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 2017 after a very successful 20-year tenure as CEO of Voices for Children, the CASA program for San Diego and Riverside counties. Under her leadership, the organization experienced extraordinary growth (from $400,000 in 1997 to nearly $7,000,000 in 2017) and national recognition. Sharon has brought to the state’s CASA network and the California CASA association her deeply-felt passion for helping foster children and improving the foster care system, as well as her strong leadership skills, legal and legislative expertise, and fundraising and managerial knowledge. The recipient of many honors over the years, she serves on numerous statewide and regional committees addressing the needs of foster youth, and promotes CASA to individuals, foundations, corporations, elected officials, and government agencies throughout California and beyond. She received her J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law, Austin, where she was managing editor of the Texas International Law Journal, among other honors; and her B.A. from the University of Denver, Colorado, with a triple major in Speech Communications, Psychology, and Political Science. Prior to joining Voices for Children in 1997, she was an attorney and litigator at Lewis, D’Amato, Brisbois & Bisgaard, a large law firm in San Diego; she specialized in medical malpractice.
Anne Farrell, Chief Philanthropy Officer since 2018, is a highly regarded, experienced fundraiser who has spent 43 years in the nonprofit sector and raised over $150,000,000 in that time. She spent 34 years in the arts and culture sector, raising money for museums and higher education. She served as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego’s nonprofit management graduate program for seven years, and has trained and mentored many fundraising professionals. Deeply concerned with the plight of foster children, from 2010 to 2017, she served as Chief Philanthropy Officer at Voices for Children and in that period more than doubled the organization’s budget, tripled the service to children, and built a skilled development team. AFarrell@californiacasa.org
The Hon. Carol Isackson (ret.), Senior Policy Advisor, was on the bench in San Diego Superior Court for 14 years. Appointed by Governor Gray Davis of California and subsequently reelected. Prior to her judicial appointment, she was an attorney in private practice in San Diego, and was a social worker before receiving her law degree from Chicago-Kent College of Law/Illinois Institute of Technology. She is deeply informed about foster care and its legal and procedural aspects as well as delinquency and juvenile justice. She joined California CASA in 2017 to provide counsel and advice on major legislative and policy matters, including a pilot juvenile justice program.
Joan Reilly, MBA, Chief Financial Officer, joined California CASA in 2018 after four years in the not-for-profit sector. Prior to that, she spent 25 years working in the corporate arena. She holds her MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management and held management and HR positions at Oracle Corporation and Sophoi, Inc., among others. Joan’s passion for the needs of foster children and her wide range of managerial, human resources, and fiscal expertise are enormous assets for California CASA and the local CASA programs statewide.
Karen Finan, Program Director, brings more than 25 years’ experience in community service as a mental health clinician, advocate for abused children at CASA of Santa Cruz, Executive Director of CASA of Siskiyou County, and Program Manager at CASA of Monterey County before becoming Program Director for the California CASA, a position she has held since 2013. 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. She has expert knowledge in family systems, social services, juvenile courts, and dependency law. For the statewide CASA network, she develops curriculum and training materials, counsels and mentors program directors, and helps develop best practices for CASA programs throughout the state.
Jessica Ballenger, Marketing and Communications Director, was both a volunteer and consultant in the nonprofit arts and education world for over 20 years, accelerating outreach and engagement to serve children in her community. She became a member of the California CASA Association team in 2019. She studied Germanic Languages at the University of Antwerp, Belgium and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Visual Art from the University of California, San Diego. Alongside her work at not-for-profit organizations, she led international marketing teams and projects for companies like ShowTex, Carefusion, and Lanxess. She is experienced in creating compelling communication tools to activate diverse audiences and uses that knowledge to support CASA program marketing throughout the state to raise awareness and recruit volunteers.
Holley Moore, Grants and Philanthropy Manager, joined the California CASA Association in 2018. She holds a Master’s degree in Communication Leadership from the University of West Florida, and received her undergraduate degree from the University of West Florida. She served from 2015 to 2018 as the Grants Officer for Voices for Children in San Diego where she managed a $2 million annual funding portfolio representing up to one-third of the organization’s operating budget. She is an experienced specialist in researching, writing, and administering private and public institutional funding, and is passionate about the cause of foster care and abused children.
Colleen McGauley, Juvenile Justice Pilot Program Manager, was the Executive Director of CASA of Kern County for 17 years, from 2001 to 2018. Prior to that, she had served as a CASA volunteer since 1994. Ms. McGauley led a number of advocacy projects in the juvenile dependency system over her tenure, including the Urgent Action Team, Educational Stability Task Force for Foster Children, and Nonprofit Leadership Forum of the Bakersfield Rotary Club, among others. She brings to California CASA her deep experience leading an important local CASA program in the state, and her knowledge of juvenile dependency and delinquency issues within the court system. She is working with Judge Isackson on the new pilot program testing the deployment of CASA advocates for juvenile justice youth.
Lily Colby, Esq., Policy and Program Coordinator, has volunteered and worked in government offices, nonprofit organizations, and community groups for over 10 years. She is personally invested in improving the lives of at-risk youth in part because of her own experiences as former foster youth, a caregiver to a sibling with special needs, a licensed foster parent, and her current work as a CASA volunteer in Sacramento County. She received her Bachelor’s degree in economics from Yale University and her Juris Doctor from the University of California/Berkeley School of Law. She was appointed to serve on the American Bar Association Commission on Youth at Risk and also serves on the Board of Directors for Legal Services for Children and the National Association for Counsel for Children.
Janel Brown, Data and Technology Manager, has served California CASA for 14 years. Previously, she worked as a program assistant and interim case supervisor at Alameda County CASA, where she also served as a CASA volunteer. She develops and maintains the systems needed to support network-wide convenings and communications, and supports the work of the California CASA staff in many ways. She maintains California CASA’s website, Facebook page, and other online and social media tools, creates and manages local program profiles, and manages California CASA’s data storage and technology systems.