Board of Directors
Emily Dulcan, Board Chair, is a digital communications strategist. She is currently the Director of Digital Engagement at the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to curing cystic fibrosis and providing all people with the disease the opportunity to lead full, productive lives. She joined the Foundation in late 2015 after serving for three years as Digital Director at the Peace Corps. After working with nonprofits in Washington D.C. and Mexico, in 2006 Emily earned a master’s degree in cross-cultural journalism from the Missouri School of Journalism at the University of Missouri, Columbia, and parlayed her love of words into a career in strategic communications.
Jamie Wang, Treasurer, is a community volunteer whose primary focus for the past 15 years has been improving educational and life outcomes for under-served youth. To that end, she has served on multiple nonprofit boards and advisory committees and counseled several Executive Directors. Currently she is an active member of five volunteer committees in addition to the Foster Youth in Action board. In 2009, as a member of SV2’s Social Safety Net Grant Committee, Jamie voted to provide seed money for the creation of Foster Youth in Action, excited by the vision of having a national network of organizations like California Youth Connection.
Pamela Heisler, Secretary, is past director of Programs and Partnerships at the Children’s Trust Fund of Oregon. She has 12 years of experience advocating for foster care reform and has spoken across the country about her experiences living in foster care and aging out. Pamela earned her BA in Spanish and Business Administration from the University of Oregon, and a Masters of Public Administration and Nonprofit Management from Portland State University. In 2014, she completed the Leadership Institute for State-Based Advocates, a competitive 18-month program established by the Annie E. Casey Foundation to build a field of leaders that can truly turn the curve for kids across the country. In 2008, Pamela founded the Oregon Foster Youth Connection (OFYC), a program that unites current and former foster youth to improve the system through their own brand of advocacy, activism, and leadership.
Katharine Cahn, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Practice and Executive Director of the Center for Improvement of Child and Family Services at the School of Social Work at Portland State University. Her work is dedicated to the reform of child serving systems with an emphasis on social justice, race equity, leadership, cross-systems collaboration, and implementation of change across systems. In addition to hosting Oregon’s Child Welfare Partnership, her center hosts a System of Care training institute, a child welfare / family support research team, and the Leadership Academy for Middle Managers, a component of the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute. She has been an ally and strong supporter of youth voice and parent voice in child welfare both in Oregon and nationally.
Jake Carmi is a long-time youth leader with Iowa’s Achieving Maximum Potential (AMP) a statewide, foster youth-led organization with dozens of state legislative advocacy successes. Jacob is also a Young Fellow with the Jim Casey Opportunities Initiative and a Foster Club All-Star.
Sarah Bess Hudson is lead Facilitator at MAAC (Multi-Agency Alliance for Children) dedicated to hearing the “ME” in the voices of Georgia’s foster youth. She has a special focus on EmpowerMEnt, a statewide youth leadership development and advocacy initiative (utilizing youth-adult partnership) for current/former foster youth between ages 14-26+. After earning her Master of Social Work (MSW) degree from Georgia State University with a focus in Community Partnerships and Consensus Organizing, Sarah Bess began working alongside youth self-advocates as an adult supporter (in various capacities) on issues impacting youth and young adults in the foster care system for over a decade.
Brianne Nagamine is currently attending the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Myron B. Thompson School of Social Work. In May 2017, she will receive her Bachelors degree in social work. She will be entering into the social work masters program in the upcoming Fall. She is a former foster youth from the state of Hawai’i who spent four years in the foster care system. Throughout her time in the foster care system, she got involved with the Hawaii Foster Youth Coalition taking on multiple leadership roles. Hawaii Foster Youth Coalition is one of Foster Youth in Action’s youth-led partners. Brianne has represented her organization serving on the Foster Youth in Action’s Leaders United council for two years. She has dedicated over seven years advocating for child welfare reform in her home state and nationally. Brianne participated in the Congressional Coalition of Adoption Institute internship program for the summer 2015 is currently a Young Adult Consultant for the Children’s Bureau.
Noah Nash is a young former foster youth and LA native. Noah studied Recording Arts Technology at Loyola Marymount University, before pursuing a doctorate in Education Leadership at Mills College. His research interests, including foster youth-advocacy, STEM education, and Afrofuturism, speak to a belief in community, alternatives, and imagination as tools for empowerment and change. Noah has also served as a peer trainer The Youth Training Project, an initiative of California Youth Connection (which is also FYA’s founding partner).
Michael Piraino has been active in domestic and international child advocacy since 1977, primarily in the areas of child poverty, maltreatment, and foster care. Mr. Piraino recently retired from his position as Chief Executive Officer of the National CASA Association, after 21 years of service, and is now the Senior Advisor to The Justice Project, which focuses on educational, economic, environmental and social justice issues. He currently serves as a board member for Independent Sector.
Melissa Rock joined ACY’s team as the Child Welfare Director in August 2010. As the Child Welfare Director she works with the statewide child welfare administrators and stakeholders to improve the experience of children and families involved with the abuse and neglect system. In June 2012, Melissa was appointed to the Department of Human Resources’ Alternative Response (AR) Advisory Council, to oversee Maryland’s implementation of AR and made a co-chair of the AR Evaluation Workgroup.
Steven Shaw has been advocating for the child welfare system for the last eight years on every level. He currently works at Hilton Americas Houston in the hopes of eventually owning his own hotel while continuing to fight for foster youth and alumni. Steven is the president and co-founder of Voices for Change, a group primarily composed of young adults who aged out of the Texas foster care system who are dedicated to advocacy and improving the experience of youth in the foster care system. Steven himself was in the Texas foster care system for 15 years. Steven has been privileged to speak in front of Congress and White House officials on numerous issues dealing with foster care. He played a key role in advocating for an ombudsman bill position in Texas, dedicated solely to children and youth in foster care. He has also participated in numerous panels and presentations that have increased awareness about foster care among community and state level stakeholders. Steven’s experiences taught him valuable lessons including the importance of education and respect for others. These are some of the values he uses to guide and support those children and youth still in the foster care system. He strives to show them even if the road is tough they still can survive.
Don Wells is Executive Director of Just In Time for Foster Youth, a volunteer-driven nonprofit that provides transitioning foster youth, ages 18-26, with opportunities for self-sufficiency through emergency support, essential resources, and caring personal guidance at critical junctures on their path to independence.. During his career, he has been a teacher, editorial cartoonist, award winning writer, producer and animator, including a 1979 Peabody Award and thirteen local St. Louis Emmy awards. Wells was also a Senior Marketing Writer-Producer for Walt Disney World, a Supervising Producer at Paramount Television and Director of News and Creative Services for two television stations, including KGTV San Diego.