KERRY BUZZELL MARTIN

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Director

Kerry was born and raised in San Pedro, California. Both parents attended UCLA and were civil servants in Los Angeles. At an early age, Kerry was exposed to the inequalities in our community and was always encouraged to help underserved Angelinos.

After earning a B.A. in Psychology and an M.A. in Education, Kerry began her career as a LAUSD teacher. She taught throughout Los Angeles in the public and independent school systems. She then transitioned to marketing, brand association and business development work with numerous women's athleisure brands. After the birth of her daughter, Elle, Kerry knew that she wanted to utilize her professional talents to help mothers and children in Los Angeles who might not have the resources to find success. 

Kerry's unique professional history combines her connection to youth in Los Angeles with a strong marketing background focused on women, and has prepared her to lead the Alliance of Moms. She looks forward to continuing programs that support parenting teens in foster care in Los Angeles, while also creating awareness and compassion for this often overlooked community.

YASMINE DELAWARI JOHNSON

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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 one a Los Angeles Game-Changer by Los Angeles Magazine 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. Through her work, Alliance of Moms has become a force of compassion in Los Angeles, with young mothers and their babies at its center.    

 

JULES LEYSER

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. One of her clients, the charity Barnardo’s, helped kids at risk and operated orphanages throughout the UK; their award-winning advertising campaign was based on the theme “Giving Children Back Their Future”. The sentiment of that theme still resonates for Jules and speaks to the work and mission of the Alliance of Moms.

After advertising, Jules 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.

 

EMILY LYNCH

Co-Founder

Emily grew up in the Bay Area with 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 also gained expression 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 she realized her desire to address the needs of all of the children in her community, not just her own child's needs. Emily is excited to bring other like-minded individuals together so they may share in the Alliance of Moms’ rewarding work.

 

DANIKA CHARITY

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 available to them. In 2014, she and Barbara Facher, who heads the expectant and parenting teen program at 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. 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.

 

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. 

 

MARANDA EASTON

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Administrative Assistant

After growing up in Los Angeles, Maranda moved to the North Shore of Boston to pursue a BA in Social Work at Gordon College. There she became involved with the Office of Community Engagement and led a middle school mentoring and dialogue program. In discussions on topics ranging from environmental conservation to racism, she was inspired by the middle schoolers’ collaborative spirit and passion for justice in their communities. She also spent time interning at a juvenile court probation department, where she implemented and evaluated programs aimed at lessening recidivism, ensuring home and school placement stability, and encouraging healthy social engagement for youth involved in both the foster care and court systems.

Through these experiences, Maranda has come to understand the importance of early learning and access to resources. She is excited about working directly with youth by contributing to the educational programs that Alliance of Moms offers to young moms in foster care.

One day, Maranda hopes to work in public policy to continue combatting injustice.

 

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 earned her BA in Psychology and MSW from Cal State University, Northridge. Today, 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, 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 the LA County 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 that 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 news coverage of policy issues, including Senate Bill 528, addressing issues faced by single mothers in foster care. Junely attended the first Raising Baby event and shared her inspiring story with the young parents in attendance. With her dedication to serving pregnant and parenting youth in foster care, Junely continues to advocate and educate the child welfare community, including social workers, attorneys and policy influencers about how best to support young families. Junely’s role models are her mentor Mara Ziegler and Alliance of Moms.