Michelle Hughes
Executive Director

Joined NC Child staff: 2014
Pets: Max the dog and Boots the cat  

When she was eight, Michelle wanted to be a teacher. Today as NC Child’s 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 holds Master’s degrees in English and Social Work from UNC Chapel Hill. She loves to cook, and is constantly cooking up new ideas as NC Child’s most prolific Idea Generator. 

Michelle’s favorite thing about working at NC Child: “Getting to work alongside smart, committed, strategic advocates for children and learning from them every day.”

Michelle can be reached at (919) 726-6392 or michelle@ncchild.org.


Vikki Crouse
Policy Analyst

Joined NC Child staff: 2019
Pets: Two cats, Penny and Olive 

When Vikki was eight, she wanted to be a grocer. Today Vikki leads NC Child’s environmental health program to ensure that children have the opportunity to grow up healthy and meet developmental milestones in an environment free of toxicants. Born in Chicago, she moved to western NC with her family at age 5. Vikki holds an MSW from UNC-Chapel Hill. As NC Child’s in-house Cruise Director, Vikki is COO of both the Fun Team and the Yarn Club.  

Vikki’s favorite thing about working at NC Child: “Working with a team of dedicated advocates who make me laugh on a daily basis.” 

Vikki can be reached at 919-726-6531 or vikki@ncchild.org.



Kim Gibson-Forrest 
Director of Finance & Administration

Joined NC Child Staff: 2017
Pets: 2 dogsKoda and Bailey 

Kim has always wanted to be an accountant, even as a little girl, when she dreamed of growing up to work with her Dad – an accountant. As NC Child’s Director of Finance & Administration, Kim manages the organization’s finance and human resource functions. Kim received her BS in – surprise! – accounting from Binghamton University. Outside of work, Kim spends most of her time watching her six kids in action in their wrestling matches, football, soccer, volleyball, and basketball games. 

Kim’s favorite thing about working at NC Child: “Knowing I have a small part in making kids’ lives better in NC – not many accountants can say that!” 

Kim can be reached at (919) 726-6535 or finance@ncchild.org.



Fawn Pattison 
Communications Director & Senior Campaign Advisor

Joined NC Child Staff: 2018 

Pets: Lion the dog 

At age eight, Fawn wanted to be a large animal veterinarian. As Communications Director at NC Child, she boils down complex policy issues to what’s really at stake for kids so North Carolinians can engage in critical public policy issues. As Senior Campaign Advisor, she collaborates with the Health Team staff members to prevent children’s exposures to environmental pollution that can harm health and development. She has an MA and a Certificate in Public Health from UNC Chapel Hill. She also serves as NC Child’s in-house craft beer sommelier, Fun Team secretary, and third vice-chair of the Yarn Club.  

Fawn’s favorite thing about working at NC Child: The wonderful co-workers” 

Fawn can be reached at fawn@ncchild.org.



La-Mine Perkins
Community Engagement Specialist

Joined the NC Child Staff:  2017
Pets: Blackie the dog 

When La-Mine was eight, she wanted to be a chef. Today she still loves to cook, and she coordinates NC Child’s outreach and story collection work, leading both our Youth Advocacy Council and Parent Advisory Council. La-Mine received her BSW at NC State University, and is currently pursuing her MSW there, while also working full-time and raising a family. Believe it or not, she also finds time to read.  

La-Mine’s favorite thing about working at NC Child: “Being a part of a team that’s striving to use both data and the lived experiences of people to inform our work.”  

La-Mine can be reached at (919) 726-6394 or lamine@ncchild.org.



Ileana Rodriguez
Development Director

Joined NC Child Staff:  2019
Pets: Dignan the dog and Applejack the cat 

When she was eight, Ileana wanted to be a writer. Today she’s the chief talent recruiter for the Voices for Children Choir. She works closely with the Executive Director and the Board of Directors to create and oversee NC Child’s fundraising efforts, with a focus on individual and major giving. Ileana received degrees in Music and Art History from UNC Greensboro. She serves as vice president of NC Child’s Fun Team and Yarn Club. She lives in Raleigh with her partner Jared, three sewing machines, nine bicycles, at least ten unfinished knitting projects, dozens of cookbooks, and way, way, way too many records to count. 

What Ileana likes best about working at NC Child: Receiving Tom V’s interoffice memos.” 

Ileana can be reached at (919) 726-6325 or ileana@ncchild.org.



Whitney Tucker
Research Director

Joined NC Child Staff: 2017
Pets: An unusually handsome cat named Seven 

When Whitney was eight, she wanted to be a pop star. She has come close in her role as Data Guru at NC Child. She leads the agency’s research on child well-being and provides actionable analyses of public policies impacting NC children and families. Whitney also engages in research for academic publication, with special interests in advocacy evaluation and policy tools advancing racial and ethnic equity. She has an MPH from the University of South Carolina and a BA in public policy from Vanderbilt University. She is also the captain of the NC Child Fun Team and lead restaurant critic.  

Whitney’s favorite thing about working at NC Child: “I laugh every day.”  

Whitney can be reached at (919) 726-6540 or at whitney@ncchild.org.



Adam Sotak
Public Engagement Director

Joined NC Child Staff: 2015
Pets: none 

When Adam was eight, he wanted to be a professional soccer playerBorn in West Virginia, Adam moved to Salisbury, NC (the home of Cheerwine) at age 12, where he lived out his dreams of soccer stardom. As NC Child’s Statewide Cat Herder, Adam leads our grassroots advocacy efforts to promote economic opportunity and improve children’s health and well-being. Adam also leads the Child Advocacy Network. Adam received his BSW from Appalachian State University and MSW from UNC-Chapel Hill. He lives in Durham with his wife and three children. He enjoys reading the newspaper the old-fashioned way.

Adam’s favorite thing about working at NC Child: “Advocating for kids!” 

Adam can be reached at (919) 726-6396 or at adam@ncchild.org.



Sarah Vidrine
Policy Analyst

Joined NC Child Staff: 2015
Pets: One cat, a crazy greyhound, and an ancient terrier 

When she was eight, Sarah wanted to be a waitress, and pursuing that dream got her through college. Today she serves up collaborative efforts to build effective oral health systems for kids in North Carolina. As Apprentice Utility Infielder, Sarah often jumps in to help advance all our health policy goals. Originally from Kansas, Sarah attended New York University and graduated with a degree in early childhood/elementary education. She is also the founder and CEO of the NC Child Yarn Club.  

Sarah’s favorite thing about working at NC Child: “The mission and fabulous staff.” 

Sarah can be reached at sarah@ncchild.org.



Ciara Zachary 
Health Program Director

Ciara joined NC Child in May 2018. In her role as Health Program Director, she leads NC Child’s health program and policy efforts to ensure that every child in North Carolina not only has high-quality and affordable health coverage, but receives high-quality and affordable care and services they need.

Prior to joining NC Child, Ciara worked for three years as a Policy Analyst at the North Carolina Justice Center. In that role, she focused on community education, advocacy, and research in the areas of Medicaid transformation and increasing access to Medicaid. Ciara also has experience as a public health researcher and evaluator. She worked at a research consulting firm as program manager for projects that provided technical assistance to 33 tribes and tribal organizations to help them build their capacity to develop and sustain an injury prevention programs. Other experience includes a pre-doctoral fellowship with The Annie E. Casey Foundation that aimed to reduce high school drop-out rates in Baltimore City. Ciara also completed a postdoctoral fellowship for a project funded by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene that aimed to increase pediatric primary care providers’ capacity to manage child and adolescent behavioral health.

A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Ciara received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania, her Master’s in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and her doctorate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Ciara can be reached at (919) 726-6500 or ciara@ncchild.org.


Morgan Forrester
Director, NC Initiative for Young Children’s Social-Emotional Health

Joined NC Child Staff: 2019 

Pets: Nova, a ten year-old shelter pup 

When she was 8, Morgan wanted to be a teacher. Today, Morgan is NC Child’s emotional wellness cheerleader, bringing together leaders from across sectors to ensure the mental and emotional health of North Carolina’s infants and toddlers. She grew up in Northern Kentucky and now calls Raleigh, N.C. home. She has an MSW from UNC-Chapel Hill, and as a crocheter is the newest member of NC Child’s Yarn Club. 

Morgan’s favorite thing about working at NC Child: “I have two favorite things: the people and the work, so basically it’s like nirvana. 

Morgan can be reached at (919) 670-2717 or morgan@ncchild.org.


Eva Paige Bahnuk
Communications & Development Assistant

Joined NC Child Staff: 2019 

Pets: 2 dogs and 1 cat. One of the dogs can sort-of talk. 

When she was eight, Eva wanted to be a marine biologist, but today she’s a macro-level Social Work practitioner with a knack for data organization and management. As Communications & Development Assistant, she keeps track of the thousands of child advocates around the state who make up NC Child’s powerful network. Eva has an MSW from UNC-Chapel Hill and a BS in psychology from Duke. She loves water polo and writes all her correspondence by hand in beautiful calligraphy.  

Eva’s favorite thing about working at NC Child: “Getting to work with an organization that does meaningful work for children with a genuine effort to consider and combat racial inequities.”

Eva can be reached at (919)726-7675 or eva@ncchild.org.



Tom Vitaglione
Senior Fellow, Health and Safety (Volunteer)

Joined NC Child Staff: 2000
Pets:  Tom is a cat lover with no cats 

As a young boy growing up in New York City, Tom dreamed of becoming a firefighter. He has spent the last four decades fighting for the health and safety of North Carolina’s children. As NC Child’s Utility Infielder, Tom is one of the state’s leading voices for maternal and child health. Tom received his MPH from Columbia University. He is passionate about the Yankees, Knicks, Rangers, and Giants, and has more awards named after him than anyone else in the office. 

Tom’s favorite thing about working at NC Child: “The warm staff camaraderie.” 

Tom can be reached at (919) 726-6526 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.