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Ali Caliendo

Ali Caliendo, PhD 

Founder & Executive Director

Dr. 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.

Ali holds a Ph.D. in Public Affairs from UNLV where she focused her research on how state child welfare policy contributes to the formation of kinship families. She received her Master’s Degree in Organizational Systems Renewal (OSR) from Seattle University, where she specialized 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. 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
Sandy Vargas Progams Support Manager Spanish Speaking Family Advocate

Sandy Vargas

Director of Program Support

Sandy is a fictive kin caregiver and she personally understands the legal and financial facing informal kinship families. Sandy is no stranger to kinship; her parents took care of her cousin during her adolescent years and to this day Sandy considers her as close as a sister.

Since 2016, Sandy has been providing bilingual case management services to Spanish speaking kinship families. Her passion to help Spanish kinship families stems from growing up advocating for her family from a young age.

 Sandy has over 20 years of experience in customer service 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 provides program, administrative and financial support for the organization. Sandy can be reached at
Leah Dods, MSW Child Welfare Program Manager Formal Kinship Family Advocate

Leah Dods, MSW

Director of Caregiver Programs

Leah has been with Foster Kinship since 2016. Starting as an intern, she fell in love with the mission of Foster Kinship because it aligned with her life story. Leah was born when her mother was 15 years old. Her mother, still a child herself, relied on her parents to help raise Leah and for the first few years Leah lived in her grandparents home while her mom was supported into a self-sufficient adult. When Leah was a teen, her mother became a kinship caregiver and took in Leah's cousin. Leah's lived experience comes from a young child in a grandparent headed household and as a biological child in home that took in relatives.

Leah Dods has a Masters in Social Work and a Bachelor's degree in Human Services with a focus in children and families. She has professional experience in child welfare, hospice care and substance abuse treatment. Leah is a certified First Aid/CPR/AED instructor and has completed a certificate in Grandfamilies Leadership. 

Leah manages the Child Welfare Training Program and focuses her case management on kinship families who care for children in foster care in Clark County, NV. She can be reached at
Nani Garrett, BSHS Kinship Navigator Program Manager Private Kinship Family Advocate

Nani Garrett, BSHS

Family Advocate Supervisor

Nani Garrett holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Human Services with a concentration is management and is completing a Masters Degree in Professional Counseling. She completed her internship with the Department of Family Services and the Parenting Project. 

She joined Foster Kinship in 2015 and 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. 

Nani manages the statewide Kinship Navigator program and focuses her case management on private kinship families- those families who establish custody outside of the child welfare system in Clark County, NV.  She can be reached at

Sasha Ritchie, LMSW

Family Advocate Supervisor

Sasha started at Foster Kinship as an intern in 2017. She has her Bachelor's in Human Services with a focus on Child and Family Therapy and her Master's in Social Work specializing in clinical social work. She is passionate about helping children and families who seek support and resources. Her background consists of working in education, healthcare, and adoption recruitment.

During a tough period, Sasha's aunt needed assistance caring for her two children. Sasha's mother never hesitated to care for sister's children and traveled to their city to ensure that the children were safe, cared for, and remained in a familiar environment. She took care of them for two years. Sasha still thinks of them as her two siblings, rather then ‘ just cousins’. She enjoys, reading, improving her cooking skills, and getting lost in music. 

Sasha manages the child welfare training program and the Navigator program for informal families. She specializes in working with kinship families who are a preventative resources for children who come to the attention of the child welfare system in Clark County, NV. Sasha can be reached at
Gus Mota Kinship Navigator Intake Coordinator

Gus Mota

Operations Specialist

Gus has been in Las Vegas for the past 12 years. Since the age of 16, he has lived in a kinship arrangement with his older brother. Gus has been working at Peggy's Attic, the clothing closet for children in protective custody, since 2012 and loves serving the foster and kinship families who he meets every day.

At Foster Kinship, Gus is a bilingual Family Advocate as well as a trainer in the Child Welfare Training Program, certified First Aid/CPR/AED instructor, and a nationally certified child passenger safety technician. A the "swiss-army knife" of the office, he keeps operations running smoothly. He is the 2019 Marcie O'Donnell Excellence Award recipient. He can be reached at

Jen Walsh

Family Advocate

Jen holds a Bachelor’s from Nevada State College in Psychology with minors in Criminal Justice and Counseling and is currently pursuing her Masters in Social Work at UNR.

Growing up, Jen watched as her maternal grandparents took in one of her cousins when her aunt passed away and the father could not take care of them. She watched as her grandparents struggled due to not having any resources to help them out during the unexpected and traumatic time. She glad to be able to see and work with an agency that is out there to help kinship families.

Jen first started with Foster Kinship as an intern in 2020 and officially joined the team in 2021. During her internship at Foster Kinship, Jen was able to experience the amazing work that Foster Kinship does in working with the families and helping assess them with getting the resources they need. Jen has found working with the families awarding and worthwhile that she came back to Foster Kinship to continue her experience as a full time Family Advocate specializing in connecting new caregivers of children in foster care to critical resources. She can be reached at

Audrey Tarrant

Family Advocate

Born in Texas, Audrey and her family moved to Las Vegas when she was 11 years old. Her parents had been licensed foster parents since 2007, and by this time had adopted a baby boy. After moving, they made the decision to reopen their license in Nevada, and have since adopted two more children. After being exposed to the realm of foster care from such a young age, she matured into a young woman who is passionate about child welfare and improving the lives of vulnerable children.

Working as a Family Advocate, she is able to support families in assessing what resources they have access to, and how we can support them in attaining services. As a Certified Car Seat Technician, Audrey is also able to provide car seat safety training to caregivers with young children. In her future aspirations, Audrey hopes to continue to support children and families in any way she can.
Emily Morales Kinship Navigator Intake Coordinator

Emily Morales

Family Advocate

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, unique children, Emily is very passionate when it comes to helping families surviving and thriving through the process of grief. She lost her husband too early in 2016 and continues to navigate through life's challenges with her children. Her professional background is in Human Resources and Office Management. Emily has a gift of seeking resources within our community and loves to self-care with scrapbooking and crafts. She can be reached at
Nadine Garcia Childcare Specialist

Nadine Garcia, BA

Childcare Program Manager

Nadine has a B.A. in Early Childhood Education and associates degree child development and liberal studies. She has spent 13 years teaching early childhood education. Her experience includes working at an inclusive childcare center that cared for children with ADD, ADHD, PTSD, Autism, Down Syndrome, and neuro-typical developing children. Nadine brings her expertise teaching children with additional needs to the Foster Kinship childcare program.

Nadine was raised in Los Angeles, CA with 3 biological and 1 adopted sibling, and has experience with kinship care in her extended family. When she is not teaching, she loves being with her husband, daughter, and 3 dogs at the river. She can be reached at

Monica Avila

Program Support and Childcare Specialist

Monica is a Las Vegas native. She has always wanted to work with children so in highschool she attended East Tech Academy to focus on early childhood education. Through East Tech Academy, she received internship opportunities which led to many experiences within childcare centers both in-home and center based. 

Monica graduated from College of Southern Nevada with her Associates of Arts in 2020 and was recently accepted into UNLV's School of Social Work. She would like to become a clinical social worker and become a therapist for children.

Monica brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our programs. At Foster Kinship she works with both children and caregivers as a childcare specialist and program support specialist.
Anntesha Chesterton Kinship Family Outreach Manager Washoe Rurals Family Advocate Child Welfare Trainer

Anntesha Chesterton

Child Welfare Trainer

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 and Nationally Certified child passenger safety technican and has completed a certificate in Grandfamilies Leadership. 

Anntesha runs the Kinship Advocacy Network (KAN) Meetings focusing on changing policy in Nevada for kinship families. She focuses her case management on families outside of Clark County, NV. She can be reached at
Berenice Blas Child Welfare Trainier

Berenice Blas

Child Welfare Trainer

Berenice was born in Mexico and moved to Los Angeles at age 9. Berenice and her wife moved to Las Vegas in 2008 hoping to one day be a foster family. Their foster license was approved in 2011 and in 2012 Berenice became a DACA recipient. Berenice and her family were foster parents for five years, supporting birth parents and helping them reunify with their children. Her family also helped children transition into kinship homes and adoptive placements. In March 2016 they became forever parents to one amazing, smart, and handsome boy and in September 2016 he became a big brother.

Berenice's passion for kinship caregivers comes from working with the DFS Foster Parent Champion Program where she advocated for foster and kinship families, providing resources and support during their open cases. In 2018 she became a part of the Foster Kinship family as a facilitator of the child welfare training for kinship families becoming licensed. Berenice also currently works with Clark County Social Services- Keeping Families Together program to help birth parents secure housing and become self-sufficient in order to reunify with their children. Berenice is very passionate about children and families and loves supporting families through the roller coaster journey of kinship and foster care. She can be reached at

Trista Miller, BS

Child Welfare Trainer

Bio: Trista Miller is a passionate child welfare professional who has been advocating for foster youth since 2009 when she was in foster care herself and experiencing her 5th placement at an Emergency Shelter. Before reaching the age of 18, she had already helped establish and participated in various youth advocacy groups in the Austin, TX area. Since aging out she has gone on to achieve her Bachelors. in Criminal Justice from Texas State University, where she focused on researching outcomes of youth who were impacted by both the foster care and juvenile justice systems. Trista has experience in creating legislative committees, drafting legislation, and advocating for youth and families at a local, state, and national level. After being raised in a fictive kin placement and fighting to stay in that placement during her time in care, Trista is excited to help other kinship families navigate the child welfare system to keep children from entering the formal foster care system. She can be reached at
Michelle Pulido Kinship Navigator Intake Coordinator

Michelle Pulido

Child Welfare Trainer

During her childhood, Michelle was raised by her grandparents and believes the love and respect that she has with her grandparents to this day is due to that important kinship bond. Michelle was also a fictive kin sibling during her teenage years to her best friend, who lived with her for two years.

Michelle started with Foster Kinship in 2016 and is an intake coordinator for the Kinship Navigator Program, a certified First Aid/CPR/AED instructor, nationally certified child passenger safety technician, and also works in the childcare program. 

Michelle was the recipient of the prestigious Marcie O’Donnell Excellence Award in 2018. Michelle can be reached at

Emilo Swann

Social Media

Emilio Swann is a former foster youth who has dedicated his life to making change in the Child Welfare System through foster advocacy, legislative work, and motivational speaking. Emilio has been through 13 different homes in his foster journey, entering in at the age of 5 and aging out at 18. Throughout this foster journey Emilio has experienced abuse and neglect, sibling separation, and many more events. Emilio uses his foster experience as a platform of passion for his advocacy. 

His understanding and experience of placement homes gives him the skills necessary to work with youth in kinship homes. Emilio can be reached at

Kaya Calinsky

Childcare Specialist

Born in California, Kaya graduated high school in Las Vegas. Kaya has a half brother who was unable to live with his parents and her mother raised him for a number of years.

Kaya has a passion for working with children. And is a perfect fit for our child care program. Kaya has experience working with kids from all walks of life. She has experience babysitting children and working with them at Las Vegas Indoor Soccer.

Kaya loves connecting with the children and youth that come into Foster Kinship. She also enjoys creating new activities to work on a variety developmental skills that increase their social and emotional learning.
Michele Howser PhD Foster Kinship Board of Directors

Michele Howser, PhD, NCC

Board of Directors- 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 Foster Kinship Board of Directors

Jordan Castro, MS, CPA

Board of Directors- 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.
Kechia English Foster Kinship Board of Directors

Kechia English, MA

Board of Directors

Kechia English is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who is in private practice and does contract therapy work here in southern Nevada. She is a retired Child Welfare Manager with over 30 years working with children and families at the Department of Family Services. During her time in child welfare Kechia served as a coach and mentor to line and supervisory staff; worked in the areas of Child Protective Services, Foster Care, In Home Case Management, Clinical Services and Team Decision Making; and was a supporter of staff development and appreciation. As a believer in education, Kechia teaches in the College of Humanities and Sciences for the University of Phoenix. As a Board Member for Foster Kinship, 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 children and families. Kechia is a member of AAMFT and is a lifelong family advocate.
Bob Ruble Board of Directors

Bob Ruble

Board of Directors

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. He also founded and runs OC Kinship, a caregiver support organization in Orange County, CA.
Nancy Myster Foster Kinship Board of Directors

Nancy Myster, MEd

Board of Directors- Secretary

Nancy Myster is a teacher at Alexander Dawson School in Las Vegas. Formerly she worked at Clark County School District and has a long history of working with and advocating for children. Nancy earned a Bachelors of Arts from Western Washington University in Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

When she first came to Nevada after college she began working at Child Haven which made her passionate about learning more about and advocating for Nevada’s most vulnerable children. Nancy served 10+ rewarding years as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) advocating for youth in family court. After which, she spent over 6 years on the CASA Foundation board, three of which she served as President: instrumental in building community relationships and awareness, volunteer recruitment, as well as coordinating events for children in foster care. During her work with foster children, she began to understand the complexity of family systems and the great importance of maintaining and supporting family and kinship connections for youth. In her free-time, she enjoys being with her daughter Grace and her dog Murphy.
Dan Maier

Daniel Maier

Board of Directors

Dan is a former kinship foster parent and now a legal guardian. He is a Roman Catholic deacon with the Diocese of Las Vegas. He dedicates his time to Nevadans for the Common Good and is a board member of its affiliate, NCG Coalition for Public Life. Dan is also an active Realtor in Sothern Nevada. He has a wife, Carol, four children and seven grandchildren.

In 2018, Dan retired from a career in executive management, primarily in benefits management and then later as an executive at Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada.

In his career, he was known to be a strong leader with a driving belief in collaboration within the management team and among all organization associates. He is to this day highly motivated to establish and achieve organizational goals with a passion for service and a drive for continual improvement. He was respected by all associates, earning trust and credibility by dealing honestly and ethically, and by following through on commitments to clients, co-workers, organization leadership and external collaborative enterprises and is still called upon for guidance in challenging situations.

Dan is optimistic, with a positive attitude in adverse situations, demonstrating flexibility, creativity, imagination and resilience when faced with multiple demands, shifting priorities, ambiguity and rapid change.

Dr. Katherine Unthank

Dr. Katherine Unthank,

Board of Directors

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 the University of Phoenix for over 10 years, most recently as Chair of Social & Behavioral Sciences, Las Vegas Campus. 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 (new 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.

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. 
Michelle McGuire Foster Kinship Board of Directors

Michelle McGuire, PhD

Board of Directors

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.
Marcie ODonnell Foster Kinship Board of Directors

Marcie O'Donnell, MA

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 an 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. 

A dedicated volunteer, Marcie writes grants for Foster Kinship.  Her commitment to the organization lead to the establishment of the Marcie O'Donnell Excellence Award in 2017, which is given to a staff member annually who exhibits an equal commitment to families. She can be reached at

Terry and Ali Caliendo Foster Kinship Board of Directors

Terry Caliendo, BS

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 Foster Kinship's volunteer IT specialist. Terry can be reached at
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