The Office of the Child Advocate serves as the oversight agency to the Department of Children, Youth and Families. DCYF is the sole child welfare agency for the state of Rhode Island. They consist of numerous departments including but not limited to, Child Protective Services, Licensing, the Family Service Unit, Developmental Disability Unit, Child Support Unit, Juvenile Corrections, Juvenile Probation, Legal Department, Intake Unit, Monitoring Unit, Central Referral Unit, Children’s Behavioral Health Unit and the Contract Compliance Unit. The Office of the Child Advocate is responsible for monitoring the operation of each unit within the Department and must ensure their compliance with internal policies and protocols, state law and federal law. In addition, the OCA must continue to monitor overall issues and trends to ensure that each of these units are operating within the best practices of child welfare and to inform whether any systemic change is needed and necessary. This responsibility includes providing oversight to all employees and outside service providers, sub-contracted through DCYF.
Furthermore, the Office of the Child Advocate monitors each child open to DCYF, to protect the legal rights of children in State care and to promote policies and practices which ensure that children are safe, that children have permanent and stable families, and that children in out of home placements have their physical, mental, medical, educational, emotional, and behavioral needs met. The OCA has the right to meet with and speak to any child, regardless of their current placement, if the child is open to the Department. The OCA also has the right to intervene in any case to ensure that proper steps are being taken to secure the child’s health and safety. In addition, the OCA is responsible for monitoring each facility licensed by the Department of Children, Youth and Families in the State of Rhode Island including foster homes, day care providers, residential programs, out-of-state placement facilities and the Training School.
The mission of the Office of the Child Advocate is to protect the legal rights of children in State care and to promote policies and practices which ensure that children are safe, that children have permanent and stable families, and that children in out of home placements have their physical, mental, medical, educational, emotional, and behavioral needs met.
In compliance with our statutory mandate the OCA carries out the aforementioned responsibilities through the following mechanisms:
The Child Advocate
Jennifer Griffith, Esquire
Jennifer Griffith was appointed by Governor Gina Raimondo on March 17, 2016 and received the advice and consent of the Rhode Island State Senate on April 7, 2016 for a five-year term as the Child Advocate for the State of Rhode Island. She is a graduate of the College of the Holy Cross and Roger Williams School of Law. She is admitted to practice law in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and the United States Federal District Court of Rhode Island. Previously, she was a staff attorney at Rhode Island Legal Services for ten years handling all family law matters. She is a member of the Rhode Island Women’s Bar Association, the Executive Board of the Rhode Island Family Inn of Court, the Rhode Island Family Court Bench Bar Committee, the Rhode Island Children’s Cabinet, the Rhode Island Child Care Commission, the Rhode Island Child Support Advisory Committee, the Human Trafficking Task Force and the Rhode Island Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee.
Assistant Child Advocate
Katelyn Medeiros, Esquire
Katelyn has worked as the Staff Attorney III for the Office of The Child Advocate since May 2014. In February 2017, Ms. Medeiros was promoted to serve as the Assistant Child Advocate. Ms. Medeiros graduated summa cum laude from Rhode Island College in 2010 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Justice Studies and Sociology. She then pursued her Juris Doctorate at Roger Williams School of Law, graduating magna cum laude in 2013. In addition, she was a member of the Roger Williams School of the Law Honors Program. She was admitted to the Rhode Island and Massachusetts Bar in November 2013 and the U.S. District Court of Rhode Island in 2014. Ms. Medeiros first worked for the OCA from 2012-2013 as a Rule 9 Intern. She worked in private practice prior to her career with the OCA. Katelyn currently serves as a member of the Human Trafficking Task Force, the OCA Advisory Committee and the OCA Child Fatality Review Panel. Also, Ms. Medeiros serves as the program director for Project Victim Services for the Office of The Child Advocate, providing assistance to children who have been victims of abuse, trafficking or witnesses to domestic violence.
Staff Attorney III
Diana Robbins, Esquire
Ms. Robbins joined the OCA staff in May 2017 as the Staff Attorney and the Case Manager of the child victim compensation cases. She received her Bachelor of Arts & Sciences Degree in Political Science from the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. Ms. Robbins graduated cum laude from Roger Williams School of Law with her Juris Doctor in 2014. She was a member of Roger Williams School of Law’s Mediation Clinic. In addition, she worked for Rhode Island Legal Services for their Family Preservation project as a Rule 9 Intern and then as a volunteer Staff Attorney. She was admitted to the Rhode Island Bar and the Massachusetts Bar in 2014. Prior to joining the OCA, Ms. Robbins was a Staff Attorney for the Committee for Public Counsel Services in their Children and Family Law Division.
Special Projects Coordinator
Kathryn R. Cortes
Kathryn Cortes has been with the OCA since 2007. Kathryn is currently the Special Projects Coordinator and is a certified Child Forensic Interviewer. Kathryn also holds numerous certifications including but not limited to: Conducting Child Abuse Investigations, Child Death Investigations, Current Drug Trends, Youth Trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences, Sexual Offenses Mind & Motivation, Grooming Behaviors and Often Counter- Intuitive Behaviors of Child-Victims. Kathryn previously served as a Senior Monitoring & Evaluation Specialist for the OCA from 2013-2017 and as the Chief Field Investigator for the OCA from 2007 to 2013, until her promotions in 2013 and 2017 respectively. Kathryn has a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice/Juvenile Justice from Salve Regina University located in Newport, RI. Prior to joining the OCA staff in 2007, Kathryn began working as a Senior Residential Counselor in 1997 at Child & Family Services of Newport County in Newport RI. There, Kathryn worked to maintain a safe and therapeutic living environment for boys ages 6 through 12, which provided a structured program that promoted daily life skills, mental health services, and educational skills for the boys. Following her six (6) years at Child & Family Services, Kathryn moved onto Civigenics, Inc. in Marlborough, MA where she spent four (4) years as the Program Director of a therapeutic milieu program located in the Rhode Island Training School for Youth (RITS).
Kathryn remains an involved member of both the professional and personal community in RI. Her positions include: serving as a Member of the Rhode Island Child Death Review Team, Member of the Multi-Disciplinary Team at Hasbro Children's Hospital/Aubin Child Protection Center, Former Executive Board Member of the RI Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Former Legislative Field Advocate for AFSP.
Senior Planning and Program Development Specialist
Jacqueline Sanchez is currently the Senior Planning & Program Development Specialist at the Office of The Child Advocate (OCA). Jaqueline has a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from Rhode Island College. Prior to joining the OCA staff in 2017, Jacqueline worked as a Juvenile Program Worker (JPW) at the Rhode Island Training School for Youth (RITS) from 2007-2017. There, Jaqueline worked to provide the custody, supervision and security of detained youths, including assisting in the rehabilitation, education, treatment, care and control of the residents. Jacqueline is serving as a Member of the Rhode Island Child Death Review Team, a Member of the Human Trafficking Task Force, and a Member of the Multi-Disciplinary Team at Hasbro Children’s Hospital/Aubin Child Protection Center. Jacqueline recently received her certification of Forensic Interviewing of Children in July 2017.
Senior Planning and Program Development Specialist
Jimmy Vilayvanh is currently one of our Senior Planning and Program Development Specialists at the OCA. Prior to Joining the OCA Staff in October of 2018, he worked for the Department of Children Youth & Families (DCYF) in Juvenile Probation. There, Jimmy worked closely with pre-adjudicated youth involved in the family court system providing supervision for young men and women on home confinement with electronic monitoring. Prior to working for DCYF, Jimmy was also a Program Director for Outreach and Tracking at Tides Family Services for 7 years. His primary responsibility was to oversee the relationship with Tides Family Services and the Rhode Island Training School (RITS). There, he assisted with transition planning for youth to re-enter back into the community. The focus of the program was to assist youth to meet their conditions of Juvenile Probation while focusing on their educational needs, mental health services and daily life skills. Jimmy remains an involved member of the Rhode Island Child Death Review Team, Multi-Disciplinary Team at Hasbro Children's Hospital/Aubin Child Protection Center, The Continuity of Care group and the Coalition to support Rhode Island Youth. Jimmy is certified in Youth Mental Health First Aid and has completed training on Implementing an Effective Multidisciplinary Team Response to Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children.
Public Education and Information Coordinator
Kara A. Foley, MSW
Kara Foley is the Public Education and Information Coordinator at the OCA. Ms. Foley has a Master of Social Work Degree with a Macro Concentration from Rhode Island College and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology with a minor in Psychology from Simmons University. She also completed a policy fellowship through The Women's Fund of Rhode Island's Women's Policy Institute in 2012. Prior to joining the OCA staff in 2019, Ms. Foley served as a Policy Analyst at Rhode Island KIDS COUNT where she was responsible for policy analysis, research, and writing on issues related to child welfare, child abuse and neglect, children in care of DYCF, adoption and permanency, youth involved in the juvenile justice system, youth referred to Rhode Island Family Court, youth at the Rhode Island Training School, alternatives to incarceration, and others. Prior to her role with Rhode Island KIDS COUNT, Ms. Foley was the Community Program Consultant for Adoption Rhode Island where she worked on foster care and adoption programming, research, development, and community outreach, and worked for the Providence VA Medical Center as a Research Health Science Specialist. Ms. Foley was instrumental in the passage of legislation to grant adult adoptees born in Rhode Island access to non-certified copies of original birth certificates at the age of 25. Ms. Foley serves as a member of the OCA Advisory Committee, a member of the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) Steering Committee, a member of the Community Engagement and Education and Employment subcommittees of the Coalition to Support Rhode Island Youth, a member of the American Adoption Congress, and for more than nine years has volunteered as a guest speaker at foster/adoptive parent licensing trainings.
Taylor Camirand joined the OCA in August 2020 as the Confidential Secretary to the Child Advocate. Taylor received a bachelor's degree in Psychology in 2016 from the University of New Hampshire. Before joining the OCA staff, Taylor worked as a case manager for the foster care program at North American Family Institute (NAFI) from 2017 to 2020. There, she worked directly with children and families to help plan for and provide therapeutic foster care treatment. Prior to her experience at NAFI, Taylor worked at the Groden Center, a school for children with autism, as both a behavioral specialist and the school's secretary. Taylor has experience working with a multitude of populations within Rhode Island's child welfare system. In her current role as Confidential Secretary at the OCA, Taylor works directly with the Child Advocate and Assistant Child Advocate to ensure daily office tasks are completed.