Meet the team

What does an EPIC Advocate do?
An EPIC Advocate’s job is to provide independent advocacy to children and young people in care or with care experience. A big part of their role as an Advocate is to make sure that the children and young people they work with and for understand their rights, and that their voices and opinions are heard and taken into consideration in matters relating to their care, aftercare service or other related issues. They also provide support, advice and information.

Marissa Ryan (she/her)

CEO | Dublin Office

Email: marissaryan@epiconline.ie

My name is Marissa, and I joined EPIC in December 2020 as Chief Executive Officer. 

It’s my job to make EPIC the best possible organisation it can be for care-experienced children and young people. I work with the EPIC team, our Youth Councils, and our Board to develop strategy, and to make sure we do what we say we’ll do. I support our Management Team to lead our work championing the rights of care-experienced children and young people, and I identify platforms and partnerships so children and young people are heard, and their experiences inform decision making. I am also responsible for building relationships with the government and other organisations, and for ensuring EPIC has the right staff, systems, and funding.

Before joining EPIC, I worked on human rights and equality issues. I was based in Brussels as the Global Deputy Director of Policy, Advocacy and Campaigns at Oxfam International. Before that I worked with Concern Worldwide, BeLonG To, and the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs. I also spent several years in east Africa working with the UN Human Rights Office and others.

My qualifications include a MSc in Human Rights from UCD and a Bachelor of Arts from UCD.

Michele Brady (she/her) 

Chief Operations Officer | Dublin Office

Email: michelebrady@epiconline.ie

My name is Michele, and I joined the EPIC team in 2015 as a part-time Finance Officer. Since then, my role and duties in EPIC expanded, and in October 2021 I was promoted to the full-time role of Chief Operations Officer.

It’s my job to make sure that everyone at EPIC has the tools and support they need to do their job well. I am responsible for our finance, IT, HR and offices and I am supported by our Operations Team.

Before joining the EPIC team, I worked with The Integration Centre, and I have experience in both industry and not-for-profit sectors. I particularly enjoy combining learnings from both sectors that support EPIC to be a well-managed organisation, and a good place to work.

My qualifications include FCA (Fellow Chartered Accountant).

Adrian Sheehy (he/him)

EPIC Advocate | Cork Office

Email: adriansheehy@epiconline.ie

My name is Adrian, and I joined the EPIC team in June 2020 as an Advocate. I provide independent advocacy to care-experienced children and young people across Cork, Kerry, Carlow, Kilkenny, South Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford.

What I enjoy most about my job is supporting the empowerment of children and young people to communicate their thoughts, feelings and wishes about their own circumstances to the adults, professionals and services who care for them.

Before joining the EPIC team, I worked as a Social Care Worker for a private youth residential service and in the disability sector. My passion is supporting young people in challenging circumstances to find their own solutions.

My qualifications include a BA in Community Development from MTU and an MA in Voluntary and Community Sector Management from UCC, but every day is a school day!

Edel Weldon

Edel Weldon (she/her)

EPIC Advocate | Dublin Office

Email: edelweldon@epiconline.ie

My name is Edel, and I joined the EPIC team in January 2017 as an Advocate. I provide independent advocacy to care-experienced children and young people across Dublin, Kildare, Wicklow, and the Midlands, covering Laois, Longford, Offaly and Westmeath.

I am committed to working for better outcomes for young care leavers, I currently sit on the Board and Committee of the Irish Aftercare Network, and to ensuring that children and young people feel heard and listened to.

Before joining the EPIC team, I worked as a Tusla Aftercare Worker for five years, during which time I developed the Aftercare Service in my area. I also worked in Children’s Residential Centers for nine years, both as a Social Care Worker and in management roles.  

My qualifications include a BA (Hons) in Applied Social Studies in Social Care from Atlantic Technological University Sligo.

Fidelma Guinan

John Murphy (He/Him)

Advocacy and Research Officer | Cork Office

Email: johnmurphy@epiconline.ie

My name is John, and I joined the EPIC team in September 2012 as an Advocate. I provide independent advocacy to care-experienced children and young people across Cork, Kerry, Carlow, Kilkenny, South Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford. In 2019, I also took on the role of Research Officer to support EPIC’s research and policy work.

In my dual role, I advocate for children in care and care leavers, and I also conduct and support research on all aspects of the care system. I’m passionate about research and children’s rights and how they can enhance the lives of children and young people, especially those in care.

Before joining the EPIC team, I worked in residential care in Wicklow and Cork, and with Barnardos as part of the Origins Team that worked with people who had been through the Industrial and Reformatory School systems. I also have experience as a Community Resource Worker in Limerick.

My qualifications include a Degree in Social Science, a H. Dip in Counselling, a Degree in Law, and a Masters in Child and Family Law.

Shane Smart (he/him) 

Youth Engagement and Participation Lead – DNE & DML |Dublin Office 

Email: shanesmart@epiconline.ie 

My name is Shane Smart, and I joined the EPIC team in August 2023 as the Youth Participation and Engagement Lead for Dublin, North East and Mid Leinster counties.  My role involves working closely with EPIC’S Youth Councils, to help develop and support opportunities for children and young people to have their voices heard on issues related to the care system at a local and national level in Ireland. My role also involves creating spaces for them to come together, and to help build a positive, safe, and supportive Care Community.  

Before joining the EPIC team, I worked in BelongTo supporting young LGBTQ+ people in Ireland. I also worked with a local Dublin Task Forces as a Community Engagement Lead working to help support marginalised communities facing intersectional oppressions due to their identities or experiences. I have worked across several different social care settings including disability, homelessness, drug and alcohol services, and youth work.  

My qualifications include a Master’s in Child Protection and Welfare from Trinity College Dublin, and a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Social Care from Technological University Dublin. 

Therese Garvin (she/her)

EPIC Advocate | Dublin Office

Email: theresegarvin@epiconline.ie

My name is Therese, and I joined the EPIC team in March 2019 as an Advocate. I provide independent advocacy to care-experienced children and young people across Dublin North, Meath, Cavan, Louth, and Monaghan.

I have a particular interest in working for better outcomes for young care leavers, and I currently sit on the Aftercare Steering Committee in Dublin North City. The best part of my job is empowering children and young people to be better advocates for themselves by educating them about their rights and ensuring that they know their voice matters.

Before joining the EPIC team, I worked in children’s residential centres as a Social Care Worker and Deputy Manager, and I also have experience as a Social Care Worker in Special Care. I also have experience in training staff teams in TCI and as a TCI Monitor for residential centres.

My qualifications include a BA in Applied Social Studies in Social Care from Saint Patrick’s College in Carlow, a BA (Hons) in Theology and Pastoral Care from The Milltown Institute of Theology and Philosophy, and a QQI Level 6 in Train the Trainer from The Open College.   

Catherine Adejuyigbe (she/her) 

EPIC Advocate (SEA) | Dublin Office 

Email: catherineadejuyigbe@epiconline.ie

My name is Catherine, and I joined the EPIC team in December 2023 as an Advocate. I provide independent advocacy to care-experienced children and young people across Dublin, Kildare, Wicklow, and the Midlands.

I enjoy empowering children and young people, where they are at any given time, to commune their feelings, thought, and needs to the adults, professionals, and services that care for them. I am enthusiastic about educating children and young adults about their rights and ensuring that their voices are heard and taken into consideration before decisions that relate to them are made.

Before joining EPIC, I worked in children’s residential centres for eight years, both mainstream and for separated children seeking international protection. Prior to this, I worked in homeless residential centres, as a project worker and a manager. I also have teaching experience.

My qualifications include a Post Graduate Diploma in Applied Social Studies from Trinity College Dublin, a MSc Management from UCD, a BA Hons in English, and Higher Diploma in Education.

Criomhthann McCarthy (He/Him)

EPIC Advocate | Limerick Office

Email: criomhthannmccarthy@epiconline.ie

My Name is Criomhthann.  I joined EPIC in December 2023 as the Mid-west Advocate to provide client-centred advocacy for care-experienced children and young people.

My primary background is in youth justice. Having worked intensively from a multi-disciplinary perspective, I have acquired experience in diverse areas such as mental health, addiction and recovery, recidivism, housing, health and wellbeing, education and disability. Ultimately, my role as an Advocate allows me to utilise these skills and acquire further learning through practice, my colleagues, and most importantly, the children and young people we support. There is a wealth of experience and support that makes EPIC a great place to work. For me, this creates a strong position from which to advocate, as I am motivated by the potential for growth and change in the lives of the people and communities I support.

Before joining EPIC, I worked with a Youth Justice project, funded by the Probation Service. This was focussed on supporting young offenders and at-risk youths aged 12-26 years. This was a relationship based, intensive intervention model. Working closely with the probation service allowed very dynamic work to take place. EPIC is particularly proficient at collaborative working and, as such, I look forward to contributing my experience to the EPIC community as well as growing with it.

I have an MA in Sociology – Youth, Community and Social Regeneration and a BA Joint Honours in Economics and Sociology from the University of Limerick.

Fiona Murray (she/her)

Advocacy Service Manager | Dublin Office

Email: fionamurray@epiconline.ie 

My name is Fiona, and I joined the EPIC team in January 2006 as an Advocate. In 2018 I became an Advocacy Service Manager and I now support our team of Advocates that work with children and young people across North and South Dublin, Cavan, Monaghan, Kildare, Wicklow, and the Midlands. 

It’s my job to ensure that every child and young person that comes to EPIC has access to a high standard of advocacy and support. I believe in championing children’s rights and listening to what children and young people have to say, and I want to be part of systematic change that ensures that children and young people in care and aftercare have the best possible experience of life. 

Before joining the EPIC Team, I was the Director of a service for early school leavers and before that, a Deputy Manager of a Children’s Residential Service. I also have experience working with children and young people with disabilities and special needs. 

My qualifications include a BA (Hons) in Social Studies, and in Criminology.

Conor Stitt (he/him)

Research and Policy Manager | Dublin Office

Email: conorstitt@epiconline.ie 

My name is Conor Stitt, and I joined the EPIC team in December 2022 as Research and Policy Manager.  

My role involves informing policymakers and key stakeholders on the experiences of children and young people in care and with care experience. Using the evidence base from our National Advocacy Service, participative research studies, and policy positions, I work to progress EPIC’s strategic goal of bringing about transformative change in our care system.  

Before joining the EPIC team, I worked in the area of children’s online safety. I also spent a number of years as a Policy Advisor for TDs and Senators in the Oireachtas.   

My qualifications include an LLB and BA (Legal Studies and IT) from the University of Galway. I’m a lifelong learner though and always want to know more!  

Brenda Kneafsey (she/her)

EPIC Advocate | Mayo office

Email:  brendakneafsey@epiconline.ie

My name is Brenda, and I joined the EPIC team in May 2007 as an Aftercare Support Coordinator and I became an EPIC Advocate in 2013. I provide independent advocacy to care-experienced children and young people across Mayo, Galway, Roscommon, Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal.

The most important aspect of my job is ensuring that the children and young people I work with have opportunities to tell us about their experiences of care and aftercare. I am also very committed to advocating for better supports and services for young parents with care-experience.

Before joining the EPIC team worked with young people in residential care in Galway and Wicklow.

My qualifications include a MA in Family Support Studies and a Certificate in Youth Health Promotion from NUIG, and a National Diploma in Applied Social Studies in Social Care from TUS Athlone.

Brian Kealy (he/him)

Finance Officer | Dublin office

Email: briankealy@epiconline.ie

My name is Brian, and I joined the EPIC team in March 2023 as a Finance Officer

My job is to ensure the financial requirements of the organisation are met by providing accurate financial information/reports and to support the Chief Operations Officer in monitoring and maintaining compliance with statutory, legal and charitable governance requirements.

Before joining the EPIC team, I worked most recently with homeless charity, Depaul as a Finance Officer, focusing most of my attention on accounts payable functions. I also have experience in accounts receivables, investment compliance from previous roles with Sysco & Northern Trust in addition to volunteer experience in Kara Tepe refugee camp in Lesvos, Greece.

My qualifications include an BA in Business Management and Marketing from LIT.

Edel Weldon

Ellie Mahony (she/her)

Digital Media Officer | Cork Office

Email: elliemahony@epiconline.ie

My name is Ellie Mahony, and I joined the EPIC team in July 2023 as a Digital Media Officer.

My role involves communicating EPIC’s mission, work and impact by working closely with the EPIC Team and Youth Council members to create engaging digital content for EPIC’s online channels and resources. I am passionate about using communications to create social change and I am thrilled to collaborate with EPIC’s Care Community to help amplify their voices.

Before joining the EPIC team, I worked in the Sexual Violence Centre in Cork. My role in the Centre was varied and I was responsible for the online presence of several campaigns including #FixedIt Ireland and Safe Gigs Ireland. I have also worked in a freelance capacity on a number of social impact projects.

My qualifications include a Masters in Public Relations from Dublin Institute of Technology and a Bachelor of Civil Law from University College Cork.

Peter Lane (he/him)

EPIC Advocate and Care Experience Podcast Coordinator | Dublin Office

Email: peterlane@epiconline.ie

My name is Peter, and I joined the EPIC team in September 2012 as an Advocate. I provide independent advocacy to care-experienced children and young people across South Dublin, Kildare, Laois, Wicklow, Westmeath, Offaly and Longford. I also coordinate and host the Care Experience Podcast.

I am hugely invested in making sure that children and young people’s voices are heard and in making the care system better by ensuring that the adults who make decisions listen to young people and take what they have to say seriously. I fully believe that if you improve the outcomes for children and young people in the care system, you improve society.

As an Advocate, I’m committed to finding solutions to youth homelessness for the young care-leavers I work with, and to social justice and equality. In EPIC’s Care Experience Podcast, which is a collaborative production with care-experienced youth, we often delve into justice and equality issues through conversations with young people with the lived experience, and professionals and experts on social care and children’s rights.

Prior to joining EPIC, I was on the management team of a residential service, and I also have experience in the youth work sector. Before beginning my career in the social care field, I was involved in production for music gigs and events all around Ireland.

My qualifications include Post Graduate Diplomas in Applied Social Studies, and in Youth and Community Studies and Communications, an Arts BA (Hons), a Diploma in Media Studies, and national qualification in Philosophical Studies.

Shifana Niyas (she/her) 

Operations Assistant | Dublin Office 

Email: shifananiyas@epiconline.ie  

My name is Shifana, and I joined EPIC in August 2023 as an Operations Assistant. I am responsible for implementing improvement programmes in EPIC’s health and safety system, risk framework and CRM system, and ensuring they are compliant with standard practices and regulations.  

Before joining EPIC, I worked on human rights and socio-political issues in Sri Lanka, India, and Ireland. I also worked in solidarity campaigns with marginalised groups. 

My qualifications include a BSc degree in Management from the University of Sri Jayewardenapura and a MPhil degree from Trinity College Dublin. I am a member of Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (UK), and I’m currently reading my PhD at Trinity College Dublin. 

Jordan Barnett (He/Him)

EPIC Advocate | Dublin Office

Email: jordanbarnett@epiconline.ie

My name is Jordan, and I joined the EPIC team in December 2023 as an Advocate. I provide independent advocacy to care-experienced children and young people across Dublin North, Meath, Cavan, Louth, and Monaghan.

What I enjoy most about working for EPIC is having the opportunity to advocate on behalf of children and young people, as well as providing them with the skills to advocate for themselves, by educating them about their rights and ensuring that they know their voice is heard and matters. I think it’s vitally important that children and young people are given the opportunity to know their rights while also having the ability and means to exercise them.

Before joining the EPIC team, I worked in mainstream residential with vulnerable young people for eight years, as both a Social Care Worker and a Childcare Leader. My favourite aspect of working with children and young people is being able to witness their successes and achievements.

My qualifications include a BA (Hons) Social Science and BA Social Studies.

Helen Fulker (she/her) 

Advocacy Worker | Dublin Office 

Email:  helenfulker@epiconline.ie 

My name is Helen and I joined the EPIC team in December 2023 as an Advocate. I provide independent advocacy to care-experienced children and young people in North Dublin.

Before joining the EPIC Team, I worked with children and young people who were at risk and in care, including young people in hospital, some of whom had long term illnesses and learning difficulties.  A big part of my job was making sure young people were involved in planning and understood meetings like case conferences. I believe it is important that all children and young people are listened to, whatever their extra needs are.  

My qualifications include a degree in Psychology and a Master’s in Social Work. 

Barry O’Sullivan (he/him)

Advocacy Service Manager – South, Mid-West and West | Cork Office

Email: barryosullivan1@epiconline.ie 

My name is Barry and I joined the EPIC team in August 2023 as Advocacy Service Manager for the South, Midwest and West regions. My role involves supporting the regional advocacy teams to ensure that children and young people receive a high-quality service from EPIC, and I am committed to improving outcomes for children and young people with care experience. 

Before joining EPIC, I managed a family support project for Barnardos. Prior to that I worked in the UK in several statutory and non-statutory roles. I worked in a specialist CAMHS team for children with eating disorders and supervised a team of social workers who delivered therapeutic interventions to children who had experienced sexual abuse. I was a Social Worker on an expert witness multidisciplinary team that informed decisions about permanency for children in care. I have also worked in a child in care team, undertaking statutory responsibilities as the allocated social worker.  

My qualifications include a BA in History and Sociology, a Higher Diploma in Social Policy and a Master of Social Work from University College Cork. I also completed the Social Work Practice Educator modules from Goldsmiths University of London. 

Caroline Reid (she/her)

Communications Manager | Dublin Office

Email: carolinereid@epiconline.ie

My name is Caroline, and I joined the EPIC team in January 2022 as Communications Manager.

It’s my job to communicate EPIC’s vision, work and impact, and to build awareness and understanding about the experiences of children and young people in care and with care experience. The best part of my job is getting to work closely with our Care Community and Youth Council members and support them in their projects and campaigns, and of course their annual Care Day celebration!

Before joining the EPIC team, I worked with national advocacy organisations including the Irish Refugee Council, the Irish Network Against Racism, and the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland. I also have experience in managing external communications for international non-profits and as a communications contractor.

My qualifications include an MA in International Communications from DCU and a BA in Audio-Visual Media from TUD Tallaght – and I am always learning on the job, sometimes the hard way!

Caroline Nolan (She/Her) 

EPIC Advocate | Cork Office

Email: carolinenolan@epiconline.ie

My name is  Caroline, and I joined the EPIC team in September 2012 as an Advocate. I  provide independent advocacy to care-experienced children and young people across Cork, Kerry, Carlow, Kilkenny, South Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford.

I really value supporting children in care and care leavers to achieve the best possible outcomes, and creating awareness and understanding about their rights so that they feel empowered and to have their voices heard. I have a particular interest in children’s rights, human rights and equality and I am committed to doing my best for every child or young person I engage with. 

Before joining the EPIC team I worked in Children’s Residential Services as a Social Care Worker and Social Care Leader for over 11 years.

My qualifications include a Dip in Applied Social Studies in Social Care (CIT), a Dip in Development Studies (UCC), and a Professional Diploma in Human Rights and Equality (IHREC/IPA). 

Aoife Murphy (she/her)

Senior Youth Engagement Coordinator | Dublin office

Email: aoifemurphy@epiconline.ie

My name is Aoife , and I joined the EPIC team in August 2023 as the Senior Youth Engagement Coordinator. My role involves providing a safe space for care-experienced children and young people, in which they can come together, build a positive and supportive community and take part in activities and programs which support their development. My role also involves working closely with EPIC’s Youth Councils and Care Community to develop and implement opportunities for them to have their voices heard on issues related to the care system.  

Before joining the EPIC Team I was a Youth Service Project Leader in Dublin and prior to this I worked with young people for a number of years in diverse youth work roles in Ireland and in the UK. 

A key motivator in my work are the children and young people. I am equally motivated by my belief in the youth work process and its ability to support the personal and social development of participants.  I think the voices of young people are insightful and as adults if we take the time to listen, we can learn a lot. What do I like most about my job? Seeing young people grow in confidence and overcoming obstacles, providing opportunities for fun, laughter and new experiences!  

I have a BA in Youth and Community Work from MTU/Tralee IT, and qualifications in trauma informed practice, trauma recovery and drug and alcohol misuse. 

Edel Weldon

Emma-Louise Carroll (she/her)

Regional Youth Engagement and Participation Lead | Limerick Office 

Email: emmacarroll@epiconline.ie 

My name is Emma-Louise, I joined the EPIC team in August 2023 as Regional Youth Engagement and Participation Lead based in Limerick. My role involves working alongside young people up to the age of 26 through the EPIC Youth Councils and Care Community. My team support care-experienced children and young people to have their voices heard on issues that are important to them. We also ensure a safe space for children and young people to be empowered and supported, while engaging with peers who are similarly experienced.  

Before joining the EPIC team, the majority of my work experience was in youth work – from young person, to volunteer and student, to a full time Youth Worker. Prior to EPIC, I was a Youth Justice Worker for seven years, supporting young people to make positive life choices in a safe and secure environment. I endeavour to be a positive role model for all young people as I believe that every young person deserves a champion. 

My qualifications include an PgDip in Trauma Studies from UCC and a BA in Community & Youth work from MU. Some of the most significant learning for me has come from young people themselves and of course my colleagues. There is immense knowledge in our life stories and experiences. 

Sarah Cremin (she/her)

Advocacy and General Administrator | Dublin Office  

Email: sarahcremin@epiconline.ie 

My name is Sarah and I joined the EPIC team in July 2023 as Advocacy and General Administrator.  My role involves supporting the advocacy team to manage the weekly case referral process. I also respond to incoming queries and assist with the management of EPIC’s database systems and reporting requirements. I work to provide comprehensive back-office support to ensure that everything is running smoothly for the team.  

Before joining EPIC, I worked as a Clerical Officer with the HSE Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. I have previously worked in administrative and student-support roles with University College Cork, and I have also worked as a Teaching Assistant with Utrecht University. 

My qualifications include a BA in English & History from UCC, and an MA in Cultural History from Utrecht University, with a focus on Irish LGBTQ+ history.  

Tara Madden (she/her)

Education Project Manager | Limerick Office

Email: taramadden@epiconline.ie

 

Tekeste Birhanu Haylu (he/him)

Research and Policy Officer | Dublin Office

Email: tekestebirhanuhaylu@epiconline.ie

My name is Tekeste, and I joined the EPIC team in July 2023 as a Research and Policy Officer.

In my role, I am responsible for assisting the team in research and policy analysis, as well as providing briefings, submissions, lobby letters, and data related to children in care and young people in aftercare. 

Prior to joining EPIC, I worked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Dublin and the Norwegian Refugee Council in Ethiopia, where I empowered refugees and asylum seekers to claim their rights and seek durable solutions. I also served as a Public Defender at the Federal Supreme Court of Ethiopia, providing legal representation to individuals who were unable to afford private attorneys and defending their rights in court.

Throughout my career, I have worked to ensure that marginalised communities are empowered to make informed decisions about their lives, have access to justice, and are protected from harm.

My qualifications include an LLB from the University of Gondar in Ethiopia and an LLM in international human rights from the University of Galway.

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