Yasmine Delawari Johnson

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Co-President and Co-Founder

Born in Los Angeles, Yasmine runs a busy household with four children ranging from preschool to college. She and her husband Matt Johnson are active philanthropists and political activists. They were the Alliance for Children’s Rights 2015 National Champions for Children Honorees. Yasmine sits on the boards of The Alliance for Children's Rights and Youth Policy Institute. She was named as one of our city’s Game-Changers in Los Angeles Magazine’s “LA Woman” feature and holds a degree in Political Science from UCLA. Matt is an entertainment attorney and President of the Los Angeles Police Commission.

Yasmine and Matt have always viewed their role as parents as going beyond their biological family. Yasmine’s involvement with the Alliance for Children’s Rights began by volunteering in their offices while pregnant. The phone calls she fielded for the organization were a constant reminder of the life her baby would be born into, and how luck and geography determines such vast differences in children’s lives. Yasmine saw in her friends and Co-Founders a beautiful match for LA’s pregnant and parenting foster youth. Alliance of Moms has become a force of compassion in Los Angeles, with these foster girls and their babies at the center of our hearts.

 

JULES LEYSER                                                      

Co-President and Co-Founder

Jules moved to Los Angeles with her husband Crispin from their native England in 2003. Her mother and aunt spent most of their early childhood in foster care group homes. Jules’s mom was 18 when she had her brother and 20 years old when Jules was born.

After earning a degree in English from Trinity College, Oxford, Jules became an advertising executive in London and one of her clients was the charity Barnardo’s that helped kids at risk and historically ran orphanages throughout the UK. The award winning Barnardo’s advertising campaign focused around the tagline “Giving Children Back Their Future”. The sentiment of this tagline still resonates for Jules and speaks to the work and mission of the Alliance of Moms.

After advertising Jules then pursued a career in acting and writing. In October 2012 her son Felix was born and the incredible joy he brought alongside her own family history inspired her to devote her time to creating the Alliance of Moms with her friends and Co-Founders.

Jules hopes through her work with the Alliance of Moms to honor the people who helped her own mother navigate a childhood that involved abandonment and abuse by serving young people in similar circumstances in her newly adopted community of Los Angeles.

                                                                  

 

DANIKA CHARITY

Executive Director of Programs and Co-Founder

Born and raised in New Zealand, Danika left home at sixteen to begin a career in modeling. She split her time between Paris, Milan, Tokyo and New York until settling in Los Angeles in 2003, where she now lives with her husband and two children. After their first child was born in 2012, Danika became a doula, providing low income young women with pregnancy and childbirth support rarely offered to them. In 2014, she and Barbara Facher, who heads the Pregnant and Parenting Teen program for the Alliance for Children’s Rights, started a program to provide volunteer doulas to pregnant teens in foster care. Danika is also a childbirth educator and serves on the Cedars Sinai Doula Advisory Committee.

As the daughter of a single teenage mother, who herself spent a brief time in foster care, Danika grew up understanding the great challenges that young single parents face. By the age of 6 she had lived in 19 different places, including a home for disadvantaged women and children. While economic instability was very much a reality, Danika and her brother thrived because of their mother’s love and commitment to bettering their situation. She knows first hand the effect that access to resources and support can have on the lives of struggling women and children and, through her work with the Alliance of Moms, she is committed to growing that access to serve the nearly 500 pregnant and parenting teens in the Los Angeles area.

 

EMILY LYNCH

Co-Founder

Emily grew up in the Bay Area to schoolteacher parents who felt passionately about their work. In the last half of his teaching career, Emily’s dad taught at a continuation high school for teens who didn’t quite fit into a traditional high school setting. Many of these kids had behavioral problems or other issues with school, and many were young mothers. Emily’s father passed away in 2014. Emily sees her work with the Alliance of Moms as a tribute to her father and knows it would make him proud.

Emily spent five years working for her friend, Christian Louboutin, in his Los Angeles PR office. She is most proud of her work overseeing his charitable relationships. In 2010, Emily connected Christian Louboutin to the Grameen Foundation, an organization that helps the world’s poorest by providing access to financial services, and information on agriculture and health. Emily’s interest in global issues was also expressed when she produced the award winning documentary “We Came Home” alongside AOM co-founder Yasmine Delawari Johnson.

Emily and her husband, filmmaker David Lynch, have a daughter Lula. After giving birth Emily’s heart was cracked open in a new way and it became apparent that she could not focus solely on her own child’s needs, she recognized her desire to consider the needs of all of the children in her community. Emily is excited to bring other like-minded individuals together so they may share in the Alliance of Moms’ rewarding work.

 

KELLY ZAJFEN

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Co-Founder

Kelly Zajfen moved to Los Angeles to pursue her career in modeling. After 12 years stomping the runway, she took a detour to study Early Childhood Education. After volunteering as a tutor for homeless children, she decided to turn her passion into a career by studying social work and clinical psychology at USC. As Kelly began her studies, life gave her a big surprise: twins!

Kelly learned about the Alliance for Children’s Rights through her husband Julian’s law firm, Ziffren Brittenham. While she attended fundraisers and events, she always wanted to offer more hands-on help. Her enthusiasm sparked the fire that started the Alliance of Moms. 

As Creative Director and Co-Owner of “little minis” and mom to George and Lily, Kelly leads a busy life. Through her work at the Alliance of Moms, she hopes to model a life of philanthropy and kindness for her children so that they too will go on to support the next generation of families. 

 

TAYLOR NUNLEY

Administrative Assistant

Born in Woodland Hills, Taylor is a Vassar College graduate and aspiring screenwriter. She commuted all over Los Angeles for school growing up — from Compton to Inglewood to North Hollywood. In doing so, she developed a sense of the disparate educational opportunities in this country, most notably when moving from public to private school herself in seventh grade. As a way of giving back, she began volunteering at the Summer Enrichment Program (SEP) at Harvard-Westlake, the camp that introduced her to the school a few years prior. SEP is a free academic and extracurricular program for fourth and fifth graders under-represented at or unexposed to independent private schools. Taylor has volunteered nearly every summer since. 

In August 2012, she left California to attend Vassar College in New York. She graduated four years later with a degree in Film and Psychology, at which point she moved back to Los Angeles in the hopes of making it in the film industry. She is unsatisfied with the current opportunities for women — specifically women of color and queer women of color — in Hollywood, and therefore intends to create better ones. While pursuing that in her free time, she continues to give back to the community by working with the Alliance of Moms.

Taylor credits her mother and aunts with getting her to where she is today. 

 

Former Foster Youth Ambassadors

JESSICA CHANDLER

Jessica Chandler spent most of her adolescence bouncing between group homes and Juvenile Hall until she emancipated at age 18. Since then Jessica received her Bachelor's Degree in Psychology and Master's of Social Work from Cal State University Northridge. Jessica advocates for children and families in California's child welfare and juvenile justice systems. She sits on the Board of Education Coordinating Council (ECC), and previously served on the State Youth Council (SYC) as the Los Angeles County Ambassador for child welfare. Jessica worked with the Alliance for Children's Rights, a non-profit legal services agency, where she focused on serving pregnant and parenting teens in foster care, and testified about the needs of this population before the California Senate Human Services Committee. She is currently a social worker with the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, working with children and families navigating LA County's dependency and juvenile justice systems. Jessica is a proud supporter of the Alliance of Moms as a former teen mom who has disrupted the intergenerational cycle of entry into foster care with her own children and believes, for every foster youth, "it can end with you."

JUNELY MERWIN

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Junely Merwin, who entered the foster care system when she got pregnant at the age of 15, says, “Although I had my child young, he is not my obstacle, but my motivation.”

After being admitted into the Guardian Scholars program at Cal State Fullerton, Junely was provided a full ride scholarship. Today, Junely is pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services with a minor in Human Communications. She is a vocal advocate for improving the foster care system for teenage mothers. She has participated in panels and been featured in newspaper articles that support Senate Bill 528, which addresses issues faced by single mothers in foster care. Junely attended the first Raising Baby and shared her inspiring story with the young parents in attendance. With her dedication to serve the population she came from, Junely will continue to advocate and educate the child welfare system, social workers, lawyers and lobbyists on supporting pregnant and parenting foster youth. Junely’s role models are her mentor Mara Ziegler and Alliance of Moms.