Meet The Experts

Rachel Alder

Rachel Alder is the program director for The Ivy Girl Academy and the nonprofit the Ivy Foundation which promotes leadership skills in teens. She was adopted transracially and grew up with one older brother. She is currently in school studying Neuroscience and Social Work, and has a passion for improving the foster care system and post adoptive services and education. She loves all things sports, and was a dual sport collegiate athlete in both water polo and swimming. She spends any spare time at the pool. She lives in Utah.

Mary Jo Barrett, MSW

Therapist, Author

Mary Jo Barrett is the Executive Director and co-founder of The Center for Contextual Change, Ltd. She holds a Masters in Social Work from the University of Illinois Jane Addams School of Social Work and is currently on the faculties of University of Chicago, School of Social Service Administration, The Chicago Center For Family Health, and the Family Institute of Northwestern University. Previously, Mary Jo was the Director of Midwest Family Resource and has been working in the field of family violence since 1974.

Mary Jo has coauthored two books with Dr. Terry Trepper: Incest: A Multiple Systems Perspective and The Systemic Treatment of Incest: A Therapeutic Handbook. She co-created the Collaborative Stage Model (CSM), a highly successful contextual model of therapy used to transform the lives of those impacted by abuse and/or traumatic events.

Her trainings and published works focus on the teaching of the Collaborative Stage Model, systemic and feminist treatment of women, adult survivors of sexual abuse and trauma, eating disorders, couple therapy, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Compassion Fatigue.

Mary Jo also founded the Family Dialogue Project, which strives to redefine relationships with families impacted by allegations of abuse and trauma.

Julie Beem

Executive Director of the Attachment & Trauma Network
An experienced parent and advocate, Julie has been Executive Director of the Attachment & Trauma Network (ATN) since 2009. Julie is a mom to four (adopted, biological and step) and grandmother to two. She has written and presented on the topics of parenting children impacted by trauma and attachment challenges for over a decade, as well as trained other parents in therapeutic parenting strategies. She was honored to accept ATN’s 2016 Angels in Adoption award, and oversees ATN’s Trauma-Informed Parenting and Schools Programs.

Leah Bloom

Faculty member, Chicago Center For Family Health
Leah Bloom, LMFT, is a Faculty member at the Chicago Center For Family Health and trained at Northwestern University at the undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate level. As a clinician with a private practice in Chicago’s downtown Loop, she brings her experience of interpersonal and inner-personal psychotherapy to her clients. Ranging from Individuals, Couples, and Families of all kinds, she creates a supportive environment for all her clients who seek to discover who they are in the world and the change they hope to create for themselves. Leah has a particular ability to join with children and adolescents, and has a specialization in both Domestic and International Adoption. Trained as a systemic and family therapist, she brings in all areas of the client’s life into their work together — creating change that makes a difference.

Phyllis Booth

Clinical Director Emeritus of The Theraplay Institute in Chicago
Phyllis Booth, M. A., is Clinical Director Emeritus of The Theraplay Institute in Chicago. She collaborated with Ann Jernberg in developing the Theraplay method for helping children and families with attachment, trauma and relationship problems. She is the primary author of the third edition of Theraplay: Helping Parents and Children Build Better Relationships Through Attachment-Based Play, Jossey-Bass, 2010. She received her training at the University of Chicago in Human Development and Clinical Psychology; at the Tavistock Centre, London, under John Bowlby and D. W. Winnicott; at the Anna Freud Centre, London; and at the Family Institute at Northwestern University, Evanston, IL. She has conducted workshops and training in the Theraplay method for working with children and families throughout the United States, Canada, England, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and South Korea.

Andrea Bushala


Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Registered Play Therapist Certified Theraplay® Practitioner and Trainer, Andrea Bushala, has an undergraduate degree in Psychology from Miami University with an emphasis in Child Development. She obtained her Master of Social Work degree from Loyola University Chicago with a dual specialization in School Social Work and Children and Families. Andrea previously worked at a community mental health clinic focusing on children and young adults experiencing anxiety and depression. Additionally, she has experience in the public school system providing individual and group therapy for children ages 2-6.

In her clinical work, Andrea uses a strength-based perspective, incorporating the learnings from trauma, attachment theory and brain development to help families optimize relationships and their sense of connection. Andrea completed a two-year postgraduate fellowship in Infant Parent Mental Health at the University of Massachusetts/Boston in November 2019. Andrea is a Theraplay® Trainer and Supervisor as well as a Registered Play Therapist. She has held a role on the Illinois Association for Play Therapy Executive Board since 2017.

Ira Chasnoff, M.D.

President of the Children's Research Triangle

Ira J. Chasnoff, M.D., is one of the nation's leading researchers in the field of child development and the effects of maternal alcohol and drug use on the newborn infant and child. He is an award-winning author, researcher and lecturer, is President of the Children's Research Triangle and a Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago. Since 2002, Children's Research Triangle under Dr. Chasnoff's leadership has been working with the Centers for Disease Control as one of four national centers for research into innovative treatment for children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Dr. Chasnoff has served as the Chair of the National Medical Task Force on Methamphetamine, Children, and Families for the Congressionally authorized National Alliance on Model State Drug Laws and served as the Chair of the State Task Force on FASD for the State of Illinois. In November 2008, Dr. Chasnoff was appointed to the US Department of Health and Human Services' Interagency Coordinating Council on FASD.

Dr. Chasnoff has authored seven books including: Drugs, Alcohol, Pregnancy, and Parenting, Power Beyond Measure, Risk and Promise, and The Mystery of Risk. His most recent work focuses on community approaches to the integration of behavioral health services into primary health care for women and children and the occurrence of co-occurring mental health disorders in children who have been exposed to alcohol, methamphetamine, cocaine, and other drugs.

Amber Clingman

Family Recruiter, Operation Forever Family, Bethany Christian Services

Amber Clingman was a standout high school student. She was a varsity cheerleader, class president, and member of the Key Club. Her 4.0 grade point average placed her in the National Honor Society, and she graduated at the top of her class. But her experience at home was a world away.

After years of moving around and family instability, Amber and her younger brother entered foster care when she was in 9th grade. She was granted independent living status at age 17 before aging out of the foster care system. Because she had completed the majority of her high school and Advanced Placement credits in three years, she spent most of her senior year working, maintaining her own apartment, and attending parent/teacher conferences on her brother’s behalf.

Today, Amber is a Family Recruiter for Operation Forever Family, a Bethany Christian Services initiative to find loving foster and adoptive families for teens. She works closely with five teen girls in foster care—working to connect them with families and helping them navigate this uncertain time in their lives.

“Others have learned it, but I have lived it,” she says, finding that her difficult past creates a natural rapport with the girls, facilitating trust and open conversations. She shares her story with the girls as someone who has walked in their shoes and can help them envision a promising future.

Amber is currently pursuing a degree in social work from Grand Valley State University, and she hopes to one day design new options for teens living in residential programs.

Julian Davies, M.D.

Clinical Associate Professor, University of Washington. Founder of

Dr. Julian Davies is a Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Washington where he co-directs the Center for Adoption Medicine and works at the longest running FAS clinic in the courntry. His interest in foster care and adoption began in Russia, where he started a summer arts and clown camp for Russian orphans. He now has a pediatric practice where 2/3 of his patients were fostered or adopted. Dr. Davies also created an award-winning online resource for pediatrics and adoption

Patricia Dischler

Author and Speaker

Patricia is a nationally recognized speaker and author who inspires audiences with her creative ideas and presentations. Her personal story of placing her son in a ground breaking open adoption in 1985 and the lessons learned apply to all adoptions. Her book, Because I Loved You, has been hailed as a "roadmap to open adoption".

Patricia identifies key concepts that every adoptive parent can benefit from and helps parents, birth families and counselors find their own path to success by focusing on what is best for the child.

Sherrie Eldridge

A twice-reunited adoptee, Sherrie Eldridge is a straight-shooting, transparent, and compassionate author, speaker, and trainer in the field of adoption. Her books are research-based, yet woven within are poignant messages pounded out on the anvil of her own adoptee heart. Her first book, Twenty Things Adoptive Parents Need to Succeed, is required reading by many adoption agencies and universities. She has also authored five other books. In 2010, Sherrie received the Congressional Angel in Adoption Award from the Honorable Congressman Dan Burton of Indiana. Sherrie has been married to Bob Eldridge for 47 years. They have 2 married daughters and six grandchildren.

Tina Feigal, M.S, Ed.

Director of Family Engagement
Tina Feigal, M.S., Ed. is the Director of Family Engagement at Anu Family Services/Center for the Challenging Child in St. Paul, MN. As a former school psychologist, Tina’s passion is bringing peace to homes by helping caring adults to heal challenging child behavior with the specific, highly effective techniques of Present Moment Parenting. Since 2000, she has operated her business, the Center for the Challenging Child, now a branch of Anu Family Services. As a coach and trainer, Tina supports adults in applying the techniques in her book “Present Moment Parenting.” Tina trains parent coaches as part of her vision that every adult who wants a coach can pick up the phone and find one! Tina has been featured as the Minneapolis Star Tribune and KARE 11 Extra’s “Supernanny.” Learn more about parent coaching and coach training at

Heather Forbes, LCSW


Heather Forbes is the founder of the Beyond Consequences Institute. She is an internationally published author on the topics of raising children with difficult and severe behaviors, understanding the parent’s reactivity when challenged in the home, and self-development.

Forbes lectures, consults, and coaches parents throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, and Australia, with families in crisis working to create peaceful, loving families. She is passionate about supporting families by bridging the gap between academic research and "when the rubber hits the road" parenting. Much of her experience and insight on understanding trauma, disruptive behaviors, developmental delays, and adoption-related issues comes from her direct mothering experience of her two internationally adopted children.

Nina Friedman, LCSW


Nina is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Post Adoption Counselor at The Cradle. She conducts adoption searches, facilitates reunions and provides counseling support.

Kenard Gibbs

Vice President BET Networks

Kenard Gibbs currently serves as Vice President of Midwest Advertising Sales for BET Networks (A Viacom Company). Prior to BET, he served as CEO/Partner of Soul Train Holdings and Group Publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines where he formed the Ebony/Jet Entertainment Group. He was a co-founder of Madvision Entertainment, a company specializing in the development of urban themed content for distribution across traditional broadcast and new media platforms and President of VIBE magazine.

Kenard is a graduate of Williams College and received a Masters of Management at the Kellogg School of Business, Northwestern University. He is a father.

Deborah Gray, MSW, MPA

Founder of Nurturing Attachments

Deborah Gray specializes in the attachment, grief, and trauma issues of children in her practice, Nurturing Attachments. Her methods of working with children and families reflect her strong developmental and infant mental health perspective.

Her passion is to help families develop close, satisfying relationships. She has worked 20 years in children’s therapies. Deborah was the 2008 Henry W. Maier Practitioner in Residence at the School of Social Work at the University of Washington.

Deborah Gray is the author of two books, Nurturing Adoptions: Creating Resilience after Neglect and Trauma, 2007, and Attaching in Adoption: Practical Tools for Today's Parents, 2002, both published by Perspectives Press. Nurturing Adoptions was a 2008 award finalist for the Benjamin Franklin best professional book of the year. Deborah is on faculty for two post-graduate certificate programs in foster and adoption therapy.

Dan Griffith, Ph.D

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Dan Griffith is a licensed clinical psychologist and has years of experience in research and clinical practice with high risk infants/children and their families. Dr. Griffith has expertise in psychological/developmental/educational assessment and intervention with children, parent child relations and parental effectiveness training, research design and implementation, and program evaluation. He has worked with a number of high risk populations including: premature and/or low birth weight infants, infants/children prenatally exposed to alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs (ATOD), children with sensory/regulatory problems including ADHD and autism, and children with learning disabilities.

Kevin Hofmann

Author and Speaker

Kevin Hofmann is the author of Growing Up Black in White, a memoir that shares, from the adoptee point of view, what it was like to grow up as a transracial adoptee.

He is also an accomplished writer and public speaker who has a passion for adoption, especially transracial adoption, and enjoys sharing from his experiences to help other adoptive families.

Kevin works in the field of child welfare as a recruiter for the Dave Thomas Foundation and Wendy's Wonderful Kids, finding permanent homes for foster children. Kevin has been interviewed on NPR and Nightline ABC and is quickly becoming a trusted voice in the adoption arena.

Ashanti Howard

Educational Consultant

Ashanti Howard has extensive experience in elementary middle schools as a teacher, literacy coordinator, administrator and a member of academic leadership teams. She has served as an educator and instructional leader in inner-city public, bilingual and charter schools. Ashanti is currently an independent educational consultant who specializes in building the capacity of future-focused educational teams. She is the mother of a son and an adopted daughter.

Dan Hughes, Ph.D


Dan Hughes, Ph.D. is a practicing clinical psychologist who specializes in the in the treatment of children and youth who have experienced abuse and neglect, childhood trauma and attachment disorganization.

Dr. Hughes received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Ohio University, with a clinical internship at the University of Rochester Medical School. He is a member of the American Psychological Association (APA), the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC) and the Association for Treatment and Training in the Attachment of Children (ATTACh).

He has provided training and consultations to therapists, social workers and parents in the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom.

Dr. Hughes is the author of Facilitating Developmental Attachment (1997), Building the Bonds of Attachment, (2006) and Attachment-Focused Family Therapy (2007).

Arleta James, M.S., PCC


Arleta James has been an adoption professional for fifteen years. She spent several years as a caseworker for the Pennsylvania Statewide Adoption Network placing foster children with adoptive families and she now works as a therapist providing services for attachment difficulties, childhood trauma and issues related to adoption. She was the 1999 Pennsylvania Adoption Professional of the Year. She is currently on staff at the Attachment and Bonding Center of Ohio.

She is the author of the 2012 Jessica-Kingsley Publishers’ release Brothers and Sisters in Adoption: Helping Children Navigate Relationships When New Kids Join the Family.

Dana Ernest Johnson, M.D., Ph.D

Professor of Pediatrics at University of Minnesota
Co-founder of the International Adoption Clinic

Dr. Johnson earned his M.D., and a Ph.D. in Anatomy, served his internship and residency, and completed his neonatology fellowship at the University of Minnesota where he currently is Professor of Pediatrics, member of the Division of Neonatology and a faculty member in the Global Pediatrics Program.

Dr. Johnson co-founded the International Adoption Clinic in 1986. His research interests include the effects of early institutionalization on growth and development and the outcomes of internationally adopted children.

Dr. Johnson is an invited speaker worldwide, a Senior Research Fellow in the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and has authored over 200 scholarly works. He received the Distinguished Service Award from the Joint Council for International Children's Services, Friend of Children Award from the North American council on Adoptable Children and the Harry Holt Award from Holt International.

He is also the father of a son adopted from India.

Pat Irwin Johnston, MS

Pat Irwin Johnston, MS, is a member of a family touched by adoption (birth parent, adoptive parents and adoptees) over five generations and counting. She has been an infertility and adoption educator and advocate for over 35 years. She has authored several books, the most recent being Adopting: Sound Choices, Strong Families (2009) and Adoption Is a Family Affair! What Relatives and Friends Must Know (revised, 2012.) She retired at the end of 2011 as founding publisher of Perspectives Press: The Infertility and Adoption Publisher.

Mandy Jones

Mandy Jones is an adoption therapist at The Cradle, a domestic adoption agency just north of Chicago. She has worked almost exclusively with adoptive and foster families since she began her career. A certified Theraplay® therapist and Theraplay® trainer-in-training, she takes a particular interest in helping families with young children form strong attachments and work through sensory concerns. Mandy is also experienced in helping adopted individuals with identity, loss, and anxiety concerns throughout their lifespan. Through her legal work, Mandy has advocated for children in the child welfare system. She also uses her legal knowledge and advocacy skills to help families gain Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and other essential resources for their children. Mandy earned her BA in Political Science and her BS in Psychology from Loyola University Chicago. She earned her Master of Clinical Social Work and Juris Doctorate from Michigan State University.

Steve Kalb

MSW, Presenter
Steve is an Adult Adoptee from the Midwest. He received his MSW in 2009 and is currently pursuing his Ph. D. in Social Work and Social Research focusing on Adoptee community empowerment models. He is the Director of Adoptee Services at Holt International. During his seven years at Holt, Steve has worked directly with hundreds of Adoptees through the Adoptee Camps and birth search counseling. He has presented at a number of adoption focused seminars/workshops and has participated in several adoptee panels throughout his time at Holt. He has seen the need for, and the benefit of, a strong Adoptee community; that experience guides his Adoptee advocacy work at Holt.

Gregory Keck, Ph.D

Founder and Director of the Attachment and Bonding Center of Ohio

Gregory Keck is the founder and director of the Attachment and Bonding Center of Ohio, where he specializes in working with children who have developmental trauma disorder, reactive attachment disorder and numerous other mental health difficulties.

Dr. Keck served on the board of ATTACh for nine years, two of which he served as president. He is also the co-author with Regina Kupecky, MAT, LSW of Parenting the Hurt Child: Helping Adoptive Families Heal and Grow (2009), Parenting Adoptive Adolescents (2009) and Adopting the Hurt Child: Hope for Families with Special Needs Kids (2009).

Amy Kenney

Amy Kenney was born and raised in South Dakota. She was adopted in a closed adoption at four months old. Amy is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over ten years of professional experience in adoption. She has worked with all members of the adoption circle and has experience with domestic, international, and special needs adoption.

Carrie Kitze

Founder and Publisher of EMK Press

Carrie Kitze, an adoptive mother of two children from China, is the founder and publisher of EMK Press. She is active in adoption affairs and speaks at adoption events on the topics of Adoption Parenting 101, Parenting with Narratives, Lifebooks, Ceremonies and Rituals for Adoptive Families, and Discovering Differences, a workshop for Kindergarten through third graders.

She is a past regional Families with Children from China coordinator, and has written for Adoptive Families Magazine and Adoption Today. She is the author of We See the Moon, a book for connecting with not-present or unknown birthparents, and I Don't Have Your Eyes, a book that finds commonality on the inside when the outside looks different.

She was also the creator of Adoption Parenting: Creating a Toolbox, Building Connections with Sheena Macrae and Jean MacLeod, an indispensable resource for adoptive families.

Carmen Knight

Teacher, Adoption Professional

Carmen Knight is an international transracial adoptee from Peru. She has her Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy. Carmen has been working in the adoption community since 2006, and is currently working as an adoptive parent counselor at The Cradle.

Some of her past experiences in the adoption field include working at culture camps and adoptee camps, leading classes and seminars on adoption topics at conferences and for various adoption agencies, speaking on adoptee panels, and helping families prepare logistically and emotionally for touring their child’s country of birth.

Carmen has also provided emotional support to families and individuals doing birth searches and reunions. Her encompassing knowledge aligned with her passion has guided countless families who have come together through adoption.

Peggy Kubert, A.M., LCSW

Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Peggy is a licensed clinical social worker, addictions counselor, and parent educator. She has been with Erika's Lighthouse, a not-for-profit dedicated to educating and raising awareness about adolescent depression, encouraging good mental health and breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health issues, since October, 2006. Peggy provides consultation and training to schools, parents and health professionals to implement depression and mental health education programs which raise awareness of childhood and adolescent depression and help guide young people to good mental health. Peggy received her Masters from the University of Chicago in Social Service Administration and her Bachelors of Arts in Education from Northwestern University.

Regina Kupecky

LSW, Author, Adoption Trainer
Regina has worked in the field of adoption for over forty years. Currently she works with families with children with attachment disorder at The Attachment and Bonding Center of Ohio ( Regina also trains nationally and internationally on many adoption and attachment related topics. She is the co-author with Dr. Gregory C. Keck of Adopting the Hurt Child and Parenting The Hurt Child. Regina's services to children were recognized by the Ohio Department of Human Services in 1990 when she received the “Adoption Worker of the Year Award” She has also received a Triad Advocate award from Adoption Network and Sara Berman Speaker’s award from NACAC (North American Council on Adoptable Children). She has a Masters degree from John Carroll University.

Phyllis Laughlin, MA, LCPC

Clinical Director of Adoptive Parent Services at The Cradle Adoption Agency

Phyllis Laughlin has been an adoption counselor at The Cradle Adoption Agency for over 10 years. She and her staff work with adoptive parents as they go through the home study process and accept placement. Phyllis works with families adopting domestically, internationally and special needs infants and children. She also facilitates training sessions to prepare prospective adoptive parents for adoption, including openness.

Tara Linh Leaman

Co-Founder and Vice President of AmerAsians Building Bridges Consulting, Author, Adopted Person

Tara is an African Vietnamese American transethnic adoptee, and knows well the challenges and successes of claiming more than one transformative experience. She is the Co-Founder and Vice President of AmerAsians Building Bridges consulting, which provides training and resources that enrich the lives of members of the adoption constellation and their allies. Her writings and presentations include The Power of Ambiguity, published in Adoption Today, and a keynote given at the National Press Club in Washington, DC entitled “Adoption in the Media: Why Context Matters.” She has worked internationally and nationally advancing social change, including service as deputy director of the Donaldson Adoption Institute, a teacher in Johannesburg, South Africa, and currently serves on the board of Holt International Children's Services, one of the nation’s oldest and largest child welfare agencies, and Holt International Foundation of China. Tara is a graduate of Cornell University and Georgetown University Law Center, and resides in the People's Republic of Brooklyn. Please feel free to connect with her on LinkedIn.

Dafna Lender, LCSW

LCSW and Certified Theraplay Therapist and Trainer
Dafna Lender, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker and is a Certified Theraplay Therapist and trainer. She is also a certified Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapist®. She holds the position of Training Director for The Theraplay® Institute. Dafna received her bachelor’s degree in Political Science at the University of Illinois and worked as a policy analyst in the Illinois State Senate. She earned a B.S.W. from Tel Aviv University and her M.S.W. from Yeshiva University in New York. Dafna has worked as a foster care case worker for specialized children and a therapist for children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and orphanage neglect. Dafna’s main area of interest is in children with serious psychological problems caused by histories of abuse, neglect, trauma and/or multiple placements. Dafna’s focus is children’s development of a secure attachment with their caregivers while resolving issues in their traumatic history. She has authored several chapters on both Theraplay techniques and Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy.

Joy Lieberthal

Adoption Professional
Joy Lieberthal received her B.S. from Union College and her Masters in Social Work from Columbia University. She has been working in the field of adoption for the 20 years professionally and through various volunteer organizations. She was a Policy Analyst for the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute where she co-authored the Report on the First Gathering of Adult Korean Adoptees in Washington, DC and has also been published by Child Welfare League of America in their Adoption and Ethics series. She also worked for Adoptive Families Magazine. Joy was a social worker in international placement for Spence-Chapin Services in NYC but ultimately worked in their post-adoption department for six years. During that time Joy worked as a counselor for children and parents, presented at workshops related to issues around being adopted, facilitated Spence-Chapin’s Kids Groups, ran Teen Forums and helped to create a youth Mentorship program for domestic and international adoptees. She has created curricula for agencies and professionals on a wide variety of topics – such as preparing for birthcountry visits, an overview of clinical issues in adoption – as they relate to helping families and children around adoption issues. Joy has spoken in local and national forums, in particular, at the Joint Council on International Children Services, Adoptive Parents Committee, Families with Children from China and the North American Council on Adoptable Children and the St. John’s Adoption Initiative. Joy has worked with local private elementary schools in educating educators about growing up adopted. Joy is currently in private practice and is continuing her work with adoptive families and adopted persons. She also works on the counseling team at the Juilliard School for undergraduate and graduate students.

Miguel Lindgren

Miguel Lindgren was adopted from Colombia when he was 14 years old. He was adopted into a family with seven other adopted children, and three biological children. Miguel, a business systems analyst, met his wife, Monica, volunteering at Children’s Home Society and Family Services. They are adoptive parents as well.

Vasco Lopes, PsyD

Assistant Professor at Columbia University Medical Center
Vasco Lopes, PsyD, is an Assistant Professor at Columbia University Medical Center and a senior clinical psychologist at Columbia University Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders (CUCARD). Dr. Lopes specializes in the evaluation and treatment of children and adolescents with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), disruptive behaviors, aggression, severe temper tantrums, anxiety, and emotional dysregulation. He has experience treating children through various modes of intervention including parent training, teacher behavioral consultation, and cognitive behavior therapy. Dr. Lopes typically treats children with a multi-modal approach- focusing on giving parents and teachers the tools needed to help their child thrive and children the coping skills needed to best manage their behavior and emotions. Dr. Lopes earned his doctorate in school psychology from St. John's University in 2011 and completed an APA-approved pre-doctoral internship at Andrus, a day and residential treatment center for children with severe emotional disturbances. Dr. Lopes was part of a team charged with developing and leading the first school-wide positive behavior intervention and supports (PBIS) program at Andrus. Dr. Lopes went on to complete a clinical and research fellowship in the Pediatric Emotion Regulation Laboratory (PERL) at Fordham University where he developed a specialization in diagnosing and treating children with severe emotional dysregulation. Most recently, Dr. Lopes has served as a staff psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, in their ADHD and Disruptive Behavior Disorder Center. Dr. Lopes specialized in evidence-based cognitive-behavioral treatments for disruptive behavior disorder and severe emotional dysregulation and is certified in Parent Management Training (PMT) and Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT).

Michelle Madrid-Branch

Author, Speaker

Michelle Madrid-Branch is an author, speaker and global advocate for women and children. She is the Executive Producer and Host of The Greater Than Project, a documentary web series exploring the intrinsic greatness within women. Michelle enjoyed a decade-long successful career as a television news anchor and investigative journalist, including an Emmy nomination while on-air with ABC-TV. She has three books in print—The Tummy Mummy, Adoption Means Love: Triumph of the Heart, and Mascara Moments: Embracing the Woman in the Mirror—and is currently writing a fourth. Michelle has been referred to as a “world-wide voice on adoption” by Adoption Australia. She was inducted into the New Mexico Women’s Hall of Fame in 2006 and honored with the Governor’s Award for Outstanding New Mexico Women by Governor Bill Richardson. An international adoptee herself, she is the recipient of the 2004 Congressional Angels in Adoption Award.

Katelyn Marks

Katelyn Marks is the Social Services Assistant and Camp Director for Holt International Children’s Services. Adopted transracially from Korea as an infant, she grew up in Oregon without ties to the adoptee community but as Camp Director fosters such connections for her campers. Katelyn is currently pursuing her Master in Social Work.

Janet McDonald

Editor, Adoptive Mom

Janet McDonald and her husband, Steve, worked with the Gladney Center in Fort Worth, Texas, to adopt two children, from Russia in 1996. They were living in Connecticut at the time, and soon after moving to Northbrook, Illinois, in 2001 Janet became active in volunteer activities at The Cradle. In addition to many volunteer activities, Janet has been a member of the Board of Directors since December 2007.

She volunteered at her children’s schools through their high school years and currently volunteers with USO of Illinois. She also has coordinated support groups for parents of children and adults with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.

Janet is a freelance editor specializing in cookbooks and fiction, and her hobbies include reading, cooking, knitting, and hiking.

Rebecca Nelson

Licensed Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychologist

Rebecca I. Nelson Ph.D., is a licensed clinical child & adolescent psychologist. She is on the professional staff with NorthShore University Health System in the Dept. of Pediatrics at Evanston Hospital in Illinois. She provides psychodiagnostic and consult services for neurodevelopmentally at-risk infants to teens. Dr. Nelson has also specialized in adoption for two decades across psychodiagnostic, consultative, educative, and community liaison roles. She is personally touched by adoption, and was adopted from South Korea at the age of 5½ adding a unique understanding of the developmental and psychological complexities that can challenge adoptees and their families.

Martha Osborne

Founder of Adoption Advocacy.

Martha created Adoption Advocacy website in 1996 with the purpose of finding homes for children labeled "special needs". Martha is herself an adoptee and the mother of 5 children through adoption. Since its conception RainbowKids has grown into a trusted on-line advocacy force for international children needing families. Networking with over 70 adoption agencies and numberous advocacy groups and humanitatian organizations that share the same vision, RainbowKids has assisted over 11,000 children in finding their way home.

Marilyn Panichi

Executive Director of Adoptions Unlimited
Co-founder, Board Memeber and Treasurer of the Adoption Exchange Association

Marilyn has more than 40 years of adoption and child welfare experience in administration, supervision and casework, and is the Executive Director of Adoptions Unlimited. Prior to establishing Adoptions Unlimited, Ms. Panichi was the Executive Director of the Adoption Information Center of Illinois under the auspices of the Child Care Association of Illinois.

She began her career with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services as a Child Welfare Worker and Adoption Coordinator.

She is a member of the National Association of Social Workers and the Academy of Certified Social Workers. Ms Panichi is co-founder of the Adoption Exchange Association where she currently serves as board member and treasurer.

Jonathan Thanh Danh Peck

Owner and Advisor of Strategic Advice Services

Currently Owner and Advisor of Strategic Advice Services and former President and Chief Executive Officer of the Tucson Urban League, has over 25 years experience working within the community development field facilitating projects, coalitions, and alliances at the neighborhood, citywide, regional, national and international levels.

Jonathan received a BA in African-American Studies and Political Science from Earlham College. Adopted transracially from Vietnam, he is the father of two sons.

Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D

Professor, Author
Senior Fellow at The Child Trauma Academy

Over the last thirty years, Dr. Perry has been an active teacher, clinician and researcher in children's mental health and the neurosciences. He is currently an adjunct professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University School of Medicine in Chicago.

Dr. Perry is the author, with Maia Szalavitz, of The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog, and Born For Love: Why Empathy is Essential and Endangered. He is the author of over 300 journal articles, book chapters and scientific proceedings and is the recipient of numerous professional awards and honors, including the T. Berry Brazelton Infant Mental Health Advocacy Award, the Award for Leadership in Public Child Welfare and the Alberta Centennial Medal.

Dr. Perry's research includes: the effects of prenatal drug exposure on brain development, the neurobiology of human neuropsychiatric disorders, the neurophysiology of traumatic life events, and long-term cognitive, behavioral, emotional, social and physiological effects of neglect and trauma in children, adolescents and adults. His work has resulted in the development of innovative clinical practices and programs working with maltreated and traumatized children.

Adam Pertman

Executive Director of The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute
Adam is the author of Adoption Nation and associate editor of Adoption Quarterly. Adam has contributed to many articles on adoption-related issues and has delivered hundreds of keynote addresses and trainings.

Karin Peterson

Karin has held several positions within The Cradle since earning her Masters in Social Work from Boston College in 1994. She has prepared adoptive parents for adoption, provided options counseling to expectant parents and supervised The Cradle's Expectant Parent Services program. Currently, Karin is enjoying bringing her experience and commitment to best practices in adoption to her role in Community Outreach and Education by offering training and support to medical and social work professionals.

Karyn Purvis, Ph.D

Dr. Karyn Purvis is the founder and director of the Texas Christian University Institute of Child Development and a passionate advocate for "children from hard places", a phrase that describes children with histories of trauma, abuse and neglect. Dr. Purvis and her mentor and colleague, Dr. David Cross, currently lead the Institute in its triple mission of research, education and outreach on behalf of at-risk children.

Dr. Purvis and Cross also co-authored The Connected Child: Bringing Hope and Healing to Your Adoptive Family and developed Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI), a step-by-step intervention designed to bring deep healing to at-risk children and their struggling families. In 1999, Dr. Purvis launched The Hope Connection, a summer camp that serves as a research and training lab for adopted children and their parents and students.

A noted author, scholar and popular speaker, Dr. Purvis holds a PhD in developmental psychology from Texas Christian University. She was appointed to chair the state committee that set licensing standards for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, has trained judicial and court personnel, caseworkers and orphanage caregivers.

Honors include: T. Berry Brazelton MD Infant Mental Health Advocacy Award; Heroes of Healthcare Award, Families Supporting Adoption Hall of Fame Award, the James Hammerstein Award, and a Distinguished Fellow in Adoption and Child Development.

Dr. Purvis is a former foster mother, a mother of three sons, and a grandmother of eight, two of whom are adopted.

Tenille Richardson

Education Manager at Namaste Laboratories LLC

Tennille is responsible for managing the production of all ORS™ educational content. A Licensed Cosmetology Teacher, with a BA in Business Administration, Tennille is an Education Project Manager who studied Integrated Marketing at The University of Chicago.

With a career that has progressed over 20 years in the beauty industry, her experience encompasses working in prestigious salon environments, cosmetology education, consumer care, new product development and independently offering professional development for cosmetologists. She now manages education projects for the ORS™ brands. Through the span of her career, she has gained a host of certifications for working with salon brands and has also contributed to ensuring adequate product performance during the development of a host of retail products.

Evan Roberts


Evan J. Roberts is an author, educator, professional speaker, and mentor. As a classroom teacher and writer, he teaches children, teens, and adults about the real keys to success in life. His personal mission statement, "Empowering Youth Now and For the Rest of Their Lives," serves as the foundation for the literary works that he creates. He is the father of a young son who served as the inspiration for his children’s series, Khahari Discovers The Joy of Family.

Ian Roberts, Ph.D

School Network Superintendent

Dr. Ian Roberts is a Network Superintendent with Saint Louis Public Schools, where he oversees middle and high school principals, providing them with intensive coaching for effectiveness, rather than for compliance, through an empathetic and compassionate orientation. Prior roles include senior positions at schools in New York and Washington, DC and as a special education teacher in Baltimore.

Nathan Ross

Speaker, Director of Youth Programs for Midwest Foster Care and Adoption Association
Nathan Ross came into foster care in 1999 after severe abuse and neglect led to the deaths of two of his brothers. Once in care, Nathan spent two years in a Belton foster home and was then adopted in Blue Springs. At 18 he began using his story to help effect positive changes within the child welfare system and has spent the last six years going across Missouri and other parts of the country advocating for a system that fights against child abuse and neglect. Nathan works full time as the Director of Youth Programs for Midwest Foster Care and Adoption Association, where he creates programming that helps youth in their transition to adulthood. He also works as a youth consultant for the North American Council on Adoptable Children where he gets to use his experiences to help effect change on a national level.

Katja Rowell, M.D.

Family Doctor and childhood feeding specialist

Katja Rowell M.D. is a family doctor turned childhood feeding specialist, supporting parents with relationship-building strategies to bring peace back to the family table. Described as “academic but down to earth,” Dr. Rowell addresses concerns about underweight, overweight, picky eating, food aversions, feeding therapy ‘failures,’ and children who are hoarding or food-preoccupied. Rowell is on the advisory panel for the SPOON foundation and speaks to parents and professionals across the nation on best feeding practices. Her book Love Me, Feed Me: The Adoptive Parent’s Guide to Ending the Worry About Weight, Picky Eating, Power Struggles and More, is available on

Gina Samuels, Ph.D

Professor, School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago

As a researcher and teacher, Dr. Samuels focuses on issues of identity development for foster youth and adopted persons. She was also transracially adopted as an infant from foster care.

Alyssa Schnell

Lactation Consultant, Author, Speaker
Alyssa has been helping parents and babies with breastfeeding for the past 17 years and she has been accredited as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) since 2009. Her private practice, Sweet Pea Breastfeeding Support, provides individual lactation consultations either in person or by phone or videoconference for parents throughout the United States and beyond. Alyssa is also the co-host of the Breastfeeding Outside the Box podcast devoted to families breastfeeding in extraordinary situations. Alyssa enjoys working with all parents and babies, but she has an extra special place in her heart for helping non-birthing parents to breastfeed their babies. She is the author of Breastfeeding Without Birthing: A Breastfeeding Guide for Mothers Through Adoption, Surrogacy, and Other Special Circumstances and is an international speaker on the topics of inducing lactation, relactation, and other related topics. Alyssa is the proud mother of three breastfed children, two by birth and one by adoption.

Jayne Schooler

Author and Trainer
Jayne E. Schooler, is a national and international trainer in the field of adoption and foster care. She has been recognized by a number of state and national awards. She is the author/co-author of six books in field of child welfare including her newest: Wounded Children, Healing Homes: How Traumatized Children Impact Adoptive and Foster Parents. Jayne’s international work takes both her and her husband, David regularly to Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, and Poland. Recently, two of her books have been translated into Russian and Polish. She and her husband are parents by birth and adoption and she holds a Master’s Degree in Life Issues Counseling.

Elaine E. Schulte, MD, MPH, FAAP

Vice Chair, Academic Affairs and Faculty Development at the Children's Hospital at Montefiore and Professor of Pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York
Dr. Schulte has practiced adoption medicine for more than 25 years. She is a board-certified pediatrician and Vice Chair, Academic Affairs and Faculty Development at the Children's Hospital at Montefiore and Professor of Pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York. She is the mother of two adopted children and co-authored the book Caring for Your Adopted Child: An Essential Guide for Parents.

Betsy Keefer Smalley, LCSW

Program Manager at the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program

Betsy Keefer Smalley, LCSW, has thirty-three years of experience in the field of child welfare, specializing in the areas of adoption, kinship, and foster care. She is a training consultant for the Institute for Human Services, Program Manager at the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program, a consultant to the Center for Child Welfare Policy, and a clinical consultant to the Family Trust Clinic.

With colleague Jayne Schooler, Ms. Keefer Smalley co-authored the award-winning book, Telling the Truth to Your Adopted or Foster Child: Making Sense of the Past. She is lead author of the 10-module IHS Adoption Assessor training series, and the Preservice Training for Foster, Adoptive, and Kinship Caregivers, and has prepared over 600 foster care and adoption specialists to use these curricula.

Kathyrn Smith

For as long as she can remember, Kathyrn has had a desire to work in a supportive capacity with children and families. Her 20 year career in Child Welfare includes various professional roles within foster care, adoptions, and therapy practice. Kathyrn embraces diversity and now finds excitement in her current role supporting professionals throughout Illinois and Indiana via outreach and education around best practice in adoption. Kathyrn graduated from Southern Illinois University with a Bachelors degree in Psychology and earned her Masters Degree in Counseling from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Susan Livingston Smith, LCSW

Program & Project Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute
Co-Director of the Center for Adoption Studies at Illinois State University
Emerita Professor of Social Work at Illinois State University

Susan is Program and Project Director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, and Co-Director of the Center for Adoption Studies at Illinois State University is a leading scholar in the field of post-adoption services. A licensed clinical social worker and Emerita Professor of Social Work at Illinois State University, she has published several books and numerous articles in scholarly journals.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognized her pioneering work, along with Dr. Jeanne Howard, with its 2002 Excellence Award for applied scholarship and research. Dr. Smith is a recipient of the Angels in Adoption Award (2006).

Susan Soonkeum Cox

Vice President Policy & External Affairs, Holt International

Susan Soonkeum Cox is Vice President Policy & External Affairs, for Holt International and is an internationally recognized expert and presenter on child welfare and adoption. She testifies regularly before Congress on these issues and has attended numerous White House briefings on public policy regarding adoption and child welfare; was instrumental in passing legislation providing automatic citizenship for children adopted abroad and to ratify the Hague Convention on Intercountry adoption in the U.S.

Ms. Cox has published numerous articles and papers; is editor of the anthologies, Voices from Another Place; More Voices; and founder of the Gathering for Korean Adoptees in 1999 in Washington D.C. and the Reunion of Vietnamese Adoptees.

Ms. Cox is a member of the Hague Special Commission on Intercountry Adoption; and was appointed by President Clinton to the White House Commission on Asian and Pacific Islanders. She was invited as a special guest to attend South Korea’s 60th Anniversary Celebration; and was awarded an Honorary Citizen of Seoul in 2005 by President elect Lee Myung-bak.

In 2013, Susan was appointed as Honorary Consul for the State of Oregon in Eugene, by the Republic of Korea Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Judy Stigger, LCSW

Board Member of Adoptive Families magazine
Clinical Director of Adoption Learning Partners

Judy, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and adoptive mom, has been serving families and children in the field of adoption for over 30 years. Instrumental in launching The Cradle's international program, Judy was also a lead developer for Adoption Learning Partner's debut course, Conspicuous Families.

She serves on the board of Adoptive Families magazine, is the past president of Joint Council on International Children's Services, and is currently serving as the Clinical Director of Adoption Learning Partners.

Angela Taylor

Marketing Executive

Angela Taylor was born and raised on the south side of Chicago. She has a BS degree in Advertising from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and an MS degree in Integrated Marketing Communications from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

Angela has worked in the marketing industry for over 20 years, holding positions at General Mills and Simon Marketing before joining PepsiCo in Chicago 17 years ago.

Angela Tucker

Angela Tucker is a nationally-recognized thought leader on transracial adoption and is an advocate for adoptee rights. She’s currently the Director of Post Adoption Services at Amara in Seattle, and was the subject of the documentary “Closure.” She blogs at

Patti Waldmeir

Patti Waldmeir is an award-winning author and journalist. She has spent nearly forty years working as a reporter and columnist for the Financial Times. Her latest book focuses on a more personal issue. When she adopted two daughters from China, she decided to move the family to Shanghai to help them keep close to their Chinese heritage. Chinese Lessons is a story of identity, race and culture, told through the prism of family.

Chad Weiden

School Principal

Chad Weiden is principal of Edgebrook Elementary School in Chicago. He previously worked as an Assistant Principal at Blaine Elementary School in Lakeview and as a teacher, assistant principal and then principal of Social Justice High School in Chicago's Little Village neighborhood. He also served as an adjunct faculty member at National Louis University in the Educational Leadership Department. He is the adoptive father of two biracial children.

Lynn L. Wetterberg, MS, CPA

Lynn Wetterberg, MS is the former Executive Director of ATTACh, a national organization of clinicians, advocates and parents of attachment disordered children. Lynn currently serves as the President of Comfort the Children, a humanitarian aid and child advocacy organization, and is a founding member of For the Children, SOS, a grass roots organization which advocates for Romania's orphaned children.

Lynn served as a co-founder and Executive Director of Uniting Families Foundation (UFF), a licensed child welfare agency, assisting in the placement of children from orphanages overseas. During her tenure she assisted in the placement of more than 50 older and special needs children.

Lynn also served on the Board of Directors of Joint Council on International Children's Services for seven years. A recipient of the Congressional Angel in Adoption Award, Lynn Wetterberg remains devoted to the right of every child to be raised in a permanent, loving family.

Lynn has four children, three adopted from Romania and one from Russia.

Kara Wright

Founder of Mindhearted, Inc.

Kara Burrell Wright is founder of Mindhearted, Inc., a diversity education company for parents passionate about raising culturally competent children. The Mindhearted community has parent subscribers in the United States, Canada, Europe and Africa—all with the mission of respecting and building understanding with people regardless of background, beliefs, education, experience, gender, sexual identity, religion or skin tone.

Tessa Yun Hennessy

Avid gymnast, college student, entrepreneur, adopted person

Tessa was born on June 2, 1995 in Nanning, China and was raised in a foster home until the age of one. On her first birthday she was adopted by Ray and Mary Hennessy. She is an only child and was raised in Whitewater, WI for most of her life. At 18 years old, she is an avid gymnast currently, I attending Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. She is actively involved in InterVaristy Christian Fellowship at Carroll and runs her own online business. In her free time, Tessa enjoys being active and spending time with family and friends.

Recorded Webinar

Black Child-White Parent

Black Child-White Parent

In this webinar, The Cradle’s Our Children initiative brings together a panel to share share how listening to the news about racial tension in America today affects them as a parent of a Black child.

We discuss how White parents’ privilege can extend to their child when they are together, but when alone, the privilege is gone for their child. We talk about what parents are doing to connect to their child’s culture and community and if they have significant relationships with adults within their child’s racial/ethnic groups. Finally, how parents respond to people who say “race is a non-issue”, “we don’t see color in this house” or “race doesn’t matter and all you need is love”.

Learn More