The Division’s State Advisory Board reviews and make recommendations regarding issues relating to the protection of children and the welfare and public assistance functions of the Division.
To request accessibility and/or interpretation services for the DFCS Advisory Board meeting, please email [email protected] at least one (1) week prior to meeting date to allow for services to be arranged.
Region 1: Vacant
Region 2: Dr. Fran Chastain
Dr. Fran Chastain currently serves as the Dean of Student Affairs at North Georgia Technical College, a Technical College System of Georgia affiliate, in Clarkesville, Georgia, where she has worked for 22 years. She served as a foster parent for 13 years and has 11 adopted children along with her two biological children. She is an avid supporter for children in foster care and for improving Georgia’s foster care system. She currently serves on the Habersham County DFCS Board of Directors, the Region 2 DFCS Advisory Board, and the Family Resource Center of Northeast Georgia Board of Directors
Most recently, she has been working on a project to improve college graduation rates of rural and underserved students, including youth in foster care. Chastain is a graduate of the University of Georgia, earning a doctorate in educational leadership & workforce development. She has also earned a master’s degree in business administration from Brenau University and a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from Kennesaw State University (formerly Southern Polytechnic State University). She is an active member of the Habersham Rotary Club, and she resides in Habersham County.
Region 3: Randel Hambrick
Randel Hambrick serves as the Missions & Outreach Pastor at Vintage 242 Church, where she actively advocates for families and children in need. Randel was raised in Marietta, Georgia, and obtained her bachelor's degree from the University of Alabama. She subsequently pursued a successful thirteen-year career in pharmaceutical sales with Glaxo SmithKline.
In 2009, Randel co-founded Vintage 242 Church alongside her husband, Steve. Committed to addressing the needs of their community, Randel took the initiative to establish Fostering Hope in 2016—a foster care ministry within Vintage 242 Church that empowers and supports local foster and adoptive families. She is involved in DFCS on all levels, serving as chairman of the Paulding DFCS Board and holding a position on the Regional Advisory DFCS Board in addition to the State Advisory Board.
Beyond her professional pursuits, Randel is passionate about travel and diverse cultures, as well as music, food, and making a difference. Randel and Steve are proud parents to two daughters, Anna Katherine and Sara.
Region 4: Vacant
Region 5: Dr. Octavia Fugerson
Dr. Octavia Fugerson, an Atlanta native, is an educational psychologist who is passionate about the well-being of families in Georgia. As a 15-year-old in foster care, her career in child welfare started as a journalist and facilitator with VOX Teen Communications and Georgia EmpowerMEnt of the Georgia Youth Opportunity Initiative. Since adolescence, she has advocated to improve practices and policy that impact youth transitioning into adulthood from foster care through the application of an anti-deficit approach. Areas she engaged the most included oversight of psychotropic medication, improvements to the Juvenile Code, youth-adult partnerships and authentic youth engagement, increasing access to resources, and improving the quality of programs that serve economically disadvantaged children. Currently, she is serving as the Data Specialist with the Permanency Mediation Program at Plummer Youth Promise.
Dr. Fugerson earned her bachelor of arts in psychology from Spelman College, and both her master of education in gifted & creative education and doctor of philosophy in applied cognition & development from the University of Georgia. She has served the state as a researcher, evaluator, and advisor for many organizations. Partnerships through the likes of the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, the Association of Conflict Resolution, the National Association of Social Work, the National Association of Gifted Children, and the Children's Defense Fund have allowed her influence to extend beyond her hometown.
She and her husband, Dr. Quincy Brewington (NC), have two children and a big family they love. They live in the Northeast metro-Atlanta area.
Region 6: Nancy White
Nancy White is Executive Director of Macon Volunteer Clinic, whose mission is to foster primary healthcare for all working adults in Bibb and Twiggs counties, regardless of insurance or ability to pay. Nancy has been involved with the Macon medical community for most of her career, working with Coliseum Health System for 18 years in multiple capacities and as Director of Oncology Services for the Medical Center for several years.
Nancy was elected three times to Macon City Council, which she considers the honor of a lifetime. One of her mayoral appointments was to the Bibb County Board of Health, where she served for almost seven years before being appointed as the local health department’s Administrator.
Nancy has an associate degree in nursing, a bachelor’s in English, and a master of public administration, as well as her extensive studies in professional communications. Her commitment to her community reaches beyond her state DFCS Advisory Board service, as she chairs the Bibb County DFCS Advisory Board and serves on the board of the Clayton and Carol Paul Fund for Animal Welfare. She is active with Christ Episcopal Church. She and her husband, Jeff, have an adult son, John, who lives in Austin, and they serve two cats, Lucy and Leo.
Region 7: Deke Copenhaver
Region 8: Belva Dorsey, Chair
Belva Dorsey is the CEO of Enrichment Services Program, Inc. (ESP) of Columbus. She is a graduate of Columbus State University and has worked in the non-profit sector for over 25 years. Prior to becoming the CEO of ESP, she served as the Director of Head Start.
Because of Belva’s commitment to serve the community and make life better for others, she is very active in organizations and committees that improve and strengthen the lives of families. She is the chair of the State Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) Advisory Board, a member of the National Community Action Foundation Board, YMCA Board, Goodwill Industries of the Southern Rivers Board, Columbus Rotary, Southeastern Association of Community Action Agencies Board, Mayor’s Commission on Unity, Diversity and Prosperity, and Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Board, and serves on several local committees.
Region 9: Travis Niblett
Travis Niblett is an active member of his community in Eastman and a proud foster and adoptive parent. As a small business owner and the founder of Niblett Properties, LLC, he brings firsthand experience and an entrepreneurial spirit to his role on the DFCS Advisory Board. Niblett lives by the motto of "service above self," dedicating himself to empowering families, protecting children, and creating a supportive environment for all. His dedication, compassion, and active involvement in the community make him a true catalyst for positive change in the lives of families and children.
Travis and his wife Dana are proud parents of two children, RJ and Amber.
Region 10: Tommy Hill
Region 11: Laci Gillis Tippins
Laci Gillis Tippins is an attorney in South Georgia. Her passion for child advocacy led her to serve as the Guardian ad Litem for Juvenile Court DFCS cases in the Waycross Judicial Circuit. She also works as a Public Defender in Pierce County State and Blackshear Municipal Courts.
She received her undergraduate degree from Mercer University in 2008 and then continued to Florida Coastal School of Law, where she graduated with her JD in 2016. On April 1, 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Laci opened her law practice, Laci Gillis Law, PC, in her hometown of Blackshear. She is proud to serve the community in which she grew up with her legal knowledge and skill.
In addition to her service on the DFCS Advisory Board, Laci volunteers as a member of the Pierce County Library Board. She and her husband, Mason Tippins, reside in Blackshear.
Region 12: Allyson Christianson
Ally Christianson is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker whose primary work surrounds advocating for vulnerable families and children. As a clinician, she specializes in providing therapy for children with trauma histories and enjoys providing practical approaches to caregivers as a Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) practitioner. Ally finds much joy in connecting people to needed resources. It is from this passion that she founded Hope 1312 Collective, a non-profit seeking to improve child welfare in the community by helping local churches to engage with DFCS. Her fierce advocacy and commitment to bringing hope to the child welfare system has given her an opportunity to serve on the national advisory board for the nonprofit For the Children. Ally's husband, Michael, children Cannon (10) and Mercy (7), and all of her community babies keep her laughing and dancing.
Region 13: Meredith Holt, Secretary
Meredith Holt is a Lieutenant for the Smyrna Police Department over the Office of Professional Standards. Meredith spent about a decade investigating crimes against children, adult sexual assault, and large-scale human trafficking cases. Meredith has been working in the field of child abuse and law enforcement for approximately 22 years. Previously, she worked as a Probation Officer for Cobb County Juvenile Court prior to moving to Maryland, where she worked as a caseworker for Child Protective Services. Trading in her social work hat to pursue criminals, Meredith accepted a job with the Maryland State Police and Carroll County State’s Attorney’s Office as a Criminal Investigator in the Child Abuse/Sexual Assault Unit. After deciding it was time to move home to Georgia, Meredith was hired by Smyrna Police Department, where she worked uniformed patrol before being promoted to a detective. Meredith has been employed by Smyrna Police Department for over 16 years. She currently represents the Smyrna Police Department on the FBI’s Metro Atlanta Child Exploitation Task Force (MATCH), where she investigates the human trafficking of children. Meredith has been a Task Force Officer with FBI in human trafficking for over 9 years.
Meredith was honored as the 2013 and 2019 Smyrna Police Officer of the Year and the 2019 Cobb County Public Safety Employee of the Year. She was appointed by Governor Deal as the sole law enforcement officer to the Child Welfare Reform Committee in 2014 and was appointed to the DFCS State Advisory Board in 2015, representing Region 13’s Cobb, Gwinnett, and Clayton counties. Meredith actively pursued legislation to make pimping a felony in Georgia and that law was signed by Governor Kemp in April 2019. She received a bachelor of science in family and consumer sciences with a major in child development from the University of Georgia. Meredith resides in Marietta with her family.
Region 14: Judge Shondeana Morris, Vice-Chair
Judge Shondeana Morris was appointed to the DeKalb County Superior Court on June 17, 2019. Prior to Judge Morris’ appointment, she served as a DeKalb County State Court Judge.
A graduate of Lakeside High School in DeKalb County, Judge Morris earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from The University of Georgia and a master’s degree in criminal justice from Albany State University. She graduated from Mercer University’s Walter F. George School of Law in 1997 and was admitted to the Georgia Bar that same year. Morris has also professionally served her community as an Assistant Solicitor and as Deputy District Attorney.
Judge Morris is involved with many professional, civic, and religious organizations. She is a member of the State Bar of Georgia, the American Bar Association, the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys, the DeKalb Bar Association, the DeKalb Lawyers Association, the Gate City Bar Association, and the Lawyers Club of Georgia. Judge Morris also served on the Georgia Judicial Nominating Commission, and she is the former chair of the Gate City Bar Association Judicial Section. Judge Morris serves as a proud member of the University of Georgia Alumni Board of Directors and Mercer University Law School Alumni BALSA Council.
An alumnus of Leadership DeKalb, Judge Morris served for nearly a decade as an Executive Board Member of the International Women’s House, a non-profit domestic violence shelter, a member of the Stone Mountain-Lithonia chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc., and a member of the Lions Club. Committed to the development of young people, she is a member of the Criminal Justice Advisory Board for Atlanta Technical College and frequently serves as a mentor and speaker on topics ranging from law and ethics to mental and physical wellness. Judge Morris is the State Bar of Georgia Suicide Awareness and Prevention committee chairperson and travels the country providing education and awareness to end deaths by suicide. Judge Morris also serves as the past chairperson of DeKalb County CASA.
Judge Morris has been the recipient of many personal and professional awards, including but not limited to the State Bar of Georgia Young Lawyers Division Courage Award (2021), the International Trailblazer Award (2021), the Law and Justice Judge of the Year award, and the Hidden Figures of DeKalb County Award (2018).
She was also acknowledged by Women Looking Ahead News Magazine as one of “Georgia’s Most Powerful and Influential Attorneys” (2019, 2011) and by the Daily Report legal news publication as “On the Rise – A Dozen Rising Stars” (2009). Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated honored Judge Morris in 2016 with both the Pota E. Coston Trailblazer Award and the Pinnacle Leadership Award for her dedication to public service given to the community.
Judge Morris is married to attorney Joe Morris, III. They are the proud parents of two young children and are DFCS foster parents.
At Large #1: Judy Manning
Judy Manning is a longtime advocate for children and youth. She served as a member of the General Assembly for sixteen years, representing her home district of West Cobb County (District 32). In the House, she had the honor of leading the Children and Youth Committee as its Chairperson for twelve years. During this time, she was appointed to the state DFCS Advisory Board by Governor Nathan Deal upon retirement from her local DFCS Advisory Board in Cobb County.
In addition to her position on the DFCS State Advisory Board, Judy also sits on the Board of Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health Georgia, a mental and behavioral health care treatment center for youth. When she is not volunteering in some capacity, she serves her community as a broker and appraiser through her company, Manning Properties, which she founded with her husband in 1972.
A lifelong resident of Cobb County, Judy resides in Marietta with her husband, Aymar. They have two grown children, a daughter and a son, and four grandchildren.
At Large #2: JaNice VanNess
JaNice Van Ness is an experienced entrepreneur who is also passionate about public policy and advocacy. JaNice served as an elected Georgia State Senator for District 43 and was elected twice as a Rockdale County Commissioner. She has also been active in the Rockdale and Newton County Chamber of Commerce and Rockdale Rotary Club. She is the founder of Peachtree Prep Early Learning Centers and Peachtree Academy K-12 Christian schools, which offer families 4 campuses in Rockdale and Newton Counties. Her outstanding team of educators and passion for education have helped her expand the schools, and today, the schools employ over 120 people. JaNice is a civic leader who loves to serve others and teach people how to advocate for change and how the legislative process works. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Auburn University and her associates of arts and sciences degree from Oxford College of Emory University.
She has been married for over 26 years to Ken Van Ness and they are the proud parents of three children, Lawson, Samantha, and Emerson Elise. They have been active members of Rockdale Baptist Church since 2005.
At Large #3: Susie Weller
As the Children First, Inc. executive director, Susie Weller continues to grow advocacy and awareness throughout her community. In her position, she oversees all aspects of Children First and furthers the goal of promoting safe homes for children in times of family crisis. Susie has dedicated over twelve years to child welfare through her work with Children First and as program coordinator for Athens-Oconee CASA. Susie earned her bachelors of social work and masters of social work from the University of Georgia. Her goal is to help children have better outcomes. When not in the office, Susie enjoys a plethora of activities such as reading, singing, walking, playing basketball, bike riding, and experiencing new things!
At Large #4: Jennifer Shinpoch
Jennifer Shinpoch is the Chief Executive Officer of Fostering Impact, a non-profit focused on realigning policy and law to ensure the needs of children and youth are put first. She has worked in child welfare as an advocate for the last ten years. She was a foster mom and is now an adoptive mom.
In 2018, Jennifer began working with Georgia State Legislators to advance the rights of abused children. Since that time, Georgia has passed three laws for children in foster care that originated from the team she worked with. Jennifer believes in great partnerships with other child welfare organizations for great outcomes for children. She represented Georgia as the liaison to The Center for the Rights of Abused Children, and she served on the board of directors for the Adoptive and Foster Parent Association of Georgia, advocating for caregivers as the representative for Region 5.
Jennifer earned her BA in communications from Liberty University and has previously worked for CNN Atlanta. She has been married to her husband, Joel, for 18 years and they have five children together. Together they serve their local church in Athens, Georgia.
At Large #5: Vacant
At Large #6: J. Virgil Costley
J. Virgil Costley earned his BA from Emory University and his JD from Mercer University School of Law. Following his admission to practice law in Georgia, Mr. Costley served in the Air Force, where he was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal. His service to his community continued when he was selected as the Juvenile Court Judge for the Alcovy Circuit, where he presided for two decades.
Mr. Costley has served his professional and local community as the President of the Georgia Council of Juvenile Court Judges, Committee Chair and Trustee for the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, Lecturer at the National College of Juvenile and Family Law, and as the Director of Paralegal Studies for Georgia Piedmont Technical College. As a lifetime advocate for children and youth involved with the legal system, he has received the Outstanding Child Advocate Award and the Award for Community Service Commitment from the State Bar of Georgia. Mr. Costley also played a pivotal role in beginning the CASA program in Georgia, amongst many other accolades and accomplishments statewide and nationally.
Mr. Costley is a proud lifetime Georgian and resides in Covington with his wife, Linda. They have five children, five grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.