United Family Advocates is a bipartisan coalition of child and family advocates who seek policy solutions to create a more compassionate and just child welfare system focused on supporting rather than separating families. We bring together advocates from across the political spectrum who have divergent views on many issues, but are united by our commitment to a future in which children and families find safety and support from community investment rather than government intervention.



    We are driven by an understanding that family separation is an extraordinary trauma that the child welfare system inflicts all too often. Although devastating stories of child abuse make headlines, these stories do not represent typical child welfare cases, nor do they represent typical reasons for family separation. Again and again, we see families separated for issues that are called neglect but are really poverty. Our top priority is ending the confusion of poverty and neglect. We worked with Rep. Gwen Moore to propose the Family Poverty is Not Child Neglect Act (HR 6233 of 2019), which prevents agencies from separating families for conditions relating to poverty, instead requiring that families be provided material assistance to stay together. This language was incorporated into the pending Stronger Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (HR 485 of 2021).



    In addition, we seek to reform child protection investigation policies and practices that cause trauma to children and families and to provide fair checks and balances for decisions that have life-long consequences for children. We seek to reform mandated reporting practices that flood hotlines with false and frivolous reports, starting with replacing anonymous with confidential hotline reporting. We are also working to stop hidden foster care, family separations that are mislabeled as "voluntary," in which agencies compel the separation of parents and children without affording families access to judicial oversight. We seek to reform child abuse registries that operate as employment and licensing blacklists, doubling down on the economic hardship of families and children living in poverty.  Finally, we call for an overhaul of the Adoption and Safe Families Act to prevent unnecessary family separation and end harmful presumptions that deprive children of lifelong connections to their own families.




    Children Belong with Family. Family separation is a traumatic experience that causes lifelong consequences for children, parents, and communities. It is an intervention that must be used extremely sparingly and only when no feasible alternatives exist to protect children from immediate harm if they remain with their parents or caregivers. The creation of feasible alternatives to family separation, and support for children’s lifelong familial relationships when separation becomes essential, are moral imperatives.



    Common Ground. As we work toward lasting change in entrenched systems that harm children and families, we value open dialogue and cooperation across the political spectrum. We strive to embody respect, understanding and appreciation for the values, diverse experiences, and commitments of our members, partners, and allies even if we disagree. We value the relationships that we are building through our work.



    Communities Should Design their Own Solutions. Child welfare systems offer services that fail to match the identified needs of children, families and communities. Services have too often been designed to meet the needs and resources of service providers, not the needs and resources of communities. This has led to a devastating number of families separated for poverty when concrete, material support could have kept them together. We urge investment that invites communities to design their own solutions to the real priority needs of children and families.



    Listening and Valuing the Experiences of Those Directly Impacted. The child welfare system must hear, elevate, and amplify the voices of those with direct personal experience with its interventions. Parents and children who have experienced child welfare intervention understand its impact most powerfully. As advocates for families, some with lived experience and many not, we recognize the imperative to listen to and heed many voices of directly affected parents and children as we do this work.



    Recognizing Disproportional Impact and Reducing Harm. As we recognize the harm family separation causes, we work to reduce such harm, understanding that the child welfare system has imposed disproportionate, severe and enduring harms of the child welfare system to poor, minority, and marginalized families, with harms falling especially hard on Black and Indigenous communities. We commit to using our resources and experience as advocates to support the voices, experiences, and leadership of all families and communities harmed by the abuses of the child welfare system.



    The Child Welfare System Is More Appropriately Understood as the Family Regulation System. Because the system routinely fails to advance child wellbeing, and frequently undermines child wellbeing by focusing its resources on traumatic, harmful interventions, we believe that the term “family regulation system,” better describes the system that we work to change. Nevertheless, because this understanding is not yet broadly understood, we continue to use the term child welfare on this website as we look forward to a time when more policymakers across the political spectrum understand the system as we do.

  • united family advocates leadership

    United Family Advocates was founded by Diane Redleaf and is currently co-chaired by Andrew Brown and Kathleen Creamer.

    Andrew Brown, J.D.

    Distinguished Senior Fellow

    of Child & Family Policy

    Texas Public Policy Foundation


    Andrew Brown has dedicated his career to serving vulnerable children and strengthening families through community-focused, liberty-minded solutions. As an attorney, he has represented children in the child welfare system, advocated for the rights of parents, and helped build families through domestic and international adoption.


    Andrew earned his B.A., magna cum laude, in political science from Baylor University and his J.D. from Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law. He is licensed to practice law in Texas and Virginia. His work on international adoption law and other child welfare issues has been published in leading legal journals and respected media outlets.

    Kathleen Creamer, J.D.

    Managing Attorney

    Family Advocacy Unit

    Community Legal Services of Philadelphia


    Kathleen Creamer is the Managing Attorney of the Family Advocacy Unit at Community Legal Services, which uses a holistic family defense model to represent parents involved with the child welfare system. During her time at CLS, Kathleen also served as a Stoneleigh Foundation Fellow dedicated to Improving Reunification Outcomes for Incarcerated Parents. Prior to joining CLS, she served as Director of Legal Services at Our Place, DC, a women’s reentry nonprofit. Kathleen is a member of the Steering Committee for the American Bar Association’s National Alliance for Parent Representation. She is also co-chair of the Communications Workgroup of the Family Justice Initiative.

    Diane Redleaf, J.D.

    Consultant, Family Defense Consulting




    Diane L. Redleaf, J.D., is a nationally-respected Illinois-based family defense attorney whose 2018 book, They Took the Kids Last Night: How the Child Protection System Puts Families At Risk (ABC-Clio) demonstrates the urgent need for the effective legal defense of families in the face of false allegations of abuse. She founded the Chicago-based Family Defense Center in 2005 and served as its Executive Director until 2016, after a long career at the Legal Assistance Foundation (Chicago)(1979-1996) and the private civil rights firm of Lehrer and Redleaf (1996-2005). 


    In  November 2016, she initiated a dialogue process with family advocates who identify themselves as liberal/progressive and those who identify themselves as conservative/libertarian. The result became United Family Advocates.


    Diane is a graduate of Stanford Law School, where she was an Articles and Book Review Editor of the Stanford Law Review, and has a B.A. from Carleton College.


    More information about Diane's work is available at www.familydefenseconsulting.com

    Diane can be reached at familydefensenconsulting@gmail.com

  • united family advocates steering committee

    Michael Bowman, President, ALEC Action

    Darice Good,  Law Office of Darice Good

    Christine Gottlieb, Adjunct Professor of Clinical Law, and Co-Director, Family Defense Clinic, New York University School of Law

    Martin Guggenheim, Professor Law and Co-director, Family Defense Clinic, New York University School of Law

    Mimi Laver, Director, Legal Representation Project, American Bar Association Center for Children and the Law *advisory

    April Lee, Peer Parent Advocate, Community Legal Services of Philadelphia

    James Mason, Vice President of Litigation and Development, Home School Legal Defense Association

    Nora McCarthy, founder, NYC Family Policy Project

    Maggie McKneely, Federal Relations Liaison, Home School Legal Defense Association

    David Meyers, COO, Dependency Legal Services

    Michael Ramey, Executive Director, ParentalRights.Org

    Diane Redleaf, Family Defense Consulting

    Anjana Samant, Senior Staff Attorney, Women’s Rights Project, ACLU

    Johana Scot, Executive Director, Parent Guidance Center, Inc. 

    Amelia Watson, Managing Attorney, Washington State Office of Public Defense

    Richard Wexler, Executive Director, National Coalition for Child Protection Reform

    Ruth Ann White, Executive Director, National Center for Housing and Child Welfare