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.
MIM CARLSON, Interim Executive Director, has three decades of years experience working in nonprofits as an Interim Executive Director, permanent Executive Director, Consultant, and Board Member. The core of her work with organizations is her commitment to building strong leadership and effective programs. She has worked in nonprofits with budgets of less than $200,000 and over $2,000,000 and her specialty is organizations going through major transitions that are challenging, invigorating, and ultimately successful. Her consulting practice focuses on Executive leadership, succession planning and transitions, Board development, and strategic planning. Mim has written three books: The Executive Director’s Guide to Thriving as a Nonprofit Leader, Winning Grants Step-by-Step, and Team-Based Fundraising. When she’s not working, Mim enjoys long hikes with her Labrador, yoga, traveling, and quality time with her husband.
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.
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.
PHIL LADEW, associate and legal director, supports local CASA programs by providing legal expertise, risk management, and compliance advice in the areas of juvenile and nonprofit law. Phil also directs California CASA’s efforts to improve child welfare policy, working with the CASA network, policymakers and other advocacy organizations to ensure that children have every opportunity for success. Phil received his undergraduate degree in Politics from Occidental College, Los Angeles, and a J.D. from U.C. Hastings College of the Law, San Francisco. In 2001, he was awarded an Equal Justice Works Fellowship that funded his work with the National Center for Youth Law, where he worked to improve services and supports to youth aging out of the foster care system. Subsequently, Phil represented hundreds of abused and/or neglected children while a trial attorney with the Juvenile Dependency Unit of the Alameda County Public Defender’s Office. Phil also enjoys volunteering for causes he believes in, and has volunteered as a Court Appointed Special Advocate, and recently served as the President of the board of directors of Building Futures with Women and Children, a direct services nonprofit organization that provides safe haven for women and children escaping domestic violence, or who find themselves without a home. He enjoys watching movies, and traveling to new places with his wife, Victoria and pup named Rocky.