Leadership & Staff


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  Shimica D. Gaskins

Contact: sgaskins@childrensdefense.org Shimica Gaskins is the executive director of the Children’s Defense Fund–California. She has worked in law and public policy specializing in legislative, regulatory and policy issues associated with criminal justice reform and children’s rights. She formerly served as the acting deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Policy (OLP) of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). At OLP, Shimica worked to develop and implement innovative policy initiatives of the department and administration in areas such as smart on crime, law enforcement and emerging technologies, prison reform, reentry, and issues affecting children with incarcerated parents. Prior to joining DOJ, she was in private practice at Covington & Burling LLP where she managed complex civil litigation. She clerked for the Honorable Roger L. Gregory on the United States Court of [...]


  Saira Soto

Contact: ssoto@childrensdefense.org Saira G. Soto is the deputy executive director for the Children's Defense Fund-California. In addition to assisting in the guidance of the organization, Saira leads the development, implementation, and expansion of CDF-CA programs for children and youth, including the Beat the Odds® scholarship program, the Young Adult Leadership Training® program, and the CDF Freedom Schools® program. Saira has a background in environmental science, labor, and social justice advocacy. She began her career studying clean water access and its impact on the health of migrant farm worker communities. She was compelled to join the labor movement after witnessing the harsh working conditions and constant workers' rights violations suffered by this community. Before joining CDF-CA, Saira was the community outreach coordinator for the Service Employees International Union, Local 721, where she fought [...]

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