Cristin DeRonja, M.Ed, LPC, NCC
Cristin, who has been SAFEchild’s executive director since 2015, has served many roles in her 14 years with the organization, including working with first-time moms as a mentor for SAFEchild’s Welcome Baby program and drawing upon her family systems training as a program facilitator for several SAFEchild parenting groups, including the Nurturing Program and PLUS. A mom of four, Cristin’s passion is working with families. She believes that “the more members of a family you touch, the bigger impact you have.” One of her most treasured roles is presenting the Funny Tummy Feelings program in schools to first graders. “Teaching children how to keep their bodies safe by establishing clear personal boundaries is one of the most important lessons we can teach our children,” says Cristin.
Cristin values her connections with professionals from multiple disciplines (physicians, district attorney’s office prosecutors, law enforcement detectives, social workers, mental health clinicians, and school personnel) who collaborate to support parents and children needing SAFEchild Advocacy Center services. “Our Multidisciplinary Team is dramatic proof that a small group of people banding together on behalf of children and families can and do make an incredible and life-changing difference,” she says.
A Raleigh native, Cristin received her bachelor’s degree in education and psychology from Vanderbilt University and her master’s in education and counseling at NC State.
As SAFEchild’s office manager since 1996, Linda is the glue that holds the agency together. She has been able to satisfy her creative and analytical sides by doing whatever needs to be done to make things run smoothly. Linda was previously office manager for Evergreen Legal Services in Seattle. She moved to be near her family and loves the variety the office manger position offers. At SAFEchild, she likes “knowing we are doing something good for people.”
Gretchen Walters, MA
Crianza Con Carino Program Coordinator
Gemimah Kerner, MA, CSAC, QPE
Gemimah works in all corners of the county to reach Hispanic/Latino families and bring them the support they need. She earned her bachelor’s degree in economics and business administration from Havana University in Cuba and holds a master’s in theology and counseling from Costa Rica University. Since coming to the United States in 1992, Gemimah has worked extensively in substance abuse assessment and treatment. She joined the SAFEchild staff in 1999. “I help my families understand why they are how they are,” she says. “And I help them know they can change.”
Crianza Con Carino Program Assistant
Funny Tummy Feelings Program Coordinator
After serving for nine years as a Funny Tummy Feelings volunteer, Elizabeth was hired in 2016 to coordinate the Funny Tummy Feelings program. She has more than 20 years of experience working in public relations, communications and program management, and holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from East Carolina University and a Ducktorate Degree from Disney University. A mom of two, Elizabeth is a proud past member of the Postpartum Education and Support Board of Directors.
MOVE and MENS Program Coordinator
Stacey Sullivan, MSW, LCSW
Stacey came to SAFEchild in 1997 as coordinator of the MENS (Men Engaged in Nurturing Strategies) program. She works with fathers who have been convicted of domestic violence and are returning to their families. A licensed clinical social worker, Stacey has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Furman University and a master’s in social work from UNC Chapel Hill. Before joining SAFEchild, she was a family therapist for eight years. As a mom of three, Stacey understands that “parenting is a huge challenge for all of us. I teach other parents to be better parents – and always learn something myself!”
Nurturing Program Coordinator
Ginna Bustle, MSW, LCSW
Ginna Bustle joined SAFEchild in 2000. As with so many SAFEchild staff members, she came to the organization as a volunteer and stayed. As the Nurturing Program coordinator and SAFEchild’s volunteer contact, Ginna works with families, children and volunteers to coordinate the agency’s 12-week family education programs.
A mom of three, Ginna earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from Boston University. Before coming to Raleigh, she worked with Child Protective Services in Boston and as an in-home therapist with Family Preservation. Ginna enjoys breaking down the barriers that exist when new families join the program.
PLUS Program Coordinator
Ginger Espino, MSW
PLUS (Parents: Learning, Understanding, Sharing) program coordinator Ginger Espino has been a staff member and volunteer since 1998, working with Funny Tummy Feelings, the MENS program, various support groups and the speakers’ bureau. A former mental health therapist practicing individual and family therapy in South Carolina and more recently in Raleigh, Ginger has two children. She earned her bachelor’s in psychology from Wake Forest University and her master’s in social work from the University of South Carolina. Ginger says that the families she works with at SAFEchild have enriched her life. “Seeing them overcome adversity, meet obstacles with a smile, and be willing to try new ideas is thrilling every time,” she says. “We parents are all so different, but there are universal truths in parenting and our children are the same in so many ways.”
Welcome Baby Program Coordinator
Michelle Putterman, RN, PHN
Michelle joined SAFEchild in 1995 as program coordinator for Welcome Baby, which pairs experienced moms with first-time moms for a year of in-home visits and special sharing time. She earned her bachelor of arts from Sarah Lawrence College and her bachelor of science in nursing from Cornell University. Michelle is a mom of four. Her work with Welcome Baby never pales, according to Michelle, because “there is always a new story – someone you connect with, a volunteer who inspires you, a staff member who supports you.”
SAFEchild Advocacy Center Staff
Elizabeth Witman, MD
Child Abuse Evaluation Specialist
Leigh Howell, MSSW
Leigh joined the SAFEchild team in 2015. She was born and raised in Clemson, South Carolina. She earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Clemson University. After serving as a volunteer for CityYear Louisiana, she earned her master’s of science in social work (MSSW) from the University of Tennessee. She was previously a Guardian ad Litem and a child protective services case worker.
Child and Family Advocate
Julie Theriault, MA
Julie became part of the SAFEchild family in 2010 when the Advocacy Center opened. Originally from Boston, Julie prefers the warmer North Carolina weather to the freezing New England snow. Julie left SAFEchild in 2013 to receive her master’s in counseling from North Carolina Central University. She and her husband, who is also a New England native, were blessed with the birth of their first child in 2014. Now back at SAFEchild, Julie is inspired every day by the positive change that can come from the smallest of interactions with a child. On top of working full time, Julie is also in school at Regent University, working toward her master’s in business administration.
Medical Evaluation Coordinator
Monica Wilfong, RN, FNP-C
An Illinois native, Monica moved to Raleigh with her husband and two daughters 11 years ago in search of a warmer climate. Monica graduated from Northern Illinois University with a bachelor of science in nursing and from the University of Illinois, Chicago with a master of science in Public Health Nursing: Family Nurse Practitioner. She worked many years as a family nurse practitioner serving families in the outpatient clinic setting. Monica volunteered at the Advocacy Center before joining the SAFEchild staff. She is grateful to be part of such a wonderful organization that positively impacts the lives of children, families and the Raleigh community.
Program and Team Coordinator
Tiffany Hampton, MA
Tiffany, who joined the SAFEchild staff in 2015, is both the coordinator of the SAFEchild Advocacy Center and a forensic interviewer for the center. She holds a bachelor’s degree from East Carolina University and a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Counseling from Liberty University. Tiffany has a background in child protective services, and has worked with families and children for over eight years. She is also a certified life coach and has a small practice in Willow Spring. She is a mom of three.