Foster Kinship was established as a 501(c)(3) organization in 2011 by Alison Caliendo. As a foster/adoptive parent, she has the desire to help the 33,000 children living with relative caregivers in Nevada, also known as kinship care. Foster Kinship was founded with a mission to “strengthen the kinship caregivers’ capacity to provide safe, permanent, and nurturing homes for children.”
Nationally recognized, Foster Kinship is the only non-profit organization in Nevada exclusively serving kinship children and families. Since its inception, Foster Kinship has proudly served nearly 5,000 children and 2,245 kinship families across Southern Nevada. Responding to the various changes and challenges facing kinship families, Foster Kinship has grown significantly in size, scope, and breadth, including staff with over 25 years of combined experience working with kinship families and children.
Foster Kinship’s free program services include case management, CPR/First Aid/AED and car seat training, emergency services, legal and financial support, community referrals, support groups, family events, notary, and family and policy advocacy.
Alison Caliendo, M.A., Founder and Executive Director
Ms. Caliendo has long been passionate about at-risk populations and family systems issues and opportunities. In 2009 Alison moved to Las Vegas, Nevada and began working in mental health care for children in foster care. While working with the foster families, she discovered the high number of kinship caregivers and their need for increased support. Upon further research, she realized that an astonishing number of children in Clark County were being raised by relatives, both formally and informally. She founded Foster Kinship to provide much-needed resources and peer-to-peer support for the dedicated individuals working tirelessly to raise their relative’s children, keeping these children both connected to family and safe from harm.
Alison is completing a Ph.D. in Public Affairs at UNLV. Alison holds a Master’s Degree in Organizational Systems Renewal (OSR) from Seattle University, specializing in family systems and systemic trauma and healing, organizational consulting and group facilitation. She holds an HR Masters Certificate from Villanova University. She graduated with honors with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Chicago in 2004. Alison is a certified TIPS-MAPP instructor, Nationally Certified Chid Passenger Safety Technician, and has completed a certificate in Grandfamilies Leadership. She also on the board of the National Kinship Alliance. She can be reached at Ali@FosterKinship.org
Nani Garrett, Kinship Navigator Program Manager
Nani Garrett holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Human Services- with a concentration is management- and is completing a Masters Degree in Marriage and Family Counseling. She completed her internship with the Department of Family Services and the Parenting Project. She is passionate about helping children and families in the community to connect with the necessary resources that will better their situation. Nani is also a notary public and has completed a certificate in Grandfamilies Leadership. She can be reached at Nani@fosterkinship.org.
Sandy Vargas, Program Support Manager
For two years, Sandy was a fictive kin caregiver and she understands the legal and financial obstacles informal families can face. Sandy provides bilingual case management services to Spanish speaking kinship families and is a notary public, Nationally certified Child Passenger Safety Technician, CPR/First Aid/AED instructor,and has completed a certificate in Grandfamilies Leadership. Sandy also provides administrative and financial oversight for the organization. Sandy can be reached at Sandy@FosterKinship.org.
Leah Dods, Community Engagement and Training Program Manager
Leah Dods has a Bachelor's degree in Human Services and is completing a Masters in Social Work. Leah’s mother was a relative caregiver. As a result, Leah saw many of the stressful times and also the happy times her mother and family went through that come with raising a relative. At the time, her mother was unaware of the services available to relative caregivers and their families. Leah is excited she can provide various resources available at Foster Kinship and within the community to other relative caregivers going through similar situations. Leah is a certified First Aid/CPR/AED instructor and has completed a certificate in Grandfamilies Leadership. She can be reached at Leah@fosterkinship.org.
Anntesha Chesterton, Kinship Family Outreach Program Manager
Anntesha Chesterton was raised by her grandparents in a loving kinship placement. When she was a teenager she was again placed in foster care and matured out on her 18th birthday. As an adult, Anntesha has tirelessly worked towards improved quality of care for fostered youth. She assisted in the creation of the DREAMR Grant, implemented to assist in the prevention of teen pregnancy within the foster youth community, as well as assist pregnant and parenting youth. Living what she believes, Anntesha became kinship placement for her sister's four children on top of having three children of her own. She had been raising 7 children for a year and a half until reunification took place. Anntesha is extremely passionate about engaging in the national dialogue on kinship care, and is Nevada's GRANDadvocate for Generations United. Anntesha is a certified First Aid/CPR/AED instructor. Anntesha can be reached at Anntesha@FosterKinship.org.
Michelle Pulido, Executive Assistant and Family Advocate
A native of Las Vegas, Michelle has nearly 12 years of childcare experience. She loves working with children and designing fun and engaging activities for all ages. Michelle is also a nationally certified car seat safety technician and a facilitator of car seat safety classes. Michelle can be reached at Michelle@fosterkinship.org.
Suddenly Crosby, Family Advocate
Suddenly holds a Bachelor of Science in Technical Management with a concentration in Small Business & Entrepreneurship. She was the kinship caregiver of her second cousin who was in foster care for 912 days and officially, adopted in August, 2014. Suddenly understand the intricacies relative licensure placement process after working for the Clark County Foster Parent Champion Team (FPC). She also understands how important, although sometimes difficult, it is to maintain positive relationships with both families for the benefit of the children. She can be reached at Suddenly@fosterkinship.org.
Dr. Michele Howser, Ph.D., NCC, Board President
Dr. Howser is an Instructor of Applied Psychology for the College of Southern Nevada. At CSN she serves on several committees related to assessment and mentoring. She also is a professor in the College of Humanities and Sciences for the University of Phoenix. Michele is the Board President for Foster Kinship. Research interests relate to kinship as Dr. Howser completed her dissertation on grandmothers raising grandchildren. As a practitioner, her experience is in developing and administering programs for at-risk children, and providing family preservation services to the community. Michele is a former foster parent, and is an adoptive parent. She is a member of the National Organization for Human Services, and is a National Board Certified Counselor (NCC).
Jordan Castro, M.S. CPA, Treasurer
Jordan is a CPA with PricewaterhouseCoopers. In 2015 he obtained his BSBA in Accounting, and in 2016 he obtained his Master of Science in Accounting. While working at PwC, Jordan has serviced a variety of clients, including governmental and not-for-profit entities. He obtained his CPA license with the Nevada State Board of Accountancy in September of 2018.
Tina Morgan, MEd., Secretary
For over 20 years, Tina has been building homes in Nevada as a residential homebuilder. She holds two contractor’s licenses, a BA degree in Psychology, and a Master’s degree in Special Education. Tina has experience with at-risk children from her six years of teaching within the Clark County School District. In addition to her experience as a certified contractor and licensed teacher, she has experience in event planning and business management. Tina is very passionate about helping our families.
Julie Wilson, M.A., L.M.H.C.A., Director
Julie is a licensed mental health counselor in private practice. Masters of arts in psychotherapy from Seattle University. S.U.’s existential-phenomenological therapeutic psychology program combines academic rigor with practical experience. Undergraduate work (B.A.) at Washington State University in communications. Julie works Extensively with at-risk populations and is committed to ensuring vulnerable children receive the best chance at health, stability, and happiness.
Alicia Hart, Director
Married with two children, Alicia Hart is a 24-year resident of the Las Vegas valley, and has a combined 13 years of local banking and real estate experience. Currently working on her accounting degree, Ms. Hart enjoys working with numbers and the story that they tell. Ms. Hart has first-hand experience as a kinship caregiver, and stands behind the mission of Foster Kinship, in hopes that adequate resources and information will reach those in need, who have so lovingly and graciously given of themselves to raise their relative's children to the best of their ability.
Sandra Ocampo, L.C.S.W., Director
A native of Las Vegas, Sandra holds a Masters of Social Work from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. Sandra wrote her Master's thesis on kinship care and has also worked with kinship families as a client specialist for Foster Kinship. She is passionate about providing services to families and youth who have faced hardship and trauma. During her free time she enjoys spending time with her family and friends. Her hobbies include crafting and home renovation projects.
Bob Ruble, Director
Bob has been a relative caregiver for his niece since she was 7 years old. Now that she is an adult, Bob uses his experience to help other kinship families navigate the difficult waters of kinship care. He is the President of the National Kinship Alliance for Children, on the board of the National Foster Parent Association, and is a Generations United GRAND member.
Dr. Katherine Unthank, Director
Dr. Katherine (Kitty) Unthank is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in Nevada and Colorado and a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Indiana. She has served University of Phoenix for over 10 years, most recently as Chair of Social & Behavioral Sciences, Las Vegas Campus. She is currently Senior Manager of Regulatory & Compliance for all Master’s in counseling programs. She is a Past-President and current Executive Director of the Nevada Counseling Association. She served on the Nevada State Board of Examiners for Marriage & Family Therapists and Clinical professional Counselors from 2009-2014. She is also in private-practice. She earned her PhD from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology (now Sofia University) in Palo Alto, CA. Her dissertation received recognition from the American Psychological Association (APA) as runner-up for the Sidney M. Jourard research award and from The Center for the Sacred Feminine, with a Scholarship Merit Award. She was invited to present her work at three national conferences:
- “Shame on You”: Exploring the Deep Structure of Posttrauma Survival, American Psychological Association Convention, San Francisco, CA.
- Suicide: A Window into the Deep Structure of Posttrauma Survival. 13th International Violence & Trauma Conference, San Diego, CA
- Introducing the Deep Structure of Trauma Survival: A New Paradigm for Trauma Informed Care. The National Center for Trauma-Informed Care Dare to Transform Conference, Washington, D.C.
She is the author of Riding Wild Horses Home, which was nominated for Non-Fiction Book of the Year by the American Library Association. Dr. Unthank has worked in the Mental Health field since completing her Masters in Counseling and Counselor Education from Indiana University - Bloomington in 1986.
Dr. Michelle McGuire, Director
Dr. Michelle McGuire is a Nevada Licensed Psychologist. She has a diverse background working with a number of different populations, including developmental and intellectual disabilities, serious mental illness, and chemical dependency, and providing individual, group, couples and family therapy to children through the elderly. She is the Clinical Director of Creative Behavioral Connections providing neuropsychological testing and oversight of treatment services for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders. She teaches for the University of Phoenix in the Master’s in Counseling Program and is the Lead Faculty Area Chair for the Psychology program.
Martha O'Donnell, M.A., Key Volunteer
Martha O’Donnell holds a Bachelor of Music Education from Wheaton College Conservatory with a piano performance concentration and voice minor, and a Master’s degree from Illinois Northern University in choral conducting. She spent the first five months of her life in foster care, was raised in a loving adoptive home, and has strong passion and commitment to Foster Kinship’s mission of helping individuals raise their relative’s children, to help keep home in the family. Marcie also writes grants for Foster Kinship. She can be reached at Marcie@fosterkinship.org.
Terry Caliendo, Key Volunteer
Terry Caliendo graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. He has been an internet entrepreneur for over 10 years, specializing in internet presence management as the owner and president of Dedicated Managers. Caring deeply about Southern Nevada's issues, especially when it comes to the lack of support and resources for children and their guardians who are providing kinship care, Terry wanted to help give back to the community and subsequently helped his wife form the charity, Foster Kinship, which addresses those needs. Terry is also Foster Kinship's volunteer IT specialist. Terry can be reached at Terry@fosterkinship.org.