Our founders are highly-respected leaders in our community who care passionately about the children they encounter each and every day – many of whom have been abandoned by others. Their passion and dedication for these youth have made a profound difference for so many, and led to the creation of “Ripples of Hope for Children”.
W. Jeanne Meurer
Judge Meurer is a Senior District Judge with more than 30 years of experience in presiding over foster-care and juvenile-justice cases and working with abused and at-risk children. She also serves as a liaison to the Texas Legislature on juvenile justice issues. She has personally spearheaded Travis County’s innovative efforts to reduce detention and incarceration of juveniles. Under her leadership, Travis County was designated as a Model Court by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.
Judge Meurer is a renowned advocate for children, and has been awarded many honors on behalf of her work for youth, including the “Girls Scouts Women of Distinction” award for individual excellence and high levels of achievement. She is known as a strong advocate for youth in her courtroom. Her vision for youth served by “Ripples of Hope for Children” is that we are able to offer them a positive ‘vision for their future’.
Jeanne Meurer currently serves as a board member of Ripples of Hope for Children.
John is an Associate District Judge with nearly 25 years of hearing foster-care and juvenile-justice cases and working with abused and at-risk children.
To better serve the needs of these children, he helped to develop Travis County’s Juvenile Mental Health Court (COPE), for children at risk of entering the juvenile justice system because of their mental health disorders, and Travis County’s Transition Court (SYNC) for youth transitioning to adulthood out of foster care.
“We’ve seen so many children in the foster-care and juvenile-justice systems that succeed despite overwhelming obstacles and odds. But we’ve also seen too many children that fail simply because they give up. And that’s understandable. They may have been abused – emotionally, physically, sexually. Or maybe they’ve grown up in homes where parents struggle with substance abuse, or their past abuse, or their own unaddressed mental-health issues. Whatever the past, these children see no future. They may not be connected to anyone or anything, except possibly a gang. No one cares about them, so why should they care about anyone – or about themselves?”
Judge Hathaway helped create “Ripples of Hope for Children” to address the gaping needs he sees on a daily basis in his courtroom, where children’s needs can all too easily ‘fall through the cracks’ between systems. His goal is to connect these children to resources that can make a critical difference in the direction their life takes.
With over 30 years of dedicated service to abused and at-risk children, Chief Medina has executive responsibility for its 540+ employees and $40+ million budget, with responsibility for the program development, overall operations and management of the Travis County Juvenile Probation Department. She also works to influence state legislation and has testified to positively influence the field of juvenile justice.
Throughout her career, Chief Medina has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to successfully meeting the needs of juveniles, families and the community. She has fostered the development of programs designed to help juveniles remain within their own community. Additionally, she works collaboratively with the legal community, prosecutor’s office, schools, service providers, social services law enforcement, mental health services, juveniles and families on behalf of youth and participates in the Joint Steering Committee on Gang Activity.
Chief Medina sees the frequent challenges of youth who desire a positive future but don’t have a supportive family system in place. One of her goals for “Ripples of Hope for Children” is that the entire family can be connected to community resources. She recognizes it is critical for a child’s success for the entire family to be part of the solution.
Gena VanOsselaer serves as the Executive Director of Ripples of Hope for Children. Bringing over 30 years’ experience in both the corporate and nonprofit sectors, she served for almost 10 years as the Executive Director of the Austin Children’s Shelter after leaving a 20-year career at IBM to pursue her passion for community service. In the role of Executive Director, she established a proven track record of networking, fostering collaborations, bringing resources to support the mission, and gaining long-term support of stakeholders.
It was through her work at the Austin Children’s Shelter that Ms. VanOsselaer began to understand the complexity of the challenges these kids face and the lack of resources available for them. In particular, she saw firsthand the obstacles faced by youth ‘aging out’ of the foster care system, especially in the areas of education, employment, transportation, mental health services and readiness for independent living. She was drawn to the mission of Ripples of Hope for Children because she recognized that this organization has a unique opportunity to impact the direction their lives will take.
Ms. VanOsselaer has an M.B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin, and a B.S. in Communications from the University of Texas at Austin, College of Communication. She is also a Leadership Austin graduate (Class 2000-2001), and served on the Leadership Austin Board from 2010 – 2011. She has served for two years on the Collaborative Council for the Texas Supreme Court Task Force on Foster Care and the Collaborative Council for the Travis County Model Court for Children and Families.