Cristina Ritchie Cooper

Director, Immigration Projects

Cristina Ritchie Cooper

Cristina Ritchie Cooper

Image by Mitch Higgins, American Bar Association

Contact Cristina Ritchie Cooper

Cristina is senior counsel with the Center. She works with the Permanency Barriers Project, helping Pennsylvania child welfare agencies and courts reduce the time children spend in foster care. As co-director of the Center’s Immigration Project, she provides guidance for attorneys representing immigrant parties in the dependency system, and shares promising practices for dependency courts and agencies working with immigrant families. Cristina also provides legislative analysis of and technical assistance on kinship care issues, and serves as a regional liaison for the Capacity Building Center for Courts.

Cristina likes analyzing the intersection of immigration and child welfare laws and the challenges of providing guidance and strategies for state dependency systems.  “It is demanding work,” Cristina says.  “It’s an emerging area for many child welfare courts and attorneys, and we need to provide a good foundation with useful strategies.”

Providing technical assistance and policy analysis on child welfare issues was long a goal of Cristina’s. She attended law school to become a child advocate, and gained experience in several positions:

  • a post-graduate NAPIL (now Equal Justice Works) fellowship on medical child support at the National Women’s Law Center,

  • attorney for children and youth in dependency cases with the Legal Aid Society’s Juvenile Rights Practice in the Bronx, NY,

  • manager of the Teen Dating Violence Program at Women Empowered Against Violence (WEAVE) in Washington, DC, representing adolescents in protection order and family law matters and advocating for legislative improvements.

Cristina now enjoys combining advocacy, technical assistance, and policy work at both national and state/local levels with the ABA. She also enjoys the variety in her work--collaborating with national groups, researching and drafting state guidance, providing regional permanency trainings. “I like having big goals to improve the system, and balancing that work with detailed writing and revising.”