Our Mission

The Children’s Advocacy Alliance builds consensus around priorities and leverages our collective strength toward real changes in policy and practice to ensure that every child has a chance to thrive.

Our Priorities: 

We advocate in the areas of Health, Child Welfare and Equitable Access, School Readiness and Early Childhood System, and Economic Well-Being

How We Do It:

We accomplish our goals by:

  • Educating our community on issues impacting children. 
  • Strategic communications.
  • Government and policy advocacy. 
  • Civic engagement, 
  • Disseminating up-to-date and evidence-based research.
  • Centering impacted communities through story sharing and coalition building.

 CAA has determined the path to centering equity and pursuing antiracist policies begins with an internal examination of our own CAA policies and procedures. With every project and initiative, CAA staff considers the who and the how – Who are the impacted populations and how do we incorporate their voice in our pursuit of equity and access? CAA engages with traditional and non-traditional partners and nonprofits that provide direct services to affected youth and their families with the goal of building a diverse coalition base to advocate for administrative and legislative reforms. CAA champions policy priorities that consider the nuances of the geography of our state and special populations (e.g. migrant families, indigenous communities, children who are differently abled).

Our Team

Holly Welborn

Holly’s mantra is that she is an advocate with a law license. Youth justice has always been central to her work. During law school she focused on youth law and interned for Legal Services for Children where she represented children in delinquency and dependency matters, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status applications, and school expulsion proceedings. Holly most recently served as the Policy Director for the ACLU of Nevada where she managed a diverse legislative agenda. She is most proud of her work to limit the  transfer of youth under 18 years of age to the adult criminal legal system and to improve living conditions for children in juvenile justice facilities. 

She currently serves as a board member of the Institute for a Progressive Nevada, Planned Parenthood Votes Nevada, and the Nevada Coalition Against the Death Penalty. She previously served as a gubernatorial appointee to the Nevada Sentencing Commission and the Advisory Commission on the Administration of Justice. Holly was recognized as a Reno-Tahoe Young Professionals 40 under 40 finalist and is a recipient of the Community Leadership Award from Silver State Equality. As a Nevada native, and first generation college graduate and lawyer, Holly strives to give back to her community through her advocacy and philanthropic efforts.

Jamelle Nance

Jamelle Nance enthusiastically joins the Children’s Advocacy Alliance Nevada team to serve as the Director of Strong Start Initiatives. Jamelle brings vast experiences in the field of Human Services, Education, and Organizational Leadership. Her personal and professional experiences are centered around public service to empower, educate, and provide opportunities for families to thrive not just in her community, but across the nation. She has led similar initiatives in her home state of Maryland to provide equitable educational opportunities to those who need it most. Jamelle earned a bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science with a concentration in Child Advocacy Studies and a master’s degree in Administration of Human Services both from Wilmington University in New Castle, Delaware. Jamelle is passionate about providing access to essential resources and opportunities that strengthen families and level the playing field. She wholeheartedly believes that a strong start provides children and families with a solid foundation to build a strong and promising future.

Dr. Tara C. Raines

Dr. Tara C. Raines is a licensed psychologist with a history of research promoting equity and access in the areas of education and mental health. She is a former Associate Professor and Director of Clinical Training for the School Psychology program at the University of Denver. She has spent the last decade implementing and supporting a number of grants to improve outcomes for youth at highest risk for mental health disorders. She has partnered with large school districts including Clark County School District, the fifth largest district in the country, to do this work. Tara has been active in the Las Vegas My Brother's Keeper Alliance and sits on the Board of Directors for Democracy Preparatory Academy Nevada and Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. Dr. Raines additionally leads cultural immersion experiences in Ecuador to promote cultural humility and Spanish language acquisition in mental health professionals.  Dr. Raines has been honored with a presidential citation from APA Division 16 for her work in anti-racism and a presidential award from the National Association of School Psychologists for her work leading the policing in schools taskforce.  She believes in the value of using data to identify and implement supports for Nevada's most vulnerable youth.

Nancy Brune

Brune previously served as the founding Executive Director of the Guinn Center, a nonpartisan policy institute that provided research in the issues of education, health care, workforce development, and tax and fiscal policy. Brune stepped down from the Guinn Center to run for Las Vegas City Council, a position that she was elected to in November 2022.

Shelly Speck

Shelly Speck is a staunch child advocate and brings a diverse range of experience to the Children’s Advocacy Alliance. Shelly joined CAA in October of 2022 after spending a year as a CAA Parent Ambassador and leader on a state and national level. Shelly is certified as a (CHW) Community Health Worker with a Bachelor of Arts in General Studies and a minor in chemistry. She has an extensive background in consumer relations and an objective to remove barriers to care in communities while providing cultural mediation among individuals and health/social service systems. Shelly was appointed as a member of the State Special Education Advisory Committee in 2022 through the NV Department of Education. During the last two years, Mrs. Speck has provided testimony at the Nevada State legislature and propelled legislation relating to families experiencing homelessness, food insecurity, paid family leave, early intervention, child development and outcomes, school curriculum and supports, as well as child specialist resources and development in rural areas.


Shelly believes in an altruistic approach to advocacy and parent/family engagement through leadership development and community outreach. She maintains that legislative policies which shape children’s outcomes should be equitable and led by families and those with lived experience so their perspectives will be integrated into decision making when deciding how to best help those in our communities. She is dedicated to providing essential public services which foster a safe, healthy, and inclusive environment for all of Nevada’s children to grow and thrive. She believes in working together with integrity and accountability across the board. Shelly is a mother to a 7yo and resides in Gardnerville, NV with her husband.

Carissa Pearce

Carissa Pearce (she/her) is a dedicated advocate for children and family well-being, with a strong background in policy advocacy. Her journey began as an intern with CAA in 2022, and soon after she joined as a team member in Health Policy after graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Public Health. Since joining CAA she has built upon and expanded state and national partnerships leading initiatives to support medical coverage for all children and families in  Nevada Currently pursuing her MPH in Epidemiology at the University of Nevada, Reno, Carissa is driven by the belief that everyone deserves access to quality care and resources, especially those in underserved populations in Nevada. Through her academic pursuits, Carissa continues to deepen her understanding of health disparities and evidence-based approaches, while building the skills and knowledge to drive impactful policy changes in healthcare, and children and family services. Her commitment to creating equitable systems led her to engage in legislative advocacy, where she played a pivotal role in supporting bills that would benefit vulnerable communities. Balancing her professional pursuits, Carissa enjoys spending time with her dog, close friends, and family. Her drive, expertise, and compassionate approach make her a valued advocate for creating equitable systems to advance health and family services in Nevada.

Ben Douglas

Ben Douglas joined Children’s Advocacy Alliance the summer of 2020. With over a decade of experience with non-profits as a board member, serving as President and Treasurer, Mr. Douglas has finally been able to give back by assisting CAA as their Director of Finance and Operations. Ben comes with a great deal of experience from for-profit business serving as the executive in charge of finance, operations and administration. Mr. Douglas has spent the last 15 years facilitating accounting and management classes at the university. Ben loves helping students obtain their dreams by obtaining their bachelors and/or masters degree. Mr. Douglas graduated with his MBA in 2003 and then obtained his Masters of Science in Accountancy in 2010. Ben’s main joy is his family, including his wife of 25 years, three boys, one daughter-in-law and grandson. He is excited to continue fighting for the children of Nevada and beyond.

Amber Falgout

Amber Falgout was born and raised in Reno, NV. Amber just joined our Children’s Alliance Advocacy team as a master’s level social work intern. Amber completed her bachelor's degree in 2016 from the University of Reno. Following her graduation, Amber began working in the advocacy space with Battle Born Progress, leading media and communications efforts. She was pivotal in advocating on reducing gun violence prevention during the legislative session, working to improve public education in Nevada, and supporting initiatives to expand healthcare access for all Nevadans. She has written grants and  press releases on these topics. She is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in Social work with an emphasis on systems. She is supporting CAA on initiatives related to systems-involved youth and assisting with the facilitation of coalitions to improve outcomes for foster youth in Nevada. 

Annette Dawson Owens

Annette Dawson Owens, M.A. is a lifelong education advocate who believes in equity and access to an excellent education for all students. She has worked in both district and charter schools and has studied high performing schools and leaders across the country. She has seen first hand, quality outcomes that are possible with effective school design.  Annette attended K-12 in the Clark County School District and went on to earn an undergraduate degree in Zoology, a Masters in Education from UNLV, and a Masters in Administration from Sierra Nevada College. 


Annette has been appointed by the last 3 mayors to serve on Henderson's Community Education Advisory Board since its inception and serves on two Charter School Boards. She completed Georgetown's Executive Leadership through the Public Education Foundation, Henderson Leadership and is grateful to be a Jameson Fellow and serve on Compassionate Las Vegas' Steering Committee.  Annette recently was Nevada's first White-Riley-Peterson Fellow studying out of school time with peers across the country. In her free time she enjoys exploring the great outdoors. Annette looks forward to working together with the community and improving outcomes for all students and families in the great state of Nevada.

David Sandler

As an Emmy-Nominated Producer, David Sandler brings a creative and passionate understanding of all things media. He has helped develop and manage #1 rated newscasts in both the Reno and Las Vegas television markets.

As a former newsroom executive David has developed and executed communication plans, including integrated media relations and thought leadership strategies for corporate clients across a wide range of sectors, including legal, gaming, consumer, and technology. Leveraging his media relations expertise and issues management experience, he has helped clients raise visibility, connect with key audiences, and grow consumer confidence. David has helped clients navigate their narratives in many local, national and international leading publications, including, Wall Street Journal, BuzzFeed, TMZ, New York Times, HuffPost and BBC, to name a few.

David is a graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno with a B.A. in Public Relations & Strategic Communications.

Belz & Case

Incorporated in 2000, JK Belz & Associates provides a thoughtful tailored approach to governmental affairs. They have strong relationships with both sides of the legislative “aisle” to maximize opportunities for their clients. In support of this commitment, they work diligently to develop and nurture relationships with members of the legislature, both during legislative sessions as well as during the interim between sessions. Several areas of their advocacy work cross over into children’s issues. Ensuring children have access to education and a path to a career they love; ensuring access to mental health care and behavioral health services; supporting healthy outcomes for moms and babies; researching and exposing gaps in children’s health through dedicated reports on child welfare; supporting literacy efforts; and ensuring children are safely riding in cars with seatbelts and car seats. In 2019, JK Belz & Associates was successful in amending a bill to include a report on the number of children placed out of state for behavioral health services. This report has helped inform legislators on the need for residential placement and an expanded network of care in our state.

CAA Board of Trustees

President Lynn Purdue

Vice President Patty Farley

Treasurer Fernando Serrano

Gard Jameson

Mary Bacon

Andrew Eisen

Dawn Gibbons

Elaine Wenger-Roesener

Hilary Westrom