About Us

Who are we?

End Child Poverty in California (ECPCA) is a campaign jointly sponsored by GRACE End Child Poverty Institute and GRACE (Gather, Respect, Advocate, Change, Engage).

GRACE End Child Poverty Institute is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization that uses advocacy, legislative advocacy and mobilization programs to achieve its mission.  The mission of GRACE End Child Poverty is to make a positive difference in the lives of low-income families and their children through value-based collaborations and by formulating, implementing, and expanding measures to reduce barriers to full personal development and economic stability.

The current GRACE Board of Directors (clockwise from top right): Sister Marianne Olives, D.C.; Sister Christina Maggi, D.C.; Sister Adella Armentrout, D.C.; Sister Estela Morales, D.C.; Sister Margaret McDonnell, D.C.

GRACE is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that was founded by the Daughters of Charity. GRACE uses education, advocacy and mobilization programs to achieve its mission. The Daughters are an order of Catholic nuns who take an additional vow to serve the poor in the tradition of St. Vincent de Paul. They have been doing anti-poverty work in California since 1852. The Daughters started GRACE, because they could not ignore the 1.9 million children living in poverty in California. GRACE End Child Poverty Institute, a 501(c)(4), was founded to further GRACE’s mission, with the realization that political advocacy and government action are crucial in pushing for real change. GRACE End Child Poverty Institute and GRACE launched The End Child Poverty in California Campaign to support public policy, partnerships, and community efforts to dramatically reduce child poverty in California.

This is work we are called to do.

“Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies aimed at implementing a culture of care and an integrated approach to combating poverty.”

— Pope Francis

What we do:

We work alongside respected academics, California lawmakers, public officials, and partners throughout the state to advance smart legislation that will help solve the child poverty crisis in California. We also raise public awareness of the child poverty crisis, because many Californians simply don’t realize how terrible this problem is and what it’s costing us.

California has the highest child poverty rate in the country, according to the Supplemental Poverty Measure, which accounts for cost of living. Not only does this cost children in lack of opportunity and unmet basic needs, it costs the state $66 billion a year. We know from research that lifting children and families out of poverty is crucial to improving health, providing access to a quality education, reducing crime, and paving the way for success in later life.

In 2017, with funding from GRACE End Child Poverty Institute, GRACE sponsored AB 1520, the Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Act, a big step forward in reducing poverty for 1.9 million kids in California. Through grassroots activism, phone calls, tweets, and signature gathering, our committed supporters made this happen, without one dissenting vote in the CA State Legislature.

AB 1520 created an expert task force that developed a comprehensive state plan to eliminate deep child poverty and dramatically reduce child poverty overall–the End Child Poverty Plan. In 2019 and beyond, the End Child Poverty in California campaign will continue to strengthen our coalition of allies and activists to fight for the resources and strategies the groundbreaking End Child Poverty Plan recommends. Our ultimate goal will always be eliminating child poverty in California.

Who leads GRACE and the End Child Poverty California campaign?

Shimica Gaskins, President and CEO, GRACE & End Child Poverty California

Shimica Gaskins is the President & CEO of GRACE & End Child Poverty CA. She has worked in law and public policy specializing in legislative, regulatory and policy issues associated with criminal justice reform and children’s rights. Prior to joining GRACE, she was executive director of Children’s Defense Fund-California, where she led statewide advocacy, policy, program and organizing efforts to ensure access to quality affordable health coverage and care for children and low-income families, reform the juvenile justice system, promote educational equity, end child poverty, and improve outcomes for children of color. 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) where she 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. Shimica began her career as a law clerk for the Honorable Roger L. Gregory on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and the Honorable Victoria Roberts on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Shimica serves on the boards of Impact Justice and California Budget & Policy Center, and is a commissioner on the LA County Commission for Children and Families.

Shimica earned her JD from Georgetown University Law Center and graduated cum laude with a BA in philosophy from the Catholic University of America.

Her writings have appeared in USA Today, Sacramento Bee, Los Angeles Daily News, CalMatters, and legal journals.

Linda Swank, Director Of Operations, GRACE & End Child Poverty California

Linda oversees GRACE’s day-to-day activities and directs institutional practices that allow the organization, and its staff, to work more effectively and efficiently. Passionate about social justice and supporting organizations that bring an intersectional, transformative, and movement-based framework to their work, Linda has over ten years’ experience in the nonprofit arena. Prior to joining GRACE, she managed office operations and administration for the Children’s Defense Fund-California, supporting a staff of child advocates working for child-centered public policy, informed by racial equity and the lived experience of children and youth. She came to CDF-CA after working for the Association of American Publisher’s PreK-12 Learning Group, where she administered the organization’s educational resources awards program for several years. She began her nonprofit career in Seattle, spending a year as an Americorps volunteer for City Year Seattle/King County.

Linda received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and History from Boston College and lives in Los Angeles with her partner and dog.

Andrew Cheyne, Managing Director of Public Policy, GRACE & End Child Poverty California

As GRACE’s managing director of public policy, Andrew brings more than a decade of effective legislative, administrative, and budgetary advocacy in California and at the federal level. Andrew oversees all of GRACE & End Child Poverty CA’s advocacy and public policy strategy, and supports ECPCA’s organizational development.

Previously, Andrew was SNAP Deputy Director for the Food Research & Action Center, the country’s leading advocacy organization committed to ending poverty-related hunger, in which he provided technical assistance to the national network of state anti-hunger advocates and helped develop and execute federal advocacy to strengthen SNAP in the Farm Bill. Previously, Andrew served from 2014-2021 as the  Director of Government Affairs for the California Association of Food Banks (CAFB), where he oversaw state and federal policy agenda to address hunger and poverty, playing key roles in the several major anti-poverty policy victories. These include the historic expansion of CalFresh to more than 600,000 Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries, the reversal of Great Recession cuts to state SSI grants that had pushed more than 100,000 children with disabilities below the federal poverty level, California’s first in the nation enactmentac of Healthy School Meals for All, and the establishment of Pandemic EBT. He has led or engaged in several coalitions in support of a united effort to fight poverty across the health and human services sectors, including as an ECPCA Steering Committee member. Throughout this work Andrew partnered with a wide array of stakeholders, and expanded the capacity of front-line community organizations and centered people with lived experience of poverty in policy development and advocacy campaigns.

Andrew holds a Candidate in Philosophy and master’s degree in Sociology from the University of California, San Diego, and graduated cum laude with a BA in American Studies from Northwestern University.

Yesenia Jimenez, Senior Policy Associate, GRACE & End Child Poverty California

Yesenia Jimenez (she/ella) is a passionate advocate dedicated to abolishing poverty and building equitable systems. She is a former Legislative Assistant for the Assembly Public Safety chair, Assemblymember Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, Sr. (AD-59) and served as a Senate fellow for then Senate Budget & Fiscal Committee chair, Senator Holly J. Mitchell (SD-30).

Yesenia has worked with a number of advocacy groups including the Western Center on Law & Poverty, the Center for Law and Social policy, the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, and the International Maya League where she has elevated the intersections​ of racial injustice and poverty, criminal justice, and indigenous rights. Through her work in research and advocacy, Yesenia has been able to influence local, state, and federal policy and has been invited to provide her personal testimony at the state and congressional level. She has gained national recognition for her advocacy on college student hunger and work against school lunch shaming policies.

Originally from South Central Los Angeles, Yesenia moved into the Ramona Garden Housing Projects in Boyle Heights where her pursuit for social, racial, and economic justice grew. Yesenia graduated from Pasadena City College and later graduated from the University of California, Davis where she gained two bachelor’s degrees in Political Science – Public Service and Communication. Through the California Senate Fellowship, she completed a Public Policy and Government certificate from Sacramento State University.

She is an alumni of two prestigious fellowships, the California Senate Fellowship Program and the Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellowship. In her free time, Yesenia serves as an elected board member of the Feminist Democrats of Sacramento. Yesenia identifies as Guatemalan-American and is a descendant of the Maya Q’anjob’al.

Sam Wilkinson, Senior Policy Associate, GRACE & End Child Poverty California

Sam is a committed advocate for economic and racial justice. Before joining GRACE, Sam was the Deputy Director of the Texas House Democratic Caucus. As the Caucus’ Deputy Director, Sam worked in coalitions to protect voter’s rights, expand access to healthcare, and prevent regressive tax policy from leaving the House floor. While living in Texas, Sam coordinated grassroots-led mutual aid efforts and served as guardian ad litem for the Court Appointed Special Advocates of Travis County.

Since moving to the Bay Area, Sam has worked with the Anti-Police Terror Project and UC Berkeley’s Policy Advocacy Clinic to support local and statewide policy efforts to reimagine our criminal legal system and abolish fees and fines. Sam has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas and a Master of Public Policy from UC Berkeley’s Goldman School and is thrilled to join GRACE as a Senior Policy Associate in the campaign to end child poverty.

Emmerald Evans, Policy Associate, GRACE & End Child Poverty California

Emmerald Evans is graduate of California State University, Sacramento, where she completed a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice. As a foster youth alumni, Emmerald found her passion in child welfare and mental health advocacy, to create change in a system she once endured. As an advocate for John Burton Advocates for Youth (JBAY), she played a key role in impacting housing, education, and health policies for foster and homeless youth throughout California. Emmerald is also one of the founders of the Youth Advisory Board with Seneca Family of Agencies, a Bay Area program that provides a broad continuum of permanency, mental health, education, and juvenile justice services. Emmerald has experience in leadership, training and development, youth mentorship and case management. She remains dedicated to increasing resources and opportunities for youth and families to be successful.

Stephanie Liem, Policy & Data Analyst, GRACE & End Child Poverty California

Stephanie (she/her) is the policy and data analyst at GRACE, and specializes in community-based research and data visualization. She is a visual storyteller and triangulates her skills in grassroots organizing, communications, and research to amplify the voices and narratives of Black and Brown communities.

Above all else, Stephanie is a proud first-generation Indonesian immigrant and Asian American activist whose activism revolves around building Black and Asian solidarity and challenging the Model Minority Myth. She began her career as a grassroots organizer, serving as the previous communications director of Hip Hop For Change, where she designed an Afro-Asian Solidarity curriculum that she continues to present at schools, events, and companies across the country. Since then, she has pivoted into more policy-oriented work, having worked at Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project and the USC Sol Price Center for Social Innovation. Working with coalitions of South LA stakeholders and community based organizations, like the South Los Angeles Transit Empowerment Zone (SLATE-Z), grounded her in community-based policy research and advocacy. She carries these intersecting identities and diverse experiences with her as she sets forth to serve our communities and ignite systems change.

Stephanie received her Master of Public Policy from the University of Southern California and her BA in Global Studies from the University of California, Berkeley.

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