Sara Kobylenski, Chair
Upper Valley Haven
Sara Kobylenski, MSW, is the Executive Director of The Upper Valley Haven, Inc, a not for profit organization that provides shelter for families and adults without children who are homeless, and food, clothing and educational services to any in need in the greater Upper Valley community. Prior to this position, Sara spent five years in state government in Vermont experiencing the strengths and weaknesses of the public child welfare system. This followed 20 years as Division Director for Casey Family Services, and fifteen years before that in a number of child welfare agencies. Sara has collaborated with attorneys on behalf of families and children from the beginning of her career and worked on behalf of children and families in other venues such as serving on the Vermont Supreme Court Justice for Children Task Force, the Vermont Supreme Court Family Rules Committee, Alice Peck Day Memorial Hospital Board, Upper Valley United Way Board and Hartland School Board, among other enterprises.
Maryann Zavez, Secretary
South Royalton Legal Clinic
Maryann Zavez is a professor of law at Vermont Law School and a practicing attorney in the law school's South Royalton Legal Clinic. She has been at the Clinic since 1990 and practices extensively in family court with her students, including representing parents and children in child welfare cases. Prior to working at Vermont Law School, she worked for two years as an attorney with the State's Juvenile Defender's Office representing children in custody. Maryann also teaches a family law course in the law school's General Practice Program and directs a Clinic project that provides legal consultations to women inmates at the Northwest State Correctional Facility who have pending family court cases. Maryann has a Master's Degree in Special Education and taught in special education programs for three years and has a particular interest in interdisciplinary learning. She helped implement a pilot lawyer/social worker collaboration with the University of Vermont and Casey Family Services based in the South Royalton Legal Clinic during the 2002-2003 academic year.
Stephen Habif, Treasurer
Steve Habif had a 30 year career at IBM in a variety of Financial and Program Management positions. From 2001 through April 2009, he was Executive Director of the Vermont Children's Aid Society, a 90-year non-profit child welfare agency which believes that children grow best in their families. Steve was active in the development of programs which supported the preservation of families through a variety of services from Child and Family Counseling; Adoption and Post Adoption Counseling; to Kids-A-Part, a program to help inmates and their families stay together both during and after incarceration.
Lane Dunn is an attorney in private practice who has spent many years as a legal advocate at Women Helping Battered Women in Burlington, Vermont. Over the years Lane has represented many abused women as well as the disadvantaged who could not afford an "expensive" lawyer. She was also the legal technical assistant for the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.
Vermont Legal Aid, Inc.
Kirstin Schoonover has been a lawyer since 1994. She has worked as a public defender in both Washington and Vermont State. She has represented parents in child protection cases promoting family reunification, and juveniles charged in criminal court. Kirstin also worked as an assistant Attorney General, representing the Department for Children and Families in the termination of Parental Rights appeals. Kirstin is now working at Vermont Legal Aid in their Poverty Law project helping individuals and families with legal issues that arise due to poverty, representing indigent people in obtaining benefits, including Reach UP, Social Security and unemployment benefits. She also assists women who are victims of domestic assault. She continues to advocate for promoting stability for families and access to services for those in need.
Jude Dolan has worked both in the profit and not-for-profit sectors including business and retail management, journalism, human resources, organizational development and training, computers, and human services. For the past 20 years, Jude has been engaged entirely in the non-profit arena, working as a human resources professional and, more currently, as the Executive Director of Stepping Stone, an agency providing peer supports to individuals with mental health issues. In her personal life, she has been a single adoptive/foster parent through Casey Family Services and DCF for the past 20 years. While rearing her five children, some of whom have severe emotional issues and learning disabilities, she has learned first hand various aspects of DCF, both positive and negative. She brings with her a wealth of interesting parenting experience within the child welfare system.
Willa Nohl took to heart “The Strengths Perspective in Social Work” when, in her early forties, she earned her MSW at UVM in the mid 90’s. Her academic focus was on children and families, and her first-year field placement was with DCF (then SRS). After completing her degree she and her husband undertook a new business venture together, but she yearned to apply what she had learned at UVM. And so, from 2003 to 2007, Willa worked for Northeastern Family Institute and then Easter Seals, both contracted by DCF for their services in Vermont’s child protection system. During that time, she had opportunities to experience the clear benefits of working with parents and children from a strengths perspective in social work; unfortunately, more often than not she found herself enmeshed in a system founded on policies designed to judge and blame parents, to the detriment of their children. In VPRC’s mission and goals Willa recognizes the profound value of the fair treatment and support this organization offers parents involved with DCF. Her commitment as a Board member reflects the resolute understanding she shares with VPRC that what is good for parents is what is in the best interests of their children as well.
Lynda Schoenbeck was initially on the Board, then became VPRC’s Social Worker. When funding ran out, Lynda came back on the Board because she strongly believes in VPRC’s mission. Lynda has spent most of her social work career working in the human services public sector, in both Vermont and Virginia. The majority of that time was spent in the Vermont child protection system as a direct line social worker, a supervisor and a manager. She believes that best approaches in child protection work begin with collaborative and supportive relationships with parents. Lynda also has a strong clinical background and provides private psychotherapeutic services to adults of all ages.
Katherine Bielawa Stamper
Katherine serves as Development Director at Laraway Youth & Family Services where she coordinates public relations, marketing, fundraising and alumni outreach. She planned and executed Laraway’s successful capital campaign. She brings experience as an advocate, legislative liaison, grant consultant, and freelance writer. She serves on the faculty of the Community College of Vermont and has presented at foster care and higher education conferences.