2023 Convening on IL Black Families
Corey B. Best is a Black father, community organizer, activist, and leader. Originally from Washington, DC, Corey now resides in Florida. Corey has attached himself to “justice doing”-- a movement and never-ending journey of being guided by the principled struggle to advance racial justice within this nation’s child welfare and human service delivery systems. This work puts Corey in front of more than 10,000 professionals annually, and has afforded him with the fundamental knowledge about the importance of connecting to something bigger than himself--allowing perspective, pain, truth, joy, and vulnerability to surface in search of meaningful, collective impact. In all his endeavors, Corey brings a deepened historical and contemporary analysis of the invention of race, racism, systems of oppression and how those systems interconnect to produce white advantage gaps.
Corey founded Mining For Gold in 2020. Mining For Gold is part of the larger movement that is in the active pursuit of racial justice, liberation, and belonging. The idea for Mining For Gold is directly influenced by the 404 years of racialized arrangement in our communities, and that we all have pieces of metaphorical gold flowing within us. The mantra is, sometimes we must sift through pounds of dirt to find an ounce of gold. As a practice and a discipline, Mining For Gold is held accountable to holding gathering spaces with communities and institutions, and is rooted in justice-centered culture building as the most effective strategy to achieve relational and communal health. Mining For Gold embraces the universal application of co-design and community organizing to guide child and family serving systems toward a more robust, ideal, and healing way of thinking and practicing. This approach centers the knowledge, proximity, and experiences of those who are most impacted.
Corey was awarded the 2021 Champion for Children’s Award in Advancing Equity, the 2022 Outstanding Service in the Advancement of Cultural Competency in Child Maltreatment Prevention and Intervention Award and was recognized as a 2022 Breakout Star by Evolve Strategy Group. In partnership with child welfare leaders, communities and parents, Corey has curated the racially just and equitable Authentic Family Engagement and Strengthening Approach (AFES). Since 2020, Mining For Gold has held a brave container to explore the impact of racialized America with over 3,000 child and family serving leaders and staff.
Mining For Gold launched the Liberated Voice Exchange (LVE) in 2022. LVE is a Mining For Gold cypher, and home to the Audio Nuggets podcast. LVE is a place to be expressive, independent, and a bit impatient as we struggle for even a taste of justice. It is a place where paradox is visible. Where often two things can be and are true at once. The edges of society exist as protection for some, simultaneously evoking expression. LVE is where you find a symbiotic force, both the heaviness of minimal air to breathe, and the light of freedom and liberation. The longing for connection and community ceases because WE ARE the community. Where human consciousness is bold and alive. LVE relies on the impact of the crowd to maintain the flow and the energy, and together, LVE creates a matrix of sharing, of welcoming, of rawness. Of unity, of flavor. And most importantly, gold mining.
Sara Block is the Managing Director of Advocacy and Partnerships at Ascend Justice where she focuses on policy and systemic reform that impact families experiencing domestic violence. Sara is also the Academic Director for Child and Family Law Programs at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. In the Masters of Jurisprudence in Child Law program at Loyola, Sara teaches Child Welfare Law and Policy, and Juvenile Justice Law Policy. In 2007, Sara was a Skadden Fellow at the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago with a fellowship focusing on the intersection of domestic violence and child welfare. Sara was awarded the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network’s Outstanding Partnership Award, the Family Defense Center’s Major Litigation Award for her involvement in Julie Q. v. DCFS, and the Jewish United Fund’s “36 Under 36” award. Sara received her J.D., magna cum laude, from Loyola University Chicago School of Law, where she was a Child Law Fellow and the Features Editor of the Children’s Legal Rights Journal. Sara received her B.A. degree with honors in American Studies from Northwestern University. Sara is the author of the book entitled Together Unbroken: Stories, Law, Practice and Healing at the Intersection of Domestic Violence and Child Welfare. She has two daughters and feels honored to be their mother.
Angela Olivia Burton, Esq.
Angela Olivia Burton is a public service lawyer whose roughly 30-year career in academia and state government has focused on constitutional family law, children's rights, and improving legal representation for court-involved families. With JMacfForFamilies, Angela is the Co-convenor of the RepealCAPTA Workgroup, a national coalition of impacted families, advocates , social workers, attorneys, teachers, health care professionals, and others working to end the oppressive practices of family policing.
Senator Lakesia Collins
Lakesia Collins is a State Elected Official, Chicago Native, a Mother of 3, and a former nursing home worker and spokesperson for the “Fight for 15” campaign for Healthcare Workers. She’s a strong advocate for seniors, working class families, youth in care, education, public safety, affordable housing, and mental health. Lakesia is also the founder of “Future Fighters”, an organization dedicated for young workers fighting for social, racial, and economic justice. She is a strong advocate for Reproductive rights, affordable housing, mental health and access to a quality Education for all.
Lakesia served as the former State Representative of the 9th house district and currently serves in the Illinois General Assembly representing the 5th Senate District. She has passed several bills as a freshman to restore and fund childcare, give free dental services to veterans and low income families and reform DCFS. She is also very active in her work at the Capital, which includes sitting on several committees such as; Appropriations - Public Safety, Human Services, Labor and Commerce, Housing, Workforce Development Subcommittee, and Public Benefits Subcommittee. In addition to that, Lakesia is also the Vice-Chair for Child Care Access and Early Childhood, Chair of Health Care Availability & Accessibility Committee, and served as Chair of the Illinois House Black Caucus and the black caucus whip under Speaker Welch leadership team.
Over the years, Lakesia has been acknowledged for her work in the community. She’s been awarded by several organizations, most notably are; Lawndale Christian development cooperation 2021 for rehab of the Lazareth homes. legislative of the year 2022 from urban autism solutions, Cook County CASA Champion of Children’s Award in 2021, Chicago Metro Retirees IARA Award in 2021, “Outstanding Leadership” from Cook County Juneteenth Planning Committee in 2021. 2022 leadership award from coalition for the homeless for expanding childcare services to foster parents and guardians. She also received the Margaret Blackshere 2023 women in leadership award from the Afl-Cio and an award from the farm bureau for her outstanding work around agriculture. She has a saying that “ When you make it through the door, leave it cracked so others can walk through too.
Charnelle Dunlap is the Chief of Maywood Division of The Cook
County Public Defender’s Office.
Charnelle has also served as an Assistant Public Defender and supervisor in the Cook County Public Defender’s office, where she litigated misdemeanor and felony cases, and supervised assistants in the Family Defense Division. As a supervisor in the Family Defense Division, she was instrumental in creating the division’s complex litigation unit, which during the pandemic aggressively advocated for the resumption and enforcements of parental visitation.
Prior to working at the Cook County Public Defender’s Office, Charnelle worked for the UAW Legal Services Plan in Detroit, MI and as a private practitioner handling criminal cases before the district and circuit courts in Detroit.
She received her bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University, and her J.D. from the Detroit College of Law, now the Michigan State University College of Law. Charnelle and her husband are the proud parents of two amazing young men.
Mishi Faruqee (she/her) is the Director of Andrus Family Fund (AFF), a fund of the Surdna Foundation. She oversees a $5 million grantmaking portfolio advancing AFF’s mission to support the self-determination, power, and liberation of Black, Brown, AAPI, and Indigenous youth impacted by youth incarceration, family policing, and other disruptive systems.
In close collaboration with AFF’s board, staff, and Movement Partners Advisory Council, Mishi directs funding to organizations working to abolish juvenile justice and family policing systems, instead focusing on youth-led organizing, power-building, and community-driven approaches to help youth flourish at home with their families, in school, in their communities, and in life. She joined AFF in November 2022.
As a recognized leader, advocate, and organizer in youth justice, Mishi has helped bring significant advances to youth justice and criminal justice policy throughout her career.
Most recently, Mishi served as president of Youth First Initiative, an AFF grantee partner and national campaign to end youth incarceration and invest in community-based supports, services, and opportunities for youth. In this role, she supported state-based juvenile justice campaigns and secured widespread policy changes. Previously, Mishi worked as the juvenile justice policy strategist with the ACLU, the director of the Women in Prison Project and the Juvenile Justice Project with the Correctional Association of New York, the director of youth justice programs at the Children’s Defense Fund-NY, and as a senior advisor to the Commissioner at the New York City Department of Probation. She currently serves on the board of Community Connections for Youth, a nonprofit organization in the South Bronx.
Mishi received her bachelor’s from Swarthmore College and holds graduate degrees from Oxford University and the New School for Social Research.
Kelley Fong, Ph.D.
Kelley Fong, Ph.D. is assistant professor of sociology at the University of California, Irvine. Her research on Child Protective Services (CPS) examines the causes and consequences of high levels of CPS intervention, drawing on administrative data as well as fieldwork with mothers, CPS staff, and "mandated reporter" professionals. She is the author of Investigating Families: Motherhood in the Shadow of Child Protective Services, published in October 2023 by Princeton University Press. Previously, she has advocated for youth in foster care and assisted self-represented litigants in housing and family law clinics. She holds a Ph.D. in sociology and social policy from Harvard University.
Professor Melissa Frydman directs the Family Advocacy Clinic at the University of Illinois College of Law which provides legal representation to parents and children in abuse and neglect cases in Champaign County. She also serves as the Director of Clinical Education, overseeing the entire clinical program, faculty, and staff. Prior to teaching, Professor Frydman provided direct legal representation to youth in the San Francisco Bay Area in matters including foster care, guardianship, school discipline, special education, and immigration. She was appointed to serve by Governor Pritzker on the Illinois Racial Disparity in Child Welfare Task Force, and she was appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court to serve as the Chair of the Illinois Judicial College’s Standing Committee on Guardian ad litem Education. Professor Frydman earned her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Berkeley and her J.D. from Yale Law School.
Aaron Goldstein has been an attorney for over 22 years and is currently the Deputy of Municipal Operations at the Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender. Previously, Aaron was the Chief of the Family Defense Division, and spearheaded a lawsuit against DCFS (Buxton v. DCFS) on behalf of parents who were denied their right to visit their children in DCFS custody during the pandemic. The lawsuit was eventually dismissed but partially reversed on appeal. After the lawsuit, Aaron helped draft and pass into law, Illinois House Bill 3793 that prohibited visitation bans like the one DCFS employed during the pandemic.
Aaron was the Democratic Committeeperson for the 33rd Ward in Chicago from
2016 to 2020 defeating 40-year incumbent Dick Mell and was a Democratic candidate for Illinois Attorney General in 2018. As Committeeperson he created a rigorous evaluation for judicial candidates, was an outspoken critic on the process of electing and "slating" judges, moved for reforms within the Party, and informed the public about the little-known position of Committeeperson.
Before coming to the Public Defender’s Office as an attorney supervisor, he ran his own law practice handling criminal defense and civil rights matters. Aaron has handled all types of criminal federal and state cases and has tried hundreds of felony cases. He has also represented individuals arrested during the NATO, Occupy Chicago protests, and the protests after the murder of George Floyd. Aaron first began his career as an assistant public defender handling all types of state criminal cases as well as child protection cases.
Aaron is licensed to practice in Illinois and is a member of the Federal Trial Bar and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. He was a member of the Federal Panel which is a select group of attorneys qualified to receive appointments to federal criminal cases. While Illinois had the death penalty, he was certified to handle capital cases as a member of the Illinois Capital Litigation Trial Bar. Aaron graduated With Distinction from the University of Iowa, College of Law in 2000. At the University of Iowa, his journal article was published in the Journal of Gender, Race & Justice.
Aaron teaches Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure at North Park University and
previously taught the trial advocacy team at the DePaul University College of Law. He teaches a variety of continuing legal education classes on several topics and has also spoken at various seminars at bar associations, law offices and universities.
David P. Kelly
David P. Kelly, JD, MA, is Co-Director of the Family Justice Group. For over a decade he served in the United States Children’s Bureau, holding leadership positions as Special Assistant to the Associate Commissioner, Senior Policy Advisor on Courts and Justice and overseeing the Children’s Bureau’s work with the legal and judicial community. Prior to joining the federal government, David was an Assistant Staff Director at the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law and served as Senior Assistant Child Advocate at the New Jersey Office of the Child Advocate. David began his career as an attorney at the Youth Advocacy Center at Covenant House New Jersey where he represented homeless, runaway, and at-risk youth on a variety of legal issues and led the organization’s policy initiatives; he later became Director of Legal and Clinical services.
Parent Advocate, Entrepreneur, and Overcomer. These are just a few words to describe Tony Lawlor, the visionary, and CEO of Lawlor Consulting Group LLC. Tony is also the co-founder of several nonprofit parent advocacy organizations working to reform the child-welfare system. He is currently an adjunct professor at National Louis University and a Doctoral student in community psychology.
Tony, the oldest of five children, was raised by a single mother. At the age of 13, Tony and his siblings were placed into foster care. Despite having an unstable childhood, Tony was able to excel in school, earning a full-ride DCFS scholarship to The University of Illinois. Tony also earned his master’s degree from Wheaton College. After graduating with his bachelor’s degree, he decided to commit the rest of his life to helping young people overcome barriers that prevent them from reaching their full potential.
Tony’s experiences growing up in poverty and foster care fueled his passion for transforming communities and helping to save the lives of young people and underprivileged families. Tony recognized the importance of having advocates at the table and community equity to empower organizations with the necessary tools to prepare the next generation of leaders to change the apparent racial, unjust systems, and institutions needing reform.
Tony began focusing his energy on starting several nonprofit parent advocacy organizations working to reform the child-welfare system. Tony is the co-founder and vice president of the board of directors for “Family Justice Resource Center” (FJRC), http://famjustice.org/; He’s the co-founder and Board President of “Parents Overcoming Welfare-System Regulations,” (P.O.W.R-IL), http://powr-il.org/ and the co-founder of “International Parent Advocacy Network” (IPAN), an international parent advocacy group. https://www.parentadvocacy.net/edinburgh-gathering/.
Tony remains committed to advocacy and justice work for indigenous people and people of color throughout Chicago, and surrounding communities in Illinois and remains committed to serving his community. Tony’s favorite quote is “life is 10% of what happens and 90% of how you react to it.” His life is the perfect example of that.
Lyman has worked at Casey Family Programs - the nation’s largest operating foundation devoted to improving outcomes for children and families impacted by the child welfare system - since 2002, where he has managed direct service operations and served as a strategic consultant for the foundation. From 2012 through 2015 he was privileged to serve as a Senior Fellow at the US Department of Justice. He currently serves as Senior Director, Strategic Consulting, working with states and federal partners in support of child welfare systems improvement and transformation. Prior to joining Casey Family Programs Lyman worked in the juvenile justice system in King County, WA, where his last assignment was leading the juvenile probation department.
Facilitating systems transformation and improving outcomes for vulnerable children and families, anti-racism and racial justice have been a particular focus during Lyman’s professional career. He currently supports national efforts designed to achieve racial justice and transform child welfare systems into child, family, and community “well-being” systems. He speaks extensively on racial justice, systems transformation, and organizational health.
Lyman serves on the National Board of Directors for the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond, the Board of Directors of the American Youth Policy Forum and the National Steering Committee for the Youth Transition Funders Group. He has worked on issues related to justice and equity for more than 30 years, including intersectional dynamics related race, indigenous peoples, gender, sexual orientation, and immigration/citizenship status.
Additionally, Lyman has been affiliated with the Georgetown University Center for Juvenile Justice Reform since its inception, participating in the development and implementation of the Crossover Youth Practice Model, and other CJJR sponsored initiatives.
Lyman is a husband, father, and grandfather…and he loves to play golf in his spare time.
Jessica is the Executive Director at the Redlich Horwitz Foundation, leading the foundation’s strategic initiatives and grantmaking in the rest of state region of New York. Jessica is a long-time advocate, collaborator and strategist, with a deep commitment to dismantling the systemic oppression of children in the child welfare and education systems. She has dedicated her career to leading budget and legislative advocacy campaigns, program implementation, and building coalitions focused on reforming systems and ensuring youth who experience systems can thrive in life. Most recently, Jessica served as the deputy director of Compassionate Education Systems California at the National Center for Youth Law, where she led initiatives aimed at creating equitable education opportunities for students experiencing homelessness, foster care or the juvenile justice system. While at NCYL, she co-led the Foster Youth PreCollege Collective and the successful advocacy of $30 million in state funds for targeted learning loss interventions and reengagement of youth in foster care. Previously, Jessica served as the founding director of the Fostering Youth Success Alliance (FYSA) here in NY, a statewide coalition she led to focus on reforming budget, policy and legislation that impacts the child welfare system. Under Jessica’s leadership, FYSA established a new statute and program, the Foster Youth College Success Initiative, and secured $21 million in state funds to support foster youth attending college in New York. Her previous leadership and engagement includes serving on numerous city or statewide task forces, child welfare advisory committees, and she served as a board member of New Yorkers for Children. Jessica is a proud New Yorker, and holds a Master of Science, in Urban Affairs from Hunter College where her focus was Public Policy and Nonprofit Management.
I'm Bashirah McDaniel. I am a single mother of two that's been impacted by the Family Policing System. I spent two yesrs fighting back against the system to successfully regain custody of my child. The fight is not over yet. There are several other families being victimized and abused by a corrupt system. I now use my gained experience from my personal situation to help others by first educating society on the harsh realities of this system. I believe we as a community will thrive if we each do our part in acknowledging and therefore preventing the mass deception family Policing often portrays.
Erin Miles Cloud
Erin Miles Cloud is Senior Attorney at the Civil Rights Corps. Prior to working for Civil Rights Corps, she co-founded and co-directed, Movement for Family Power (MFP), an organization that works to end the Foster System’s policing and punishment of families. She created MFP after working at the Bronx Defenders, where she had the privilege of being a family defense attorney representing parents. In addition to her advocacy efforts she sits on the board of Bronx ReBirth and Progress and is a collaborator for Black Mamas Matter. She has taught Movement Lawyering, Holistic Defense and Critical Race Theory at various law schools including, Columbia School of Law, CUNY, and University of Baltimore. Last, but certainly not least she is a Baltimore native currently raising two beautiful children.
Shamika Robinson is an educator and advocate for children and families. With over 10 years of experience as an educator, her efforts to promote academic achievement and mental health are informed by her own experiences navigating the child welfare system. Shamika holds a master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Winthrop University and an undergraduate degree in education from Johnson C. Smith University. Currently, Shamika is a Math Interventionist in North Lawndale.
jasmine Sankofa (she/her) is the Executive Director of Movement for Family Power. A passionate movement lawyer, scholar, activist, storyteller, birth worker, and bonus/god mama, jasmine is committed to abolition and grounded in the belief that when we fight, we win. Her work has focused on sex work decriminalization, decarceration, survivor justice, and exposing the inhumane practice of forced family separations, centering the voices and lived experiences of all Black women and girls.
Prior to joining MFP, jasmine managed decarceration campaigns in Oklahoma and led the mass incarceration storytelling work at FWD.us. While there, she drafted several bills and wrote an issue brief highlighting the punishment of survivors and mothers living in poverty through Oklahoma’s vague and overly broad child abuse and neglect statute. jasmine also previously worked at Human Rights Watch and the ACLU, where she researched and wrote a 121-page report documenting the experiences of mothers separated from their children and at risk of having their parental rights terminated while detained pretrial.
jasmine graduated from UCLA School of Law with specializations in Critical Race Studies and Public Interest Law and Policy, and UC San Diego with dual degrees in Sociology and Critical Gender Studies and a minor in African-American Studies.
Melissa Staas is a Supervisory Attorney with Legal Aid Chicago’s Children & Families Practice Group and has practiced law in the field of family defense for over 15 years. At Legal Aid Chicago, Melissa leads the work of the Family Defense and Preservation team, which provides representation for parents and caretakers during DCFS investigations, registry appeals of “indicated” findings, child protection court proceedings, and appellate advocacy.
Amanda founded Operation Stop CPS in May of 2021, a grassroots organization that works with families and community partners to resist the Family Regulation System. Operation Stop CPS has successfully advocated for the freedom of 23 children from the foster system since 2021. Prior to founding Operation Stop CPS, Amanda was a child abuse investigator for 10 years in several counties in NC. While watching the rights of families decrease and the power of CPS increase, Amanda realized that she had become the silent enforcer for an oppressive system. Amanda also co-chairs the Black Mothers March on the White House coalition which held its first mobilization in Washington D.C. in 2022.