Berisha Black, Executive Director

Berisha is an alumnus of the foster care system where she spent 15 years in care and then aged out. She graduated from California State University; Los Angeles with her Bachelor’s in Social Work. Prior to becoming the Director of FCI she was employed at the Governor’s Office of Faith and Community Partnerships as a Project Manager working to help restore people from poverty to wholeness with the support of the faith-based community. Prior to that she worked for Casey Family Programs for 5 years in the training and technical assistance unit. She has created and ran the Los Angeles County Youth Ombudsman office for 6 years.

She has also been an advocate on foster care issues locally and nationally sharing her ideas for change and her expertise to impact policy. She is a member of Remnant South Phoenix Church. She is married and has a son and is a Foster Parent to a teenager that she is in the process of adopting.  

Dennae Pierre, Founder and Board President

Dennae and her husband,Vermon, have four children (Marcel, Mya, Judah, and Jovanna) and have been foster parents since 2009. Dennae is passionate about seeing the body of Christ engage in Arizona’s child welfare challenges and loves teaching about God’s concern for the vulnerable. 

Dennae is a part of  Roosevelt Community Church where her husband is the lead pastor. Through Roosevelt, she has been blessed to see how local church communities can provide rich support and empower families to foster and adopt. She has also been able to see how  local churches can prevent child welfare involvement by wrapping around families in crisis. This experience has been instrumental in fueling her desire to see churches mobilized to care for Arizona’s vulnerable children and families.

One of Dennae’s favorite passages that fuels the work she does is Romans chapter 12.  The beginning and end powerfully  sum up what the entire chapter represents to her: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship (v.1)…. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (v. 21)”

Joseph Mason, Director of Birth Parent Engagement

Joseph joined the FCI team in February 2017 after gaining two and a half years of experience working as a Parent Aide.  "The opportunity to work with Birth Parents at such a personal level has really shown me how strong a parent's love can be in overcoming adversity."  Joseph has also worked as a pastor for seven years in Tucson, AZ and previously lived in Hermosillo, Mexico engaging the community in youth-oriented projects.  More recently, he has founded a non-profit organization, Parent Base, designed to provide Birth Parents with the support and structure to successfully navigate the dependency process. 

Joseph's responsibilities at Foster Care Initiatives include oversight of our Birth Parent Ministries and continued development of our Parent Partner Program. 

Trainers:

Crystal Krueger, MAPC

Crystal has her Master’s Degree in Professional Counseling with a concentration Marriage and Family Therapy. She has focused her post graduate training in trauma work and working with children. The influence of her marriage and family studies has given her the understanding that healing from trauma is closely tied to family and connections of individuals. Over the course of her practice, she has found that her heart is in helping children in foster care find healing from the traumas they have endured.

She brings a unique perspective to the field of counseling, as she and her husband have been licensed foster parents for 4 years and she facilitates a foster/ adoptive parent support group. Through this, Crystal has come to believe that healing begins with the grown-ups in a child’s life.

Mike Edwards

Mike has worked in behavioral health since 2004.  The focus of his work has been empowering the lives of low-income youth and their families.

Mike worked  at A New Leaf’s residential treatment center for adolescent sex offenders and as a clinician for four and half years at A New Leaf’s counseling center. Mike also served at Arizona Children’s Association as a youth advocate to reunify youth in the custody of Child Protective Services with their biological families.

Mike deeply believes that children and youth thrive in the context of a family. Mike teaches a 6 hour parenting class each month for FCI called Trauma Informed Parenting. It is our most popular class and parents consistently express how helpful it is to them. Mike is also a highly sought after consultant and available for families to contract who are experiencing extreme challenges with attachment or mental health.