In the Big World Of Courts and Controls
Children's Voices are small

Case Manager

Our Staff

Educational Advocate

General Counsel

Director of Legal Services

Vincent Guarnieri, MC


Donnalee Sarda, LPC

  • Protect children from ongoing abuse or criminal mistreatment in their homes
  • Ensure children receive the rights to which they are entitled
  • Assist adult and child victims of family violence in Relearning Relationships©, healing the family unit
  • Identify and address inadequacies in the child protection and legal systems as they come to our attention
  • Bring about beneficial changes in those systems by encouraging positive changes in guidelines, protocols, and laws to ensure the safety and well-being of children
  • Conduct educational trainings for the community and professionals involved in child protection, welfare and children’s legal issues
  • Ensure safety in all areas of children’s lives, where they live and where they congregate: family situations, school playgrounds, internet chat rooms, etc.


Defenders of Children delivers services and employs without regard for race, religion, color, sex, age, marital status, disability, citizenship, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or national origin. If you believe you have been discriminated against, please email our Civil Rights Contact, at for assistance.

Johanna Fierstein

Read our book:

Child Advocacy 101

Director of Behavioral Health Services

Nina Edidin, Esq.

In addition to working with client families, the staff liaisons with other non-profit organizations, such as residential treatment centers, along with state and county officials concerned with children's welfare. Defenders of Children works with families to provide information and referrals, and  social services including trauma-informed, free counseling for victims. Defenders offers legal services for client-families that meet our criteria,  and possible forensic and expert witness services when children and their families have exhausted available resources through public service groups, and yet the children still remain at risk (see Family or Legal Services). Defenders of Children also interfaces as needed with such agencies as the Attorney General’s Office, AZ State Bar, Family and Juvenile Courts, the Department of Child Safety (DCS formerly CPS), and State Legislators.

Defenders of Children may provide family support such as mediation, supervision, therapeutic intervention (aka reunification) and education advocacy with our own in-house team of qualified professionals when there is a compelling evidence that a child is at risk or family finances are exhausted.

Our Board of Directors

Executive Director

Pat O'Connell

About Defenders of Children

Glenda Carlon

Advisory Council

Carol A. Jacobson
Family PhysicianClaire Bowey, MD

Educational Consultants

Tamara Ballou
Paige Frankel-Mollen

Consulting Attorneys

David M. Lujan, Esq.

MembersShelley Adams

Jami Cornish, Esq.

Child Advocacy 101

Defenders of Children Goals

Board Chair
John McAlister
Acting Secretary

Donnalee Sarda, LPC

Acting Treasurer
Joanne McDonald

Members at Large

​Annette Heasman, R.N.

Paul Beljan, Psy.D.

Linda Kaplan

Marci White

Morgan Tucker

Penny Willrich, ESQ

Tracey Leonard, ESQ

Sue Ann Springer

This project is supported in part by Grant No. 2016-VA-GX-0046 from the US Department of Justice-Office for Victims of Crime. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication/program/exhibition are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the US DOJ or the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

Helpline Advocate