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Faculty and Team Members

​Meet our Faculty and Team Members:

 Heather Allan, MSW | FGDM Evaluation Team

Ms. Allan joined the Kempe Center for Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect located in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado, School of Medicine as an Instructor in July 2012.
At the Kempe Center, Ms. Allan serves as a Project Manager for two federally funded evaluations focused on Family Group Decision Making in child welfare and a Colorado multi-county prevention program. Prior to joining the Kempe Center she has worked in service to children and families both on micro and macro levels. Specializing in high-risk youth, child welfare, and race equity and inclusiveness issues, she has done both direct service and systems-level work. Heather has designed and coordinated program evaluations examining organizational inclusiveness, cultural competence, and service provision in child welfare and community agency settings. She is experienced in quasi- and experimental research design and qualitative and quantitative data analysis techniques. She has authored or co-authored research reports, articles, and issue briefs for public dissemination and presented at national conferences.
Ms. Allan received her undergraduate degree in Psychology and Politics (BA) from New York University and a Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW) from the University of Denver.

 John Fluke, PhD | FGDM Evaluation Team

​Beginning July 2012 John Fluke was appointed to the research faculty and is an Associate Director at the Kempe Center for the Prevention of Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect in the Department of Pediatrics, University of Colorado School of Medicine. Dr. Fluke has over 32 years of experience in social service delivery system research in the area of Child Welfare and Mental Health Services for children He is internationally recognized as a researcher specializing in assessing and analyzing decision making in human services delivery systems.  He is also active in the area of national child maltreatment data collection systems and analysis and has worked with data collection programs in the Balkans, Canada, Saudi Arabia, the US, and for UNICEF. He has conducted research and evaluation at all levels of government, in the private not-for-profit sector, and with national foundations and associations that includes work both in the U.S. and internationally. He is also known for his innovative and informative evaluation work in the areas of child maltreatment prevalence, child welfare administrative data analysis, workload and costing, and performance and outcome measurement for children and family services. 
As a research manager he has experience in directing research and evaluation projects focused on maltreatment surveillance data, children’s mental health, child protective service risk and safety assessment, expedited permanency, guardianship, family group decision making, trauma services, adoption, and screening.  The author or co-author of numerous scholarly publications, Dr. Fluke has presented papers at both national and international meetings and conferences. 
He is a Scholar in Residence at the Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Denver, and status only faculty at the Factor—Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto. He is co-chair of the Working Group on Child Maltreatment Data Collection for ISPCAN. He holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Decision Science from Union Institute and Universities, an MA in Anthropology from the Pennsylvania State University, and a BA in Mathematical Anthropology from the University of Northern Colorado.

 Dana Hollinshead, PhD | FGDM Evaluation Team

With over twenty years of experience as a child welfare research, program evaluation, and policy analyst, Dr. Hollinshead has extensive experience examining the influence of agency policies, caseworker practices, and family characteristics on child, family, and agency outcome measures. Her career has been devoted to designing, executing, and delivering consulting, evaluation, and oversight services for federal, state, and local child welfare agencies to foster enhanced performance management and system improvement. Dr. Hollinshead has seasoned project management, quantitative and qualitative analysis, presentation, training, technical assistance, and publication writing experience and is known for her ability to translate complex analytic results for layman audiences. Her primary foci include the influence of system reforms such as family group decision making and differential response on casework dynamics, family engagement, service utilization, and outcomes such as re-referrals, recurrence, and out-of-home placement.


 Anita Horner | Practice Advancements Manager, Manager, National Center on FGDM

Anita Horner is a Senior Instructor at the Kempe Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect, at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Denver. She has also held the role of the Manager of the National Center on Family Group Decision Making since 2005. Anita provides training, consultation, coaching and technical assistance in Family Group Decision Making (FGDM) program implementation and practice to professional service providers and community leaders both nationally and internationally, in locations including three Canadian provinces, Bermuda and New Zealand.
Anita works to emphasize the vital role of family engagement and active ongoing inclusion of the family in decision making and planning in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems through differential response and family group decision making; advance the concept that all children/youth deserve permanency through relationships; and promote practice approaches that mitigate disproportionality and disparities for families of color.
Previously, Anita held the position of child welfare supervisor at the Arapahoe County Department of Human Services, located in the Denver metro area in Colorado. The programs she supervised included family group conferencing, child specific recruitment, recruitment/retention of foster and adoptive homes, adolescent ongoing, parent education, kinship support, and case aide services. As an FGC coordinator and caseworker, she helped to launch and implement the family group conference programs in two of Colorado’s largest counties. She received FGC training and consultation directly from several respected and notable New Zealanders. She has worked actively in the field of Family Group Decision Making since 1996.
Before her work in child welfare, Anita was a mental health counselor for 10 years at inpatient adolescent psychiatric and dual diagnoses units, as well as at residential treatment centers. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and Speech Communication from the University of Denver.

 Michelle Howard, MS | Co-Manager, National Center on FGDM; FGDM Training & Practice Team

Michelle Howard, M.S., LPC is a Senior Faculty member at the Kempe Center for Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect located at the University of Colorado.  Michelle has over 17 years of experience in the field of child welfare and juvenile justice and more than 10 years of experience facilitating the professional development and continuous learning of staff across organizations serving children and families.   
Prior to joining the Kempe Center, Michelle was the Training and Technical Assistance Specialist at the American Humane Association.  During her tenure with American Humane, Michelle authored issue briefs and curricula to uphold best practices in the field and provided training, coaching and technical assistance in subject areas related to family group decision making; father engagement; leadership and child welfare supervision; domestic violence; differential response; and addressing race inequities in child welfare coupled with culturally responsive practice.  Michelle has managed multiple projects involving the coordination of experts in the field to inform and disseminate information on effective strategies in child welfare practice.  She has delivered trainings, provided consultation and/or coached in over thirty states across the country.  Michelle’s direct child welfare practice experience was received while working at a county CPS agency in Colorado.  Her experience includes providing therapy to children and families referred to the child protection system and serving as the principal trainer, mentor and facilitator for Family Group Conference services.  Michelle also oversaw the Early Crisis Intervention Program developed to engage families up front in the decision-making process for safety, service and placement planning. 
Michelle’s achievements include an appointment as Diversity Trainer for the State of Nebraska, serving on the Douglas County Nebraska LB 1184 Treatment Team, established to implement more effective procedures within the foster care system and serving on a Colorado State Domestic Violence Task Force created to coordinate the protection of children in domestic violence cases.   Michelle was also selected as a trainer and faculty member for the National Child Welfare Leadership Institute.  Michelle is a strong advocate for ensuring that professional expertise is joined with the experiential expertise of those served in a culturally responsive manner. Her mission is to support and impact holistic changes in the key areas that promote positive emotional and physical well-being and protection and permanency for all children by advancing knowledge, skills and overall professional development.  
Michelle earned her Master's Degree in Counseling at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and is a Licensed Professional Counselor.

 Lisa Merkel-Holguin, MSW | Director, National Center on FGDM

Ms. Merkel-Holguin is an Assistant Research Professor at the Kempe Center, and the Director of the National Center on Family Group Decision Making. In these capacities, she has provided training, technical assistance, and professional development to over 100 communities implementing FGDM, has authored more than 35 publications (peer review journal articles, book chapters, briefs, and evaluation reports), and presented to close to 100 national and international audiences about FGDM.

In addition, she has twenty years of child welfare program evaluation experience. She served as a Project Advisor for the No Place Like Home FGDM Evaluation grant, which was part of the 2011 Family Connections Cluster, and as the Senior Analyst for the Found, Engaged and Connected FGDM evaluation grant, which is part of the 2012 Family Connections grantee cluster. She was also the Principal Investigator for the National Quality Improvement Center on Differential Response in Child Protective Services.
She is highly regarded in her ability to translate research findings and evidence into practice that is understood by child welfare administrators, policymakers and social workers, alike. During her 25+ year career, she has provided training, technical assistance, consultation, program assessments, and evaluation services to agencies throughout the United States and Canada.
       She holds an MSW from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana and a BSW from the University of Dayton.