Rachel O’Konis Ruttenberg is currently the Director of Policy at Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Human Rights, based in Chicago.
Previously, she was the Executive Director of a nonprofit called the Family Defense Center, a legal services and policy advocacy organization that serves families in the Illinois child welfare system. During her tenure, she built a collaborative approach to reform the child welfare system, at the same time maintaining the organization’s historic strength and expertise in litigation. In 2018, with the support of the Board of Directors, Rachel negotiated a merger for the organization with another local nonprofit organization. The combined organization, Ascend Justice, empowers individuals and families impacted by gender-based violence and the child welfare system to achieve safety and stability through holistic legal advocacy and systemic reform.
Before joining the Family Defense Center, Rachel was the Chicago Director of the Marilyn G. Rabb Foundation, an organization that provided after-school programs to high school students living in Chicago’s northwest and west side neighborhoods. She also previously served as Assistant Counsel to the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, staffing the education committees, and spent six years in various roles at Chicago Public Schools, including as Special Assistant to the Chief Administrative Officer.