Research & Policy



Amplifying Impact with RAP

The Research and Policy Program, or RAP, supports our agency and our community’s youth in an essential way that no other team at the Council does.

While other teams take on the task of providing direct services to children, RAP builds on their work by tackling the challenge of the system at large — the very systems that bring our child-clients to us in the first place. Our calling is not only to pull people out of the river, but to go upstream to find out what or who is pushing them in.


Our Approach

Executive Director Heather Johnson discusses the impact of our research and policy initiatives in her 2021 Vision Statement

RAP advocates for systemic changes with a deep understanding of children’s best interests and multitude of needs. With several high-priority policy focuses and community goals, RAP’s overarching mission is to improve outcomes for children across agencies and infrastructure. In order for the Council to make well informed and evidence-based decisions and plans, RAP collects and utilizes data on local children, all relevant literature, and the needs of the community at large.

We find the gaps in the system. And then, we help fix them.


We have prioritized juvenile defense reform — specifically the state-wide Raise the Age policy. Although passed in 2017, the new legislation nevertheless needs advocates like RAP to continuously push for its thorough implementation, including the reduction of educational disruptions and the utilization of restorative justice models.


Additionally, RAP focuses on promoting an equitable, supportive school environment that reduces disciplinary reassignment and exclusionary discipline, both of which are harmful to students and disproportionately affect students of color throughout Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. We do so for the purpose of decreasing disparities in schools and reducing the opportunity gaps among students.


RAP advocates for mental health and related services to students including accessible and trauma-informed supports and services within schools throughout the county.


With the research it compiles and analyzes, RAP releases illuminating publications like the Juvenile Justice Report and the State of Our Children. These publications move us toward improved policies, strengthened programs (that actually work), and shifts in public and private funding for the long-term goal of sustainable, better outcomes for children.

The RAP Team

Heather Johnson, JD,MSW
Executive Director

Robert Pinka
Director of Impact & Policy

Emily Mikkelsen
Policy Advocate

If Mecklenburg County were a polluted river, it is simply not enough that one cares for the fish living in unclean water. One must also do their part to clean the river so that the fish do not have to suffer simply by existing in their own environment.

Take Action

RAP is the indispensable actor that works tirelessly to clean the river that is Mecklenburg County. We need you to shine a light on the systemic problems affecting local children.

Action Alerts

Sign up for real-time alerts about local, state, and national policy issues facing our children with Council Action Alerts.

Social Media

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube and share our Action Alerts with your followers.

Contact your Representative

Contact your North Carolina government representatives to push for legislation that will reform and improve the systems that support our children.


Interns are critical in gathering and processing data and are an integral part of our agency. If you’re interested in becoming an research intern with the Council, please email us today.