Meet Our Staff
Senior Co-Director – Gerard Wallace, Esq.
Gerard Wallace, Esq. is the senior co-director of the NYS Kinship Navigator. From 2005 to 2010 he was the project consultant for the AARP Kincare Project and from 2005 to 2014 he was co-chair of the NYS KinCare Coalition. He is a member of the Child Welfare League of America’s Policy Commission and past director of Hunter College’s Grandparent Caregiver Law Center and of the National Committee of Grandparents for Children’s Rights.
In 1999, he authored an amicus curiae brief in the United States Supreme Court grandparent visitation case, Troxel v. Granville that was featured in the Congressional Digest’s Supreme Court Debate. His writings have been published the New York State Elder Law Attorney,Grand magazine, New England’s “Common Ground”, the Journal of Gerontological Social Work, West Law’s Elder Adviser, the Washington Post’s op-ed page, and in the Journal on Family Social Work. He is the co-editor or the 2015 CWLA Kinship Navigator Profiles, the editor of four NYS KinCare Summit reports and of a national kinship summit report, and has published numerous other op-eds and articles..
In 1997, he graduated Magna Cum Laude from Albany Law School, where he authored a Government Law Center policy report on kinship laws in New York State. Since 2000, he has presented continuing legal education training’s on kinship law. He’s also presented at numerous conferences, summits, commissions, and countless local forums, and advised on the drafting of both federal and state legislation related to kinship care. He has provided leadership for state and national campaigns to raise attention on kinship families
He’s the recipient of the 2009 Generations United’s “National Kinship Advocate Award”, the 2010 Brookdale Foundation “Janet Sainer Award” for outstanding service and dedication to Kincare families, and the 2011 Presbyterian Senior Services’ Maggie Kuhn Award for service to elderly New Yorkers. In 2012, his NYS Kinship Navigator program received a Children’s Bureau grant to operate a demonstration project, one of only seven awarded nationally. In June 2014, he was appointed public service professor at the U. of Albany School of Social Welfare.
Co-Director – Rae Glaser
Rae Glaser has been with the Kinship Navigator program since its inception in 2006, where she started as the first kinship specialist. Since then, she has worked with thousands of caregivers over the phone and via email. In 2009, she became the on site manager of the program in Rochester, NY, and oversees daily operation of the project. She manages the budget, database, website, and liaisons with local kinship program providers across the state. She also acts as the regional navigator for western NY. Ms. Glaser has a dual degree in Psychology and Sociology, and is in the process of completing her Masters Degree in Business Administration. She has been working in non-profit since 2004, and has experience working with domestic violence victims, Child Protective Services, and people with developmental disabilities.
Program Development and Education Specialist – Ryan Johnson, MSW
Ryan joined the Navigator in 2014 as an intern and was brought on in an official capacity in 2015. Ryan brings years of experience in direct care work in Child Welfare, as well as experience in legislative and policy work to the Navigator. As one of the Navigator’s primary educators, Ryan has given dozens of presentations and trainings around the State, primarily in Central New York and the Mohawk and Hudson Valley Regions, building meaningful collaborations with professionals in these regions. Ryan also works directly with caregivers on a weekly basis, answering our helpline, and has co-led support groups in his region monthly. Ryan also works in a leadership capacity for the NYS KinCare Coalition, helping the State’s kinship support network by organizing regular meetings, in-service presentations, and educational events.
Kinship Consultant – Jessica Backer Brand, Esq.
Jessica graduated from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, with a B.S. in psychology. She received her J.D. from Albany Law School, with a concentration in Family and Elder Law. Jessica has extensive legal experience, including serving as a New York State Assistant Attorney General. Using her legal background to help families and children has always been important to her, stemming from her first job in college as a counselor for adolescents in residential treatment. Jessica has represented kinship caregivers in complex child custody, abuse and neglect matters in Albany County Family Court. She is currently a member of the Albany County Panel of Attorneys for Children. Jessica serves as a consultant to the NYS Kinship Navigator, where she advocates for caregivers on a statewide basis and provides legal information and education through the Kinship Navigator Helpline. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family, cooking, skiing and volunteering at her children’s school.
North Country Kinship Specialist – Brenda Reynolds
Brenda Reynolds has been working with the kinship population for over 15 years. She coordinated the Relatives as Parents Program (RAPP) for Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) in Orange County. Brenda retired from CCE in November 2016 but still wanted to continue working with kinship caregivers. The NYS Kinship Navigator provided her the opportunity by offering Brenda a part-time position as a Kinship Specialist answering helpline calls and monitoring e-mail and the website.