Linda Greenhouse, Pulitzer Prize-winning former U.S. Supreme Court correspondent for the New York Times, was the keynote speaker. Ms. Greenhouse shared her reflections on the U.S. Supreme Court and its jurisprudence since Griswold in conversation with Professor Melissa Murray of U.C. Berkeley School of Law.
Rebecca Gudeman, the recipient of Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine’s (SAHM) Northern California Chapter Recognition Award for 2015, also won the national award and was recognized for her achievements at the National SAHM conference this year in Los Angeles. The award is given to an individuals that “work tirelessly, diligently and creatively to improve the health and well-being of adolescents and young adults.” Rebecca was recognized as “a dedicated contributor to the field of adolescent health in her role as an adolescent health law attorney, sharing her legal expertise and enabling adolescent providers and advocates to better understand the complexities of minor consent, contributing to the optimal care of patients.”
Guzman Keynotes Seattle University School of Law Conference on Public Defense
NCYL Juvenile Justice Attorney Frankie Guzman gave the keynote address at The Defender Initiative’s Fifth Annual Conference on Public Defense on March 6, 2015, at Seattle University School of Law. The recent historic Federal Court order requiring two cities to improve their public defense system has had ripple effects across the state and nationally. Washington’s Supreme Court has fully implemented its first in the country court rule on defender standards, including caseload limits. Across the country, New York State settled a lawsuit against it and agreed to improve public defense services in five counties, contributing millions of dollars to do so. The conference addressed these issues as well as re-entry, diversion, and how lawyers can help their clients with post-sentencing issues.
A large contingent from NCYL joined an estimated 200 attorneys, law students, professors, and allies holding a symbolic “die-in” protest on the steps of the California Supreme Court in San Francisco. Participants remained on the steps in protest of police violence and racial profiling of communities of color. The protest highlighted the unique role the legal system has played in recent high-profile grand jury decisions not to indict police officers in the killing of unarmed Black men and women. The die-in was an act of solidarity with national and local protests that have taken place to affirm that Black lives matter.
Trinity High School Basketball
NCYL’s Stephanie Krol and Erin Liotta traveled to Weaverville to see their client Zach Webster lead Trinity H.S. to a playoff victory. The California Interscholastic Federation had denied Zach a hardship waiver that would have granted him eligibility to play, but following a court order Zach has been on the court and excelling.