Cristin DeRonja, M.Ed, LPC, NCC, CPE-1
Cristin DeRonja draws on her diverse roles with SAFEchild, impressive credentials, and dynamic personality as the Executive Director. As the mother of four, she certainly has personal experiences that fuel her passion of working with families. Cristin formerly utilized her skills and expertise through working one on one with parents as a new mother mentor for SAFEchild’s Welcome Baby program and by drawing upon her family systems training as a program facilitator for several SAFEchild parenting groups, including the Nurturing Program and PLUS. “The more members of a family you touch, the bigger impact you have,” Cristin believes. Presenting the Funny Tummy Feelings program is one of her most treasured SAFEchild roles. While firmly believing that adults are primarily responsible for protecting children, she says “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.”
A Raleigh native, Cristin received her undergraduate degree in education and psychology from Vanderbilt University and her Master’s in Education and Counseling at NCSU. 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 who need 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.
Nurturing Program Coordinator
Ginna Bustle, MSW, LCSW, CPE-1
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. The mother of three children, Ginna earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work from Boston University. Prior to 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.
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. She 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.
PLUS Program Coordinator
Ginger Espino, MSW, CPE-1
PLUS program coordinator Ginger Espino has been a member of the staff and a 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 BA in psychology from Wake Forest University and her master’s in social work at the University of South Carolina. The families she works with at SAFEchild have enriched her life, according to Ginger. “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 the same in so many ways.”
Fostering Family Success Program Coordinator
Laura Goulian, LCSW
Laura began her relationship with SAFEchild in 2003 as a volunteer in the Nurturing Program. After a break of several years, Laura returned to SAFEchild in 2011 to volunteer with the MENS and MOVE groups. A firm believer in SAFEchild’s model of nurturing the parent to improve the child’s life, Laura now applies all she’s learned to a fledgling program, coordinating a collaborative effort between SAFEchild and other local agencies serving young adults aging out of foster care who have children of their own. An Asheville native, Laura holds an undergraduate degree in English from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a masters in social work from Catholic University in Washington, D.C. Prior to starting her own family Laura was a foster care case worker in Washington, D.C.
Child Abuse Evaluation Specialist
Leigh Howell, MSSW
Leigh Howell joined the SAFEchild team in 2015 as the full-time Child Abuse Evaluation Specialist for the SAFEchild Advocacy Center. Leigh was born and raised in Clemson, South Carolina. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Clemson University in 2010. After serving as a volunteer for CityYear Louisiana, she earned her Master of Science degree in Social Work (MSSW) from the University of Tennessee in 2013. After working as a Guardian ad Litem and a CPS case worker, Leigh has found her new home here in North Carolina at SAFEchild.
Development and Marketing Coordinator
Spencer Menzel, MA
Spencer Menzel serves as the Development and Marketing Coordinator for SAFEchild. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in History from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Master of Management Studies degree from Duke University, The Fuqua School of Business. Prior to her joining SAFEchild in 2014, Spencer served as the Program Coordinator for Young Alumni at the Duke University Annual Fund, where she honed her skills in volunteer management, social media marketing, and fundraising as part of a $35 million dollar Annual Fund. She is so fortunate to be a part of such an amazing organization.
Welcome Baby Program Coordinator
Michelle Putterman, RN, BSN, NCPen1
Michelle Putterman 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 also the mother of four children. 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’s office manager is the glue that holds the agency together. Since 1996, Linda Raynor has been able to satisfy her creative and analytical sides by doing whatever needs to be done to make the agency run smoothly. Prior to coming to Raleigh, Linda was office manager for Evergreen Legal Services in Seattle. She moved to be near her family and loves the variety the office manger position offers. “I like knowing we are doing something good for people,” she says. “The kids are great.”
Crianza Con Carino Program Coordinator
Gemimah Rodriguez, MA, CPE-1
As the coordinator for Crianza Con Carino, Gemimah Rodriguez 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. In 1999, she joined the staff of SAFEchild. “I help my families understand why they are how they are,” she says. “And I help them know they can change.”
MOVE and MENS Program Coordinator
Stacey Sullivan, MSW, LCSW, CPE-1
Stacey Sullivan came to SAFEchild in 1997 as coordinator of the MENS program – Men Engaged in Nurturing Strategies. 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 degree in psychology from Furman University and a master’s in social work from UNC-CH. Prior to joining SAFEchild, she was a family therapist for eight years. She has three children. “Parenting is a huge challenge for all of us,” she says. “I teach other parents to be better parents – and always learn something myself!”
Child and Family Advocate
Julie Theriault, M.A.
Julie joined the SAFEchild family in 2010 when the Advocacy Center first opened. Originally from Boston, MA, Julie prefers the warmer NC weather to the freezing New England snow. Julie left SAFEchild in 2013 to receive her Master’s in Counseling from North Carolina Central University. Her 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 everyday 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 MBA.
Medical Evaluation Coordinator
Monica Wilfong, RN, FNP-C
Monica Wilfong is happy to be a part of SAFEchild as the Medical Evaluation Coordinator for the Advocacy Center. An Illinois native, Monica moved to Raleigh with her husband and 2 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 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. Prior to joining the staff, Monica volunteered at the Advocacy Center. Monica is grateful to be a part of such a wonderful organization that positively impacts the lives of children, families and the Raleigh community.