Meet the CaRES Mentors & Specialists

Mentors and Specialists can help you by providing emotional support, sharing their experiences, and connecting you to regional and state resources.  They are experienced caregivers who are familiar with the supports and services available in your region. 
Mentors are generalists who can help all types of caregivers statewide find the resources and support they need for successful placements. Specialists can help caregivers by providing emotional support, sharing their experiences, and connecting them to resources.  They have an area of dedicated knowledge that may be especially important for a caregiver looking for understanding. 
Mentors and Specialists do not  offer legal, medical, or mental health advice.

Amanda Lawrence

CaRES Mentor: Region 2

Weird fact? Amanda has never lived outside of Washington State! She was born in Ellensburg and now currently resides with her family in Pasco. Amanda remembers growing up with a couple people in her family being foster parents and knew she wanted to be part of the fostering community when she grew up. She and her husband started as kinship caregivers and shortly after decided to get licensed. While Amanda has experience with a variety of ages, from working as a para-educator to parenting to being licensed 0-18, she excels with children who are 0-5 years old and getting them set up with much needed therapies and/or services (OT, PT, Speech, Preschool, Feeding Therapy, etc.). She and her husband currently have 4 daughters; 2 biological and 2 adopted through foster care.  Amanda has been involved in different aspects of the foster care community and loves making and building connections. There is so much to navigating the system from terminology to communication to support. Amanda has a passion for helping to make sure caregivers have the resources and support in their back pockets needed for them and their foster youth to thrive!

Amanda Merriman

CaRES Mentor: Region 6

Amanda and her husband have been foster parents since 2015. They have welcomed many children into their home and helped to facilitate successful reunification. Amanda strives to maintain supportive relationships with families during the course of their case and after reunification.  In doing so she has gained great perspective on the importance of nurturing relationships between biological families and their children. This became a passion of hers after the adoption of her daughter in 2020. She now hopes to use her experience to support fellow foster families in their journey through foster care.

April Burrer

CaRES Mentor: Region 1

April has been a licensed foster parent for 15 years. She has spent the last six years recruiting and supporting foster families. She enjoys encouraging caregivers and helping build caregiver support communities. She began her career working in child welfare as an intern for DCYF, getting a behind-the-scenes look at the dependency and foster care process (as well as heavy use of a copy machine!). April and her husband are nurturing a host of kiddos (bio, adopted, and foster).

Christina Urtasun

CaRES Mentor Region: All State

Christina has been a licensed foster parent, in Oak Harbor, for twenty years. She has been involved in many aspects of the foster care community including providing liaison services with Fostering Together program for 13 years and being a co-trainer with the Alliance for Child Welfare. Christina is excited to join the Alliance cAres program as a mentor so she can continue supporting and encouraging families as well as help them navigate the system. Christina has four sons and one daughter. In her spare time, Christina loves to be hiking, camping, reading, and spending time with her family.

Deshanna Brown

CaRES Mentor: Regions 3 & 4

Deshanna has been working in the Foster Care field in various roles for six-plus years. She has been a visit supervisor, a case manager, and is a current volunteer Child Appointed Advocate in Pierce county. Most recently, she worked at Amara as a Foster Care Specialist. Along with these roles within the system, she is also a kinship caregiver. Deshanna’s passion for working with children and families in foster care comes from her drive to help every child find permanency. She loves helping families find the resources they need to help a child in their home thrive and helping foster parents and kinship caregivers navigate the world of foster care. 

Dr. Emmanuel Camarillo

CaRES Specialist: Spanish Speaking Community

El Dr. Emmanuel Camarillo tiene un doctorado en Liderazgo Educacional de la Universidad de Washington Tacoma. Su investigación se centró en comprender la conexión entre la capacitación que reciben los padres de cuidado de crianza terapéuticos y la interrupción de la colocación de niños en los hogares de los padres de cuidado de crianza. Además, su investigación proporcionó recomendaciones a las agencias de cuidado de crianza que buscan retener a padres de cuidado de crianza calificados y aumentar la calidad y estabilidad de la experiencia de los niños en programas terapéuticos de cuidado de crianza. Antes de trabajar en bienestar infantil, Emmanuel  trabajó en la educación superior durante seis años. Emmanuel y su prometido, Francisco, han sido padres de cuidado de crianza durante los últimos tres años. Emmanuel ha sido voluntario en The Foster Closet en Bellingham desde 2018. También se desempeña como miembro de la junta directiva de Foster Hearts, una organización que se esfuerza por mejorar las vidas de los niños en cuidado de crianza, asegurando que cada niño tenga sus necesidades básicas satisfechas y brindando oportunidades para mejorar la vida. Más recientemente, Emmanuel fue seleccionado como representante de la Región 3 de 1624 para servir como enlace entre los proveedores cuidado y el Departamento de Ninos, Adolecentes y la Familia (DCYF).

Dr. Emmanuel Camarillo holds an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership from the University of Washington Tacoma. His research focused on understanding the connection between the training that therapeutic foster parents receive and placement disruption. In addition, his research provided recommendations to foster care agencies looking to retain skilled foster parents and increase the quality and stability of children’s experience in therapeutic foster care programs. Prior to working in child welfare, Emmanuel worked in higher education for six years. Emmanuel and his fiance Francisco have been foster parents for the last three years. He has volunteered at The Foster Closet in Bellingham since 2018. He also serves as a board member of Foster Hearts, an organization that strives to improve the lives of children in foster care, ensuring each child has their basic needs met and providing life-enhancing opportunities. Most recently, Emmanuel was selected as a 1624 Region 3 representative to serve as a liaison between caregivers and DCYF.

Francisco Javier Contreras Alvarez

CaRES Specialist: Spanish Speaking Community

Francisco tiene su licencia como padre de crianza. Francisco y su pareja han acogido a más de 13 niños y jóvenes en su hogar y actualmente están acogiendo a un niño de 14 años por aproximadamente 2 años. Francisco obtuvo su Licenciatura en Servicios Humanos y una especialización en español de la Western Washington University. Francisco actualmente ocupa el puesto de administrador de casos, lo que aporta habilidades y conocimientos al trabajar con y para las familias al brindarles apoyo y recursos para ayudarlos a alcanzar sus metas y satisfacer sus necesidades. Francisco también es voluntario del Foster Closet en Bellingham desde 2018 y se desempeña como miembro de la junta directiva de Fosters Hearts, una organización que se esfuerza por mejorar la vida de los niños en hogares de crianza, asegurando que cada niño tenga sus necesidades básicas satisfechas y brindando mejoras para la vida. oportunidades. A Francisco le apasiona apoyar y defender las comunidades marginadas y subrepresentadas donde las familias y los niños de estas comunidades pueden alcanzar su potencial proporcionando recursos para promover el conocimiento y la educación de la comunidad.

Francisco is currently a licensed foster parent. Francisco and his partner have fostered over 13 children and youth in their home and are currently fostering a 14 yr old boy for about 2 years now. Francisco obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services with a minor in Spanish from Western Washington University. Francisco currently holds the position as case manager which brings skills and knowledge working with and for families by supporting and providing sources to help them reach their goals and meet their needs. Francisco is also a volunteer for the Foster Closet in Bellingham since 2018 and serves as a board member of Fosters Hearts, an organization that strives to improve the lives of children in foster care, ensuring each child has their basic needs met and providing life-enhancing opportunities. Francisco is passionate about supporting and advocating for marginalized and underrepresented communities where families and children from these communities can reach their potential by providing resources to further the knowledge and education of the community.

Lisa Konick

CaRES Mentor: Region 4

Lisa Konick has been a foster parent for 21 years. During that time she has adopted four foster children. A graduate of the University of Washington, Lisa has been a caregiver co-trainer since 2011, and prior to that she was an educational advocacy trainer for Treehouse. Lisa is passionate about supporting, encouraging, and resourcing foster caregivers and kinship care providers across Washington state.

Mary Robinson

CaRES Mentor: Region 1

Mary has been a licensed foster parent for 12 years. Her fostering journey has opened up many opportunities for Mary to support and encourage foster parents. She served as an Assistant Recruitment Coordinator and Recruiter Peer Mentor (RPM) with FosteringWA for five years. She and her husband have three adult children and they have provided a home for countless others. Mary works part time at an alternative high school teaching reading.

Nancy Schrader

CaRES Mentor: Region 6

Nancy was first licensed as a foster parent in 1976 in Indiana. She has fostered around 50 children, six of whom she adopted through foster care. For 20 years, she worked for Washington state as a financial service specialist in the area of Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and food stamps and later for Children’s Administration as a home support specialist. She currently works as a co-trainer with the Alliance, a social service worker for the Office of Public Defense in Kitsap County, a volunteer CASA for Jefferson County and now a CaRES mentor. She also serves on the board of the Foster Parent Alliance of Washington State.

Nathan LaChine

CaRES Mentor: Region 5 & 6

Nathan has been a therapeutic foster parent with Community Youth Services serving BRS Youth for the past 16 years. He has held a variety of roles within the foster care community and has been a strong advocate within the LGBTQ2IA+ community. Through his teaching and public speaking, Nathan hopes to elevate and provide a voice for system involved families.

Raelyn Cook
Rae Cook 

CaRES Mentor: Region 3

Rae and her family have been a licensed foster and adoptive home for seven years, and were able to adopt their son in winter 2018. Rae began volunteering to speak on foster parent panels and with her local foster community groups. She was also able to be one of the original satellite families that formed a Mockingbird Family model in her area. She has dedicated herself to building a community of support to all foster families.

Rachael Turner
Racheal Turner

CaRES Mentor: Region 6

Racheal is from Port Angeles, WA. She is married with two biological children, two adopted children, and guardianship of one. She and her husband have been foster parents since 2007. They specialize in teenage foster children. She has a bachelor’s degree in business management, a master’s degree in teaching, and currently holds a teaching certificate in Washington State. She and her family enjoy racing, camping, hunting, fishing, and the outdoors.

Sarah Rachael Edwards-Strode

CaRES Mentor: Region 5 & Medically Complex

Sarah and her husband David have been licensed foster parents for nearly 15 years. Before changing her goals to pursuing an education in nursing, Sarah was a ballet director for 20 years. While originally the Strode’s were focused on caring for drug affected infants, their concentration morphed into a focus and advocacy for medically complex and medically fragile foster children. The Strode’s have 8 children. Two biological, four adopted through foster care, and currently two medically fragile foster children. Sarah has a passion for advocating for the unseen and unheard. She specializes in burn survivor care as well as caring for those with intellectual and chronic illnesses and diagnosis. Sarah is thrilled to be part of Alliance CaRES and working along side other families wanting to care for the medically complex foster child as well as those just starting their foster care journey.

Stephanie Reid

CaRES Mentor: Region 3

Stephanie and her family have been fostering since 2018 but were introduced to kinship care in 2014.  She has worked in communication for the last 15 years and holds a Bachelors degree in Social Science. She also worked in a foster care receiving shelter, as a volunteer grief group facilitator, and is active in advocacy for rare disease research and support. Stephanie has experience caring for medically fragile children, kinship care, transracial adoption, and child loss. As the wife of a retired veteran, she understands the ins and outs of military life. Stephanie is passionate about supporting children in the foster care system as well as their families and understands the value of foster parents being seen and heard members of the team.
Stephanie is a mother through biology, adoption, and foster care. Most of her free time is spent with her husband and four daughters.

Sylvia Cardenas

CaRES Specialist: Spanish Speaking Community

Sylvia obtuvo una Licenciatura en Ciencias de Administración de Empresas a través de Central State University. Ella ha vivido en el este de Washington toda su vida y disfruta de la gran variedad de actividades al aire libre. Sylvia y su esposo se convirtieron en Cuidadores Familiares en 2017. Esta experiencia encendió el fuego en ellos para hacer más y ambos decidieron convertirse en Padres de Crianza. A ella le apasiona ayudar a otras personas a comprender la necesidad de Padres de Crianza  en nuestras comunidades. Se dio cuenta de que había una necesidad de ayudar a las personas con dominio limitado del inglés que querían convertirse en padres de crianza. Fue entonces cuando comenzó a servir como Reclutadora/Mentora de Padres de Crianza para personas que solo hablan español o su ingles es limitado. Ella entiende que no todas las personas pueden convertirse en Padres de Crianza, pero siempre hay una manera de apoyar a nuestros niños en el cuidado de crianza.


Sylvia obtained a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration through Central State University.  She has lived in Eastern Washington all her life and really enjoys the large variety of outdoor activities. Sylvia and her husband became kinship caregivers in 2017.  This experience lit the fire in them to do more and both decided to become licensed foster parents. She has a passion for helping others understand the need for foster parents in our communities. She noticed there was a need to assist limited English speaking individuals who wanted to become foster parents. This is when she began to serve as a foster parent recruiter/mentor for monolingual Spanish speaking individuals. She understands not all individuals can become foster parents, but there is always a way to support our children in foster care.

Trey Rabun

CaRES Specialist: LGBTQAI+

Trey holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Hampton University, a master’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of Illinois, and a Master’s in Social Work from the University of Washington He has worked as a foster care social worker supporting youth in foster care and their caregivers, doing foster parent recruitment, and currently leads Amara’s efforts to create programming focused on supporting kinship families in the child welfare system. Trey also manages various LGBTQIA+ programs including a partnership with Gays with Kids and current member of DCYF’s LGBTQIA+ Advisory Group. Personally, Trey and his husband were foster parents for five years and have a 7-year-old adopted son.