Advisory Board 

IBJ's Advisory Board helps guide our advocacy strategy, extend and deepen our knowledge network, and build ties with institutional partners 


Diane Redleaf is the Legal Director of a national organization, the National Center for Housing and Child Welfare (NCHCW). Prior to this, she served as founder and Legal Director of the Family Defense Center, a not-for-profit legal advocacy organization dedicated to advocating justice for families in the child welfare system. From 2005 until July 2016, she was the Center's Executive Director, where she led the Center's exponential growth in its legal advocacy programs and resources (including pro bono resources) to serve families in need of legal assistance. Before starting the Center, she was a partner at the public interest law firm Lehrer and Redleaf from 1996 until 2005 and she was a supervisory attorney in the Children’s Rights Project of the Legal Assistance Foundation (Chicago), which she founded and led from 1984 until 1996. A child and family advocate since she graduated from Stanford Law School in 1979, Ms. Redleaf has brought more than two dozen major systemic reform cases, has led amicus briefing efforts in several cases before the United States Supreme Court, has argued or briefed many precedential appeals on behalf of families, has been involved in over 60 cases with published opinions, has spearheaded major legislative reforms in Illinois, and has represented parents in hundreds of juvenile court and administrative proceedings. She has taught child welfare law at the University of Chicago Law School. In 2014 she received the prestigious Founder’s Award of the Chicago Bar Association’s Alliance for Women, which recognizes excellence, leadership and mentoring of other lawyers. She is on the Stee ring Committee of the ABA Children in the Law’s Parent Representation Project and a founder/leader of the Illinois Parent Attorney Network.

Ann Courter advocates for policies to improve the life opportunities of young children, with a focus on children ages 0-3. Before coming to the Shriver Center, Ann worked as a consultant on community systems development for early care and education. Ann has analyzed education policy for the Illinois P-20 Council, advocated for fair and transparent state budgets as the Director of the Budget and Tax Policy Initiative at Voices for Illinois Children, and represented low-income individuals and class plaintiffs at the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago. She earned a masters degree in social science from the University of Chicago in 2014, a law degree from Yale Law School in 1981, and a B.A. in psychology from the University of Iowa in 1976. 

Sydney Hans is the Samuel Deutsch Professor at the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. She studies infant and toddler development, parent-infant relationships, and women’s experiences as they become parents. She has published extensively on infant development and parenting in families in which the mother has a history of substance use. Her current research focuses on interventions that support pregnant women and new parents, and in particular on interventions in which paraprofessional doulas provide childbirth education and support to young mothers. Professor Hans' research has been funded by a variety of private foundations and federal agencies, including the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

Heidi Ann Cerneka has dedicated over 20 years of advocating directly for women prisoners and human rights.  She has spoken extensively on the topic and published articles on issues related to women and prison.  She is currently a law student at Loyola University Chicago, continuing her work with women through internships and volunteer service at the Cook County Jail.  While she works for a day when there are no more prisons, in the meantime, her goal is to advocate to guarantee that women who are incarcerated have access to medical, psychological, educational and social resources.  And that despite being behind bars, no woman ever give birth alone without support and advocacy on her behalf.