Board of Directors

Sharon Loza, President

Sharon E. Loza, PhD, is the Branch Head and Part C Coordinator for the NC Infant-Toddler Program (NC ITP). The NC ITP provides early intervention supports and services for families and their infants and toddlers with varying abilities and special needs. Dr. Loza is also a Fellow with the National Center for Pyramid Model Innovations and an Act Early Ambassador for North Carolina. Act Early is a collaborative program with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities and the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) which serves to improve early identification of developmental delays and disabilities. Dr. Loza has served in the early childhood care, education, and health fields for over 15 years working with national and state early childhood and maternal and child health initiatives. She participates in multiple cross-sector collaborations addressing issues of equity and access focused on practice and policies to support social emotional/early childhood mental health, early childhood systems improvement, workforce development, research and evaluation, child outcomes, evidence-based practices, and family engagement and leadership. Prior to her current role, Dr. Loza worked at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute, the Carolina Population Center, and RTI International holding roles as a Research Investigator, Implementation Specialist, Technical Assistance provider, and Project Manager on various global, national and state-level initiatives supporting children’s development, health, education, and well-being.


Karen Appleyard Carmody, Vice President

Karen Appleyard Carmody, Ph.D., LCSW, is the Director of Early Childhood Prevention Programs at the Center for Child and Family Health (CCFH) and a licensed psychologist and associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University Medical Center. She completed her doctoral training in Clinical and Developmental Psychology at the University of Minnesota and an NIMH T32-funded post-doctoral fellowship at the University of North Carolina’s Center for Developmental Science. For over 25 years, her clinical and research focus has been in the areas of infant mental health, child-parent attachment, early childhood trauma and maltreatment, and evidence-based practices to address these issues. 

Dr. Carmody helps direct three evidence-based home visiting programs that serve over 1,500 families annually, Family Connects Durham, Healthy Families Durham, and Durham Early Head Start Home-Based. Dr. Carmody also co-leads efforts at CCFH and Duke Psychiatry to conduct training in early childhood mental health assessment, including being a certified trainer in ZERO TO THREE’s Diagnostic Classification of Mental Health and Developmental Disorders of Early Childhood (DC:0-5TM). She also co-leads several training, dissemination, and evaluation projects to expand evidence-based practices for young children who have experienced trauma and early adversity, including Attachment and Biobehavioral Catch-up (ABC) and Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT). 

An NC native and Tarheel born and bred, Dr. Carmody lives in Durham with her husband, daughter, and two COVID kittens.


Catherine JoynerCatherine Joyner, Co-Treasurer

Catherine Joyner is the Project Director for North Carolina Essentials for Childhood located in the Women’s and Children’s Health Section of the North Carolina Division of Public Health. North Carolina Essentials for Childhood is a five year CDC funded initiative. In this role, she facilitates public efforts for the integration of child maltreatment prevention into existing public programming and works in collaboration with Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina to oversee implementation of recommendations from the NC Institute of Medicine Task Force on Essentials for Childhood. Prior to join the NC Division of Public Health, Catherine was a social work educator, teaching child welfare and practice courses and directing field education. She also served as the Assistant Director and co-investigator for the WSSU Grandparenting Program and was the faculty evaluator for the Forsyth County Juvenile Drug Treatment Court. Over the past 20 years she has provided public and private child welfare services as direct practice social worker, clinician, supervisor, and administrator. She received a Master of Social Work degree from East Carolina University.


Rhodus Riggins, Jr.Rhodus Riggins, Jr., Co-Treasurer

Rhodus Riggins, Jr. is Quality Enhancement Coordinator at the Education Quality Improvement and Professional Development Project at the University of North Carolina- Greensboro and Adjunct Faculty member at Alamance Community College. He is co-founder of Bailey, Pullis, & Riggins LLC, a racial equity consulting organization. Rhodus has over 29 years of extensive experience in research, technical assistance, professional development, evaluation, and higher education. His research and professional interests include: quality supports for early care and education professionals, family engagement, social-emotional wellness, cultural competency, racial equity, and implicit bias. Rhodus is a grassroots advocate from the Low Country region of South Carolina. He holds an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership, Public Policy, & Advocacy in Early Childhood.


Paul Lanier, Secretary

Paul Lanier, MSW, PhD is an Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social Work, where he teaches courses in social policy and program evaluation. Dr. Lanier received his doctoral degree from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis. He was selected as a fellow with the national Doris Duke Fellowship for the Promotion of Child Well-Being, and was a NIMH T32 fellow at the Center for Mental Health Services Research. His research focuses on developing, evaluating, and scaling-up evidence-based prevention programs in child welfare, mental health, and early childhood systems. His recent work has involved engaging and supporting low-income families with young children, particularly new fathers. For this line of research, he recently completed a federally-funded quasi-experimental trial of a peer support group for fathers of children in Head Start. He was also recently an investigator on the first randomized controlled trial implementing Triple P in the child welfare system. His current work focuses on family engagement in evidence-based home visiting programs. In addition to his focus on intervention research, Dr. Lanier also uses linked, multi-sector administrative data for policy analysis of child welfare and health systems serving vulnerable populations. Paul lives in Chapel Hill and has two young Tar Heels.


Ennis C. Baker

Ennis Baker, LCSW is the Project Director for Duke’s Center for Child & Family Policy’s Building Capacity for Infant/Toddler Trauma-Informed Care (ITTI Care): A Professional Development Framework project. In this role, Ennis provides leadership for this statewide collaborative project that leverages existing resources to craft a professional development framework focused on trauma-informed practice in early care & education settings that offer infant/toddler care. The framework is designed to be practical, evidence-based, sustainable and maximally effective for children under 3 in licensed child care in North Carolina and for the child care professionals who care for them. Ennis co-leads (with fellow Board member,  Rhodus Riggins, Jr.) the Cultivating NC Early Childhood Equity Champions learning experience as part of the ITTI Care Project. Ennis also provides home-based parent-child therapy for mothers and their children in residential care for substance use disorder treatment at UNC Horizons.

Ennis is a licensed clinical social worker, specializing in early childhood mental health and has served in a variety of roles serving children birth to 5 and their families. She began her career as a toddler teacher in San Francisco’s Bayview/Hunter’s Point neighborhood in 1988 and since 1990 has lived and worked in various counties in North Carolina focusing on children under 5 as a child care provider, home visitor, program director and on a multidisciplinary evaluation team. From 1999-2018, Ennis served as a manager and mental health specialist for Orange County Head Start/Early Head Start in Chapel Hill, NC. In this role, she provided leadership and early childhood mental health consultation to program staff and families around issues of toxic stress, child abuse & neglect, best practice in infant/toddler child care, parenting, preventing and managing children’s challenging behavior, adult & child mental health and strengthening families by promoting protective factors.

Ennis is trained as a facilitator/parent educator in Triple P Level 3, Incredible Years Parenting Program, Circle of Security Parenting and Darkness to Light/Stewards of Children. She co-chaired the Orange/Chatham Early Childhood Mental Health Task Force from 2012 – 2018  and co-led the Orange RESILIENCE Initiative since 2017.


Caroline ChandlerCaroline Chandler

Caroline Chandler, MPH, is a public health researcher and doctoral student at the UNC Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health and predoctoral fellow at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute. Her research focuses on child maltreatment prevention and social-emotional development following early childhood trauma. Racial equity and community engaged research principles drive Caroline’s research. Caroline previously worked as a Public Health Analyst at RTI International and currently volunteers as a Guardian ad Litem.

Caroline received her Masters of Public Health from UNC Chapel Hill and her Bachelor of Arts in Healthcare Studies and Cognitive Science from University of Richmond. She first joined the North Carolina Infant Mental Health Association as an intern and is excited to continue serving the organization as a student board member.


Consuellis Hawkins-Crudup

Consuellis Hawkins-Crudup, MS, is currently the Director of Early Learning for East Coast Migrant Head Start Project (ECMHSP). ECMHSP is a non-profit corporation that provides high-quality and comprehensive Head Start services to children and families. In this role she leads the design, development and evaluation of child development and education services for the organization. She has extensive experience in the early childhood field working within early care and education. 

Consuellis is a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), past Board President for NCAEYC and currently serves on the NC Institute for Child Development Professionals Board of Directors. She participates in multiple collaborations addressing issues of early childhood systems, equity for children and families, early childhood mental health and evidenced based practices that support child outcomes. 

She holds a B.S. in Child Development and Family Relations from East Carolina University and a M.S. in Human Sciences from North Carolina Central University. Over the past 20 years, Consuellis has been working to ensure children and families receive high quality services.


Karen McKnightKaren McKnight

Karen McKnight is the Director of the Head Start Collaboration Office (HSCO) in the Office of Early Learning (OEL) at the at the NC Department of Public Instruction (DPI). DPI is the state education agency and the OEL focuses on Pre-K – Grade 3 to support children’s success in the early grades. The Office of Early Learning combines the Department’s staffs in primary education and prekindergarten and promotes other linkages for reforming early education for North Carolina’s children. Along with the Head Start Collaboration Office, OEL houses Preschool Exceptional Children and Early Learning Sensory Support, Title 1 Preschool and K-3 Formative Assessment.

The HSCO acts as a liaison between federally funded Head Start programs and other entities in the state that serve low income children and their families. North Carolina is home to 53 grantees responsible for serving 17,845 children in Head Start and 4,214 children in Early Head Start. Currently, much of her work focuses on building Head Start collaborations leveraging the Every Student Succeeds Act; supporting transitions and continuity through alignment and coordination along the birth to grade three continuum; and developing a trauma informed early care and education system to support the early childhood workforce along with children and families.

Ms. McKnight started her career as a preschool special education teacher and, prior to her state role, served as Disability Services Manager for Migrant Head Start for 13 years.


Jodi Whiteman

Jodi Whiteman is the Director of Partnerships and Growth at LENA.  In this position she supports early childhood programs to increase capacity of parents, caregivers, and teachers in accelerating children’s development, school readiness, and social-emotional health.  She has over 20 years of experience in the early childhood field working within early care and education, early intervention, infant and early childhood mental health and child welfare systems. Ms. Whiteman has a wealth of experience providing early childhood systems support nationally and internationally. She has authored/co-authored numerous professional articles, guides and curriculums on a variety of early childhood topics including ZERO TO THREE’s The Growing Brain from Birth to Five Years Old: A Curriculum for Early Childhood Providers, Knowledge and Know-How: Nurturing Child Well-Being online lessons and Caring Conversations Café Model Facilitator Guide.

Jodi is a part of many national workgroups such as the National Child Abuse Prevention Partners supported by The Children’s Bureau, Office on Child Abuse and Neglect (OCAN) and Strengthening Families National Partners group supported by the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP). Prior to joining LENA, Jodi served as a Senior Advisor with the Public Consulting group where she provided industry knowledge to lead and assist in training, technical assistance, strategic planning, organizational change management and product/service line development as well as the co-directed of the Professional Development and Workforce Innovations department at ZERO TO THREE.

Her past experiences as adjunct faculty at the Graduate School of Education at George Mason University, a bi-lingual speech/language therapist assistant, an infant/toddler child care director, an early intervention service coordinator and specialist, and a certified educator of infant massage informs her work and passion for supporting very young children and families. She holds a B.S. in Speech and Hearing Sciences from the University of Arizona and a M.Ed., in Curriculum and Instruction from George Mason University.


Asata Virgo

Asata Virgo, MAS-IFP, IMH-E® is currently an Infant Toddler Program Specialist with the Babies First NC project embedded within Child Care Services Association (CCSA). Asata carries an Endorsement for Culturally Sensitive, Relationship-Based Practice Promoting Infant Mental Health® recognizing her expertise and experience in providing clinical services to infants, toddlers, young children and their families. Additionally, she is a certified Infant-Toddler Family Specialist with experience working with children and families as an early childhood center educator, family education facilitator, and early childcare and education provider coach.  

A regarded advocate for healthy child development, Asata’s focus is on infant-toddler mental health and early relational health. Her work centers around nurturing and strengthening those vital connections between child and caregiver. Asata enjoys identifying individual strengths and talents with families, bridging those discoveries into comprehensive, collaborative, and effective care planning. 

Asata loves spending time with family, enjoying the beauty of nature, and exploring her community through service learning and development projects.  A resident of Durham for 2 years, she is dedicated to personal, professional, and community wellbeing.


Amy Petersen

Amy Petersen

Amy Petersen has worked in the nursing field for 30 years with clinical experiences in adult medicine, pediatrics, and mother/baby care. In 2009, she joined the  public health workforce as a Child Care Health Consultant (CCHC) and worked for Wake County Human Services for 8 years serving child care centers and family child care homes.

Since September, 2017, Amy has served as the State Child Care Nurse Consultant and Regional CCHC Coach for 33 counties in eastern NC. She works at the Division of Child and Family Well-Being in the Whole Child Health Section, Child and Family Wellness Unit. In her role at the Division, she collaborates with early childhood stakeholders and advocates for the health and safety of young children and early educators in child care settings. She works very closely with the NC Child Care Health and Safety Resource Center to support child care health consultation in NC in her roles as a coach and instructor for the NC CCHC Course; as well as contributing to the development of the many resources and training materials made available to CCHCs working in the field.

She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Amy is a mom of three children and is thrilled about her growing family with the addition of two daughter-in-loves. She and her husband Chris live in Cary, NC.


Angenette (Angie) Stephenson

Angenette (Angie) Stephenson is an attorney who practices in the areas of agency social services (child welfare, adult services, child support, and appeals) and adoptions. She was one of the first ten Board Certified Child Welfare Specialists certified by the North Carolina State Bar. She previously served as a child welfare attorney for 10 years in the North Carolina Attorney General’s office and has also served as a parent attorney and volunteer Guardian ad Litem.

Before practicing law, Angie first began her work with children as a foster care social worker in Mecklenburg County and Wailuku, Hawaii. Her experience working closely with children and families from many backgrounds, along with experience in mediation and adult mental health, allows her to bring an individualized approach to a legal practice that touches families of every kind. Angie earned a bachelor’s degree in social work from Eastern Mennonite University, and her law degree and MSW from UNC-Chapel Hill. She holds licenses in North Carolina and Hawaii. Angie is a past president of the American Association of Health and Human Services Attorneys.

She has presented on child welfare topics across North Carolina and at national conferences. She is also an active member of the legislative working group for the North Carolina Court Improvement Program, is active with her local bar, and is currently serving on the committee that developed the child welfare specialty for the North Carolina State Bar. Angie lives in Chapel Hill with her husband, her son, her Sheepadoodle, and her Goldendoodle. She enjoys gardening, amateur photography, and spending time with her family and friends.


Jes Fyall Cardenas

Jes Fyall Cardenas, Ph.D., IMH-E® is an endorsed Infant Mental Health Mentor (IMHM – Research/Faculty) and has spent her career supporting and advocating for the social-emotional health of young children and their families, especially in the context of early childhood education. Cardenas has worked as a preschool teacher, education director, state-wide professional development trainer for the Texas Association for Infant Mental Health (First3Years), and now as an assistant professor of Early Childhood at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. 

Cardenas earned her Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies from Texas Tech University, a M.S. in Family and Child Development from Texas State University, and a B.S. in Biology from Texas A&M University. Cardenas’ research agenda focuses on social support and the relationships between parents and early childhood educators. Recent work has centered on family transitions to formal school and childcare environments, focusing on maternal reports of well-being as influenced by first experiences with their child’s teacher.  

Cardenas lives in Wilmington, NC with her husband, Matt, and their two young daughters. NCIMHA was the first organization she reached out to participate with when she moved to NC in 2020, and the NCIMHA team and membership have been a source of powerful education, advocacy, and hope especially in our world today.