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How Family Defense is Transforming Child Welfare

Tuesday, May 11, 2021 -
9:30am to 10:45am PDT
Zoom Meeting
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This virtual learning event will introduce the evolving field of "family defense" through highlighting the interdisciplinary model of legal representation at East Bay Family Defenders (EBFD) in Alameda County, CA.  In this evidence-based cutting-edge model, parents caring for their children under Juvenile Court supervision or seeking to reunify with their children from foster care are represented by a team of lawyers, social workers, and peer parent advocates with lived experience.  Similar family defense programs researched across the country have demonstrated improved rates in family reunification, shortened stays in foster care, and increasingly stable and resilient families as well as significant return on investment. 

Family defenders provide an important check on the system, promote safe system diversion, and bring about restorative alternatives to family separation.  The need for system transformation is particularly urgent for Black and Brown families, who experience the same pernicious disproportionate system involvement as in the criminal and juvenile justice systems.  This calls for an integrated approach to fundamental system transformation that promotes racial equity across all legal systems affecting families, so that all children may be raised by their families who know and love them. 
Casey Family Programs and Zellerbach Family Foundation will share their motivation for investing in family defense.  EBFD staff will describe first-hand experience of the impact of this model for families, and the Board of Directors will engage participants in a discussion of how family defense promotes system transformation.


Raquiba LaBrie, Board Co-Chair, East Bay Family Defenders
Raquiba joined the Haas, Jr. Fund in 2017 after serving for three years as director of community investment with L+M Development Partners in New York City. Her work with the affordable housing developer focused on the design and management of a grantmaking program aimed at strengthening low-income communities of color in the city by investing in academic enrichment, workforce development, and urban agriculture. Raquiba also worked for 13 years with the Open Society Foundations, managing grantmaking programs on racial justice, immigrant and LGBT rights, Black male achievement, neighborhood stabilization, criminal justice, and other priorities. Raquiba started her career in a New York City-based law practice working with foundations and public charities. Raised in East Oakland, she graduated magna cum laude from Yale University with a degree in English. She also holds a law degree from Harvard University.
Zabrina Aleguire, External Executive Director, East Bay Family Defenders
Zabrina Aleguire, with Eliza Patten, co-founded East Bay Family Defenders to elevate parent voice; reduce family separation and placement of children into foster care, and promote strong and healthy families with community-based support. She got her start in family defense at The Door’s Legal Services in New York City and was a founding attorney at Brooklyn Family Defense Practice. Zabrina has taught Juvenile Law at the University of San Francisco School of Law; and, she has co-authored publications and practice guides about Special Immigrant Juvenile Status, rights of adolescent parents in foster care, and reform efforts for children impacted by parental arrest and incarceration. Zabrina is a NACC-certified Child Welfare Law Specialist.
Brejea Colthirst, Senior Defense Parent Advocate, East Bay Family Defenders
Brejea is a determined and caring mother of three handsome sons, ages 31, 28, and 12 years. She is of Jamaican/African American descent and resides in Oakland. Brejea first became involved with the child welfare system in 2008 when she lost temporary custody of her then newborn son due to substance abuse issues. Brejea entered treatment to get the help she and her family needed and never looked back. Now almost 13 years sober in July, Brejea is still actively involved in recovery and in her community. She brings experience, strength, and hopes to her work on behalf of parents involved with the child welfare system in Alameda County. Brejea spent 8 years as a Parent Advocate for A Better Way, Inc, including two years as Lead, before joining the founding staff of East Bay Family Defenders. Now as a Senior Defense Parent Advocate, Brejea advocates for parents alongside attorneys and co-facilitates a parent support group, “No Labels” to empower parents to overcome the challenges of system involvement. Brejea also participates in national multidisciplinary committees, including Casey Family Programs’ Birth Parent Advisory Committee and Technical Assistance Unit (TAU), as well as co-chairing the American Bar Association’s Interdisciplinary Parent Representation Conference Steering Committee. In 2020 Brejea was awarded Casey’s Excellence for Children Award. Ensuring justice for parents is Brejea’s passion, and she is thrilled to be co-leading the development of East Bay Family Defenders’ interdisciplinary parent defense model.
Nicole Garay, MSW, Children & Family Services Team, Bay Area Field Office Casey Family Programs
Nicole joined Casey Family Programs in 2013 and is currently the Senior Director of the Bay Area Direct Service Office and Strategic Consultant to Alameda County Department of Children & Family Services. Nicole Garay is from the Bay Area in Northern California. She has a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Southern California School of Social Work and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from San Diego State University. Nicole has extensive experience in child welfare services and served youth and families through Alameda County Department of Children & Family Services for 16 years before her current position with Casey Family Programs. In her tenure with Alameda County, Nicole provided direct services to youth and families during removal investigations, as a supervisor in the Family Reunification program, a manager of several programs including Placement Services, the Children’s Assessment Center, Resource Parent Licensing and Recruitment and Team Decision Making programs. Nicole served as the Family to Family Coordinator in partnership with Annie E. Casey Foundation, with a focus on disproportionality and disparity, system innovation through community partnerships, family strengthening, advocacy, and well-being.
Amy Price, Program Executive, Zellerbach Family Foundation
Amy Price has been Program Executive at the Zellerbach Family Foundation (ZFF) since 2011. She manages ZFF’s Improving Human Service Systems program, which supports advocacy, organizing, innovation, and strategic coalition-building to promote a more equitable, effective, and community-driven approach to child and youth well-being in the San Francisco Bay Area. Prior to ZFF, Amy spent 18 years as Senior Research Associate and Associate Director for the National Abandoned Infants Assistance Resource Center at the University of California at Berkeley where she focused on policies and practices to address perinatal substance use andHIVacross the country. She also worked with a local public-private partnership to help develop and evaluate a shared family care program for families involved in the child welfare system. Previously, Amy served as a fellow for the Maryland Governor’s interagency Office on Children, Youth and Families and as an advisory consultant to the California Department of Social Services. Amy sits on numerous boards and advisory committees and is a lifelong learner. Her formal education includes a Master of Public Administration from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Social Work from Skidmore College.

Target Audience

This program is open to NCG members and nonmember funders.


Zellerbach Family Foundation and Casey Family Programs

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