We’re breaking new ground.

Elderly White woman sitting

The Adult Advocacy Centers exist to teach the world how to hear what people with disabilities have to say — particularly when they are victims of crime.

Plans are in motion to develop 10 regionally located permanent centers and one fully outfitted RV mobile unit, each providing space for a multi-disciplinary team. These teams will include law enforcement, prosecutors, medical staff, victim advocates, mental health specialists, forensic interviewers and representatives from each of Ohio’s disability-specific agencies. This model is the first of its kind anywhere in the world.

Read our Adult Advocacy Centers FAQ

Project FIND

Center staff and partner agencies will be expertly trained to meet the needs of every individual. Part of that expert training is the Advanced Forensic Interviewing for Individuals with Disabilities certificate Project FIND, which was funded through a Victims of Crime Act grant through the Ohio Attorney General’s office.

The training teaches forensic interviewing best practices and makes considerations and adaptations to account for each individual’s disability, mental health disorder, assistive technology, language capacity and cultural background. The curriculum is designed to help forensic interviewers gather information from alleged victims in the most reliable and legally defensible manner. Participants learn through readings, didactic instruction, video examples, case scenarios and by participating in activities throughout the training.

Learn more on our Training page

Our Vision

Our vision is to serve adults with disabilities who are alleged victims or witnesses of abuse, maltreatment or neglect. Our staff and partner agencies are expertly trained to meet the needs of every individual in a holistic manner, ensuring they are the center of the investigation and treatment plan.

Meet Our Board

Mary Turocy

President

Mary is the Director of Public Affairs for the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, the state agency responsible for enforcing Ohio’s laws against discrimination.  She holds a Master of Science degree in Gender, Development, and Globalisation from the London School of Economics, as well as a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Denison University. Before working for the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, Mary served as Senior Policy Analyst for Disability Rights Ohio, Ohio’s Protection and Advocacy system for people with disabilities. In 2015, while at DRO, she researched and authored a white paper on the sexual abuse of individuals with developmental disabilities, including policy recommendations for Ohio. This research shined light on the many barriers to appropriate services for adult victims of crime with disabilities. Prior to her work at Disability Rights Ohio, Mary was a Senior Fiscal Analyst for the Ohio Legislative Service Commission, conducting research and drafting legislation for the Ohio General Assembly. A committed advocate for civil and human rights, Mary currently serves on Ohio’s Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness (PAIMI) Advisory Council and is an active committee member for The Matriots PAC, a nonpartisan political action committee dedicated to electing more Ohio women to public office. Mary’s dedication and passion for equity and justice drive her support and involvement in Adult Advocacy Centers.

Madoussou Buckley

Vice President

With over 17 years of experience working with individuals with ID/DD, Madoussou is an accomplished advocate. She is very passionate about equal access, human rights and assisted technology. Madoussou received her Bachelor of Science degree in Human Resource Management from Franklin University and a Master’s degree in Human Resource Management & International Business from Keller Graduate School of Management. In addition, Madoussou is a certified Scrum Master. While adhering to her commitment to corporate sustainability, Madoussou uses her skills in the global market through integrated information technology and digital marketing solutions. Gaining new perspectives and collaborating with people with different background has afforded Madoussou the opportunity to spend portions of her life abroad. Madoussou is fluent in four additional languages; French, Fulani, Mandingo, and Susu. In her free time, Madoussou loves reading, yoga, traveling the world with her husband, and socializing with friends and family.

Samantha Pyatt

Secretary

Samantha works as a Trust Examiner for the Ohio Department of Commerce, traveling to banks with trusts and non-depository trust companies throughout the state. With her legal background and passionate commitment to upholding standards, she works to ensure the banks are in compliance with fiduciary standards and sound banking practices. As a graduate of Kent State University, Samantha has a Bachelor of Arts in Justice Studies with a minor in Pre-Law Studies; she also obtained her law degree from Florida Coastal School of Law, and has been licensed to practice law in Ohio since 2013. While in law school she devoted time to her community, serving as a Governor of The Florida Bar Law Student Division of Governors and working as a coordinator of Citizenship Day in Jacksonville, Florida. Samantha believes in empowering individuals and the community they create, striving to build others up in and outside of work. Prior to working as a Trust Examiner, she gained valuable experience writing legal memoranda, researching complex legal issues involving the ADA, and working on projects to find positive solutions while working at Disability Rights Ohio. Her upbeat attitude, optimistic approach, diverse legal experience, and dedication to be involved constantly inspire Samantha to do more. Never one to avoid a challenge, she aims to step into difficult scenarios that can benefit from her skillset.

Todd Celmar

Treasurer

Todd has had a career in public finances. He worked for seven years at the Ohio Legislative Service Commission (LSC), where he was responsible for writing fiscal and policy briefs on legislation affecting the Department of Developmental Disabilities and Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities. He then served as an economist and analyst at the Ohio Department of Taxation before arriving at his current position as a financial analyst at the Ohio Treasurer’s Office. Todd has also taught economics courses and business writing as an adjunct professor and has volunteered on nonprofit boards in Knox County, where he lives with his family.

Meet Our Executive Team

Katherine Yoder, MS, CFI

Executive Director

Katherine Yoder saw a need for victim services for adults with disabilities and founded the Adult Advocacy Centers to serve that need in March 2019. She is a certified forensic interviewer and has been an advocate for people with disabilities for 20 years. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in social psychology from Park University and a Master’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Cincinnati.

Leigha Shoup, MS, RA

Deputy Director

Leigha Shoup is a Registered Advocate in the State of Ohio. She has more than 17 years of experience working with children and adolescents living with disabilities and is a state, national, and international presenter on the topics of diversity, inclusion, and accessibility when working with multi-disciplinary teams to serve survivors of crime. In July 2018, she co-published Serving Survivors with Disabilities – An Advocate’s Guide. Leigha is also an active mentor for other women of color within the advocacy movement. In 2017 she received the Children Safety Award in Allen County. Leigha holds a Master’s of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis and Behavior Therapy from Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, as well as a Bachelor’s of Science in Hearing, Speech, and Language Sciences from Ohio University.

Stacy Brannan-Smith

Director of Communications

Stacy Brannan-Smith has worked in the communications field for nearly 20 years, including nearly 7 years at Disability Rights Ohio, where she managed the website, branding, social media, public relations, media relations and graphic design for Ohio’s Protection & Advocacy system. She has presented locally and nationally about voting rights for people with disabilities and nonprofit media strategy, and she is passionate about creating accessible, inclusive resources for the disability community. Stacy has Bachelor of Arts degrees in English and Comparative Religion from Otterbein University.

Jackie Martin

Administrative Director

Jackie Martin has been an advocate for people with disabilities for over 20 years, both professionally and personally, in her roles with the Cerebral Palsy Association of Ohio, the former OLRS Family Support Council and as a parent of a young adult with a disability. She has experience working with vulnerable populations in her role as Associate Director at the Family & Youth Law Center at Capital University Law School. In that role, she was responsible for grant compliance, reporting and fiscal management, as well as representing the Center in the community.