Founder & CEO

MARCI A. HAMILTON is the Founder and CEO of CHILD USA, www.childusa.org, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit academic think tank dedicated to interdisciplinary, evidence-based research to improve laws and public policy to end child abuse and neglect.   She is also the Fels Institute of Government Professor of Practice and a Resident Senior Fellow in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania.  Before moving to Penn, Professor Hamilton held the Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University.

Prof. Hamilton is the leading expert on clergy sex abuse and child sex abuse statutes of limitation (“SOL”).    She has been invited to testify and advise legislators in every state where significant SOL reform has occurred.  She is the author of Justice Denied: What America Must Do to Protect Its Children (Cambridge University Press), which advocates for the elimination of child sex abuse statutes of limitations.  She has filed countless pro bono amicus briefs for the protection of children at the United States Supreme Court and the state supreme courts.  She is the co-author of Children and the Law (Carolina Academic Press 2017).

Hamilton is a leading and influential critic of extreme religious liberty and the author of God vs. the Gavel: The Perils of Extreme Religious Liberty (Cambridge University Press), which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.  Hamilton successfully challenged the constitutionality of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”) at the Supreme Court in Boerne v. Flores (1997), and defeated the RFRA claim brought by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee against hundreds of child sex abuse survivors in Committee of Unsecured Creditors v. Listecki (7th Cir. 2015).  She has represented numerous cities, neighborhoods, and individuals dealing with church-state issues as well as claims under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”).

Hamilton has been honored with the 2019 Distinguished Daughters Award by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf; the 2018 Louis H. Pollak Award for Public Service by the University of Pennsylvania Law School; the 2015 Annual Religious Liberty Award, American Humanist Association; the 2014 Freethought Heroine Award; the 2016 Voice Today, Voice of Gratitude Award; the National Crime Victim Bar Association’s Frank Carrington Champion of Civil Justice Award, 2012; the E. Nathaniel Gates Award for outstanding public advocacy and scholarship, 2008; and selected as a Pennsylvania Woman of the Year Award, 2012, among other awards and honors.   She is also frequently quoted in the national media on child sex abuse, statute of limitations issues and constitutional, RFRA, RLUIPA, and First Amendment issues.

Hamilton clerked for United States Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Judge Edward R. Becker of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.  Professor Hamilton is a graduate of Vanderbilt University, B.A., summa cum laude; Pennsylvania State University, M.A. (English, fiction writing, High Honors); M.A. (Philosophy); and the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, J.D., magna cum laude, where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review.   She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Order of the Coif.

Chief Financial Officer

James Plappert joins CHILD USA as Chief Financial Officer after an extensive career in the corporate business arena.  After graduating from Carnegie-Mellon University with a BS in Mechanical Engineering and earning an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh, Jim had a career in the corporate world working for Westinghouse Electric, Conversion Systems, and Exxon Corporation, before founding and managing an executive recruiting and consulting firm. He brings the abundance of business experience gained in those positions to CHILD USA.

James also established a consulting business for high school student-athletes who wanted to pursue their athletic careers at the collegiate level and published two books to aid those athletes, Interviewing with College Coaches and So, You Want to be a College Athlete. As the father of four children, two of whom were elite college athletes, Jim is particularly concerned about the abuse and neglect of athletes of all ages and the programs that will find solutions to end abuse in athletics.

Executive Director

Jillian Ruck joins CHILD USA as the Executive Director from her previous career in education. As a former high school teacher with a degree from Villanova University in History and Education, she has taught in various places around the country including Pennsylvania, Virginia, Texas, and Washington, DC. Jillian has taught subjects from Government to AP World History to students ranging from 8th to 12th grade. Her teaching career included teaching in both public and charter schools to students all across the socio-economic spectrum. Due to her experience, she is acutely aware of the issues surrounding the education system in the United States as well as the increased vulnerabilities of students located in already marginalized communities. 
Jillian has been a passionate advocate for social justice through education for children and has a deeply held belief that all children deserve a high quality education no matter the circumstances they are born into. These are the beliefs that she bring to CHILD USA where she will continue her mission in life to work to educate and protect children, especially those who are marginalized.

Executive Assistant to CEO

MaryClare joins CHILD USA having enjoyed a successful career as a preschool teacher, volunteer, and active member of various local and national nonprofit organizations. Her passion for the well being of every child is what inspired her to leave the classroom to join CHILD USA. MaryClare will draw on her past experiences and wide-ranging skills as liaison to members of the CHILD USA team as well as organization ambassador. “Children are amazing. They all develop using the same principles. It is our job to make sure they feel loved, nurtured, and valued.”

MaryClare received her BFA from West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia. She continued her education at The Art Institute of Philadelphia where she received a Continuing Education Certificate. MaryClare continues her education by completing courses in various areas of personal and professional interest.



Social Media & Website Manager

Max Rosenfeld joins CHILD USA as the Social Media and Website Manager after graduating from Saint Joseph’s University in 2020 with a degree in Communication and Media Studies. While completing his undergrad, Max spent two years with the Beautiful Social Research Collaborative, an organization that partners with nonprofits and mission-driven organizations in the Philadelphia area to complete digital media projects. During this time, he grew passionate about pursuing a career with a true impact. He looks forward to utilizing his skills to communicate CHILD USA’s critical mission.

Legal Director

Alice Bohn joins CHILD USA as the Legal Director. She is a graduate of Pepperdine University School of Law, where she later worked as the Director of Insurance & Risk, overseeing initiatives to prevent child sexual abuse. As a student, Alice served as the Symposium Editor of the Pepperdine Law Review; she was also a member of the Moot Court team and the International Commercial Arbitration Moot team.

Before law school, Alice worked with International Justice Mission on a national campaign to end bonded labor in India. She graduated from Gordon College with a B.A. in Sociology, having focused her studies on Human Trafficking and Cultural Conflict. Her interest in CHILD USA’s work grows from a conviction that the rule of law must function for every member of society, including our children.

Social Science Director

Carter Timon joins CHILD USA with experience conducting research in both qualitative and quantitative methodologies and having covered such diverse topics as the expression of sexuality in conversation, new religious movements, and the performance of behavioral science. His most recent work focused on increasing therapists’ adoption of evidence-based practice when caring for traumatized children. Carter received his Master of Behavioral and Decision Sciences from the University of Pennsylvania where he specialized in semiotic anthropology. He received his B.S. in Psychology, Linguistics, Anthropology and Sociology from Ursinus College, where he earned the Jessie Ashworth Miller Prize for his work in Anthropology and Sociology. He is also a member of Phi Beta Kappa and the Alpha Delta Phi Society. Carter is drawn to CHILD USA by his drive to improve all individuals’ (and therefore our collective, too) wellbeing. 

Staff Attorney

Bridget Brainard joins CHILD USA as a Staff Attorney with prior experience working in the child welfare and criminal justice systems. Before joining CHILD USA, Bridget was a Deputy Attorney General in the Juvenile Delinquency Unit of the Delaware Department of Justice where she prosecuted juvenile criminal cases in Family Court. Previously, she served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Michael K. Newell, Chief Judge of Delaware’s Family Court.

Bridget is a graduate of Penn State University’s Dickinson School of Law where she served as President of the Student Bar Association and Senior Editor of the Penn State Journal of Law and International Affairs. She also worked as a guardian ad litem in the Children’s Advocacy Clinic where she represented dependent, neglected, and abused children. Prior to law school, Bridget graduated from the University of Delaware with a B.S. in Human Services and Public Policy. She is committed to the protection of children through a fair and equitable legal system and evidence-based public policies that are developed, implemented, and enforced in the best interests of children.

Staff Attorney

Alice Nasar Hanan joined CHILD USA in February 2019. She is a staff attorney and contributes to the legal research, analysis and development of our Statute of Limitations Reform Initiative. She is a former student of Marci Hamilton from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. At Cardozo, she was the recipient of the Dean’s Merit Scholarship, worked as an editor of the Cardozo Law Review, was a legal writing teacher’s assistant and graduated with honors. She received her B.A. in Criminal Justice from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. She is also a member of Phi Beta Kappa and the Order of the Coif. Alice began her legal career in New York City at Kasowtiz, Benson, Torres, and Friedman LLP, as a litigation attorney with a focus on complex commercial litigation and white collar criminal defense. Next, she moved to New Jersey with her family and joined a local litigation firm. Alice brings to CHILD USA both her legal expertise and passion for respecting the dignity and legal rights of all children.

Staff Attorney

Carina Nixon joins CHILD USA as a Staff Attorney. Prior to CHILD USA, Carina worked as an Attorney-Advisor for the Small Business Administration’s Office of Disaster Assistance where she aided small business owners in recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.  Previously, she worked as an Attorney-Advisor in the General Counsel’s Office of the National Endowment for the Humanities in Washington, D.C.


Carina graduated from Pepperdine School of Law, where she served as a Note and Comment Editor for the Pepperdine Law Review. As a staffer for the Law Review, Carina wrote an article exploring and arguing against the constitutionality of juvenile solitary confinement in the U.S. prison system. Her article was chosen for publication in Pepperdine’s Law Review and earned Pepperdine Law’s Sorenson Award for best student article. Carina additionally acted as President of Pepperdine’s International Commercial Arbitration Moot Court Team and was a member of the Moot Court team. Prior to law school, Carina graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a B.A. in International Studies and a B.A. in Spanish Language. As a mother herself, she is passionate about ensuring every child is afforded the legal protections and human rights they deserve.

 Staff Attorney

Jessica Schidlow joins CHILD USA as a Staff Attorney with an extensive background in child welfare. Jessica holds a Master’s degree in Professional Clinical and Counseling Psychology and worked as an out-patient child and family-based therapist before pursing her legal education. After law school, Jessica joined the Montgomery County Public Defender’s Office in their Child Advocacy Unit where she represented hundreds of at-risk and dependent youth in their Juvenile and Orphan’s Court proceedings. Jessica is committed to advancing the rights of children and improving the outcomes for court-involved youth by ensuring practices that are trauma-informed and congruent with legal, medical, and social-science research.

Jessica earned her B.A. in Psychology from Temple University, Honors Program. She earned her M.A. in Professional Clinical and Counseling Psychology from LaSalle University, graduating with distinction. Jessica earned her J.D. from of Drexel University’s Thomas R. Kline School of Law, 2-year accelerated program, where she served as a research assistant and president of the Health Law Society. Jessica is a National Board-Certified Counselor and member of the National Association of Counsel for Children. She also serves on the Children and the Law Committee for the Montgomery County Bar Association and the Children’s Rights Legislative Subcommittee for the Pennsylvania Bar Association.

Social Science Researcher

AJ Ortiz joins CHILD USA after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania’s Master of Science in Social Policy program. He graduated from Millersville University in 2014 with a degree in social work and went on to work in educational settings and complete a year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA.

Before coming to Penn, AJ worked as a therapeutic foster parent recruiter and conducted trainings on complex trauma, human trafficking prevention, and specialized foster care. During graduate school, he co-authored a paper analyzing evidence for programs serving youth aging out of foster care and studied implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act. AJ’s primary focus is preventing institutional child abuse, particularly in residential facilities. He is ultimately interested in using mixed-methods social science research to inform child protection policies nationwide.


Postgraduate Fellow

Nicole Brigstock joined CHILD USA as a Robert A. Fox Research Fellow and now works as a Postgraduate Fellow. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2020 with a B.A. in Political Science and a Human Rights Certificate from Penn Law. Before coming to CHILD USA, Nicole’s research areas focused on child sex abuse and sex trafficking in Ohio and Nepal. Her work has been published by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and the American Academy of Pediatrics. As an undergraduate student, Nicole worked as a political organizing fellow on Penn’s campus, interned in the Juvenile & Youth Unit of the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, and served as a Writing Consultant at the University of Pennsylvania’s Marks Family Writing Center. Nicole plans to attend Law School where she will continue studying human rights and pursue a career in public interest law.

Postgraduate Fellow

Janella Kang joined CHILD USA as a Research & Development Intern and now works as a Postgraduate Fellow. She recently graduated from Harvard University with a Master of Science in Global Health and Populations and Child Protection Certificate and received her Bachelor’s from University of Washington in Biochemistry and Applied Mathematics. Her prior experiences span across global health, maternal and child health, child protection and homelessness. She is interested in using both quantitative and qualitative methods to better understand social determinants of child health. She is deeply passionate about the issue of abuse and maltreatment in children and CHILD USA’s work to protect vulnerable children.



University of Pennsylvania: Fox Fellow

Deika Albert is a rising senior at the University of Pennsylvania (C’22) from Newton, Mass and is excited to join CHILD USA as a Fox Fellow this summer. She is a double major in Economics and Political Science at Penn, where she is also involved on the Division I Fencing Team, a member of a student government branch, and part of MUSE Social Impact Consulting club. Deika’s previous internship at a Boston-based legal aid clinic inspired her passion for public interest law and she hopes to continue her legal advocacy work at CHILD USA.


University of Pennsylvania: Social Science Fellow

Shaindy joins CHILD USA as a Social Science Fellow. She is passionate about parental and children’s rights, and she is presently pursuing both JD and MSW degrees. She hopes to practice family law using a trauma-informed approach, and she is committed to sharing her perspectives throughout the legal arena. She is excited to be conducting research focusing on systemic improvements to judicial training and foster care. She is a former CASA, and she looks forward to continuing her advocacy work alongside the team at CHILD USA this summer.


Villanova University: Research & Development Intern

McKenna Halverson joins CHILD USA as a Research and Development intern. She recently graduated from Villanova University with her M.S. in Experimental Psychology. She received her B.S. in Psychology from the University of South Dakota in 2019. This fall, she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Delaware. McKenna is interested in conducting research focused on improving public policies for vulnerable children including early care and education, nutrition assistance, neighborhood poverty, and public health. She looks forward to joining the CHILD USA team this summer!


University of Chicago Law School: Legal Intern

Leigh is a rising second-year student at the University of Chicago Law School. A graduate of Duke University with degrees in International Comparative Studies and English, Leigh taught kindergarten in Washington state prior to starting law school. In her legal work, she plans to center the needs of kids from marginalized communities through a focus on environmental justice, immigration law, and/or education law. She is excited to begin this important work with an internship at CHILD USA! Outside of work hours, you will probably find her reading a novel, baking vegan treats, or heading out to the trail for a run or hike. 


University of Pennsylvania: Fox Fellow

Cara Margolis joins CHILD USA for the summer after finishing her sophomore year at the University of Pennsylvania. Cara is from a Suburb of Philly and is majoring in Health and Societies with a concentration in Public Health. She is very passionate about working with children and is committed to giving back to the greater Philadelphia community. At Penn she is involved with the West Philly Tutoring Project and served as the Philanthropy Chair of her sorority. She is very excited to be working with CHILD USA this summer!


Indiana University: Communications Intern

Emily Melnick is a rising senior at Indiana University majoring in Journalism with a concentration in Public Relations and minoring in Youth Development with a specialization in Media Psychology. Emily grew up in New Jersey but presently resides in Connecticut. Emily has a passion for child advocacy and is committed to learning more about how she can contribute to protecting children’s rights. She is looking forward to combining her social media knowledge and devotion to children at CHILD USA as a communications intern this summer.


University of Pennsylvania: Fox Fellow

Janelle is a rising senior at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in political science with minors in Survey Research & Data Analytics and French. She is passionate about equitable access to higher education and oversees a cohort of Penn students who advise high school students from low-income backgrounds throughout the college application process. Janelle is eager to join the CHILD USA team this summer and learn about how the law can protect and empower vulnerable individuals.



University of Pennsylvania: Research and Development Intern

Laura Crawford joins CHILD USA for the summer after finishing her junior year at the University of Pennsylvania. Laura is majoring in anthropology and minoring in math and computer science. Since quarantine started she’s been reading, going for long walks, and wishing that she could have a puppy. She is excited to work with CHILD USA and get a look into the nonprofit world.

Vanderbilt University: Communications Intern

Brooke Deasy has joined this summer as a Communications Intern at CHILD USA. She currently lives in a suburb of Philly, and is a prospective sophomore at Vanderbilt University studying both English and Economics. She loves to read and write, and plans on pursuing a literary career, most likely publishing realistic fiction novels. She is passionate about children and absolutely loves working with young students. At Vanderbilt, she is on the dance team and performs at football and basketball games, in addition to volunteering in the greater Nashville community.

Villanova University: Research & Development Intern

Grace Jang was born in South Korea and moved to Los Angeles, CA with her immediate family when she was three. Now, she lives in Bergen County, New Jersey and is a junior at Villanova University working towards getting her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Peace and Justice Studies with a minor in Humanities. She is excited to join the CHILD USA team this summer as an intern, because she is very passionate about all the causes that CHILD USA works towards. 

University of Pennsylvania: Fox Fellow

Claire is a rising senior at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in Health and Societies with a concentration in Health Policy and Law, and minoring in Latin American and Latino Studies. She has a background in social science and legal research and is interested in the intersection of the legal and healthcare systems, particularly in how they can better serve marginalized communities.
She is exited to apply these interests to her work with CHILD USA and their mission of protecting children’s welfare through abuse prevention and Family Court reform.

University of Pennsylvania: Fox Fellow

Grace graduated from Penn in May 2020 with a Bachelors in Arts in the Biological Basis of Behavior (Neuroscience) and minors in Medical Sociology and Health Services Management. She is very passionate about mental health advocacy and education. In her spare time, she loves watching live theater and elite gymnastics. She’s excited to be working with CHILD USA this summer! 

Pennsylvania State University: Research & Development Intern

Katie joins CHILD USA as a Research and Development intern this summer. She is a recent graduate of the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in Biobehavioral Health, and is continuing on to receive her Masters of Public Health from Penn State’s College of Medicine. During her time as an undergraduate at Penn State, she was actively involved with the Child Maltreatment Solutions Network, working as a research assistant with the Safe and Healthy Communities Initiative. This is where her passion for preventing child abuse and neglect began, and she is excited to continue this important work with CHILD USA! 






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Philadelphia, PA 19104




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