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Speaker Biographies

Susan Abrams
Director of Policy & Training
Children’s Law Center of California

Susan Abrams is the Director of Policy and Training at Children’s Law Center of California (“CLC”). CLC serves as court-appointed attorneys for the approximately 30,000 children and youth in the Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Placer County foster care systems. Abrams started at CLC in 2005 as an Equal Justice Works fellow and then worked as a staff attorney with a caseload of several hundred clients. She transitioned to focus on macro level policy work in 2011 and is now responsible for developing and implementing CLC’s public policy priorities and legislative advocacy. Abrams has worked on over 20 pieces of legislation on such topics as extended foster care, relative placement, preserving sibling relationships, and supporting young parents in foster care. She also manages the training program at CLC and provides child welfare related trainings throughout the state. Abrams co-founded and serves as Board President for Happy Trails for Kids, a non-profit that provides overnight summer camp for children in foster care.

Mauriell H. Amechi, Ph.D.
Founder
Foster Youth Emowered, LLC

Mauriell H. Amechi, Ph.D. is an education professor and rising scholar committed to equity and social justice. His research expertise, pedagogy, and advocacy center on issues of educational equity, college access, student development, and persistence, with a particular focus on the experiences and pathways of underserved youth and adults who have been through foster care.

Adopted and raised by his late grandmother, Dr. Amechi’s scholarship on college-going foster youth is inspired by his background in kinship foster care and the myriad barriers he overcame to earn his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D.

Dr. Amechi's solo and co-authored publications appear in the Review of Higher Education, American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning, Journal of African American Males in Education, Journal of Diversity in Higher Education and the edited volume, Advancing Black male student success from preschool through Ph.D.

A product of Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Westside native received his B.A. with the highest distinction from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He also holds an M.A. in higher education and student affairs from Ohio State University. He later earned his doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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Rick Barinbaum, LMSW
Lecturer, Field Instructor, Child Welfare Consultant
University of Michigan School of Social Work

Rick Barinbaum, LMSW, is a clinical social worker and educator who focuses on interdisciplinary work to help strengthen individuals, families, and communities. He co-teaches at the Child Advocacy Law Clinic (CALC) at the University of Michigan and supervises MSW interns across interdisciplinary settings. Barinbaum also works with the Michigan State Court Administrative Office’s Court Improvement Program to support quality legal representation including preventive advocacy programs and representation for families in dependency cases. He has over two decades of experience including residential treatment, preventive services, interdisciplinary legal advocacy, immigration advocacy, and integrated health. Barinbaum worked for 11 years at the Center for Family Representation in New York City, an interdisciplinary child welfare legal advocacy organization, where he served as a staff social worker, supervisor, and co-director before moving to Michigan in 2018.

Kelly Beck
Attorney & Trainer
National Institute for Permanent Family Connectedness

Kelly Lynn Beck is an Attorney and Trainer with the National Institute for Permanent Family Connectedness at Seneca Family of Agencies. She is also a Consultant for the Northern CA Training Academy/UC Davis as well as a Court Appointed Counsel for parents and children in dependency actions. She is the author of several articles, including “Maintaining Family Relationships for Children in the Child Welfare System,” (ABA); How Reasonable Efforts’ Leads to Emotional and Legal Permanence,” (Capital University Law Review), and “Unlocking Reasonable Efforts: Kinship is Key” (Shriver Institute)

Beck travels nationally providing training and strategic planning sessions for judicial officers, attorneys, social workers, CASA, service providers, resource parents, and many other dependency and delinquency court stakeholders. Her trainings and curriculum development topics include permanency-related issues, such as Family Finding and Engagement, Reasonable Efforts, Concurrent Planning, Adoption, and Embracing Fathers and His Relatives.

Previously, Beck was the Senior Program Manager with the Model Courts Project at the National Council for Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the lead Attorney for the Permanency Project at the California Judicial Council, a Title IV-E Judicial Review Juvenile Consultant and has 20+ years of private practice experience handling adoption and child custody matters.

Prudence Beidler Carr
Director, Center on Children & the Law
American Bar Association

Prudence Beidler Carr is the Director of the ABA Center on Children and the Law, where she manages a team of attorneys and core staff who work on children’s law projects throughout the country. Her project work at the Center focuses on the implementation of federal law, legal representation for children, parents, and agencies, and the intersection of immigration and child welfare. Beidler Carr has a background in government, nonprofit management, and children’s advocacy in child welfare and early care, and education both domestically and internationally.

Before joining the ABA, she lived in Mexico City where she partnered with JUCONI, a Mexican organization that helps street-living youth reintegrate with their families. Previously, Beidler Carr worked in the Department of Homeland Security Office of General Counsel, where she severed as Deputy Managing Counsel for the office, and also as a member of the Litigation Team, managing class action, appellate, and Supreme Court litigation. She was a law clerk for District Judge Paul S. Diamond in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. She has a B.A. from Harvard and a J.D. from Northwestern. Prudence lives in Washington DC with her husband and children.

William C. Bell, Ph.D.
President & Chief Executive Officer
Casey Family Programs

William C. Bell became president and chief executive officer of Casey Family Programs in January 2006. He chairs the Executive Team and is ultimately responsible for the vision, mission, strategies, and objectives of the foundation.

Bell has more than 40 years of experience in the human services field. Prior to becoming president and CEO of Casey Family Programs, he served as the foundation’s executive vice president for Child and Family Services, providing strategic direction to nine field offices and leading a staff working directly with young people from the public child welfare system.

Prior to joining Casey, he served as commissioner of the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS). There, he managed child welfare services — including child protection, foster care, child abuse prevention, daycare, and Head Start — with a staff of more than 7,000 and a budget of about $2.4 billion.

From 1996 to 2001, Bell was deputy commissioner of ACS’s Division of Child Protection. From 1994 to 1996, he was deputy commissioner of field services and contract agency case management for the New York City Human Resources Administration. In the early 1990s, Bell was associate executive director for Miracle Makers, a private-sector, minority-owned, not-for-profit child and family services organization in New York City.

Bell earned his Ph.D. in social welfare from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, his Master of Social Work degree from Hunter College School of Social Work, and his bachelor’s in biology and behavioral science degree from Delta State University.

Hon. Darlene Byrne
Chief Justice, Third Court of Appeals, Texas

The Honorable Darlene Byrne has served as the Chief Justice of the Third Court of Appeals of Texas since January 2021. Prior to that, she served for 20 years as the presiding judge of the 126th Judicial District Court in Travis County beginning in January 2001. Before her election in 2000, she practiced for 13 years in the areas of employment, and commercial and governmental entity litigation.

Chief Justice Byrne is a Commissioner on the Texas Children’s Commission. She is also a past President of the National Council for Juvenile and Family Court Judges and a past Judge of the Year of National CASA, Texas CASA, and CASA of Travis County. She currently serves as co-chair of the Judicial Council for National CASA, is on the Editorial Review Board for NCJFCJ’s Juvenile and Family Court Journal, and the Advisory Committee for the #WeToo project for Courts.

Chief Justice Byrne is the founding judge of the Travis County Family Drug Treatment Court, the Travis County Model Court of Children, Youth and Families, and the Travis County Dual Status Youth Court.

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LaShaun Carter
Chief Equity & Inclusion Officer
Mecklenburg County, North Carolina

LaShaun K. Carter currently serves as the Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer for Mecklenburg County (Charlotte, NC). He is responsible for developing efforts to advance a Countywide equity and inclusion framework of normalizing, organizing, operationalizing, and improving internal policies, practices, and systems to eradicate any structural or institutional racism that may exist in the county government. In this role, Carter oversees the Office of Equity and Inclusion and leads through community partnerships, policy analysis and development, training, data collection, and more robust accountability measures for County departments to achieve better outcomes.

Jessica Chandler, MSW, ACSW
Social Worker
Los Angeles Department of Children & Family Services

Jessica Chandler spent most of her adolescence bouncing between group homes and Juvenile Hall until she emancipated at age 18. Since then, she received her Bachelor's Degree in Psychology and Masters of Social Work from Cal State University Northridge.

Chandler is a national advocate for children and families involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. She sits on the Board of Education Coordinating Council on behalf of probation youth; The Nehemiah Project LA, supporting transition-aged youth in the LA area; and previously served as the Los Angeles County Ambassador for Child Welfare.

Chandler began her advocacy working with the Alliance for Children's Rights, a non-profit legal services agency where she focused on serving pregnant and parenting teens in foster care, and the extension/proper implementation of foster care services until the age of 21. She has been at the forefront of providing representation and advocacy on behalf of the Los Angeles Department of Children & Family Services and the families they serve for over 15 years.

In 2016, Ms. Chandler was featured in the motion picture documentary film, “Foster”, as a testimony of what child protection agencies can achieve when dedication and passion are coupled with the implementation of best practice and policy. "Foster" made its world premiere on HBO in May 2019.

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Robert Friend, LCSW
Director
National Institute for Permanent Family Connectedness

Robert Friend is the Director of the National Institute for Permanent Family Connectedness at Seneca Family of Agencies. He is a member of the California Child Welfare Council and co-chairs its Permanency Committee. He has previously co-chaired or participated in several statewide initiatives that promoted system change, permanency for young people, and greater access and inclusion for families and connections.

Friend trains, coaches, and consults nationally to positively impact individuals, agencies, and system change efforts that promote belonging and connectedness for children and youth in child welfare to affirming, loving and caring adults. He has a Master’s Degree in Social Welfare from the University of California, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Rutgers University. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in California and has worked for 40 years in public and private child welfare.

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Jordyn Gendel
Youth Empowerment Specialist
Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center

Jordyn Gendel serves as the Youth Empowerment Specialist, supporting attorneys through a multi-disciplinary model in the Young Adult Legal Advocacy Program and acting as the adult ally for project Foster Power, a youth-led advocacy initiative hosted by the Children’s Law Center. Gendel focuses her everyday work on amplifying the voices of young adults and pushing for positive system change.

Before joining our team, she was a Special Education teacher both in Chicago and in Denver. Gendel primarily worked with young people who had experienced instability through system involvement, homelessness, and other experiences of trauma.

Gendel graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a Bachelor of Science as a Learning Behavior Specialist.

Allison Green, JD, CWLS
Legal Director
National Association of Counsel for Children

Allison Green, JD, CWLS, joined the National Association of Counsel for Children team in March 2019. Most recently, she served as a Foster America Fellow at Missouri's Children's Division, where her work focused on strengthening the agency's collaboration with court partners. Previously, Green was Senior Supervising Attorney at the Children's Law Center of Washington, D.C. In this role, she provided ongoing staff supervision, developed trial strategy, and contributed to training and program planning for a GAL program that represented 500 foster youth each year.

Green has presented locally and nationally on a variety of child welfare topics. Prior to law school, she worked in a congregate care facility for youth involved in the court system. She started her career as a Jesuit Volunteer at Legal Services for Children in San Francisco. She earned her law degree at Georgetown, where she was a Public Interest Law Scholar and recipient of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers Student Advocacy and Juvenile Justice Clinic Public Service Awards. She is a certified Child Welfare Law Specialist (CWLS) and has volunteered as a Court Appointed Special Advocate. She is currently licensed to practice in Washington, D.C.

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Jeremy Harvey
State/Territory Liaison
Capacity Building Center for States, American Bar Association

Jeremy Harvey is an experienced child welfare leader and innovator, with a lifetime of experience in child welfare. In addition to a demonstrated history of success in leading innovation, Harvey has the benefit of lived experience, having spent 20 years growing up in the Illinois foster care system. He has dedicated his career to improving the child welfare systems that raised him by empowering youth voice and applying a two-cent solution “A sense of urgency and common sense”. In late 2020, after 13 years of success within county and state child welfare practice areas, Harvey took a new role with the Capacity Building Center for States where he currently serves as the Federal Region 5 Liaison (MN, MI, WI, OH, IN).

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Hon. Peter B. Jones
Sussex County Family Court, Delaware

Peter B. Jones is a judge in the Family Court of the State of Delaware in Sussex County. Judge Jones attended the University of Virginia and the Dickinson School of Law. He became a Family Court Judge in 1998 and was instrumental in the adoption of procedures in this State which implemented new provisions of federal child welfare law. Judge Jones has been involved in several committees whose focus is addressing the needs of youth in foster care. He has presented to attorneys, fellow judges, and others on issues involving child welfare law, both in Delaware and nationally.

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Vicky Kelly, Ph.D.
Chair, Board of Directors
Child Welfare League of America

Dr. Vicky Kelly is the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Child Welfare League of America and an internationally known trainer and consultant. She retired as Director of the Delaware Division of Family Services. Prior to that appointment, she served as the Deputy Director of the Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health.

Before her public service, Dr. Kelly was the clinical director for several community-based organizations. She has also been an Adjunct Professor at the Institute for Graduate Clinical Psychology at Widener University. She received her MSW from Louisiana State University and her Doctorate of Clinical Psychology and Masters in Healthcare Administration from Widener University.

Heather Kestian, M. Ed, J.D.
Senior Attorney
Capacity Building Center for States, American Bar Association

Heather Kestian is a Senior Attorney at the Capacity Building Center for Courts in the ABA Center on Children and the Law where she works with state Court Improvement Project (CIP) directors in ACF Regions Five and Seven with the Capacity Building Center for Courts (CBCC). She co-leads the All CIP Constituency Group and the New CIP Directors Constituency Group at the CBCC. Prior to joining the CBCC, Kestian spent 13 years at the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) in a variety of roles: as a local office attorney, local office director, and as Deputy Director, overseeing the agency’s quality improvement efforts, managing oversight of federal compliance requirements, and supporting child welfare research efforts. She received her Bachelor of Journalism degree from Indiana University, Master of Education from Arizona State University, and her J.D., cum laude, from the University of Toledo.

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Lauren Langan
Deputy Executive Director
Rocky Mountain Children’s Law Center

Lauren Langan was named the Deputy Executive Director of the Children’s Law Center in 2022. Previously, she represented clients as a staff attorney with our Young Adult Legal Advocacy Program and engaged in policy work to improve systems for young people who have experienced trauma or instability. Langan originally joined the Children’s Law Center for a short period in 2015 in the Caregiver Advocacy and Domestic Violence Programs before moving to Missouri, where she then served as a guardian ad litem in dependency and neglect cases in Jackson County. She returned to Colorado as an Assistant County Attorney representing the El Paso County Department of Human Services and was thrilled when an opportunity presented itself to rejoin the Children’s Law Center team.

Outside of the office, Langan enjoys spending time with her family outdoors and traveling. She earned her Juris Doctor from Temple University Beasley School of Law and a Bachelor of Arts from Elon University.

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Carrie Mason, J.D., Ph.D.
Tennessee Court Improvement Program
Administrative Office of the Courts, Tennessee Supreme Court

Carrie Mason is an attorney with the Tennessee Court Improvement Program in the Administrative Office of the Courts. In her role with the Court Improvement Project, Mason focuses on project management, including attorney training and systems support, with a special focus on programs across Tennessee related to the intersection of child welfare and education. She has a BS, MA and Ph.D. in special education and previously worked as a Guardian ad Litem for neglected and dependent children and youth through the Metro Nashville Education Rights Project.

Karen McGormley
Project Manager, Office of Families & Children
Ohio Department of Job & Family Services

Karen McGormley is the Project Manager over Children Services Transformation at the ODFJS Office of Families and Children (OFC). Prior to transitioning back to OFC, she served in the same role at the Children Services Transformation Office. She brings a wealth of knowledge from her previous work at OFC where she served in a variety of roles since July 2013 including the Project Manager over the development of the Ohio Kinship and Adoption Navigator Program; the Section Chief over Substitute Care and Permanency in the Bureau of Child and Adult Protective Services; and as a SACWIS Business Analyst. McGormley began her career as a caseworker for Butler County Children Services before being hired at Franklin County Children Services also as an ongoing caseworker. Most of her time at Franklin County was spent as an adoption assessor and then an adoption supervisor. McGormley also managed both the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program and ICPC office at Franklin County. She has over 29 years of experience in children services in Ohio.

Adrian McLemore
Speaker, Trainer & Consultant

Adrian McLemore has spent over 20 years providing professional, progressive, and personal expertise across a broad range of child welfare systems and various educational institutions as a speaker, trainer, and consultant.

When he’s not on the road, McLemore is an energetic and policy savvy strategic consultant and program officer with a large non-profit organization, managing a portfolio of resources that focuses on mentoring, boys and girls of color, and summer youth enrichment programs deployed across Baltimore City.

He seeks to live out his passion for serving others with his talents, expertise, and education. McLemore enjoys traveling, kayaking, the Denver Broncos, Bruce Springsteen, and spending time with his family.

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Tyler Press Sutherland
Director of Racial Justice & Equity
Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles

Tyler Press Sutherland is the Director of Racial Justice and Equity at the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA). LAFLA provides free, high quality legal services to more than 100,000 people living in poverty across greater Los Angeles each year. Tyler leads LAFLA’s racial justice policy work and supports staff in pursuing race equity-focused systemic changes in law. Prior to this role, she served as a government benefits staff attorney, representing relative caregivers in their appeals for foster care home approval and funding. Sutherland received her Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law Center and her undergraduate degree from Harvard College.

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David Reed
Deputy Director, Child Welfare Service
Indiana Department of Child Services

David Reed serves as the Deputy Director of Child Welfare Services for the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) and has been in that role since September 2017. Prior to his employment at DCS, he was a Conflict Guardian ad Litem and Trainer at Child Advocates, Inc. for two years, and worked for 17 years at The Villages of Indiana, Inc., where he served in a variety of positions including Clinical Director and Senior Director of Client Services.

Reed is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and has worked in the social work field since 1995 in a range of settings including residential and acute treatment centers, group homes, outpatient counseling centers, and private practice, but the majority of his career has involved working with foster youth and children involved with the child welfare system. He is a nationally-certified Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) therapist, and has been a Credentialed Sexually Abusive Youth Clinician (CSAYC) since 2007. He was a faculty member of the Indiana Association of Juvenile Sex Offender Practitioners (IN-AJSOP) and regularly trained therapists and other social work professionals on how to best work with youth who exhibit sexually maladaptive behaviors. He has presented at a number of conferences on the topics of trauma, attachment, childhood mental health, and parenting.

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Kelly Smith
External Affairs Administrator, OhioRISE
Ohio Department of Medicaid

Kelly Smith is the External Affairs Administrator of OhioRISE at the Ohio Department of Medicaid. She is a passionate advocate with over ten years of experience in state government. Smith works to reduce stigma and improve access to care for individuals and families impacted by mental health and substance use disorders. Her expertise includes championing legislative initiatives, connecting a 120-member behavioral health coalition with policymakers, and collaborating with stakeholders from all facets of the continuum of care. In her role at Medicaid, Smith leads stakeholder engagement activities to design and implement the OhioRISE program ensuring all community partners and providers are informed and ready to serve children and youth while continuing to grow the system of care for those with complex behavioral health and multisystem needs. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Akron.

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Dr. Krista Thomas, Ph.D.
Senior Policy Fellow
Chapin Hall, University of Chicago

Dr. Krista Thomas is a Senior Policy Fellow at Chapin Hall. Dr. Thomas leads blended teams of policy, practice, and research experts in efforts to build the capacity of state and local human service systems across the country to execute large-scale transformation initiatives and improve outcomes for children and families facing adversity. Leveraging opportunities like the Family First Prevention Services Act, she partners with human service leaders to identify a set of priority outcomes, articulate a set of strategies to improve performance, execute their implementation, and monitor their effectiveness.  Her areas of expertise include federal child welfare policy, programs, and monitoring; large-scale child welfare performance improvement at the state and local level; evidence use in decision-making; kinship navigation; and redesigning upstream prevention strategies.

Prior to coming to Chapin Hall, Dr. Thomas served for over a decade in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau in both regional and national offices. As a federal child welfare specialist, she monitored and supported numerous states in both federally-mandated and state-driven child welfare program improvement efforts, strategic planning, and implementation of evidence-based practices.

Dr. Thomas holds a Ph.D. in Social Work from the University of Illinois at Chicago, a Master of Social Work degree from Washington University in St. Louis, and Bachelor of Arts from Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois.

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Jeffery Van Deusen
Deputy Director, Office of Families & Children
Ohio Department of Job & Family Services

Jeffery Van Deusen is the Deputy Director of the Office of Families and Children (OFC) at the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS). In this role, he oversees all child and adult protective services operations for the state, including the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund. Van Deusen has 25 years of experience in both the public and non-profit industry managing programs working to better serve children and families in Ohio. Prior to joining OFC, he served 14 years in the Office of Family Assistance at ODJFS overseeing childcare licensing and the Step Up To Quality programs. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and a Master’s Degree in Political Science/Public Administration.

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Marisa P. Weisel, MPH
Deputy Director, Strategic Initiatives
Ohio Department of Medicaid

Marisa Weisel leads the implementation of Governor Mike DeWine's priorities within the Medicaid program, overseeing key efforts to improve outcomes for pregnant women and children, and leading the department’s new OhioRISE (Resilience through Integrated Systems and Excellence) program – a specialized behavioral health managed care initiative aimed at serving Ohio’s children with the most complex behavioral health needs.

Weisel is a seasoned policy leader with consulting and advocacy experience across a wide range of healthcare sectors. Before entering public service, Weisel guided local, state, and national organizations for 15 years on topics spanning Medicaid and Medicaid managed care, value-based purchasing, care coordination, child protective services, intellectual and developmental disabilities, behavioral health, medical devices, medical professional services, and government relations.

She has extensive public and private sector expertise in collaborative policy development and stakeholder engagement. Prior to joining Ohio Medicaid, Marisa held roles at Vorys Health Care Advisors, the Ohio State Medical Association, the University of Michigan, and Teleflex.

Weisel is a skilled speaker, facilitator, and strategic planner. She holds a Master of Public Health in Health Management and Policy, and a Bachelor of Science in General Biology from the University of Michigan.

Contact Information

Summit on Children
Children & Families Section
Supreme Court of Ohio
65 South Front Street
Columbus, OH 43215-3431

OhioSummitonChildren@sc.ohio.gov

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