The FIRST Clinic is a medical-legal partnership dedicated to preventing trauma associated with family separation.
FIRST Legal Clinic provides holistic support to pregnant persons and parents of newborns at risk of CPS intervention and removal. Services include 24/7 legal consultation and peer advocacy, support from a parent ally, coordinated medical care, quick access to substance abuse treatment, and access to other critical and appropriate services including housing. By early intervention and evidence-based advocacy, FIRST seeks to prevent the trauma and costs associated with family separation.
FIRST helps parents and babies thrive during this most vulnerable early phase. In addition, it offers its parents and babies ongoing support through its community and partners so families can focus on succeeding, together, in a safe and healthy environment.
WHO WE ARE
— Adam Ballout, President and Community Outreach
Adam has been a public defender for 13 years working to help reunify families. Frustration and disappointment with how the legal system treated families and separated infants and new mothers led him to help create the FIRST Clinic and its medical-legal partnership with the American Academy of Pediatrics. Adam is a former board chair of the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WSCADV) and the Domestic Violence services of Snohomish County (DVS).
— Taila AyAy, Vice President and Executive Director
Taila is a graduate of Seattle University School of Law. She has been a parents’ representation attorney since 2009. Her practice focuses mainly on representation of parents and children in dependency litigation, administrative law, and family law. She also has experience in tribal representation and has worked as a guardian ad litem. She is passionate about social justice and increasing equitable access to resources for her clients, their families, and the community.Taila has worked remote from her home in California ever since moving from Washington a few years ago. This arrangement works well for her number one boy and majestic golden retriever, Dug.
— Neil Weiss, Treasurer and Operations
Neil is a passionate attorney who has contributed hundreds of pro bono hours for FIRST client representation and program development. While he has a background in accounting, his legal practice includes parent and child representation in juvenile dependency, criminal defense, family law, protection orders, civil litigation, and administrative law. He has experience as a commissioner and judge pro tem in King County Superior Court, Snohomish County District Courts, and Monroe Municipal Court. He has presented at multiple statewide training programs regarding representation in child welfare cases. He enjoys cooking and plays ice hockey in local leagues.
— Emily Gonzalez, Secretary and Business Operations
Emily is an attorney with a passion for advancing human, social, economic, and environmental equity. She focuses on supporting purpose driven organizations, both public and private, by drawing from principles of sustainability to develop and implement effective business strategies. Emily is an adventurer and global citizen who loves to travel and learn.
— Gina Wasemiller, Parent Ally
Gina Wassemiller is the Parent Ally for the FIRST Legal Clinic. Gina is also a contracted Social Service Specialist with the Office of Public Defense Parent Representation Program. Gina has been actively involved in a number local and national organizations and support groups, including Snohomish County Table of Ten, Snohomish County Parent Ally Committee, Washington State Parent Ally Committee, the Birth Parent National network, and the Parent for Parent program at the YWCA.
Gina brings passion and hope to the work she does with families. Gina was one of the parents she works with today. Her case ended in a relinquishment of her parental rights by choice. Gina believes a positive outcome is one a parent can live with forever. She knows this from her own experience. She is a survivor of domestic violence and a recovering addict. Gina meets parents where they are at and instills hope into each parent she works with.