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.

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.


Whitney Tucker WTucker_2015

Research Director

Whitney joined NC Child in October 2017. In her role as Research Director, she leads the agency’s child well-being research initiatives and provides actionable analysis of public policies impacting NC children and families.

Prior to joining NC Child, Whitney spent four years working as Policy and Research Associate at Children’s Trust of South Carolina. In that role, she managed the South Carolina KIDS COUNT data program and coordinated the South Carolina Early Childhood Common Agenda, a statewide advocacy coalition promoting data- and equity-informed public policy changes on behalf of children ages 0-5. Preceding her work in South Carolina, she garnered experience within the Detroit Medical Center and as a Barbara Jordan Health Policy Scholar in the United States House of Representatives.

Whitney engages in research for academic publication with special interest in advocacy evaluation and policy tools advancing racial and ethnic equity. She holds a Master of Public Health degree from the University of South Carolina and a bachelor’s degree in public policy from Vanderbilt University. A native of South Carolina, she now shares a downtown Raleigh apartment with her cat named Seven.

Whitney can be reached at 919.834.6623 ext. 225 or at whitney@ncchild.org.

Fawn PattisonFP 2016 headshot small
Communications Director & Senior Campaign Advisor

Fawn joined NC Child in 2018. As Communications Director, 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.

Prior to joining the staff, Fawn served as a non-profit consultant from 2014 to 2018. She helped organizations (including NC Child!) get even better at communications, fundraising, staff development, and advocacy campaigns.

From 2002 to 2014, Fawn served as Executive Director at Toxic Free NC, where she had the opportunity to collaborate with NC Child on several environmental health issues affecting children, including successful state legislation to remove toxic chemicals from schools and child care centers.

She received her BA from the University of Virginia, and an MA and a Certificate in Public Health from UNC Chapel Hill. In her free time Fawn enjoys hiking with her family, reading long novels, pretending to be a gardener, knitting, and exploring North Carolina’s rich craft beer scene.

NCChild10Sarah Vidrine

Oral Health Policy Analyst

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

Deputy Director

NCChild04Rob joined NC Child in January 2014. As the deputy director, Rob oversees the organization’s communications, research, and advocacy staff and programs.

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 919.834.6623 ext. 227 or rob@ncchild.org.


Austen High headshot

Director of Development

Austen is a native North Carolinian with a passion for ensuring high-quality education for all. She has a bachelor’s degree in history and secondary social studies education from NC State University and a master’s degree in School Counseling from NC Central University.

Prior to joining NC Child, Austen worked in non-profit fundraising and volunteer recruitment. Austen also serves on the Board of Directors for Wake County Women’s Center.

In her free time she enjoys cooking and answering questions with her trivia team, The Bee’s Knees.

Austen can be reached at 919.834.6623 ext. 234 or austen@ncchild.org.


Samantha Hynd 29

Operations Assistant 

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


Ciara Zachary Solo_22-122830-0236

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 919.834.6623 ext. 237 or ciara@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.


Kim Gibson-Forrest kim
Finance Officer

Kim joined NC Child in September 2017.  As the Finance Officer, Kim manages the organization’s finance and human resource functions.

Prior to joining NC Child, Kim was the Chief Operating Officer for a non-profit in Chapel Hill  for the last decade overseeing all office, finance, human resources, IT and legal matters.

Kim grew up in upstate New York and graduated with an accounting degree from Binghamton University.  She enjoys spending time with her husband and six kids watching them in action in their football and soccer games, wrestling matches and swim meets.

Kim can be reached at 919.834.6623 ext. 226 or finance@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.