The California CASA Association relies on individuals with a shared sense of purpose.
Our staff possess more than 50 years of combined child welfare and nonprofit experience and each has a strong personal connection to the mission. Past and present members have aged out of foster care, served as sworn CASA volunteers, and each one proudly dedicates their experience and expertise to local CASA programs to ensure each has the knowledge and resources needed to effectively serve children.
For general inquiries please contact us at (510) 663-8440 or send us an email below:
SHARON M. LAWRENCE, ESQ., Chief Executive Officer, joined California CASA in November 2017 after a very successful 20-year tenure with Voices for Children (VFC), the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program for San Diego and Riverside Counties. During her tenure, the organization experienced extraordinary growth and recognition. Sharon brings strong leadership skills, and deep fundraising and organizational development knowledge to the CASA network.
JANEL BROWN, data and technology manager, worked as a program assistant and interim case supervisor at the Alameda County CASA office before joining California CASA. Her strength lies in developing and maintaining the systems needed to support network-wide convening’s and communications. She served for several years as a CASA volunteer in Alameda County. Janel develops and maintains California CASA’s web site and online tools, creates and manages local program profiles, and manages California CASA’s data storage and technology systems. When she’s not working, she’s spending time with her three children: taking them on outings, to sporting events, and traveling.
KAREN FINAN, program director, draws on more than 15 years’ senior level CASA experience to support the staff members across 44 CASA programs, providing training, conducting quality assurance site visits, and advising on organizational and programmatic best practices. Prior to joining California CASA, Karen worked as a supervisor and court liaison for CASA of Santa Cruz, then as the executive director for CASA of Siskiyou County, and most recently, as program manager for Voices for Children CASA of Monterey County. In addition to her years with CASA, Karen worked for many years with at-risk youth, mentally ill adults and domestic violence survivors. Karen brings a passion for supporting programs that make a lasting difference in children’s lives. Karen enjoys visiting her children and grandchildren in Florida, along with hiking, gardening and playing with her dog, Poppy.
LARA KILPATRICK, director of fund development, brings to California CASA 20+ years of experience in both nonprofit and private sector environments. Her many roles have included educator, development and advancement director, communications and marketing strategist, and events producer. Prior to joining California CASA, she served for nine years as advancement director for the Mount Madonna School in Watsonville, CA, leading a highly successful capital campaign, and working collaboratively to significantly increase donor revenue and school enrollment. Lara currently serves as board president for The Boomerang Foundation, a fiscal sponsor of Teen Kitchen Project, and Youth City Council, in Santa Cruz County. When not serving causes she believes in, Lara enjoys spending time with her college-aged daughter, friends and family, practicing yoga, reading, stand up paddle boarding, and adventuring locally, nationally and internationally.
LILY COLBY, ESQ., policy and program coordinator, has volunteered and worked in government offices, non-profits and community organizations for over 10 years. She received her Bachelor’s degree in economics from Yale University and her Juris Doctor from the UC Berkeley School of Law. Prior to joining California CASA, Lily held fellowships and internships at organizations including the Child Welfare League of America, the National Center for Youth Law, the Youth Law Center, and the ABA Center on Children in the Law. She was recently appointed to serve on the ABA Commission on Youth at Risk and also serves on the Board of Directors for Legal Services for Children and the Center for Independent Living. Lily is personally invested in improving the lives of at risk youth because of her experiences as an alumna of the foster care system, a caregiver to a sibling with disabilities, and a licensed foster parent. When Lily isn’t working on improving policies and practices for youth, she enjoys going to the YMCA, spending time outdoors or playing board games with her friends, siblings and foster siblings.
NINA DESSART, administrative and financial manager, has more than 25 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, for environmental advocacy, health, grant making and animal welfare organizations, primarily in administrative management roles. When not at work, Nina is busy having great fun with her almost teenaged daughter, is very involved in school fundraising, and sings with San Francisco’s Resound Ensemble.