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Office of the Child Advocate's Staff

Ryan Speidel:

Governor Gretchen Whitmer appointed Ryan Speidel as Michigan's Children's Ombudsman on May 30, 2023. Before his appointment, Ryan served as the deputy director of the Office of Children's Ombudsman. Ryan also served as the Acting Children's Ombudsman from 2020 to 2021. On December 12, 2023, Public Act 303 of 2023, changed the name of the office to the Office of the Child Advocate. Ryan remains appointed as Michigan's Child Advocate.

Ryan Speidel has over two decades of public service in law enforcement, the regulatory field, and leadership. He served the City of Jackson, the Michigan Department of State, the Office of Inspector General, the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards, and the Office of Children's Ombudsman. Ryan earned his bachelor's degree in sociology with a minor in criminology and criminal justice from Eastern Michigan University and is a graduate of the 72nd Mid-Michigan Police Academy. Ryan honorably served the City of Jackson Police Department for approximately eight and a half years as a police officer, detective, and patrol sergeant. He has experience as a regulation agent with the Michigan Department of State and as an assistant inspector general with the Office of Inspector General (OIG). After his time with the OIG, Ryan served the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) as Chief Investigator and Compliance Section Manager. At MCOLES, Ryan was the sole individual responsible for the Commission's investigations, administration of the Michigan Public Safety Officer Benefit, Private University Security Force license, and the Private Security Police license while managing MCOLES' statutory oversight of Michigan's twenty police academies.

As the Child Advocate, Ryan strives to support improvement within Michigan's child welfare system through advocacy, independent complaint investigations, and suggesting meaningful recommendations for positive change. Ryan aims to improve the child welfare system by improving laws, policies, and practices to benefit current and future generations.

 

Kenyatta Lewis:

Kenyatta Lewis is currently serving as the Deputy Director of the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA). Before her role as the acting Deputy Director, she worked as the Manager of the Public Education and Intake Unit. In that role, Kenyatta streamlined data collection processes and improved the quality of preliminary investigation reports. As Deputy Director, Kenyatta is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the OCA and guiding the Investigation, and Public Education and Intake Units. She has played a vital role in expanding the Detroit office space to accommodate more staff as the agency grows. Additionally, Kenyatta has been instrumental in developing the OCA's annual report and training opportunities for OCA staff members.

Kenyatta's extensive experience in child welfare investigations and child welfare investigation management spans nearly two decades. She has held several positions in Child Protective Services (CPS) supervision, CPS program management, foster care supervision, foster care program management, and funding supervision. Kenyatta has also worked on adult foster care licensing investigations. She even aided MDHHS in developing and testing the department's SWSS and MiSACWIS applications.

Kenyatta holds a bachelor's degree in public administration from Grand Valley State University and a master's degree in social work from Eastern Michigan University.

 

Michelle Brandel:

Michelle Brandel came to the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) in 2017 as the Intake and Communications Coordinator. Prior to coming to the OCA, Michelle worked as a Children's Protective Services (CPS) Investigator in Shiawassee County as well as Charlevoix and Emmet Counties. Michelle assisted in the training of new employees within these county offices. Michelle was also previously a Licensing Worker and a Case Aide.

Michelle spent years at the OCA handling new complaints, conducting preliminary investigations on child deaths and complaints from the public as well as providing information to the public on the child welfare system policies and procedures. Since coming to the OCA, Michelle has helped create and implement new intake policies and procedures to help the OCA work more efficiently. Michelle has been involved in the development of the OCA's new case management system, yearly production of the OCA annual report and the ongoing updates to the OCA website. Because of Michelle's hard work, dedication and expertise, Michelle was promoted to the OCA's lead Intake and Communications Coordinator and was further promoted to Investigator in 2021. Michelle earned her bachelor's degree in social work from the University of Michigan-Flint.

Michelle currently serves as the OCO Chief Investigator. 

 

Scott Clements:

Scott Clements has been working as an Investigator for the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) since 2015. He has over 20 years of experience in child welfare and is a licensed social worker. Prior to joining the OCA, Scott worked at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) for almost ten years. During his tenure at MDHHS, he worked as a Permanency Resource Monitor (PRM) where he helped find families for children who had been in foster care for extended periods. He also served as a Children's Protective Services (CPS) Investigator, where he conducted investigations into allegations of child abuse and neglect. Before that, he provided therapeutic services to children who had been sexually abused and their families. Additionally, Scott has worked for a private agency foster care program as a counselor and case manager for families with children in foster care.

Scott holds a master's degree in social work from the University of Michigan, where he received a child welfare fellowship. He also has a bachelor's degree in law and society from Michigan State University and has been qualified as an expert witness in child welfare.

Scott currently serves as Chief Investigator at the OCA.

 

Raina Harris:

Raina Harris has been committed to making a difference in Child Welfare for over 27 years. Her journey started as a residential specialist with Lutheran Child and Family Services, where she worked for two years. In 1998, she joined the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) as a foster care specialist in Wayne County. She has held several positions within MDHHS, including first-line manager, where she supervised various teams, including foster care, child welfare funding, juvenile justice, and eligibility specialists. 

Raina has also contributed to several significant projects throughout her career, including MDHHS statewide policy review and development as a Foster Care Lines of Service Team member, MiSACWIS rollout, liaising between MDHHS and community partners such as the City of Detroit, DTE, Families First, and Wayne County Juvenile Court Title IVE and court order matters, and the development of local MDHHS office and county protocol. 

Raina earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Wayne State University and has a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace certification from the University of South Florida Muma College of Business. 

Raina currently serves as the Public Education and Intake Division Administrator. 

 

Paula Cunningham:

Paula is an investigator for the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) and has been working in Child Welfare programs since 1993. Paula graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor's degree in psychology. Prior to her work as an Investigator with the OCA, she supervised Children's Protective Services and Foster Care after having been an adoption specialist, foster care case manager and Child Protective Services investigator. Her strong accomplishments as a supervisor were in leading staff toward completion of management objectives by providing direction in the development of initiatives that focused on timely permanency for children and ensuring their safety.

Paula has served on various task forces such as the Mayors task force in Detroit, Liaison to the Bureau of Substance Abuse, Foster care Review Board member, and presenter for the State Court Administrative Office Child Welfare Issues Conference.

Paula's current experience includes conducting complex and sensitive investigations into the actions of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and private child placing agencies concerning children involved in children's protective services, foster care, adoptions and juvenile justice and upon completion of the investigation make recommendations to DHHS, the legislature, and the Governor regarding changes in law and policy to improve the child welfare system and to advocate for children.

Paula is a resident of Dearborn and works predominantly in her Detroit office at Cadillac Place, while occasionally attending meetings with her colleagues in the Lansing office.

Paula currently serves as an OCA Investigator.

 
Christopher Kilmer:

Chris Kilmer has been an investigator at the Office of the Child Advocate since 2019. Chris has over 20 years of experience in human services. Chris spent nearly seven years serving as a police officer for the City of Jackson before moving into non-profit work. Chris worked for the Community Action Agency (CAA) of Jackson, Lenawee and Hillsdale Counties as both a Grant Manager and Program Director. After his time with CAA, Chris was the Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity in Jackson County before transitioning to the State of Michigan. With the State, Chris has been a Children's Protective Services (CPS) case manager, Foster Care Education Planer, CPS Trainer, and Training Manager. Chris has a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Ferris State University and Master of Arts degree in Counseling from Spring Arbor University.

Chris currently serves as an OCA Investigator.


Tiffany Jackson:

Tiffany has more than 25 years of experience in Child Welfare with 17 ½ years concentrated in Children and Family Services. Tiffany worked as an Independent Living Specialist in Adult Services, Children's Protective Services Specialist, Children's Placement Specialist, Certification/Recruitment and Training Specialist (for DHS and a private agency) and a Children's Foster Care Specialist. Her career with the Office of the Child Advocate started in October 2010.

As an Independent Living Specialist, Tiffany was responsible for completing case intakes, completing assessments for individuals to determine eligibility for Home Help Services & use of the Adult Services Comprehensive Assessment Program (ASCAP) to write reports and determine financial eligibility for providers.  As a Children's Protective Services Worker her responsibilities included investigating allegations of child abuse and neglect of court wards in licensed and unlicensed placements and institutional settings as well as in parental homes. As a Children's Placement Specialist, Tiffany was responsible for obtaining the least restrictive placement for children who were being removed from their homes or being replaced from their current placement. As a Certification/Recruitment & Foster Home Training Specialist Tiffany was responsible for training current and prospective Foster/Adoptive/Relative Providers in the agency and State of Michigan Licensing guidelines ensuring Foster Home contract compliance and investigating complaints of non-compliance with agency and State guidelines.  As a Foster Care case manager, she was responsible for providing reunification services to families for reunification, permanency planning and adoption.

Tiffany currently serves as an OCA Investigator.

 
Jessica Carls:

Jessica Carls joined the OCA in June 2022 as the OCA Intake Technician. In March of 2023, she was promoted to an analyst position. Before coming to the OCA, Jessica worked as a paralegal for over eight years and then served as a victim advocate for the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office for 12 years. As an advocate, Jessica worked directly with children who were victims of child abuse and neglect and their parents. Through this work, she has developed an understanding of the child welfare system. In addition to her professional work experience, Jessica has previously volunteered with the MDHHS Mass Violence Response Team and Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA).

Jessica has a Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies and Criminal Justice from Grand Valley State University.

Jessica current serves as an OCA Public Education and Intake Analyst.


Rebecca Taylor:

Becky Taylor came to the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) in May of 2019 as the Senior Executive Management Assistant (SEMA) to a prior Ombudsman, Lisa McCormick. Prior to joining the OCA, Becky worked at the Ingham County Prosecutor's Office as the administrative assistant for the Chief Assistant Prosecutor for ten years. Becky has experience working as a judicial assistant in the circuit court, judicial assistant, deputy clerk and court recorder in district court, as well as managing a law firm.  

Since coming to the OCA, Becky has assisted in creating changes to the OCA communication procedures to ensure our office is efficient and assessable to the public.

In October of 2021, Becky was promoted to analyst in the OCA’s Public Education and Intake Unit. As an analyst, she speaks with the public, takes new complaints, and conducts preliminary investigations on complainant and death cases.

Becky currently serves as an OCA Public Education and Intake Analyst.


Roger Smith:

Roger Smith has ten years of experience with the State of Michigan, working as a Juvenile Justice Worker, Children’s Protective Services Investigator and a Foster Care Case Manager in Livingston and Ingham Counties. These positions involved the investigation of possible abuse and neglect of children, the placement of children in appropriate home or residential facilities, and the oversight of the therapeutic and educational services required to meet each child’s needs while under the care of the State of Michigan. In addition to the investigation and case management responsibilities of these positions, Roger was also very actively involved in the Michigan Youth Opportunities Initiative, the Safe Sleep initiatives in Ingham County, and Human Trafficking Work Group from the Grand Rapids area.

Roger also has experience at the Office of Inspector General at the State of Michigan, where he investigated Medicaid health care providers and oversaw the program integrity efforts of 14 dental and behavioral health managed care organizations. Prior to working for the State of Michigan, Roger was a lead staff at St. Vincent’s Home for Children in Lansing, MI. Roger has a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Michigan State University, a Juris Doctorate from Thomas M. Cooley Law School and is a member of the State Bar of Michigan since 2008.

Roger currently serves as an OCA Public Education and Intake Lead Analyst. 

 

Shameka Hamilton:

Shameka Hamilton serves as the Intake Coordinator of the Public Education and Intake Unit. Shameka is the initial point of contact for the Office of the Child Advocate (OCA), answering incoming calls to the office and creating intakes. Prior to joining the OCA, Shameka worked as a Children’s Protective Services (CPS) case manager in Wayne County. As a CPS case manager she was responsible for investigating allegations of abuse and neglect, advocating for children, providing support and resources for families, as well as facilitating meetings for case planning.

Shameka holds bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Social Psychology from Western Michigan University. She also earned her Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Eastern Michigan University. Shameka is a limited license professional counselor.

Shameka currently serves as the OCA Public Education and Intake Coordinator.