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Meet the Team

Our staff is comprised are hard-working individuals with a passion for helping kinship families achieve their goals. Hover over each member of the team to learn a bit more about what they do here!


Our leadership team is responsible for ensuring that our organization honors the mission of empowering caregivers to provide safe, stable, and nurturing homes for children. 
  Founder; Executive Director  
Ali Caliendo, PhD
Dr. Caliendo focuses on kinship families and child welfare policy. She founded Foster Kinship in 2011, aiming to offer crucial resources and support for relatives raising children, ensuring that family connections are prioritized. She holds degrees from UNLV, Seattle University, Villanova University, and the University of Chicago.

She can be reached at
  Strategic Programs Director  
Leah Dods, MSW
Leah oversees Foster Kinship's programs. Coming from a kinship family herself, her passion for families motivates her work in engaging the community and building connections. Leah started as an intern in 2016, has extensive experience in child welfare, hospice care, and substance abuse treatment, and is a certified First Aid/CPR/AED instructor.

She can be reached at
  Director of Program Support  
Sandy Vargas, BS
Sandy, a lifelong advocate for social justice, has a deep passion for supporting vulnerable kinship families.  With a Bachelors in Sociology, over 20 years of customer service experience, and certifications as a Child Passenger Safety Technician and CPR/First Aid/AED instructor, she brings a wealth of expertise to her role. Sandy oversees administrative and financial support for our organization.

She can be reached at

Organizational Infrastructure

Our administrative team is responsible for keeping our organization running, focusing on the technical aspects of a non-profit organization, and allowing the rest of our staff to focus on providing good-quality services. 
Terry Caliendo, BS
Terry Caliendo, holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, and has over 10 years of experience as an internet entrepreneur, and is the owner and president of Dedicated Managers.

Passionate about Southern Nevada's issues, particularly the lack of support for children and kinship caregivers, Terry has helped his wife form Foster Kinship to address these needs. He serves as the Chief Technology Officer for Foster Kinship.

He can be reached at  
  Human Resources  
Cheryl Frias, BS, HRM
Cheryl, a professional dedicated to her ethics, and a lover of Hawaii, now calls Las Vegas home. With a Bachelor's in Business Administration, specializing in Human Resource Management, she's committed to integrity in all aspects of life. Her true passion lies in creating positive work environments, where support and motivation thrive, a mission she actively champions at Foster Kinship. She contributes her skills and warm positivity to supporting our staff members in providing high quality services and resources to kinship families.

She can be reached at
  Executive Assistant  
Matthew McCave
Matthew was raised just outside of Detroit Michigan. In his childhood he was heavily involved with the local Boys & Girls Club and spent a lot of his young adult time working and volunteering with various organizations that offered activities for at risk youth. This time spent helped to foster a love of giving back and a passion for youth issues.

Matthew supports the Foster Kinship leadership team and brings with him a passion for helping kinship families in the Nevada and beyond.

He can be reach at

 Intake Team

Our intake team is often the first point of contact for many new caregivers. This team serves to gather information from new families who are in need of services, in order to connect them to accurate resources. 
Our Navigator program utilizes the intake process and refers families for all other services, including In-Home Case Management, Child and Youth Interventions, and our Post Permanency Program, "Thriving After". Our intake team can also serves in other capacities of community engagement, our Kinship Advocacy Network (K.A.N.), and resource distribution coordination.
  Navigator Program Manager  
Paula Ramirez, LMSW, CADC
Paula joined Foster Kinship in 2021 as an intern, then as a team member in 2022. With a Master’s in Social Work and a Bachelor’s in Psychology, she’s a Certified Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counselor, a notary public, and holds a certificate in Grandfamilies Leadership.

As Family Advocate Supervisor, Paula's goal is to empower families with support and resources through oversight of our intake team. She also engages in case management for families seeking to take guardianship as a form of legal stability.

She can be reached at
  Family Advocate  
Katelynn Martinez, BSW
Katelynn, a Las Vegas native, graduated from UNLV in 2022 with a Social Work degree and a minor in Criminal Justice. She's passionate about helping Kinship families, especially those facing challenges due to immigration. Drawing from her experience being raised by immigrant parents. She is always advocating for more Spanish resources. As a Family Advocate, Katelynn provides kinship families with essential support, understanding the difficulties they face.

She can be reached at
  Family Advocate  
Emily Morales
A native of Las Vegas, Emily holds an Associates Degree from the College of Southern Nevada. As a young widow and single mother of five beautiful children, Emily is passionate about helping families surviving and thriving through the process of grief. Her professional background is in Human Resources and Office Management. She works to connect Kinship families to needed resources and information, and obtain a thorough background of families that need continued support from our Case Management team.

She can be reached at
  Family Advocate  
Cindy Tarrant
Cindy's foster parenting journey began in 2009, spanning various counties and states. After a season of challenging experiences, many due to a lack of community resources, she sought to become a support for others. Cindy serves as the President of the Foster Change Board of Directors, with a commitment to advocating for the 
foster care community. Cindy works in our "Thriving After" Post Permanency program, supporting families who 
have achieved legal permanency.

She can be reached at
  Family Advocate  
Jen Walsh, MSW
Jen holds a Bachelor’s from Nevada State College in Psychology with minors in Criminal Justice and Counseling and a Masters in Social Work from UNR. Her personal experiences of kinship care in her own family with have motivated her education and career focus.

Jen first started with Foster Kinship as an intern in 2020. Now as a Family Advocate, Jen specializes in connecting new caregivers of children in foster care to critical resources. 

She can be reached at

Case Management

Our case management team works at length with families to help them achieve legal and financial stability, get connected to community recourses, and feel supported. 

For families who are involved with the Child Welfare system, our Family Advocates assist with navigating the Kinship Licensing Process, applying for Welfare benefits like Child-Only TANF, and referring caregivers to outside resources.

For families who are privately caring for relative children, our Family Advocates work to accomplish the specific goals of that family, which can involve navigating a Guardianship process, a private adoption, obtaining financial support via the Welfare department, or finding childcare resources.

Our Case Management program utilizes all other Foster Kinship programs, including the Kinship Training Institute, Child and Youth Intervention services, and Marcie's Heart Donation Center.
  Family Advocate Supervisor  
Berenice Blas-Juarez
Berenice, originally from Mexico, moved to Los Angeles at age 9, settling in Las Vegas in 2008 with her wife. After being a foster parent herself, Berenice's kinship advocacy began with the DFS Foster Parent Champion Program. Since 2018, she's been with Foster Kinship, facilitating child welfare training for kinship families, and more recently serving as our Family Advocate Supervisor, overseeing our 
In-Home Case management program. 

She can be reached at
  Family Advocate  
Teela Beckum
Teela, originally from St. Charles, Illinois, relocated to Las Vegas in 1987. She entered the foster care system in 1993, lived in Kinship Care with her older sister, and aged out at 21. She is now dedicated to giving back to the community , and joined our Case management team in 2023. Teela is a proud mother of six children and has experience in bookkeeping, accounting, and customer service. She believes that everything happens for a reason.

She can be reached at
  Family Advocate  
MariaAgnes Jones, BA
Maria, originally from San Francisco, moved to Las Vegas in 2014, seeking better opportunities for her and her 3 children. With 15 years of office management and HR experience, she's skilled at improving efficiency. Maria believes in the power positivity, and serves as a family advocate, helping kinship families see the light in challenging situations. She's also passionate about guiding parents, 
aiming to alleviate fear and enhance transparency in their journeys.

She can be reached at
  Family Advocate  
Nani Leffall, MS, CPC Intern
Nani holds a Bachelor's degree in Human Services and a Masters in Professional Counseling. She has previously interned with Family Services and the Parenting Project. She's been with Foster Kinship since 2015, dedicated to connecting families with essential resources. Nani is a notary public and has a Grandfamilies Leadership certificate. She is part of our in-home kinship navigator program in Clark County, NV. 

She can be reached at
  Family Advocate  
Alisha McIntosh
Alisha, born in Long Beach, California, experienced foster care before being adopted in 2002, and celebrating with a trip to Disneyland.  In 2014, her and her husband moved to Las Vegas and became foster parents, later adopting four siblings in 2019, and giving them the same Disney experience. Alisha now supports others in child welfare, particularly those achieving permanency through guardianship or adoption. As a Family Advocate, she's dedicated to supporting safe and healthy families, eager to connect with caregivers.

She can be reached at
  Family Advocate  
Chiana Washington
Raised in Gardena, CA by her grandmother who was also a Native American Foster Parent, Chiana's childhood fueled her passion for advocating change. After reunifying with her mother, who struggled upon regaining custody of her children, Chiana now champions families' voices, drawing from her own experiences. Settling in Las Vegas in 2022, Chiana's decade of advocacy supports caregivers, offering resources and a community to voice concerns and find solutions.

She can be reached at

Kinship Training Institute

Our Kinship Training Institute is comprised of a team of individuals who facilitate a variety of training, both on-demand, and live in-person, for the entire state of Nevada. This program provides Kinship Licensing Classes to families who are involved with the Child Welfare system in Clark County, Washoe, and DCFS, as well as CPR/AED/First Aid for Adults, Infants, and Children, Car Seat Safety classes, and TBRI® training. This team also works in conjunction with our Child and Youth Interventions team to ensure that the educational tools provided to caregivers are mirrored in what is provided to the children being cared for. 
  Kinship Training Institute Manager  
Sasha Ritchie, LMSW,
TBRI® Practioner
Sasha holds a Bachelor's in Human Services, a Master's in Clinical Social Work, focusing on child and family therapy, and the certification of TBRI® Practitioner. Her passion is supporting children and families, drawing from her personal experiences with kinship care. She manages the Kinship Training Institute at Foster Kinship, including child welfare licensing, CPR/AED/First Aid, Car Seat Safety, TBRI®, and caregiver support programs.

She can be reached at
 Family Advocate Specialist 
Natalie Marquez, BS
Natalie, a Las Vegas native, earned her Bachelor degree in Human Services from UNLV in 2023. Through internships and volunteer work, she's been dedicated to providing services to the community and developed a strong commitment to supporting underserved individuals. She started in 2023 intern at Foster Kinship, where she witnessed the challenges kinship families face. Impressed by the team's dedication, she joined as Enhanced Program Support Specialist for the Kinship Training Institute. 

She can be reached at
 Family Advocate Specialist 
Michelle Rupe, BS, 
TBRI® Practitioner

Michelle Rupe, a passionate child welfare professional with a Bachelor's in Psychology, has advocated for foster youth since 2012. She's a TBRI Practitioner, focused on Trust-Based Relational Intervention, and believes in its transformative potential for child welfare and community systems. Michelle works with kinship families, managing support groups, nurturing connections, and educating families on trauma and brain development. 

She can be reached at
  Family Advocate Specialist  
Audrey Tarrant
Audrey, born in Texas, and having been exposed to the foster care system for most of her life, serves in our training department. She facilitators our Kinship Licensing classes, utilizing her family's experiences providing foster care for over 13 years. Audrey also teaches our CPR/AED/First Aid and Car Seat Safety trainings, ensuring that caregivers feel confident in keeping their children safe.

She can be reached at

Child and Youth Interventions

Our Child and Youth Interventions team is dedicated to ensuring that the vulnerable children we serve are provided with the tools and support needed to heal from childhood trauma. Support from this team can come in the form of our Riley & Friends Nurture Groups, Cub & Tots pre-school program, on-site Youth Support Groups, or Respite Care, all with curriculum developed through a TBRI® lens. 
  Child & Youth Specialist  
Jaquie Chagolla
Jaquie, originally from California, graduated Las Vegas high school in 2021.  She has a natural-born interest in working with kids and enjoys interacting with them. Passionate about child care, she brings a vibrant personality to form connections with kids in kinship care.

Jaquie works with our childcare programing, supporting with child support groups, Riley & Friends Nurture Groups, and more.

 She can be reached at
  Child & Youth Interventions Lead  
Aine Monaghan, 
TBRI® Practitioner
Aine, originally from Colorado, graduated high school in Las Vegas. Her family began fostering in 2018, adopting three kids in 2019, and later a 6-year-old boy in 2021. She has extensive experience with children, including volunteering in a church childcare program and helping her parents with her younger siblings.

Aine is passionate about youth and their mental health, striving to empower them as they navigate life.  

She can be reached at


Our Helpline team is responsible for providing up-to-date, accurate information, and scheduling assistance for all caregivers 9am-7pm Tuesday-Thursday, and 8am-4pm Friday and Saturday 8am-4pm, while also coordinating the distribution of tangible resources from Marcie's Heart. Our helpline team also provides hand-on support to all other departments, ensuring that every program is able to run smoothly.
  Family Advocate Specialist  
Stacey Galka
Stacey, a parent, bio grandma, foster parent, and now adoptive mom utilized Foster Kinship's services on her own journey. Stacey's experience and compassion drive her to offer families hope, showing that with collaboration, parents can improve outcomes for their children. Stacey's journey spans coast to coast, but Denver is home. She found her calling in social work, supporting and uplifting others, and now she's here to help kinship families navigate their unique paths.

She can be reached at  
  Family Advocate Specialist  
Christine Smedes
Christine moved from Arizona to Las Vegas in 2023. With 25 years of experience working with children, she has been involved in in-home child care, served as a teacher's aide in Elementary and High schools, and worked as a nanny for 15 years. Her personal experience has given her understand of the emotional impact of family separation, which she uses in her work with Foster Kinship. Christine's deep passion lies in keeping families together, and she is fully dedicated to this cause.

She can be reached at
  Family Advocate Specialist  
Madyson Tarrant, BS
Madyson, holding a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with a focus in psychology, is a part of our helpline team. She helps caregivers find appropriate resources and provides support across our services to ensure caregivers receive the assistance they need. From living in a licensing foster and kinship home since age 10, and going through the licensing process herself, Madyson's passion lies in helping to provide support to those that need it.

She can be reached at  

Marcie's Heart

Our Marcie's Heart donation center exists to provide tangible resources to families, including clothing, shoes, blankets, toys, and more. Our warehouse is open several times a month for 'shopping' appointments for caregivers who need items, and our families in Case Management can utilize pick-up orders. The center is also utilized for seasonal event space, during which it is equipped to distribute things like school supplies, frozen foods, and holiday gifts. 
  Donation Center Program Manager  
Marcie O'Donnell, MA
Martha "Marcie" O'Donnell holds a Bachelor of Music Education from Wheaton College Conservatory and a Master's degree in choral conducting from Illinois Northern University. Marcie is deeply committed to Foster Kinship's mission of supporting relatives raising children. Her dedication led to the creation of the Marcie O'Donnell Excellence Award in 2017, recognizing staff commitment to families. In 2022 she launched "Marcie's Heart," the Foster Kinship Donation Center. 

She can be reached at

Board of Directors

Our Board of Directors is comprised of members of the community who are driven to better the outcomes of Kinship families in Nevada. Each person brings to the table their own experiences and areas of focus for Foster Kinship as a whole. Hover over each person to learn a bit more about them!
  Board of Directors - President  
Nancy Myster, MEd
Nancy Myster, an educator at Alexander Dawson School in Las Vegas, holds a Bachelors of Arts in Psychology from Western Washington University and a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. With a strong background in working with children, she spent over 10 years as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) and served on the CASA Foundation board for more than 6 years. Nancy is dedicated to supporting family and kinship connections for youth. Outside of work, she enjoys time with her daughter Grace and her dog Murphy.
  Board of Directors - Treasurer  
Jordan Castro, MS, CPA
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.
  Board of Directors - Secretary  
Katherine Unthank,
Dr. Katherine Unthank, a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor in Nevada and Colorado, and a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in Indiana, served for over 10 years as the Chair of Social & Behavioral Sciences at the University of Phoenix, Las Vegas Campus. She's also the Executive Director of the Nevada Counseling Association and has served on the Nevada State Board of Examiners for Marriage & Family Therapists and Clinical Professional Counselors. With a PhD from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, she's authored "Riding Wild Horses Home," which was nominated for non-fiction Book of the Year by the American Library Association.
  Board of Directors  
Bob Ruble
Bob has been a kinship caregiver in California for his niece since she was 8 years old. Now that she is an adult, Bob continues to share his experience to help other kinship families navigate the difficult waters of kinship care. 

He is a Generations United GRAND Voice member and an Ambassador with the California Alliance of Caregivers. He is a huge advocate for what Foster Kinship does for families and loves supporting our programs any way he can.
  Board of Directors  
Daniel Maier
Dan, a former kinship foster parent and now legal guardian, serves as a Roman Catholic deacon in the Diocese of Las Vegas. He's an active member of Nevadans for the Common Good, including its affiliate NCG Coalition for Public Life. Additionally, he is a Realtor in Southern Nevada, with a professional background in executive management, including at Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada, Dan leans on his experiences in leadership and collaboration to better our organization efforts, and holds honesty, ethics, and creativity in high regard. 
  Board of Directors  
Kechia English, MA
Kechia, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist has a private practice and does contract therapy work here in southern Nevada. She is retired after over 30 years with the Department of Family Services. During her time in child welfare Kechia served in various outlets, including Child Protective Services, In Home Case Management and Clinical Services. She also teaches in the College of Humanities and Sciences for the University of Phoenix. As a Board Member, Kechia looks forward to bringing her child welfare experience to the table in an effort to continue making a positive difference in the lives of families.
  Board of Directors  
Michelle McGuire, PhD
Dr. Michelle McGuire is a Licensed Psychologist in Nevada. She has a diverse background working with different populations, including developmental and intellectual disabilities, serious mental illness, chemical dependency, and providing individual, group, couples and family therapy to all ages. 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 and is the Lead Faculty Area Chair for the Psychology program.
  Board of Directors  
Mika Keller
Mica Keller, a Las Vegas resident for over 35 years, is deeply committed to her community. With a background in the fashion industry, she transitioned to focus on family, philanthropy, and personal ventures in 2022. Mica's engagement in community work began during her youth, leading to roles such as Nevada Student Council State President and Las Vegas Parks & Rec Commissioner. Introduced to Foster Kinship through her family's journey, she was drawn to its mission and now actively contributes to the organization. Mica's dedication is fueled by her family's support and her passion for making a positive impact.
  Board of Directors  
Patricia Farley
Patricia Farley served as an independent member of the Nevada State Senate from 2015 to 2018, representing District 8. Now, she serves as the Vice President for the Children's Advocacy Alliance, an organization that exists to work towards the goal of bettering the lives and outcomes of children, through changes in policies and practices in Child Welfare organizations. 
Patricia brings this experience, along with her own passion for children and their education to Foster Kinship, working to empower more agents of change in the community.
  Board of Directors  
Tabitha Simmons
Tabitha holds a Bachelor's degree in Speech Communications from the University of Nevada Reno and a Juris Doctor from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she received the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Law School Community. She advocates for foster youth, recognizing gaps in the child welfare system, and is dedicated to community service and has served on various boards, including Street Teens, Nevada Partners for Homeless Youth, and Three Square. Balancing family and business, she enjoys outdoor activities, travel, reading, and yoga in her spare time.
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