Elisa Andrade

Regional Organizing Director - Salem/Keizer
Elisa@familyforward.org

As a first generation immigrant once undocumented, coming to this work in the darkest hours of health, motherhood and a demanding professional transition, I understand the adversity my community and those like me face. I want to make the changes that I and my community need to not only survive but thrive and have economic stability.

Family Forward has provided a supportive organic environment to have the freedom to envision solutions to how things could be for mothers and caregivers like me. Providing services to those in need helps them for a day and has its rewards; but learning and leading advocacy and systems change transforms people's lives and of those generations to follow. I must make a systemic difference towards a better equitable reality for mothers and caregivers, this would not be possible for me if I was not here.

It is amazing to look at all that has been accomplished and yet that is all that has been accomplished. Systemic support for mothers and caregivers needs to be further along, it is time to make sure we advance at the speed that caregiving demands it to be, because care can't and does not wait - as the pandemic showed us.

Sharon Bernstein

Deputy Director of Program Alignment
Sharon@familyforward.org

When I had my first baby, I experienced how motherhood comes with economic barriers. I got more and more angry as I learned about how the lack of value for care in our society has a devastating effect on women’s, mothers’ and caregivers’ economic security.

I found some other struggling and exasperated mothers, and we started organizing. We learned that the system was bigger and more powerful than we had realized, but also that we could make a real difference. So we committed ourselves to building an organization that would center mothers and caregiving in the larger fight for racial, gender, economic and reproductive justice.

I have worn many many hats in my years with this organization. The work never ends but I am here because of our bold vision, the amazing people I work with, and the incredible progress we’ve made together.

Delina Biniam

Advocacy Manager
Delina@familyforward.org

Growing up, it was normal to only see my parents for maybe a couple of hours throughout the day. My mom worked nights and slept during the day, while my dad worked all day and would find himself too exhausted to take care of himself, but still used whatever remaining energy to make my sister and me a meal. When I wasn’t at school, I was helping around the house and taking care of my little sister. This is the reality for a lot of immigrant families, and it forces children to grow up at such an early age. With the skills that I carry and the life experiences that I have, I’m eager to help families new to the country be better supported in their work/family life balance.

Family Forward has shown me that they value and care for all families no matter what they look like or where they come from. My values and beliefs as a Black woman in the US are mirrored through the work that Family Forward does for communities in need, whether it's through their policy work, community organizing, or getting the champions we need to push for change.

We are currently in unprecedented territory when it comes to the overall state of our federal systems — from Roe v Wade being overturned, to threats of cutting federal funding for important child care programs. With capitalism still being a priority in this country over the needs of working families, it is up to organizations like ours to fight for care, not coin (unless that coin is for care). I’m excited to be a part of an organization that I know has the fighting power to enact change.

Kaitlin Gaffney

Development Director
Kaitlin@famiyforward.org

I first developed a passion for advocacy in college, fighting for human rights and reproductive freedom. My determination to create social change and my commitment to gender, racial, and economic justice led me to a career in organizing, candidate campaign work, and public service. But when I became a mother, I struggled to maintain a career, provide for my family, and pay for child care. Frustrated, overwhelmed, and isolated, I went looking for solutions.

That’s when I found Family Forward, an organization that understood my struggles and was fighting to build an equitable system and improve the lives and outcomes of ALL mothers and caregivers.

For too long, our county has relied on the free or underpaid labor of women, particularly women of color, to care for our children and families. The pandemic opened many people’s eyes to how critical our care economy is but we still have a long way to go in the fight to achieve the equitable systems that mothers and caregivers need to thrive. I’m proud to be fighting this fight with Family Forward.

Regan Gray

Child Care Policy Advisor
Regan@familyforward.org

My quest for equity, fairness, & justice began as a child. My personal experiences with sexism fueled my desire to learn more about systems of oppression and how to dismantle them. After earning my Women’s Studies/Political Science degree, I brought that knowledge to a career in public policy and state level politics. Over the past 20 years, I have worked with amazing people to pass laws increasing equity and economic security for women, foster children, BIPOC, LGBTQIA+ & low income Oregonians.

When we had my third daughter, child care costs exceeded my wages and it was not economically feasible to work. After three years out of the workforce, Family Forward offered me a position to lead the Universal Child Care policy work. Family Forward’s flexible schedule and workplace culture allows me to balance my family demands with my job. I am blessed to work together with my Family Forward colleagues as we reform and rebuild a child care system that reflects the social and economic value of care work.

COVID spotlighted the critical role of child care in our economy. Its effect on workforce participation. And its reliance on the under- and/or unpaid labor of women, and disproportionately BIPOC and immigrant women. This moment has given us an opportunity for change. We can build a system where every family has access to the child care they need and the child care workforce’s wages and benefits reflect the essential and skilled labor they provide.

Rae Jesequel

Operations Coordinator
Rae@familyforward.org

I fell into motherhood in my 30s with no experience of caring for anyone aside from myself, and never having planned on being a mother. I was fully unprepared for how much I would need help, and completely naive to the fact that there was no societal support available to moms, especially single moms.

Family Forward was started by moms who shared and understood my experiences, and were fighting to make things better for caregivers - and they were getting results. Family Forward believed in me, validated my experiences, and were willing to invest in me to help advocate for myself and others.

I have been involved in this work for years and I know that while we have made gains we still have so far to go. This is work that will take more than my lifetime to accomplish, and hopefully I will have inspired my kids to take on the work after I’m gone.

Nichi Linder

Grant Writer and Database Coordinator
Nichi@familyforward.org

I’m a mother who has, and continues to struggle with the economic impacts of parenthood. I’ve also served on the board of my children’s preschool and seen firsthand the struggle of the people I entrusted with my children, to afford to feed and care for their own families.

Coming from a decade of work in the reproductive rights movement here in Oregon, I was familiar with how powerful a non-profit advocacy organization like Family Forward could be in advancing social justice. Family Forward leads with their values both internally and externally and in coalition. And when we do so with integrity, we win.

Things are at a breaking point for our child care system and I fear we’re on the verge of collapse. The COVID pandemic shone a spotlight on these issues but parents are still leaving work because they can’t afford care; and our essential caregivers are still struggling to care for themselves and their families. We are positioned now to make real progress; and I want to ensure my children have the care they need for their families, should they choose to parent.

Marchel Marcos

Political Director
Marchel@familyforward.org

Yvette Mata

Director of Human Resources and Operations
Yvette@familyforward.org

My path has been deeply informed by my lived experiences growing up having to navigate systems and spaces in South-Central Texas that more often than not either excluded or did not consider the voices of myself, my family, and my community. What emerged for me was a profound commitment to advocacy work.

Family Forward is an organization that is creating the template and chartering the course for the direction of change that is impacting the lives of caregivers and mothers in Oregon in ways that are building bridges to liberation for many families.

With the growing undertone across the country eroding the rights of women, joining Family Forward at this moment in time, is for me, a way to be part of the momentum of change.

Audreona Mullens

Regional Organizing Director - Portland Metro
Audreona@familyforward.org

I am a Mother who found society, family, and life did not support the work I do as a mother and medical mother/caregiver for my son. I say life and society chose the right one on the wrong day because I knew my determination to make this work visible and my fight for mothers like me is unmatched.

I chose Family Forward as the catalyst of my personal mission in making systemic change because we inherently value the often invisible work of caregiving and motherhood. I recognize that working for a political organization is a highly visible mechanism for creating systemic change in American society. In the words of Harriet Tubman "I go to prepare a place for you..."

I do this work now because I recognize this fight has existed for decades before me and I am lending my energy to this fight so future generations can experience a better value of care in society.

Mersades Thompson

Digital Communications Manager
Mersades@familyforward.org

I’m a mother of three young children, they are my inspiration to break generational curses. I have overcome obstacles of adversity to get to this space and I feel called to be a community leader and uplift other parents in similar situations. I hope to inspire my children with the impacts the work I’m involved with has made in the same way they have inspired me day after day.

Family Forward is such a gem in our community! I am moved by the fierce women who continue to show up day after day for this cause. Without safe and accessible childcare we cannot have future community leaders and I truly think every child should have the opportunities to thrive and make an impact in the ways they are passionate about.

Now is the perfect time for me to dive in and continue this important work. I’m currently on the Diversity Advisory Board for the Beaverton city council and run Reliable Nanny Connection LLC, a reputable nanny placement agency in our community that is centered on trauma informed care and risk mitigation childcare. These spaces motivate me to continue to network and develop as a community leader.

Tiana Tomisa

Senior Administrative Assistant
Tiana@familyforward.org

In 2019 my son was born. I worked for a small family company that did not have paid maternity leave and Paid Family Leave in Oregon was not yet available. Shortly after he was born, the pandemic hit, so health and safety had become an even bigger concern when looking for childcare (not to mention the ridiculous cost, as well). The best choice for our family– was for me to be a stay at home Mom, while my husband continued to work. I could never find a job that would be truly accommodating to my life as a Mom- who has little to no help with childcare. I quickly learned that I wasn’t the only one in this boat, and I was determined to get back in the workforce; but needed to find a job that would advocate family life ALSO being a priority.

It was a struggle, even with a bachelor’s degree, to find a job that would allow me the flexibility to still be a full time Mom. It felt like my gap in employment, though a meaningful one, had become a huge barrier when trying to get back into the workforce. I ironically came across Family Forward while venting about my frustrations on a local online mom’s group. I was just looking for a remote, 9 to 5 job, hoping to help financially- without needing to pay for childcare. Family Forward, however, has given me a chance to start a career path again and still take care of my family. I am excited to be working for such an amazing organization that is confident in my ability to balance work and Mom life.

The world we live in unfortunately, has many barriers that hinder the average Mom, Parent or Caregiver- from being able to thrive in a career and also thrive at home; I’ve felt this struggle first hand. So right now, in the thick of it- working for an organization that is making a huge impact in the state to break those barriers, is a part of history! And I am so excited to be a part of that!!

Courtney Veronneau

Deputy Director of Movement Building
Courtney@familyforward.org

I came to this work through the pro-choice movement, working to protect and expand access to abortion in Oregon. I believe deeply that everyone should be able to decide for themselves if and when they become a parent.

At Family Forward I found an organization that not only shares my belief in and commitment to protecting access to abortion, but is truly embodying the pro-choice movement by not just supporting people’s choice to have an abortion but supporting people when they choose to become parents.

Now more than ever, national attacks on choice and the continued devaluing of care and caregiving, demonstrates the importance of Family Forward’s work to achieve racial, gender, and economic equity for mothers and caregivers.

Candice R. Vickers MEd, MSSE

Executive Director
Candice@familyforward.org

I have been fighting for the needs of our most historically underserved children and families since before I can remember. While advocating for fair treatment of my own family in the educational system, fighting for students of color, students with disabilities, students learning English, or fighting for systemic change to interrupt racist practices, transformational organizing has always been at the heart. I am excited to be able to bring my education, experience, and humanity to an organization wholly focused on lifting up the voices of mothers and caregivers.

Family Forward’s history highlights a steadfast commitment to organizing for political change. For too long, the work of women and women of color has been ignored, under supported, and often made invisible. Family Forward is an organization that seeks to de-center traditional power, to make the historically unappreciated and hidden contributions of care work to our economic success highlighted and visible. Family Forward is a place that wants to see our community achieve, and that does that through actualizing its values of Equity, Intersectionality, Collective Power, Integrity, and Transformation. The level of systemic change we’ve already achieved is proof that this is a place that seeks to interrupt traditional power struggles, and I am honored to steward this work here.

We know that systems of power and oppression rooted in racism, anti-blackness, and hetero normativity are constantly at work to maintain the centralization of power in the hands of very few. Today, families continue to struggle to provide care for each other while also trying to eat, maintain housing, and thrive. The time is now to make true transformative change driven by the voices of mothers and caregivers, and the time is now to ramp up the fight for the care economy.