The Parents’ Place of Maryland began in 1990 as a grass-roots efforts of families, professionals, and community leaders determined to provide resources, support, and information to parents of children with disabilities and special health care needs. Our philosophy of “families helping families” reflects our commitment to supporting families of diverse backgrounds. Today, the Parents’ Place offers a variety of programs and services that continue to support families of children with disabilities and special health care needs. Serving as Maryland’s Parent Training and Information Center and Family-to-Family Health Information Center, Parents’ Place supports thousands of Maryland families each year. Parents’ Place, staffed primarily by parents who have faced these challenges, believes that experienced parents are a key source of knowledge and support to help other families become effective voices for their own children. Please continue to explore the website to learn more about our staff members, programs, services, and resources.


We help families obtain education and health care services for their children with disabilies; work to improve education and health care for all children; train and inform parents and professionals on a variety of topics; and connect children with disabilites to community resources that address their needs.

Missy Alexander
Parent Educator | Southern Maryland

Missy is a Parent Educator working with families in Southern Maryland. She facilitates workshops and study groups on a variety of topics. Missy is active on many regional, state, and national councils and boards focusing on children with special needs. She has also been a guest lecturer at Towson University, Johns Hopkins University, and The College of Southern Maryland on parenting a child with autism. Missy is on the Board of Directors for the Learning Disabilities Association of Maryland. She is an active member, and former Chair, of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA). Missy is the parent of a daughter on the autism spectrum.

Pattie Archuleta
Family-to-Family Coordinator

Pattie coordinates the Family-to-Family Health Information Center serving families throughout the state of Maryland. She is active on a variety of initiatives to improve services for children with special health care needs and increase parent professional collaboration, including a gubernatorial appointment to the Maryland State Autism Workgroup. Pattie sits on the Baltimore County Special Education Community Advisory Committee (SECAC) and the offers peer support for families on the ketogenic diet at the Johns Hopkins Pediatric Epilepsy Center. She is experienced in behavior intervention program development and implementation and is the parent of a young man with an autism spectrum disorder and a history of epilepsy.

Rene Averitt-Sanzone
Executive Director

Rene is the Executive Director at Parents’ Place of Maryland since June of 2017 and prior to that she worked as the Regional Technical Assistance Co-Director for the OSEP funded parent centers in the mid-south region. She has held a variety of roles in the field of special education – Parent Educator, Early Childhood Behavior Specialist, Evaluator, and Charter School Administrator. Rene has a undergraduate degree in Psychology and a masters in Organizational Change Management. She is the parent of two grown daughters who are deaf.

Charvette Barfield
Parent Educator | Baltimore City

Charvette is a Parent Educator working with families in Baltimore City. She previously worked as a Family Navigator assisting families with complex needs access services. Charvette also served as a Plaintiff’s Representative working with parents, the Maryland Disability Law Center (MDLC), and other agencies to protect the rights of students with disabilities. She serves on a numerous city, state, and national committees and boards working to improve outcomes for children with special education and healthcare needs. Charvette is a parent of four children, two with disabilities, and her oldest son passed away as the result of sickle cell disease.

Cheri Dowling
Parent Connections Coordinator

Cheri works with parents of children who are deaf or hard of hearing by providing emotional support and information through the Parent Connections Program. She served as the parent representative on the Universal Newborn Hearing Screening Council of Maryland, and as the parent representative and chair of the Maryland Advisory Council for the Maryland Governor’s Office for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Cheri currently serves on the Board of the Described and Captioned Media Program. Cheri lives in Woodbine, MD with her husband and their two children.

Val Englert
Communications Coordinator

Val is responsible for organizing Parents’ Place of Maryland events, fundraisers, and conferences. As the communication coordinator, she also handles public relations, social media, and website management. In 2010, she planned and executed PPMD’s 20th Anniversary Gala: An Evening of Chocolate. She spearheads PPMD’s Anti-Bullying campaign including their annual Run, Walk, Roll Against Bullying 5K event. Val holds a bachelor’s of science degree in hospitality management with a concentration in special events. She has years of experience working with multiple non-profit organizations volunteering and producing their fundraisers and events.

Bonnie Larrimore
Parent Educator | Eastern Shore

Bonnie is a Parent Educator working with families on the Eastern Shore. She is a graduate of the National Leadership Institute on Developmental Disabilities and has served as a Maryland Partner for Policy Making. Bonnie is a trained mediator and a graduate of the Johns Hopkins Psychological Disaster Training focusing on the special needs population. She has also worked as a Natural Resource Police Reserve Officer incorporating outreach to children with special needs. Bonnie is a Reiki Master and the parent of a child with multiple disabilities.

Heather Luke
Parent Educator | Central Maryland

Heather is a Parent Educator working with families in Central Maryland. Heather is fluent in American Sign Language as her youngest child is Deaf. She is also the parent of a child on the Autism Spectrum and a child who is Gifted. She previously worked for the Anne Arundel County Infants and Toddlers Program as the Family Support Coordinator. Heather has a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work and holds a Master’s degree from the University of Notre Dame of Maryland. Her husband has been in the Navy for over 20 years. Heather advocates nationally to raise awareness about the use of Restraint and Seclusion in public schools. She has been featured in Propublica, NPR, Associated Press, and the Washington Post about the issue.

Jill Pelovitz
Parent Educator | Central Maryland

Jill is a former language arts teacher who taught several years at the middle school level. She has participated on many committees and groups related to special needs children at mt. Washington pediatric hospital, including chairing the family advisory counsel. Jill has advocated for children’s hospitals, the ketogenic diet, and for other numerous issues and programs relating to families with children who have special education and healthcare needs. Jill educates and supports families who are starting the ketogenic diet. She is the mother of two daughters, one of which has a rare genetic disorder resulting in epilepsy and multiple disabilities.

Mariela Pijem
Latino Outreach Coordinator

Mariela comes to us from Puerto Rico via New Mexico where she has worked extensively with outreach, training, and support of Spanish speaking families. She has worked in the field for over ten years helping families wherever they are in their journey by providing information and support so they can become their child’s best advocate. Mariela has an undergraduate degree in Humanities and a masters in Special Education. She also brings the personal perspective of being a sibling, she has a sister with Down syndrome and her twin has Epilepsy.

Jazmone Taylor
Director of Training & Education

Jazmone has held a variety of roles in the District of Columbia and Delaware Parent Training Centers in positions involved with strategic planning, community relations, leadership training, communications, grant management, development and organizational leadership. As a seasoned professional who has worked to empower families of children with special education and special healthcare needs, Jazmone has dedicated her life to ensuring that all children have equal access to their education. Jazmone is an active member of the American Counseling Association, holds a position as the Newsletter Assistant Chair for the Maryland Counseling Association, is a Board Member of the national organization Parents PLACE, and holds many other leadership positions, both in the state and region, in the field of mental health.

Yvette Young-DeCosta
Parent Educator | Central Maryland

Yvette is a Parent Educator working with families in Central Maryland. Yvette has been a founding member of The Special Education Coalition of Prince Georges’ County. She is also adjunct faculty at Prince George’s Community College coordinating the parent education class of the Children’s Developmental Clinic. Yvette has been with PPMD since 2010 and is the parent of three children, two with ADHD.


The Parents’ Place of Maryland is a 501©(3) non-profit organization governed by a volunteer Board of Directors who represent Maryland’s diverse makeup. The majority of our Board are parents of children with disabilities and special health care needs.

Michelle Beadle

Bev Englert

Tasha Howland

Sara Kempler

Deepa Menon

Lauren Ochalek

Kitty O’Hara

Donna Riccobono

Imani Rose

Jennifer C Willis