Congratulations to two of Tulsa’s heroes who are sharing their time and expertise to make life better for abused and neglected kids.

The Child Protection Coalition is honored to recognize these compassionate and smart women, attorney April Merrill and Johna Smasal, Ph.D. Coalition Director Lynn Sossamon presented the awards at a recent Coalition gathering.

April Merrill is Legal Aid of Oklahoma’s lead attorney for medical-legal partnerships. She works with OU-Tulsa’s Fostering Hope pediatric clinic, where the pain of abuse and neglect is treated for families and kids, and protection of the children is primary.

During 2014, April helped develop and lead a Coalition new event for community leaders, the Journey to Safety, a bus tour of organizations caring for kids in state custody. And, for two years she has headed the Coalition’s Advocacy Committee, which is expanding its legislative activities to speak for Oklahoma’s kids.

Psychologist Johna Smasal played a key role in creating a new project to serve the Tulsa County Juvenile Court. The comprehensive psychological evaluations of high risk parents assist judges in expediting placements for children who have been removed from the home due to abuse or neglect.

Private donations have funded the project since its initiation in July 2013 and the county Juvenile Bureau will assume financial support after 2015.

Our top priority in this project is better results for children and youth who are in state care. The evaluations can shorten the time a child waits for a parent to be rehabilitated or waits for a safe adoptive home, providing the child better odds to live a safe, stable, productive life.