Our Leadership

Ambassador Suzanne Lawrence

Michelle Bernier-Toth

Special Advisor for Children’s Issues
U.S. Department of State
Bureau of Consular Affairs

Since January 2020, Michelle Bernier-Toth has served as Special Advisor for Children’s Issues in the Bureau of Consular Affairs. In that role, she develops and implements strategies in international diplomacy to resolve emerging problems related to intercountry adoptions and international parental child abduction. Ms. Bernier-Toth is a member of the Senior Executive Service and previously served as the Managing Director for Overseas Citizens Services; as Director of the Office of American Citizens Services and Crisis Management; and as Director of the Office of Children’s Issues. Ms. Bernier-Toth joined the Department of State in 1987 and served foreign service tours in Damascus, Syria; Doha, Qatar; and Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. before returning to Washington D.C. and converting to civil service in 2003.

Ms. Bernier-Toth graduated from Yale University with a Bachelor’s in Near Eastern Languages and Literature, and holds a Master’s in Arab Studies from Georgetown University. She has three adult children of whom she is very proud.

Ambassador Suzanne Lawrence

Scott Renner
Director, Office of Children’s Issues

Scott Renner has served as the Director of the Office of Children’s Issues since July 2018.  He joined the Department of State in 1997, and his overseas postings include Lagos, Santiago, Mexico City, Warsaw, Bogota and Toronto. He also previously served in the Office of Children’s Issues from 2010 to 2014 as a Branch and Division Chief. Scott has a Master’s degree from the Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy. He is also a graduate of the University of Colorado, School of Law, and prior to joining the Department of State, he worked as a Public Defender in Boulder, Colorado. Scott was a Peace Corps volunteer in Mali from 1987-1989. He is married to another Foreign Service Officer and they have two daughters.

Ambassador Suzanne Lawrence

Marisa Light
Chief, Adoption Oversight Division

Marisa Light has served as the Chief of the Adoption Oversight Division in the Office of Children's Issues since May 2020. She comes to this position with more than 20 years of experience advancing protections for vulnerable children, adults, and families domestically and abroad, including fifteen years of federal civil service across three agencies. She has worked in the fields of human trafficking of children and adults, children in the worst forms of child labor, protection for separated or unaccompanied children, international human rights law, and issues of both forced and voluntary migration. Ms. Light holds a BA in Political Science from Xavier University (Cincinnati, OH), and a MS in Foreign Service and Certificate in Refugees and Humanitarian Emergencies from Georgetown University (Washington, DC). A DC-area resident for more than 20 years, Ms. Light has also lived abroad in Africa, Europe, and Latin America. 

Ambassador Suzanne Lawrence

Matthew Gillen 
Chief, Adoptions Bilateral Engagement Division

Matthew Gillen has served as the Chief of the Adoptions Bilateral Engagement Division in the Office of Children's Issues since August 2020.  He is a career Foreign Service Officer with over 20 years of experience overseas and Washington. His most recent overseas assignment was as Consul General in Santiago, Chile, and he has also served in Dhaka, Dublin, Ho Chi Minh City, and London. Matthew grew up in the UK where his American parents were working for the U.S. military schools, and was educated at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA. 

Last Updated: January 21, 2021