Michelle Hughes

Executive Director

NCChild15Michelle joined NC Child in October 2014.  As Executive Director, Michelle oversees the staff, finances, and strategic direction of the organization. Additionally, Michelle serves as NC Child’s primary point of contact to external allies, including policymakers, the media, and private allies.

Michelle has worked in the field of children’s advocacy for almost 20 years in North Carolina.  She has served in a number of executive and leadership positions including Project Director of the Partnering for Excellence Initiative at Benchmarks, Executive Vice-President for Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina, and Public Action Director at the NC Child Advocacy Institute, the organizational predecessor to NC Child.

Michelle’s leadership and advocacy for children has been recognized both nationally and in North Carolina.  She is the 2012 recipient of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth and Families Commissioner’s Award and the 2012 North Carolina Pediatric Society, Tom Vitaglione Child Health Advocacy Award.

A graduate of Loyola College in Baltimore, Maryland, Michelle holds Master’s degrees in English and Social Work from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Michelle can be reached at 919.834.6623 ext. 224 or at michelle@ncchild.org.

Laila Bell

Director of Research and Data

NCChild21Laila joined NC Child in January 2014. As Director of Research and Data, Laila leads the development of research and data-based products and directs the North Carolina KIDS COUNT project. Laila founded and manages NC Child’s Research and Policy Fellowship, a competitive program that seeks to cultivate the next generation of results-based and equity-focused child advocates in North Carolina from low income communities and communities of color.

Prior to joining NC Child, Laila worked from 2010 to 2013 as the Director of Research and Data at Action for Children North Carolina. Previously, Laila served as an analyst for the Texas KIDS COUNT project at the Center for Public Policy Priorities. Laila also worked at the Texas Council on Family Violence (TCFV) where she researched public policy, evidence-based practices, and the impact of family violence on children . During her tenure at TCFV Laila created the Texas Family Violence Service Directory, an interactive tool that connects service providers to information about curricula and best practices.

A native of South Carolina, Laila holds a Master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs and a Bachelor’s degree with double majors in Political Science and Psychology from Winthrop University.

Laila can be reached at 919.834.6623 ext. 225 or at laila@ncchild.org.

Adam Sotak

NCChild03Public Engagement Director

Adam joined NC Child in November 2015. In his role as Public Engagement Director, he leads NC Child’s advocacy efforts to promote economic opportunity and improve children’s health and well-being.

He has over 15 years of community organizing and policy advocacy experience here in North Carolina. During his career he has received numerous awards including the Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP’s “Unsung Hero” Award in 2005.

Born in West Virginia, Adam moved to Salisbury, NC (the home of Cheerwine) at age 12. He received his BSW from Appalachian State University and MSW from UNC-Chapel Hill. He lives in Durham with his wife, Tara, and three children Anders, Harriet, and Bennett.

Adam can be reached at 919.834.6623 ext. 228 or at adam@ncchild.org.


Matt Gross

Policy Directorjpeg_dsc_0783-4

Matt joined NC Child in December of 2016. As Policy Director, Matt oversees the creation and advancement of our policy agenda through the integration of data and research, strategic communications, community engagement, and direct advocacy. He represents NC Child in the North Carolina General Assembly and with North Carolina’s Congressional Delegation.

Matt has over a decade of experience working on public policy. Before joining NC Child he most recently worked as the Policy Director for The North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc. In that role he represented Smart Start in the legislature and worked on a variety of early childhood education policies including access to high quality care, early literacy, and governance.

Before working as registered lobbyist, Matt served for Virginia Governors Timothy M. Kaine and Robert F. McDonnell as the Conflict of Interest Director. He also served under Governor Kaine, with the Secretary of Health and Human Resources, in various roles including managing the Virginia Commission on Immigration and Council on the Status of Women. While in Virginia he also worked as a Legislative Assistant for Senator John C. Watkins.

Matt holds a Master’s in Social Work with a concentration in Administration, Planning, and Public Policy from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from North Carolina State University.

Matt can be reached at 919.834.6623 ext. 234 or at matt@ncchild.org.

NCChild10Sarah Vidrine

Senior Policy Analyst

As Senior Policy Analyst, Sarah works on health policy with a particular focus on children’s oral health.

For over 20 years, Sarah has worked to promote opportunities for children and families. Her career has included direct service, systems reform, and policy advocacy.  From 2007-2014, Sarah worked as the Director of Policy and Systems Initiatives at Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina. She continues to do freelance consulting with a variety of nonprofit agencies.

A native of Kansas, Sarah attended universities in New York and Seattle before settling in North Carolina in 2002. She and her husband, Dominique, share their home with three children, a dog, a cat, and a rabbit.

Sarah can be reached at sarah@ncchild.org.

Rob Thompson

Senior Policy and Communications Advisor

NCChild04Rob joined NC Child in January 2014. As the senior policy and communications advisor, Rob manages the organization’s efforts to build public support for its policy priorities.

Prior to joining NC Child, Rob worked from 2008 to 2013 as the executive director of the Covenant with North Carolina’s Children. In that role, Rob oversaw the organization’s government relations, membership network, and fundraising.

From 2005 to 2008, Rob directed NC Public Interest Research Group, a consumer and good-government advocacy group. From 2003 to 2005, Rob worked as an organizer at the Center for Campus Free Speech and directed grassroots fundraising offices in Chapel Hill, NC, and New York City.

Rob grew up in Atlanta, GA, and attended Tulane University in New Orleans, LA, where he graduated with a degree in English literature. He enjoys backpacking, basketball, and talking about the weather.

Rob can be reached at rob@ncchild.org.


Denise Bowles

DeniseFinance Officer

Denise joined NC Child in March 2015, as Finance Officer. In addition to the day-to-day accounting services for payables, receivables, and payroll, Denise lends her technical expertise for multi-year budgeting and tracking grant allocations. With over three decades of accounting experience in the Triangle Area, she enjoys the challenge of the nonprofit agencies and provides services to several other small nonprofit organizations in the local community in addition to NC Child.

A native resident of Cary/Apex area, Denise enjoys spending time relaxing with her family. She can be found reading a book, somewhere along the NC east coast whenever time allows.

Denise can be reached at 919.834.6623 ext. 226 or through email at finance@ncchild.org.


Samantha Hynd

Operations Assistant sam

Samantha joined NC Child in September 2016. In her role as the Operations Assistant, she provides project management and administrative support to NC Child team members to ensure efficient operations across all areas of the agency. She focuses on fund development, external communications, and office management.

Prior to joining NC Child, Samantha worked for The Children’s Campaign, a nonprofit children’s advocacy organization in Tallahassee, Florida. In that role, Samantha supported the work of upper management. She also coordinated recruitment opportunities for their workforce development program by managing resumes, scheduling interviews, and extending offers to interested applicants.

A native of South Carolina, Samantha holds a Master’s degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice from Florida State University and a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, with minors in Psychology and Criminology from College of Charleston. Samantha recently relocated to Raleigh, NC and is excited to explore the area.

Samantha can be reached at 919.834.6623 ext. 229 or samantha@ncchild.org. 



La-Mine Perkins

Outreach Coordinator

La-Mine coordinates the outreach activities of the NC Coalition to Protect Child and Family Health.

Prior to Joining NC Child, La-Mine was the Professional Education Coordinator at Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina where she oversaw the development, coordination, and implementation of PCNAC’s Professional Education program.  A New York native, La-Mine relocated to Raleigh, North Carolina in January 2004.  In New York she worked at St. Christopher-Ottilie Children and Family Services, where she provided support to the Independent Living and Group Placements departments.

La-Mine attended college in New York and is currently enrolled at NC State University.  La-Mine lives in Fuquay with her husband and three children. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling and attending community events with her family.

La-Mine can be reached at lamine@ncchild.org.



Tom Vitaglione

Senior Fellow, Health and Safety (Volunteer)

For three decades, Tom Vitaglione served in the NC Division of Public Health providing essential services to the children of North Carolina. As chief of the Children and Youth section of the Division of Women’s and Children’s Health, Tom supervised all health programs for the state’s youth including a wide range of prevention and specialized services. He was instrumental in promoting and bringing about the Children’s Health Insurance Program and was a strong advocate for the Infant Homicide Prevention Act. Tom received his master’s in public health from Columbia University.

Tom can be reached at 919.834.6623 ext. 238 or at tom@ncchild.org.




Melissa Johnsonmelissa-johnson

Fellow, Early Intervention and Mental Health

Dr. Johnson received her B.A. in psychology from Duke University, and completed her Ph.D. in clinical psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1980. Her clinical, teaching and research activities have all focused on infant mental health and on high-need children and families, particularly preterm infants, as well as children with medical conditions, developmental disabilities, or experiences of abuse and neglect.

From 1986 until her retirement in 2016, she was employed at WakeMed Health and Hospitals as a pediatric psychologist and coordinator of the Developmental Team of the Pediatric and Neonatology services. She is certified in the Brazelton Neonatal Behavioral Assessment Scale and the Assessment of Preterm Infant Behavior, and is a Senior Trainer in the NIDCAP© and is certified as an NNACP site reviewer. She is past president of the North Carolina Infant Mental Health Association, is a member of the Board of Directors of the North Carolina Partnership for children, and is active in a number of statewide early childhood and family advocacy organizations and projects.