About Us

Leadership Team 2017
Coalition President:
Catherine Townsend,
Grants, Research, & National Strategy Manager, Darkness to Light 

Catherine Townsend has been associated with Darkness to Light since its founding in 2000. As Grants, Research, and National Strategy Manager, she serves as liaison to other national organizations, researchers, and experts. She is responsible for Darkness to Light's national legislative advocacy efforts, internal research, external evaluation, grant acquisition, and grant management. She is responsible for establishing Darkness to Light as a "thought leader" in the field. Through her work at Darkness to Light, she has worked collaboratively with other organizational leaders in the field including Beau Biden Foundation, Stop It Now!, Prevent Child Abuse America, the Monique Burr Foundation and the World Childhood Foundation.

Vice President:
Julie Novak, Vice President of Child Safety, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America

Julie Novak joined Big Brothers Big Sisters of America in 2004. As Vice President of Child Safety, she serves as Big Brothers Big Sisters of America’s leading expert and national spokesperson on child safety and youth protection-related matters. She leads the nationwide advancement of effective child abuse prevention and crisis response strategies throughout Big Brothers Big Sisters’ network, working collaboratively with other national experts from organizations that include: The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, The Crimes Against Children Research Center, Centers for Disease Control, The Nonprofit Risk Management Center, and local, state, and federal law enforcement authorities.

Administrative Support:


Immediate Past President: Les Nichols, President, R.L. Nichols and Associates, LLC

Mr. Nichols is an expert in developing child and youth protection programs for organizations. For 2 years, he served as lead youth safety and facility expert for the national headquarters of Boys & Girls Clubs of America, which serves approximately 4,000,000 youth at 4,000 sites in 50 states and on domestic and overseas military bases, college campuses, tribal lands and camps, and in public housing, recreation facilities, community centers, churches, and schools. His expertise includes strategies to prevent harm from sexual abuse, bullying, abduction, drowning, vehicles, technology, and other injuries. He has written, lectured and consulted widely on developing effective policies, screening, training, supervision, governance, internal reporting, facility design and maintenance, hazard mitigation and emergency response training. He has conducted thousands of safety consultations for organizations across the United States and in Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico, Germany, Italy, England, Spain, Guam, the Philippines and Japan. Mr. Nichols is a Certified Protection Professional (CPP) with ASIS International and is a licensed architect. He has a Master of Science in Security Administration, certificates in Enterprise Risk Management and Emergency Response Planning and has been educated in terrorism and homeland security issues at the graduate level. He is experienced in applying Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED), The Situational Prevention Approach, threat-vulnerability analysis and target hardening, and has over 30 years of experience in facilities planning and evaluation for youth and other vulnerable populations. His facilities, security and youth protection experience supports his understanding of the relationship between operational strategies and the physical setting when planning and evaluating environments for children and youth.

Teresa Rafael, Executive Director, National Alliance of Children's Trust & Prevention Funds

Teresa Rafael, has been Executive Director of the National Alliance of Children’s Trust and Prevention Funds since 2002.  She has more than 35 years of professional experience in the child abuse and neglect prevention field, ranging from working for eight years with child protective services, foster care and adoption in her early career to extensive work in the private non-profit child abuse and neglect prevention field.

She previously served as executive director of two state-wide organizations and was vice-president of a national child abuse prevention organization. As Regional Vice President at Children’s Home Society of Washington, she was responsible for a $5,000,000 budget and programs such as residential treatment, adoption support, foster care, counseling and parenting education and support programs. To help bring a focus on prevention to this hundred year old organization, she led the development of numerous family support programs such as Family Resource Centers and home visiting programs and helped the agency begin to partner with parents in all aspects of the work. She was responsible for a $10,000,000 five-year Comprehensive Child Development Research Project funded through the US Head Start Bureau, which was the research basis for the current Early Head Start program. She later served as a consultant for numerous state and national organizations. Throughout her career, she has worked in partnership with professional colleagues and parent leaders. She holds undergraduate degrees in Social Work and Sociology, completed one year of independent study at Stanford University and earned a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of Washington with an emphasis on social service administration and organizational development. 

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The individuals and organizations listed as part of the National Coalition are or were part of the Coalition and have endorsed the general concepts underlying information on this website. As with all documents covering a broad area, it is important to recognize that the degree of commitment to particular items on this site may vary from organization-to organization. The website does, however, represent input from all representatives and their commitment to advance the work of the National Coalition in ways that fit within their missions and the larger Coalition goals.

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