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.


Alison Dilworth 
Director, Office of Children’s Issues

Alison Dilworth is the Director of the Office of Children’s Issues at the U.S. Department of State. She is from Illinois, and joined the U.S. Foreign Service in June 1997. She has served in Asuncion, Jerusalem, Cairo, Warsaw and, most recently, in Abu Dhabi as the Economic Counselor. She has held domestic positions in the Secretary of State’s Operations Center and the Office of Overseas Citizens Services in the Bureau of Consular Affairs.

Alison graduated with a Bachelor's in the School of Foreign Service from Georgetown University and a JD from American University Washington College of Law. In 2013 she graduated from the National War College with a Master’s Degree in Strategic Security Studies.

Alison is married to a Foreign Service Officer and has three very loud boys, ages twenty-one, eighteen and fourteen. She is an avid runner, has a soccer-watching problem, and plays the clarinet.

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. 

Last Updated: September 30, 2021