More than four children
die each day in the
United States due to
abuse or neglect.
                                           - childhelp.org
                                                                                                               

Staff

MEET THE STAFF:

Marla Higginbotham, Executive Director
Marla has spent the last 20 years working in the nonprofit sector helping to shape public policy initiatives focused on both community engagement and children’s education and well-being. As Executive Director, Marla is responsible for the organization’s overall planning, fiscal and programmatic development and operations. Marla joined CASA from Jersey Cares where she was Senior Director of Operations and Foundation Relations. In that capacity she was responsible for all aspects related to operations including: managing the fiscal operations, coordinating the grant process, chairing the annual fundraiser and providing a complete suite of human resources. As Jersey Cares’ Senior Program Manager, Marla led the program department’s coordination with more than 80 nonprofit agency partners statewide and managed more than 145 project coordinators and over 1,200 volunteers monthly. Marla is a former mediator/arbitrator for New Jersey’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Unit and has served on the Board of Directors as a trustee for The Montclair Kimberley Academy. In addition, she owned and operated a children’s boutique, Ten Tiny Toes Shoes, in Montclair for several years. She received her juris doctorate from the University of Cincinnati, College of Law and her undergraduate degree in Urban Studies and Political Science from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. Reach Marla at marlah@casaofunioncounty.org or 908.527.7041.

Natalie Deo, Program Director
Natalie holds an undergraduate degree in Psychology and Fine Arts, a certification in Child Advocacy and a Master's Degree in counseling from Montclair State University. Natalie began her career as a behavioral assistant for a community-based mental health agency, Centers for Behavioral Success, and then turned her attention to advocating for children with special needs. Natalie became an instructor of Applied Behavioral Analysis for children on the autism spectrum, working both in-home and at school settings. Natalie holds certification in Non-Violent Crisis Intervention through Crisis Prevention Institute. Natalie has been an Advocate Supervisor for CASA since 2007 and received certification in Victim Assistance from Rutgers University in order to better assist child abuse victims. In 2011 Natalie took on the challenging role of Trainer Coordinator, providing all national and state curriculums to CASA volunteers in Union County, and created additional trainings on art therapy and human trafficking. In 2015, Natalie became Program Director, where she oversees all advocate supervisors and their work, as well as her own corps of volunteer advocates. Reach Natalie at ndeo@casaofunioncounty.org or 908.527.7049.

Gretchen M. Boger-O’Bryan, Senior Development and Marketing Coordinator
Prior to joining CASA, Gretchen had a career in journalism, writing, editing and later serving as managing editor of a newsmagazine covering trends in the Garden State's legal profession. While cultivating a freelance writing career, Gretchen trained to become a volunteer advocate (and recruited her mother to do the same!). Gretchen’s daughter and husband were both adopted, and she has published related articles in both print and online in the United States and overseas. One essay relating her journey to motherhood is now widely distributed by agencies serving prospective adoptive parents. Gretchen regularly speaks at Montclair University on the ins and outs of open and closed adoptions, her family's personal experiences, and trends in open-records laws nationally. Former co-chair of an adoption triad support group, Gretchen spent several years blogging and penning a column on open adoption and first-time motherhood. She joined CASA staff in 2012 as an Advocate Supervisor, supporting a team of 20 volunteer advocates. Steadfast to her wordsmith roots, in 2015 Gretchen moved to the Development and Marketing Department, where she focuses on working with the media and within the community to raise awareness of the organization's mission and the critical need for advocates for children without choice or voice, as well as researching and writing grants. Reach Gretchen at gboger@casaofunioncounty.org or 908.527.7047.

Lisa K. Poris, Senior Training Coordinator and Advocate Supervisor
Lisa first became interested in advocating for children while in high school, after teaching art to children at a homeless shelter. She majored in American Studies at the University of Michigan and obtained her law degree from New York University. Lisa continued her commitment to children during her college studies by volunteering at a domestic violence shelter. While in law school, Lisa ran a mentoring program and interned at The Door: A Center for Alternatives, assisting young people with myriad legal issues, particularly immigration. When Lisa graduated from law school, she became an Equal Justice Fellow at the New York Legal Assistance Group, creating and coordinating a project focusing on kinship caregivers, representing parents with children in the foster system and advocating for domestic violence victims in custody cases. She later focused on domestic violence as a Women's Issues Policy Analyst for the Public Advocate of New York City, and later worked as Legal Director for LIFT, an organization devoted to increasing access to justice for children and families. Lisa was one of the first graduates of the Muehlstein Institute, a management and leadership training program developed by UJA-Federation of New York and the NYU School of Public Service, where she received a certificate in non-profit leadership. Reach Lisa at lporis@casaofunioncounty.org or 908.527.7048.

Courtney H. Green, Volunteer-Outreach Recruiter/Advocate Supervisor
Courtney graduated Magna Cum Laude from St. John’s University with her undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Forensic Psychology. She also completed a Master’s Degree in sociology from St. John’s in 2016. Courtney has an extensive history of working to help others. She served as vice president of Habitat for Humanity’s Collegiate Chapter at St. John’s University, volunteering for the non-profit within the community and hosting campus events to bring awareness to its mission. Courtney also worked as a Corp Member for Jumpstart in Queens, providing academic support to preschool children in economically disadvantaged communities by working toward school readiness through the use of various cognitive activities, as well as guiding parents in the development of skills necessary to guide their children at home. Courtney has experience in criminal justice and sociology, as she interned for Queens Family Court in 2014, where she learned about the New York City Law Department and juvenile justice process there. Courtney joined the CASA of Union County team in early 2017, assuming the position of Advocate Supervisor with an additional focus on outreach and recruitment. Reach Courtney at cgreen@casaofunioncounty.org or 908.527.7045.

Kimberly Stocco, Advocate Supervisor
Kimberly earned her undergraduate degree from Montclair State University, majoring in Child Advocacy and minoring in Psychology. Always passionate about helping others, Kimberly founded the Child Advocacy Program at MSU and knew this was the right field for her. She interned with CASA of Union County while in school and, when she was ready to start her career, Kimberly joined the CASA team in 2015 as an Advocate Supervisor of more than 20 volunteer advocates. She focuses on the Fostering Futures program, working with volunteers that advocate for and mentor youth ages 14-21 facing the prospect of aging out and life without a safety net. Kimberly runs CASA's Volunteer Voices program, which aims to build camaraderie and provide support for CASA volunteers as well as provide useful information for advocates through community presenters. Reach Kimberly at kstocco@casaofunioncounty.org or 908.527.7046.

Abby Gallego, Advocate Supervisor
Abby graduated from Kean University with Bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Criminal Justice. She is currently completing her Master's Degree in clinical mental health counseling at Nathan Weiss Graduate College at Kean University. Abby trained to become a CASA volunteer in 2015 and will continue to advocate for the three children on her third case while serving as a CASA supervisor. She also will lead CASA's quarterly book club, where advocates come together to discuss foster-related books. Abby has worked for Kean University as a service manager for its Center for Leadership, developing and implementing educational programs, guiding students involved in humanitarian causes and coordinating community and volunteer-service events. She will continue to work with Kean's Human Rights Institute as a graduate assistant. Abby is a former intern at the Drug Enforcement Administration, where she assisted enforcement groups, gathered information related to drug prevention and took part in the Top Gun Program that investigates and prosecutes gang, gun and drug cases. Reach Abby at agallego@casaofunioncounty.org or 908.527.7044.
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