About Us

Programs and Services

The Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) is not an administrator of programs. Rather, the OCA monitors and evaluates public and private agencies that are charged with the protection of children, and reviews state agency policies and procedures to ensure they protect children's rights and promote their best interest. OCA helps to:

  • advocate for children at risk;
  • address public policy issues concerning juvenile justice, child care, foster care, and treatment.
  • review individual cases and investigate complaints;
  • educate and inform the public of laws and services affecting families and children who are placed under state supervision;
  • coach families, concerned citizens, and agencies to "navigate" public service and information systems and advocate for children effectively;
  • review facilities and procedures of public or private institutions or residences where juveniles are placed; and
  • facilitate change by bringing different agencies together to find creative solutions to difficult problems.
 
CHILD ADVOCATE: SARAH EAGAN, JD

Sarah Eagan
has served as Connecticut’s Child Advocate since September 2013. As Child Advocate, Sarah oversees the OCA's investigation, public reporting and advocacy work addressing issues across child-serving systems: education, child welfare, juvenile justice, and disability services. Sarah has participated in drafting and seeking passage of several statutory reforms on behalf of vulnerable children, including improving services for children with developmental disabilities, reducing reliance on restraint and seclusion of students, improving conditions for incarcerated youth and strengthening the safety net for abused and neglected children in foster care. As the Child Advocate, Sarah serves as the co-chair of the State's Child Fatality Review Panel where she helps to review the circumstances of children's deaths and develops recommendations for fatality prevention. Sarah participates in a variety of working groups involving community members, legislators, and state and local agency leaders seeking to improve support and services for vulnerable children throughout the state. 

Prior to her appointment, Sarah served for several years as the Director of the Child Abuse Project at the Center for Children's Advocacy, a statewide non-profit law firm for children based in Hartford, Connecticut. During her years at the Center, Sarah provided individual legal representation to children and worked to ensure that abused, neglected and disabled children received the safety, emotional support, services and education that they need and deserve. Sarah began her legal career at Shipman & Goodwin LLP. Sarah is a graduate of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and the University of Connecticut School of Law. 
 

ASSOCIATE CHILD ADVOCATE: MICKEY KRAMER, MS, RN
 
Mickey Kramer, MS, RN,  joined the Office of the Child Advocate on July 1, 1998.  Initially hired as an Assistant Child Advocate, she was promoted in 2004 to the position of Associate Child Advocate.  Prior to 1998, Mickey worked for the Department of Children and Families as a Regional Resource Group nurse, consulting on children’s health issues in the regional office. Earlier in her career, Ms. Kramer worked for many years in the community as a maternal-child health specialist.

As Associate Child Advocate, Mickey oversees and manages the child focused operations of the OCA, including ombudsman activities and much of the office's investigatory work.  She represents the Child Advocate on numerous committees, work groups and task forces charged with examining and improving the delivery of state funded services to children.   

Mickey graduated from Saint Joseph College in West Hartford with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing and earned a Master of Science degree in Nursing from the University of Connecticut.

Top


HUMAN SERVICES ADVOCATE: JULIE McKENNA

Julie McKenna joined the Office of the Child Advocate as an Assistant Child Advocate in July 1999. Previously, she was employed by the State Department of Children and Families as a Children’s Services Worker at Riverview Hospital for Children and Youth. Julie serves as the lead responder for the OCA to the public when there are concerns regarding the provision of state funded services to children.  She assists those who contact the office in understanding and navigating complex public systems, and assesses each concern for possible violations of policy, law or best practice standards. 

Ms. McKenna is a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Top


ASSISTANT CHILD ADVOCATE: HEATHER PANCIERA


Heather Panciera joined the Office of the Child Advocate in December 2001.  Heather serves as the lead for OCA on matters related to children, youth and young adults in residential facilities and congregate care settings, including investigating concerns regarding the provision of state funded services and supports. She advocates both for the individual needs of children, youth and young adults, and for necessary systemic reforms to help these systems be more effective, efficient and accountable.
 

Prior to joining OCA, Heather worked for 10 years at the Department of Children and Families.

Heather holds a Bachelor's degree from the University of Connecticut School of Family Studies.

 

ASSISTANT CHILD ADVOCATE: FAITH VOS WINKEL, M.S.W.

Faith Vos Winkel joined the Office of the Child Advocate in July 2001.  Faith serves as the lead for the OCA on matters relating to child fatality review and prevention.  She convenes the Connecticut Child Fatality Review Panel (CFRP) each month which reviews all unexpected and unexplained child deaths.  Faith is the Child Advocate's principal investigator on any in-depth child fatality investigation requested by the CFRP, the Governor, the General Assembly or conducted at the Child Advocate's discretion.

Child fatality reviews focus on the examination of systems and opportunities to improve policies and practices to prevent additional tragedies from occurring. Faith represents the OCA on numerous statewide committees and national initiatives focused on prevention of child injury and death.

Prior to working at OCA, Faith worked at the State Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities for 15 years, advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities. 

Faith holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut and a Master of Social Work from the University of Connecticut School of Social Work.

Top 

STAFF ATTORNEY: VIRGINIA BROWN, Esq.

Virginia Brown joined the Office of the Child Advocate in June 2016. As OCA’s Staff Attorney, Virginia provides legal advice and guidance to the Child Advocate and staff on matters under review and/or investigation by the OCA. Virginia’s work at the OCA includes reviewing the delivery of special education and related supports and services. She conducts individual child-specific educational programming reviews, which may lead to systemic educational programming investigations. Virginia participates in PPT meetings, resolutions sessions and early stages of Due Process in her role as an advocate for students in those instances in which a public school district’s policies, procedures and/or practices are not in conformance with state and/or federal law or best practices.

Prior to joining the OCA, Virginia worked in various public and private legal settings, including as an associate at Day Pitney; associate counsel/assistant director at The Hartford Financial Services Group; hearing officer at the Freedom of Information Commission and staff attorney with the Office of the State Comptroller. Virginia also served as a judicial clerk at the Connecticut Appellate Court for the Honorable Anne Dranginis; Douglas Lavine and Alexandra DiPentima.

Virginia holds degrees from the University of Saint Joseph (B.A.), Trinity College (M.A.) and the University of Connecticut School of Law (J.D.) where she graduated with honors.

 

ASSISTANT CHILD ADVOCATE: VALERIE LILLEY, LCSW

Valerie Lilley joined the Office of the Child Advocate in July 2019.  As an Assistant Child Advocate, Valerie contributes to the office goals of monitoring and evaluating private and public agencies through prevention and advocacy strategies; conducting investigations and periodic reviews; participating in activities to educate and inform the public of laws and services that affect children and families; and acting as a liaison with local and national institutions and organizations.


Valerie’s extensive background lends to the strength of her role as an advocate.  She has vast experience in both state and non-profit private child protection and child welfare systems, including managing several therapeutic foster care and adoption programs; providing multi-state technical assistance on achieving permanency; and developing and implementing complex trauma training for diverse audiences. 


Prior to joining the OCA, Valerie served as a director of the social work and rehabilitation departments of a state mental health facility providing comprehensive inpatient and psychiatric care and addiction treatment to adults.  Valerie was compelled to apply lessons learned from that setting to return to her work with children and families.    

 

Valerie earned a bachelor’s degree and Master of Social Work from the University of Connecticut. 


Quote of inspiration - “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” - James Baldwin