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Igniting Impact Podcast – Creating Positive Pathways in Washington Courts – Season 2, Episode 14

Igniting Impact Podcast host Stacey Moss delves into an initiative to enhance the experience of families navigating dependency hearings. Stacey interviews Sarah Burns, Terreca DeFehr, Melissa Zielstorf, and Allison Ward. Together, they discuss the challenges faced by families in accessing and participating in legal proceedings, especially due to COVID-19 complexities.

Sarah Burns, who led the initiative, shares how the project began. With different court protocols and technology gaps across Washington’s 39 courts, they needed a way to help families effectively engage in remote hearings. Also, over 200 dependencies and partners were interviewed, and a case for intervention was made. This led to the development of informative videos with the help of Public Knowledge®.

Accordingly, this project with the Washington Administrative Office of the Courts aimed to make virtual court proceedings more accessible. The team created videos offering technical IT support and practical courtroom etiquette guidance in simple language. Now available in five more languages, the videos help families understand how to participate in virtual court hearings and their expected roles.

Hear More in the Podcast

The impact of this project extends beyond the courtroom. It embodies procedural justice principles and social change. This effort promotes greater inclusivity, accessibility, and equity in the legal landscape, providing families with resources to navigate confidently.

Tune in and discover the transformative power of empathy, collaboration, and innovation in driving positive change in collaboration with the Washington Administrative Office of the Courts.

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Get To Know Our Guests

Sarah Burns, Statewide Innovation Coordinator, Washington Administrative Office of the Courts

Sarah Burns, Washington State Administrative Office of the Courts

Sarah supports court improvement projects that focus on promoting equity and trauma-informed practices for dependency court systems. Among her current projects, she is coordinating a cross-system effort to utilize Dr. Chan Hellman’s, Science of Hope, across partnering programs and organizations to increase hope for children and families served in those systems. Additionally, she is co-designing a framework to genuinely partner with lived experts in systems change work and increase belonging. Sarah possesses knowledge and experience in trauma-informed practices and the change process for the implementation of those practices. Knowing that wellness is the foundation of a trauma-responsive organization, she encourages a culture of wellness for the professionals and families involved with the court system.

Terraca DeFehr, CHERISH Parent Engagement Advisor at Kindering

Terreca is a dedicated child welfare parent with lived expertise. She brings profound commitment and unwavering dedication to guiding parents, agencies, and communities through their distinctive journeys in child welfare transformation. With firsthand experiences within the child welfare system, Terreca seamlessly transitioned into the role of a parent with lived experience after reuniting with her children in 2007. As a result, she utilizes her unique perspective to assist parents in navigating its complexities.

Terreca DeFehr, CHERISH Parent Engagement Advisor at Kindering

Melissa Zielstorf, Lived Expert Consultant

Melissa Zielstorf, Lived Expert Consultant

Melissa is a parent with lived child welfare experience. After two dependencies, Melissa dedicated herself to supporting and advocating for other parents who are involved in the child welfare system, using her voice for system change. Melissa began her career at a family treatment program for families who are involved in the dependency court as a peer support specialist. She was promoted to case manager and then care coordinator after the program implemented WISe services. Melissa has been independently contracted with the Office of Public Defense as a social service worker in the parents’ representation program. Melissa is also contracted with the Administrative Office of Courts as a Lived Expert Consultant and Independently Contracted with a local family treatment program as a referral coordinator.

Allison Ward, Learning Practice Director at Public Knowledge®  

Allison is responsible for building client relationships, project management, data analyses, research, and drafting deliverables. She has 18 years of experience working with state and local child welfare agencies and juvenile court systems. Her background includes direct experience working with youth and families in the child welfare system.

Allison Ward, Public Knowledge®  Learning Practice Director


About the Podcast

Launched in 2023, the Igniting Impact Podcast highlights our client’s and partner’s important work. We hope that this podcast drives impactful conversations that foster connections and progress in the field.  One of our core values at Public Knowledge® is Impact. We created this podcast around this fundamental principle because it is essential to our work. Impact to us means, “We approach every engagement with our energy focused on identifying the right goals, outcomes, and strategies. And we each have a personal responsibility to make a positive impact on our projects and our world.”

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