Team Biographies

Mary L. Pulido, PhD., Executive Director

Mary L. Pulido, Ph.D. joined The World Childhood Foundation USA as the Executive Director in October of 2023. Prior to that time, she served as the Executive Director of The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the first child protection agency in the world. She has held senior management positions at the Child Protection Center of Montefiore Medical Center (a Child Advocacy Center), the Children’s Village, and at Covenant House/Under 21.

Dr. Pulido’s protocol for crisis debriefing following child fatality and critical incidents is utilized throughout the New York City Child Protective Services system. Dr. Pulido is a member of the Medical Reserve Corps of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. She serves on the National Board of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC) and is President of the NYS Chapter of the APSAC Board and is Chair of their Public Policy Committee.

In 2006, Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed Dr. Pulido to the New York City Child Fatality Review Team (CFRT) where she served until 2015. She recently served as a principal investigator on a project to design a child sexual abuse prevention curriculum for elite, Olympic gymnasts, coaches and parents following the child sexual abuse scandal involving Larry Nassar.

Dr. Pulido holds a Ph.D. in Social Welfare from the City University of New York, and Master’s Degrees in Social Work from Hunter College School of Social Work and in Teaching from Sacred Heart University. She is an adjunct Assistant Professor at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. In 2019, she received the Trailblazer Award from the Silberman School of Social Work at CUNY for her contributions to the greater good of the people in NYC. In 2022, she was named one of the “Responsible 100” citizens by City and State New York, for her contributions for improving the lives of children in NYC. She has published in the areas of detection and prevention of child abuse and neglect, providing supervised visitation services, crisis debriefing, child sexual abuse prevention and preventing secondary traumatic stress. She has been featured on WNBC, The New York Daily News, NY1, WPIX-TV, ABC News, cbsnews.com, Inside Edition and is a dedicated blogger on issues of child protection for Huffington Post and Medium.

Janet P. O’Connell, Director of Programs

Janet O. O’Connell joined The World Childhood Foundation USA in May of 2021 as the Director of Programs. Janet started her career in the corporate sector as a marketing and sales executive with a large Fortune 50 Company. Realizing she aspired to engage with work that would make a difference in people’s lives, she left the corporate world and earned a MSW from Columbia University School of Social Work.

Janet’s professional Social Work career includes advocating within the court system for children removed from their home due to abuse and/or neglect and counseling and advocacy for survivors of domestic violence. Janet is thrilled to be with World Childhood Foundation USA as we work to impact change at both the macro and micro levels for children who are experiencing child sexual abuse and exploitation. As the Director of Programs, she is inspired to see first-hand the incredible dedication and compassion so many individuals have in working to make the world a place where every child can grow up in a safe and loving environment.

Irena Nilaj, Operations Manager

Irena Nilaj is a skilled professional with a background in business operations, events management, and education. She holds a B.A. in Political Science and Spanish Literature from Fordham University and a certificate in Data and Business Analytics from Cornell University School of Business. Fluent in Spanish and Albanian, Irena is proficient in a range of software tools such as Microsoft products, Monday, Canva, Mailchimp, Nexudus, Eventbrite, and Salesbox.

Since April 15th, 2024, Irena has served as the Manager of Operations at the World Childhood Foundation, where she oversees day-to-day operations and provides support across departments to enhance productivity and collaboration. Her responsibilities include ensuring the efficient use of resources, providing operational support, and facilitating the successful implementation of various projects and initiatives.

Previously, Irena worked as Gateway and Events Manager at the Swedish American Chamber of Commerce, excelling in client meetings, event planning, and vendor management. She also held roles at NoHotel as Branding and Operations Coordinator and as an English instructor in Spain, showcasing her versatility and adaptability. One of her favorite quotes is: "Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see." She believes that protecting children is key to improving the world and creating a better future.

Irena's volunteer work with Fordham University's Office of Global Outreach reflects her dedication to social issues such as migrant workers' rights and youth homelessness. With her diverse experience and commitment to making a positive impact, Irena is thrilled to work for an organization whose mission is to prevent and end abuse and sexual exploitation against children.