Our dedicated staff and board are committed to serving San Francisco's foster youth, ensuring that every child has a voice that's heard. 

STAFF

Renee Espinoza, Executive Director

Renee joined the SFCASA team in February 2013. She brings more than twenty years of experience in nonprofit management, with specific expertise in strategic planning, volunteer and program management, operations, and resource and staff development. Having started her career at CASA in Orange County, she is the former Executive Director of the San Francisco Education Fund, where she oversaw a staff of 25 and a $2.6 million annual budget focused on teacher development, community engagement, and increased post-secondary success. She has also served as Program Director of School Volunteers and the Executive Director of the San Francisco Police Activities League, where she collaborated with community organizers to serve more than 5,000 San Francisco youth and 500 volunteers annually. Renee graduated from UC San Diego with a BA in Sociology. 

Amy DiBenedetto, Controller and Operations Director

Amy came to her role at SFCASA in 2013 with over 10 years of experience in nonprofit management, with an emphasis on development and finance. She completed her undergraduate degree at Swarthmore College and holds a Master's Degree from Stanford in education, specializing in policy, organization, and leadership studies. Amy's past experiences include working as a Development Officer for a nonprofit think-tank in Washington, D.C., acting as Assistant Director of Advising at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and serving as the Director of Finance and Administration at the San Francisco Education Fund. Also an accomplished mixologist, Amy lives with her partner, children, and crazy Australian Shepherd in the Castro. 

Erika Dirkse, Program Director

Prior to her appointment as Program Director in 2011, Erika served for three years as a Case Supervisor, focusing her work on supporting volunteers working with adolescents. Erika is particularly interested in supporting older youth in foster care and is a founder of the San Francisco AB12 Local Workgroup. Additional interests include resiliency in foster youth, access to public benefits, and improvements to the bridge between services for juveniles and adults. Outside of SFCASA, Erika is a member of the Program Quality and Compliance Committee at the Lincoln Child Center in Oakland. She is a graduate of Michigan State University and holds doctoral candidacy status in the history of social sciences. Erika is also a committed bike-commuting mom who loves to be outdoors. 

Paul Knudsen, Director of Development & Communications

Paul joined SFCASA in early 2013 and has raised more than $25 million in his 26 years of development and marketing work, including positions at Project Open Hand, American Conservatory Theater, Hispanic Scholarship Fund, and the San Francisco Education Fund. An avid traveler, Paul has lived in Barcelona, Madrid, and Tokyo. He is always planning his next trip. Paul has a BA in mathematics from Williams College and a Masters of International Marketing from ESMA Escola Universitaria in Barcelona.

Maggie Swanson, Annual Fund and Development Operations Manager

Maggie joined SFCASA in 2016 as the Annual Fund and Development Operations Manager after working with CASA as an event volunteer for three years. She has a background in marketing, specializing in digital communication and event management, and previously worked in the technology sector. Maggie graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a B.A. in Communication and a minor in Political Science. She is a North Bay native, a life-long fan of the Golden State Warriors, and always takes a book with her wherever she goes.

Maria Vierra, Grant Writer

Maria is a Bay Area native who joined SFCASA in 2016, bringing over a decade of grant writing experience and a passion for social justice advocacy to her role. Previously, she served as Grants Manager at Canal Alliance, a multiservice community agency in San Rafael serving low-income immigrants, and at The Marine Mammal Center, a marine mammal rescue, rehabilitation, and research center in Sausalito. Maria graduated from San Francisco State University with a B.A. in Sociology and a graduate certificate in Technical and Professional Writing. Maria is an avid reader and animal lover who enjoys exploring hiking trails with her dog in her free time.

Jackie Moncada, Community Outreach Specialist

Jackie joined the SFCASA team in 2019 as the Community Outreach Specialist. Jackie is a San Francisco native who grew up in the Mission! She studied at UC Santa Cruz, where she received her B.A. in Psychology and minor in Education. She enjoys hikes, listening to music and hanging out at the KitTea Cat café.

Diane Posner, Training Specialist

Diane joined the SFCASA team in June 2019 as the Training Specialist.  Diane brings her background and passion as a Literacy Specialist for the states of California and Hawaii, as well as international nonprofit organizations dedicated to empowering educators, inspiring students and encouraging leaders with the resources they need to make literacy accessible for all.  She is excited to support the CASA volunteers and foster youth in her role as Training Specialist.   Diane holds a BA in Middle Eastern Studies and Languages from UC Berkeley and a Master of Science in Education from CSU Eastbay.  One of Diane’s favorite opportunities has been her role as a primate caregiver, communicating with and cooking for Koko the Gorilla and her gorilla pal, Ndume.

Jamie Coronato, Case Supervisor

Jamie arrived at SFCASA in 2016 after five years of working at Seneca Family of Agencies. There she provided direct behavioral and therapeutic support to current and former foster youth, their teams and their families. Jamie is excited to use her knowledge and experience with trauma-informed intervention, permanency-planning and IEP procedures to support volunteers in advocating for foster youth. Jamie holds a B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Philosophy. Jamie can also be found backpacking and climbing.

Janey Kemp, Case Supervisor & Data Specialist

Janey has worked with San Francisco CASA for nine years. They earned their B.A. in Sociology at Loyola University-New Orleans and their M.A. in International Studies at the University of San Francisco. They takes pride in their two rescue Yorkies, who annoy everyone but them. 

Mia Ragent, Case Supervisor and Educational Advocacy Specialist

Mia, an East Bay native,  joined SFCASA in 2018. She received her B.A. from UC Santa Cruz and her J.D. from the University of North Carolina School of Law. While in law school, Mia worked in juvenile criminal defense before focusing on special education and school discipline advocacy. Prior to law school, Mia completed a year of AmeriCorps service at Kennedy High School in Richmond, CA. Mia is especially passionate about hot sauce, the San Francisco Giants, and Tilden Regional Park.     

Gabby Bayol, Juvenile Justice Coordinator and Case Supervisor

Gabby, a San Francisco native, joined the SFCASA team in 2019 as the Juvenile Justice Coordinator and Case Supervisor. She received her B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Criminal Justice from San Francisco State University. She is currently working toward her Masters of Legal and Forensic Psychology through the University of California, Irvine. Gabby loves to travel and go on adventures with her Australian Cattle Dog, November.

Jess Vaughn-Jansen, Case Supervision Manager

Jess joined SFCASA in 2019 as a Case Supervisor. She previously worked as the Advocate Coordinator at a rape crisis center, where she served as an advocate and managed the volunteer advocates who staffed the 24/7 crisis hotline and responded 24/7 to provide in-person advocacy at sexual assault exams across seven counties of New Mexico. This experience, as well as her time spent managing a gender-based discrimination legal services helpline and working in immigration legal services in the Bay Area, has made her passionate about the importance of providing trauma-informed, relationship-based advocacy to individuals navigating complex institutions and systems. Jess received her B.A. from Houghton College in New York state. She is obsessed with her Cocker Spaniel rescue, Todd, and can often be found napping in the sun with him.

Sue Lockyer, Case Supervisor

Sue joined SFCASA in 2019 as a Case Supervisor. She recently received her master’s degree from San Francisco State University in Communication Studies. During her graduate program, Sue dedicated all of her research to issues related to human trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable populations. For the past several years, Sue has volunteered serving homeless and exploited women in a safehouse setting. She is passionate about services for at-risk youth and is excited to now support CASAs as they advocate and mentor for their foster youth. To relax and have fun Sue runs, hikes, plays with her dogs, watches silly shows with her kids, and decorates cookies.

Theodora Liebhart, Case Supervisor

Theodora, a San Francisco Native, joined SFCASA in July of 2019 as a Case Supervisor. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and a minor in Anthropology from the California State University, East Bay. She is currently in the process of completing her Master’s degree in Education. She comes to us with 10 plus years of working with youth in the Non-profit sector connecting youth with employment and running a support group for Newcomers. Most recently, she was a special education teacher at a middle school in San Francisco where she co-taught 7th grade math. Theodora’s passion for serving youth and families from her community stems from her family’s professional involvement with the Juvenile Justice Center and Juvenile Probation Department. She is thrilled to now be able to take her background in education to support CASA’s as they advocate for their foster youth. In her spare time, she enjoys doing art with her 6 year old son, going for runs, baking, playing with her dog, and going to the beach.

Diamond King, Case Supervisor

Diamond, an East Bay Native, joined SFCASA in August 2019 as a Case Supervisor. She holds a Bachelors Degree in Sociology and minor in Human Development from California State University, East Bay and recently received her Master’s Degree in Family and Human Development from Arizona State University in May 2019. Diamond has a background with working with children and families with providing case management services. She is very passionate of providing support and services for foster youth and is excited to start her journey as a case supervisor to support the CASAs as they advocate and mentor the foster youth.  Diamond is a life-long fan of the Golden State Warriors and loves to dance, cook, take adventures, travel, and have a great time with friends and family.

Victoria Rennie, Case Supervisor

Prior to joining the team in 2018, Tory served as a volunteer advocate for SFCASA. In college she served as a mentor to first generation college students, and previously worked in the legal field. She graduated from Colby-Sawyer College with a B.S. in Public Health and believes everyone should have access to affordable healthcare. Tory loves to travel, and once spent three days in the Costa Rican rainforest.

Christina Lee, Program Assistant

Christina joined the SFCASA team in 2019 as the Program Assistant. She is a South Bay native and studied at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, where she earned her B.A. in Sociology and Spanish. Prior to joining the SFCASA team, Christina worked with high school students as a tutor in East San Jose and administrator at a small educational company in the South Bay. She is excited to support the CASAs and foster youth. In her free time, she enjoys dancing, spending time with family and friends, and exploring new cities.

Nemo, Courthouse Dog

Nemo is a four year old black lab who serves as SFCASA's Court Dog. He came to CASA in 2017 from Canine Companions for Independence and is a calming, supportive influence for children and families in court. Nemo can be requested to attend court proceedings that could use a little extra support. In his spare time Nemo enjoys head scratches, chasing a ball, and cuddling.

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BOARD OF DIRECTORS

The Board of Directors is a dedicated group of community volunteers with a broad range of talents and professional backgrounds. They provide SFCASA with exceptional governance, fiscal oversight, compliance, and accountability.

Executive Committee

Lisa Pearson, Chair - Attorney

Aji Oliyide, Vice Chair - Program Manager,  Google

Jeffrey Davidson, Treasurer - Partner, Covington & Burling, LLP

James SanMarco, Secretary - Enterprise Account Manager, LinkedIn

Allison Eisenhardt, Chair Emeritus - Attorney and Former SFCASA Volunteer

Members

Laura Bisesto - Director of State Government Affairs, Oath, Inc.

Katy Hope - Former CASA Volunteer

Margaret Keane - Partner, DLA Piper US LLP

Elizabeth Foster Lippert - Partner, Bain & Company and Former SFCASA Volunteer

Brynly Llyr - General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, Ripple Labs, Inc.

Jennifer Young Perlman - Director, Social Impact, Pearson

Caroline Pham- Employment Lawyer, Baker McKenzie

Katherine Rockwell- Director, Public Sector- PanTheryx, Inc.

Lisa Spinali - Nonprofit Strategy Consultant

Sally Stocks - Senior Director, Invesco Real Estate

Jennifer Taylor - Head of Products, Cloudflare, Inc.

Vicki Valandra - Realtor, Zephyr Real Estate

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