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Advisory Board

The mission of the NCTSN Advisory Board is to raise the national visibility of the issue of child traumatic stress and enhance the capacity of the Network to identify its priorities for action. Advisory Board members are appointed from diverse sectors of the community, including representatives from parent and consumer groups, national associations, state and local government, and leaders from the broader scientific community.

Irene Clements

Executive Director
National Foster Parent Association

Irene and her husband fostered 127 children and adopted 4 children during their 27-year tenure as foster parents. Irene is the Executive Director of the National Foster Parent Association; chair of the Board of EveryChild, Inc.; Content Expert for the Texas Foster Care Association; Public Policy Chair for the Texas Council on Adoptable Children; Vice President for Project Foster Care; Board member for Creating A Family and the SAFE Coalition for Human Rights; and member of the Collaborative Council for the Texas Supreme Court Permanent Commission on Children and Families. Irene’s career has included 15 years working with children and adults with intellectual and development needs and building a therapeutic foster care program for a large child placing agency in Texas and serving as that agency’s Vice President for Advocacy for 15 years.  Irene has been an active member of the National Foster Parent Association for over 40 years serving in numerous capacities. She promotes foster caregiver (foster and kinship) and adoptive families through her advocacy work and seeks to ensure these families have a respected voice on the local, state and national levels to influence policy development, essential and effective practice, adequate funding and inclusion in the development of state and national legislative issues.  Irene also provides foster care related consultation services. Irene enjoys spending time with her children, 19 grandchildren, 3 great grandchildren, numerous former foster children and cruising with her husband of 52 years.

Michele Gay

Mother, educator, and co-founder of Safe and Sound Schools, Michele Gay chose to take action after losing her daughter Josephine Grace on December 14, 2012. Since that time, Gay has channeled her work as an advocate, improving safety and security in schools and communities across our country. With a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Towson State University, Gay earned a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from McDaniel College. Prior to the Sandy Hook tragedy, she taught at the elementary level in the  Maryland and Virginia public schools. Now a nationally and internationally recognized public speaker and school safety expert, Gay reaches audiences and consults with all levels of community institutions — schools; municipalities; houses of worship; educational and public safety leadership; state and federal governments; law enforcement agencies; and top news media sources. Through her work, and always with a goal of helping others increase the safety within their own communities, Gay shares her personal experiences and the lessons she has learned. The recipient of numerous national awards, Gay is a regular contributor for print, radio, and television outlets. The primary visionary and author of Safe and Sound’s programs and materials, Gay has served as a stakeholder voice in national legislative discussions. Through these works, Gay continues to build Safe and Sound Schools as a national hub of school safety education, technical assistance, expert content, and best practices. Gay’s impassioned position on school safety hinges on every community taking a comprehensive and sustainable approach to safety. She works diligently to unite stakeholders of all disciplines and perspectives. An educator by training — and fueled by the heart of a mother and community member — Gay is uniquely positioned to help others prepare for, prevent, respond to, and recover from tragedies of their own. Gay remains inspired by Josephine, every day. She dedicates herself to honoring Josephine’s memory through this work to ensure that every school, every child, and every community is truly safe and sound.

Judge Ernestine Steward Gray

Ernestine Steward Gray was first elected to the Orleans Parish Juvenile Court, Section "A", on November 6, 1984 to fill an unexpired term. She was re-elected in July, 1986, October 1994, November 2002, and again in November 2014.
A native of South Carolina, Judge Gray received her early education in the public schools of Orangeburg, South Carolina.  She graduated from Wilkinson High School in 1964.  She attended Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, and the Louisiana State University School of Law where she received her Juris Doctorate degree in 1976.  Judge Gray was admitted to the Louisiana Bar on October 2, 1976.  Before Judge Gray's election to the bench, she was engaged in the private practice of law.  She also worked with the Baton Rouge Legal Aid Society where she handled hundreds of family law cases. In November, 1977 she was hired by the Louisiana Attorney General, William J. Guste, Jr., to work in the Anti-trust Unit. In December, 1979 she became a trial attorney with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a position which she held until she resigned to become a candidate for judge in the spring of 1984. Active in civic and community affairs, Judge Gray is a member of numerous professional and civic organizations and has served on many boards and committees, many of which have as their mission improving the lives of children and families.  
She has served as 57th President of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, Past President of the New Orleans YMCA and YWCA Board of Directors and of the National Court Appointed Special Advocates Association. Judge Gray has received national recognition for her work and is in great demand as a presenter and speaker on the local, state, and national levels. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the 2018 Fellows of the American Bar Association’s Outstanding Service Award; 2013 New Orleans City Business Leadership in the Law Award; 2008 Honorary Membership, Louisiana State University Chapter of the Order of the Coif; 2004 Recipient of Spirit of Crazy Horse Award Reclaiming Youth International, 2002 Albert Elias Award for Advancement of Compassionate Care of Troubled Youth, National Council on Crime and Delinquency; 2000 Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, recognition for Achievements that have mad the future safer and brighter for children and families in America’s communities; and the 1995 American Bar Association Franklin D. Flaschner Judicial Award. Judge Gray firmly believes in the strong bond of family and the value of children. Her desire is to provide for each child what she had and what she attempted to provide for her children—-a loving family that supported and nurtured their development with the proper measure of discipline. While times have changed, what children really need and deserve have not changed. Her vision is to help create and enhance a system that truly values our most precious resource—-our children. We value them when we invest in education and recreation, and when we insure that they have decent places to live.  She wants to be remembered as being important in the lives of children, not because of her temperament as a stern judge, but as an unwavering advocate for the rights of children. Judge Gray is married to James A. Gray II. They have two children, former State Senator Cheryl Gray Evans, an attorney, and James A. Gray III, a chemical engineer and attorney.  Judge Gray and her husband are the grandparents of four grandchildren, Morgan Corine Gray, Moriah Danielle Gray, James Austin Gray IV and Emory Steward Evans.

The Honorable Michael L. Howard, Retired

The Honorable Michael L. Howard, Retired

Former Judge, Stark County Court of Common Pleas
Family Court Division

Judge Michael Howard worked for thirty years at Stark County Family Court, retiring on December 31, 2016.  He was elected Judge in 2004, and presided over both the juvenile and domestic relations cases. In the juvenile division, approximately 4,200 cases—including abuse, neglect, dependency, and delinquency—are heard annually. In retirement, Judge Howard is continuing in his role as a community convener focusing on making all child-serving systems trauma-responsive, increasing community awareness of trauma and its impact, and promoting community-wide adoption of evidence-based treatment for trauma victims. He has mobilized development of effective resources for children and families affected by trauma, and has incorporated trauma screening in Stark County's Juvenile Court. Judge Howard serves as co-chair of the Stark County Trauma and Resiliency Committee. Judge Howard has been a member of NCTSN's Advisory Board and Justice Consortium, and is a lecturer for the NCTSN Center for Trauma Recovery and Juvenile Justice. Judge Howard is co-author of "Children Who Have Been Traumatized: One Court's Response," published in the 2008 autumn edition of the Juvenile and Family Court Journal, and has contributed to trauma reference guides to be used on the bench by judges. Judge Howard is an active community volunteer, focusing primarily on programs that help children achieve success and avoid delinquent behavior, and serves on multiple boards and committees, including the Stark Education Partnership, the United Way of Greater Stark County, the Early Childhood Resource Center, the Care Team Executive Committee, and the Stark County Bar Association Family Law Committee.

Teresa Huizar

Teresa Huizar

Executive Director
National Children's Alliance

Teresa Huizar has served as the Executive Director of National Children’s Alliance since 2008.  National Children’s Alliance, headquartered in Washington, DC, is the national association and accrediting body for more than 800 Children’s Advocacy Centers in the US.  These centers provide comprehensive services to child victims of abuse including forensic interviews, victim advocacy, medical evaluations, and mental health treatment.  She provides consultation internationally on effective child abuse intervention and the development of children’s advocacy centers.  Ms. Huizar has testified before Congress on child abuse issues and participated in numerous child abuse-related Congressional briefings.  Ms. Huizar has been interviewed by CNN, WSJ, USA Today, New York Times, Washington Post, Fox News, NPR, and numerous other media outlets, on child welfare policy matters.  She is currently a member of the Advisory Board of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network;  the Steering Committee of the National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths; and the Public Policy Committee of the American Society for Association Executives.

Christine James-Brown

Christine James-Brown

President and CEO
Child Welfare League of America

Christine James-Brown became president and CEO of the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) in April 2007, assuming the leadership of the nation's oldest and largest membership-based child welfare organization. Prior to joining CWLA, Ms. James-Brown served as president and CEO of United Way International where she was responsible for the efforts of the organization’s network of United Way non-profit member organizations that serve communities in 45 countries and territories. Prior to her leadership role at United Way International, she served for 10 years as President and CEO of United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania (UWSEPA) based in Philadelphia. During her decade of leadership at UWSEPA, Ms. James-Brown directed a staff of 130 in managing an annual $50 million fundraising effort, and distributed funds to over 2,500 community-based agencies. Throughout her career, Ms. James-Brown has worked tirelessly to help nonprofit health and human service organizations grow and expand their ability to serve children and families through foundation and corporate philanthropy.  Active in the community Ms. James-Brown has served on a number of non-profit, corporate and foundation boards and commissions. A native Philadelphian, Ms. James-Brown holds a BA in Cultural Anthropology from Rutgers University.  In 1996, Drexel University awarded her an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

Jill Kagan

Ms. Kagan is Program Director for the ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center. The Resource Center houses the Lifespan Respite Technical Assistance Center funded by the US Administration for Community Living and the National Respite Coalition, ARCH’s policy division. She has served on numerous national advisory boards, including her current role on the National Advisory Council to the federally funded Family Support Research & Training Center and the National Advisory Committee to the Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s Hidden Heroes Military Caregiver Campaign. Ms. Kagan represents ARCH on several prominent national coalitions, including the core advisory group to the Assisting Caregivers Today (ACT) Congressional Caucus, the National Child Abuse Prevention Partners of the U.S. Children’s Bureau, and the National Child Abuse Coalition. She is also co-chair of the Autism, Developmental Disabilities and Family Support Task Force of the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities, and facilitator of the national Lifespan Respite Task Force. Prior to this, Ms. Kagan served as deputy staff director and as professional staff for ten years to the Select Committee on Children, Youth, and Families in the U.S. House of Representatives. She also worked as a policy consultant to national disability, aging, and child health and welfare organizations for more than 15 years. Ms. Kagan received her masters in public health in maternal and child health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and her bachelor's degree from Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts. 

Debra Koss

Debra Koss, MD, is a board certified child and adolescent psychiatrist with more than 25 years clinical experience. Dr. Koss is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) and currently serves as Chair of the AACAP Assembly and co-chair of the AACAP Advocacy Committee. In addition, Dr. Koss maintains a private practice and serves as Clinical Assistant Professor with the Department of Psychiatry at Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway, New Jersey. Dr. Koss is a steadfast advocate for children and youth with mental illness and has provided testimony advocating for improved access to quality mental health treatment with both state and federal legislators. She has utilized her expertise as a physician to educate lawmakers about neuroscience and the impact of mental illness on childhood development. Dr. Koss has been recognized by her peers and consumer advocates for her clinical expertise and her compassion for her patients, her accomplishments in mental health advocacy, and her skill in teaching and mentoring young physicians. Her awards include National Alliance on Mental Illness Exemplary Psychiatrist Award, AACAP Catchers in the Rye Award for Mental Health Advocacy, New Jersey Psychiatric Association Remarkable Achievement Award, and Rutgers RWJMS Voluntary Faculty Mentorship Award. 

Joanne Peterson

Joanne Peterson

Founder and Executive Director
Learn to Cope

Joanne Peterson is the Founder and Executive Director of Learn to Cope (LTC), a non-profit, peer-led support network which began in 2004. Ms. Peterson’s journey started as a young girl when her siblings experienced issues with mental illness and addiction. Years later when Ms. Peterson discovered that her own son’s experimentation with prescription drugs led to an opioid addiction, she was motivated and empowered to use her voice to bring about change. Today, her son is in long term recovery. She designed LTC to offer families the support, education, resources and hope that her family would have benefitted from. Funded by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MADPH), LTC has grown to have a full staff who collaborate with communities across the state to spread messages of prevention, education, awareness and advocacy. Learn to Cope has over 10,000 members on a private online forum, 25 chapters throughout Massachusetts, a chapter in Florida and one in North Carolina. LTC families receive unique support and education from professionals and their peers. Through advocacy and awareness, Ms. Peterson collaborated with MADPH to become the first parent network in the country to provide the overdose reversal antidote nasal Naloxone. Today, 91 of the 243 LTC facilitators are trained and certified to provide overdose education and nasal naloxone kits at each Massachusetts chapter. This life saving education and medication that LTC members receive has successfully reversed over 130 opioid overdoses since December of 2011. With the growth and expansion of LTC, Joanne has been called upon by high-level government officials, law enforcement, coalitions and educators to assist in their efforts to combat the opioid epidemic. In January 2015, Ms. Peterson was a guest of Senator Markey at the White House State of the Union Address. Later that year, she was a recipient of the Advocate for Action award presented by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. In October of 2015, Ms. Peterson participated on a panel with Attorney General Maura Healey, Mayor Martin Walsh and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarding the prescription drug and heroin crisis in Massachusetts. In 2016, Ms. Peterson was asked by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker to participate as a panelist for the National Governor’s Association Health and Human Services Committee to discuss the nation’s opioid crisis. She was invited to the White House to participate in a discussion held by Michael Botticelli, former National Drug Control Policy Director, on the Administration’s efforts to address the country’s opioid epidemic. Currently, Ms. Peterson sits on the Massachusetts Health and Human Services Emergency Department working group and the Governor’s Special Commission to investigate and study licensed addiction treatment centers for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. She is a Board Member for RIZE Massachusetts and a member of the Attorney General’s Interagency Task Force on Newborns with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. In addition, she serves on the Advisory Boards of the National Child and Traumatic Stress Network and Harvard University’s Recovery Research Institute.