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A licensed pastor, an innovative nonprofit leader and trained in family mediation from Mitchell-Hamline University;   Lisa holds a Master of Arts in Transformational Leadership from Bethel Seminary, St. Paul, MN.  With 20 years of leadership experience and a knack for change management - Lisa's experience crosses many social sectors guiding change in government/military systems, healthcare, communities of faith and child welfare nonprofit.  Lisa is a veteran of the United States Air Force serving as a combat medic and Emergency Room Leader at the US Air Force Academy. She has a passion to see people work together for the common good and reconcile their indifferences for the benefit of vulnerable children.
Lisa lives in St. Paul with her husband, Cary and their three college-age children (Christian, Audrey & Emma).   She loves gardening, outdoor walks, a great cup of coffee and  is an avid reader.  

Founder & Executive Director 


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As Licensed Foster Parents with Saint David’s Center for Child Development, Gregory R. Van Leer Sr. & Barbara A. Van Leer have been Fostering for over 20 years in Washington County MN.  During these 20 years they have provided parental care to over 75 children of various backgrounds and ethnicities.    The Van Leers serve as Racial Equity Leaders with the Quality Parenting Initiative (QPI) of Minnesota, (whose main goal is to strengthen Foster Care by refocusing on Excellent Parenting to all children in the welfare system).  In April of 2019, Gregory was honored to be a guest panelist for the American Bar Association at their national conference in Washington DC championing the cause for QPI.  As QPI agents for change Gregory and Barbara teamed with other QPI members to present a workshop on Recruitment at the QPI National Convention in Philadelphia P.A. which was also held in April 2019.
Gregory and Barbara recently celebrated 43 years of marriage.  They are devoted parents to their children and grandchildren, and are known for their community leadership.

Board Chairman & Co-Chair


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  • 'Peju is our resident expert on conflict and restorative practices.  She holds deep passion and commitment to conflict resolution starting with families.  She's a Consultant-Mediator-Analyst-Project Manager with AOSP Consulting. She completed Harvard University's Program on Negotiation Graduate Research Fellow International Mediation in 2017.  Completed a Doctor of Philosophy, PhD Political Science: International Conflict Resolution at University of Freiburg, Germany, a Master's in International Affairs & Human Rights and Bachelor's in Economics, Marketing & Advertising from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.  She is also a board member of the Living Justice Press nonprofit publishing entity in St. Paul.

Family Circles Project Director, Content Expert


Board of Directors

Andrea Simonett - Treasurer

MN Dept. Human Services

Kate Rickord - Secretary

St. David's Center for Children, Sr. Director

Rachel Walstad

MNAdopt, Executive Director

Julie Overbye Ledy

Adoption is Love Fund, Executive Director

Jerry Pederson

Anoka County Social Services & Behavioral Health Dept., Director

Kirsten Anderson

AspireMN, Executive Director

Lisa Pung-Michaelson

YMCA - Youth Intervention Services, Executive Director

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CONNECTED kids INITIATIVE is a Minnesota-based 501(c)3. 

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Copyright & Trademarked 2019