Aimee Connell, LMSW

Adoption Counselor

Aimee Connell, LMSW

Adoption Social Worker

Aimee Connell works per diem writing adoptive home studies and conducting post placement visits in the central Florida area. Aimee has a Bachelor’s Degree in Family and Human Development and a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Arizona State University. Aimee has experience working with both domestic foster care adoption and international adoption. Aimee has also worked as a hospital social worker and has experience supporting birth mothers and prospective adoptive parents in that role. Aimee is very passionate about adoption and finding good homes for the children being placed for adoption.

Aimee is very excited to be working with Adoption STAR, with adoptive and birth families, helping to build families. When she is not working, Aimee enjoys spending time with her family and exploring central Florida’s beaches and hiking trails.

Alexandra Liloia-Bishop, LMSW

Adoption Social Worker

Alexandra Liloia-Bishop, LMSW

Adoption Social Worker

Alex graduated with a Master's in Social Work from the University at Buffalo and is a Licensed Master Social Worker in New York State.  Alex has worked for many years with youth in the child welfare system, including in group homes, with youth who have aged out of the system, and counseling youth in foster care and post-adoption.  Alex is passionate about advocating for changes in child welfare policy that will help foster youth achieve permanency and stability.  Alex is very excited to be working with Adoption STAR's A-OK program to help older kids find forever families!  Alex enjoys calligraphy and singing along (off-key) to Broadway musical soundtracks.  Alex is from New Jersey but currently lives with her husband in Buffalo, NY, where they like to visit hipster coffee shops, go hiking, and play tabletop games together.

Alison Parker

Accounting Manager

Alison Parker

Accounting Manager

Alison has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with Majors in both Accounting and Finance from the University of Buffalo. She is responsible for handling the day to day accounting responsibilities in the financial office at our main location of Adoption STAR. Alison brings many years of professional background including Non-Profit finance and is thrilled to bring her experience to Adoption STAR. Alison has relocated back to her hometown of Buffalo, New York after many years absence. She is glad to be home and back among family and friends.

 

Adoption holds a very personal place in Alison’s heart as she is an adopted child of a loving family in Western New York. Alison firmly believes that all children deserve to have a close, supportive family surrounding them and that there is truly a home for every child.

Outside of work, some of Alison’s favorite things to do are spending time with loved ones, gardening and cooking. Alison has two young adult children pursuing careers of their own and she resides with a furry feline named Hugo.

Almeida Soteli

Adoption Counselor and Family Advocate

Almeida Soteli

Adoption Social Worker and Family Advocate

Almeida is an Adoption Social Worker and Family Advocate for Adoption STAR’s A-OK Program. Almeida received her Bachelor’s Degree in Health and Human Services and Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University at Buffalo. Almeida found her enthusiasm and drive for the field of child welfare through her graduate level courses and internship at Adoption STAR in 2021.

Almeida has worked with at-risk youth through her positions as an assistant teacher, inclusion specialist, and lead poisoning consultant. Almeida loves working with families who want to grow their family through adoption and expresses the utmost gratitude and appreciation for being able to be a part of their adoption journey. Outside of work, Almeida enjoys spending time with her friends and family, reading suspenseful thrillers, and going to Knox Farms for long walks.

April Hughes, MSSW, LSW

Adoption Assessor

April Hughes, MSSW, LSW

Adoption Assessor

April is a Licensed Social Worker and Adoption Assessor in the state of Ohio with over 19 years of experience working with children and families.

 

Her professional career has included many experiences including working with Child Welfare as well as working as an outpatient therapist with children and families. In addition to her work with Adoption STAR, April is currently working in schools as a mental health therapist. Her passions are introducing children to Play Therapy and assisting families in their adoption process.

 

April lives with her husband and two daughters. She loves to travel, quilt, and spend time with her family.

Becki Buck, MSW, LSW

Adoption Social Worker

Becki Buck, MSW, LSW

Adoption Social Worker

Becki is a licensed social worker in New York and New Jersey. She earned her master’s in social work degree from Rutgers University in Camden, New Jersey and earned her undergraduate degree in psychology from Houghton College in Houghton, New York. Becki and her family moved to western New York in March of 2012 after having lived and worked in the Philadelphia/New Jersey area for 20 years.

 

Becki has worked in the field of adoption since 1996. Most of her efforts have focused on special needs adoption, including finding homes for children in foster care who had emotional and behavioral challenges. Becki also worked with children adopted internationally, many having high medical needs.

Becki enjoys facilitating trainings for potential foster and adoptive families and sharing with them in their journey to grow their families.

 

Becki believes, “There is nothing as rewarding as witnessing a new family come together and knowing that you played a part in making that happen.”

Carly Story, LMSW

Adoption Social Worker and Family Advocate

Carly Story

Carly Story, LMSW

Adoption Social Worker and Family Advocate

Carly is an Adoption Social Worker and Family Advocate in the Adoptive Parent Department at Adoption STAR working directly with adoptive families providing support and guidance during all steps of their adoption journey.

Carly received her bachelors degree in psychology from Canisius College and her masters degree in social work from UB, and became a licensed MSW in 2016. Previously, Carly worked for Mental Health Advocates of WNY where she taught socio-emotional skills within the Buffalo and Niagara Falls school districts, and provided one-on-one counseling and support to elementary students.

As an adoptee herself, Carly is especially enthusiastic about helping families grow through the process of adoption. Outside of work, Carly enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading, DIY projects, live music, and camping.

Carol Lamb, BSSW, LSW

Adoption Assessor and Family Advocate

Carol Lamb, BSSW, LSW

Adoption Assessor and Family Advocate

Carol Lamb works in a family advocacy role which includes a multitude of responsibilities, including supporting prospective adoptive clients. Carol works extensively with clients pursuing stepparent and kinship adoptions.

 

Carol received her bachelor’s degree in social work from The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. She is a licensed social worker and an Ohio adoption assessor.

 

While working as a family services worker in the child welfare system, she began to focus her career directly working with foster parents and foster children in the Greater Cincinnati area. She has extensive professional experience working with families and children of various ages.

 

Carol lives in Cincinnati with her husband and three sons. In her spare time, she enjoys outdoor activities with her sons, reading, and trying new restaurants.

Christi Scheid, BS

Adoption Assessor

Christi Scheid, BS

Adoption Assessor

Christi Scheid works in Ohio as an Adoption STAR Adoption Assessor. She works with prospective adoptive parents as they begin their adoption journey.

 

Christi has worked for Butler County Children Services for the past 15 years, working with Kinship Caregivers.

 

Christi enjoys spending time with her husband and their three sons. She also enjoys walking, swimming, coaching soccer and watching her boys play sports

Christine Gray Tinnesz, Ph.D.

President

Christine Gray Tinnesz, Ph.D.

Christine Gray Tinnesz, Ph.D.

President

Christine Gray Tinnesz, Ph.D. is currently the President of the Board at Adoption STAR. She has been a board member for several years and has enjoyed every moment of it. Christine worked at the University at Buffalo for thirteen years where she taught critical thinking skills to college students.

 

Currently, she teaches in the Communication Department at the University of Buffalo. Some of her classes include Educational Psychology and Explorations in Diversity. She has conducted workshops throughout the United States and presented at numerous conferences nationally and internationally. In 2012, the students nominated Christine “Professor of the Year” at Medaille College.

 

In 2002 and 2003, Christine and her husband, Dylan, adopted two beautiful girls, Ellie and Casey, through Adoption STAR. Christine believes Adoption STAR has been truly wonderful throughout the years in providing support to her family and birth families. They feel incredibly grateful for this fabulous agency in our community.

Christine Wasik, LMSW

Adoption Social Worker

Christine Wasik, LMSW

Adoption Social Worker

Christine is a social worker, who works with prospective adoptive and adoptive families at Adoption STAR, completing home studies and post placement visits. She graduated with a Master's in Social Work from Rutgers University and is a Licensed Master Social Worker in New York State. Christine began her career as a social worker, conducting evaluations and providing therapeutic services to children and families. She has spent much of her career in the field of health care working with patients, providers, and community-based organizations advocating for equitable, affordable and accessible health care.

 

Christine resides in Albany, New York and is happy to be a part of the Adoption STAR team.

Chuck Fried

Treasurer

Chuck Fried

Treasurer

Chuck is a serial entrepreneur, having founded a number of successful Information Technology firms over several decades. He is the current owner of TxMQ, an IT Solutions company, and Premier IBM Business Partner, which he joined as a consultant, only to rise through the ranks, eventually as a partner, and finally as an owner, buying out his partners in 2005.

The company operates in both the US and Canada, working primarily with large companies across a wide variety of industries. TxMQ’s clients include banks, government agencies, health care firms, software companies, manufacturers, and airlines.

 

TxMQ’s services are primarily related to enterprise solutions, including the delivery of enterprise IT services, mostly in the middleware, data architecture, and ERP space. Specialties include SAP, MQ, WebSphere, DB2, Data Warehousing and BI, Oracle, and SQL database administration, and configuration, and related ETL projects.

Chuck also sits on the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center Technology Board, as well as the University at Buffalo’s Innovation Hub Accelerator Committee. In addition, Chuck is an executive on multiple technology user group boards, and software company’s advisory groups.

 

He and his wife Michele have been married since 1986, and have ten wonderful children, and several furry pets.

Courtney Williams

Board Director

Courtney Williams

Board Director

Courtney Williams is an attorney in the Western New York area. She graduated from Canisius College in 2008 with a degree in Political Science and received her law degree from SUNY Buffalo Law School in 2014. Courtney became involved with Adoption STAR in the Spring of 2007 and was so impressed with the values of the agency and the compassion and dedication of the staff, she has been connected ever since.

 

Once the opportunity became available, Courtney jumped at the chance to join the Board of Directors. Courtney is committed to advocating for and informing the adoption community about the birth parent perspective. Courtney hopes her contributions will enable Adoption STAR to continue to grow and prosper.

David Gordon, LCSW-R

Social Worker & Clinical Support Consultant

David Gordon, LCSW-R

Social Worker & Clinical Support Consultant

David is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW-R) who works as a consultant for the Adoption STAR A-OK Program and provides counseling through the Family STAR Post Adoption Department. David delivers education, support and assessments for clients of the agency especially interested in older child adoptions. He brings over 30 years experience working with children, families and parents both as a therapist and workshop trainer.

 

David worked for Baker Victory Services in Buffalo for 28 years, most recently serving as the administrator for the mental health services provided by the agency.

In 2006, David was trained by Holly Van Gulden in working with Reactive Attachment Disorder and has worked with those concepts with many families in various ways. David conducted parent-training workshops for 10 years with the Baker Victory Adoption Program and worked with families who adopted children through those programs.

 

David has a private practice in Amherst NY working with children and adolescents as well as adults, couples, and families.

 

David is also an adoptive parent of one son who has given him a granddaughter. David’s recent interests have developed in the field of photography and he is enjoying the learning curve. In doing so, he has volunteered for the local Heart Gallery, taking photos of prospective adoptees.

David Rossetti, LCSW

Adoption Social Worker

David Rossetti, LCSW

Adoption Social Worker

David is a Social Worker that works with potential adoptive families through Adoption STAR, completing home studies and post placement visits.  He has a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Buffalo State College and a Master’s from SUNY Albany.  David has worked with children, adolescents and adults across the spectrum of community based, residential and inpatient.  David is a certified foster parent and has experienced emergency placements for short term and those freed for adoption.  Additionally, David is the Chief Officer of Behavioral Health for Northern Rivers Family of Services and has a private practice in Albany New York.

Eilleen Rutowski, LMSW

Adoption Social Worker

Eilleen Rutowski, LMSW

Adoption Social Worker

Eilleen works per diem, conducting pre-adoption home studies, as well as post placement visits.  Eilleen acquired a Bachelor of Social Work from Buffalo State College and a Master or Social Work from SUNY at Buffalo and is a Licensed Master of Social Work.  Eilleen entered the field of social work with a strong desire to help children, particularly abused, neglected and disadvantaged children, and to make a difference in their lives to enable them to grow into well adjusted adults.

 

The bulk of Eilleen’s work history has pertained to the wellbeing of children.  She has worked in the field of social work in numerous capacities including residential adult mental health, case coordination in the field of child sexual abuse, child mental health therapy, foster care and adoption social work, social work in the NICU of Sister’s Hospital, and in the law guardian office at The Legal Aid Bureau of Buffalo as a social worker.

 

Eilleen is the mother of a teen daughter and son.  She takes pride and finds much joy in watching them grow and flourish.  Eilleen enjoys spending time with them, and doing various fun activities like berry picking in the summer, watching  movies, and going for long walks.  Eilleen has a very exuberant yellow lab named Luna who she enjoys taking for walks daily.  Eilleen also walks for physical and mental fitness in her free time to relieve stress and enjoy the outdoors.  She also enjoys puzzles, shopping, gardening, and spending time with friends and family.

Emily Ward, LMSW

Adoption Social Worker and Family Advocate

Emily Ward, LMSW

Adoption Social Worker and Family Advocate

Emily is an Adoption Social Worker and Family Advocate for Adoption STAR’s A-OK Program. Emily received her Bachelors Degree from Elon University, and graduated with a Masters Degree in Social Work From Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. Emily began her professional career working in fundraising and development for a non-profit organization before making the decision to pursue a career in social work. She most recently worked in foster care facilitating placements of children coming in to care, and supporting families through the fostering and adoption process. Coming from a family that has adopted children from different areas and backgrounds sparked an interest in adoption and child welfare for Emily. She looks forward to working with families who are adding to their family through adoption, specifically with older children looking for their “forever family.” Outside of work Emily enjoys traveling, taking yoga classes, and exploring the Buffalo, NY area.

Flory Herman, Esq.

Counsel Emeritus

Flory Herman, Esq.

Counsel Emeritus

Flory Herman is a former pharmacist with a doctorate degree in pharmacy from the University of Kentucky, 1982. She graduated law school from the New York Law School (1988 cum laude) and was admitted to the New York State bar in January 1989. Her prior experience includes medical malpractice litigation. In 1992, Flory founded one of the most successful private adoption law practices in Western New York and has been a fellow of the prestigious American Academy of Adoption Attorneys since 1995.

 

Flory joined forces with Adoption STAR, Inc. in 2006 when she helped develop the “agency assisted private adoption track,” serving as the Agency’s Private Adoption Consultant. In that position, Flory worked hard to implement up-to-date practices in assisting adoptive parents with effective networking and advertising, to enable them to make that special connection with prospective birth parents. Thereafter, Flory served as the Agency’s General Counsel from 2008 through 2010 and now as Counsel Emeritus, since January 2011.

Independent of her role at Adoption STAR, Flory also partnered with her brother, Alan Wishnoff, in Littlelamb Productions from 2006-2009, a video production company that created beautiful and compelling custom video versions of adoptive parent profiles.

Flory also executive produced and directed the documentary-style film “I Have Roots and Branches”… Personal Reflections on Adoption, which received a 2004 Film Advisory Board award of excellence, recognized world-wide for quality family/children’s entertainment.

Flory is always awed by the miracle of adoption, having experienced it both professionally for so many years, and personally. Flory’s focus is often on the “faces of adoption” i.e. the children, adoptive parents and birth families of adoption, promoting adoption reform and educating society to share her “celebration of adoption”. As she puts it, “We want children to know that if they were adopted, it is a wonderful lifelong journey. Let us all celebrate the roots from which they come and the branches that mold them into who they are and where they will go.”

 

Flory, a proud adoptive mom, lives in East Amherst, NY with her husband, two teenage children and two Italian Greyhounds. She loves to cook, watch foreign films and will take any good easy exercise class!

Frances Martin, LMSW

Adoption Social Worker

Frances Martin, LMSW

Adoption Social Worker

Frances has worked in the field of social services for over 20 years, starting her career in child welfare. In this capacity, Frances worked with children of all ages, their birth parents and foster parents. She provided support, concrete services, resources and advocacy. Frances assisted in managing various departments, first working with adolescents in foster care and then working with children who needed a higher level of therapeutic care. She is well versed in foster care and adoption policy and has worked alongside the family court system to advocate for her families.

 

In addition, Frances has worked in the field of mental health and substance abuse, providing bi-lingual therapeutic services to children, youth and adults

as well as their extended families.  Currently, Frances is a school social worker for a specialized private school for children with Traumatic Brain Injuries and brain-based disorders. She provides supportive services, resources, and facilitates educational workshops and support groups for the parents of the students.

 

Frances is a strong advocate of building families through adoption. She approaches every family with love, respect and excitement as it is an immense honor to be a part of each family's adoption journey.

Frances holds a master’s degree in social work from Fordham University. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the State of New York. She was born and raised in Inwood, located in Upper Manhattan and currently resides in Queens with her husband and son.

Geoff Forman

Internet Marketing Specialist Marketing & Development

Geoff Forman

Internet Marketing Specialist Marketing & Development

Geoff handles the Internet Marketing for Adoption STAR. He creates and implements SEO/SEM campaigns and analyzes results as well as makes recommendations so Adoption STAR can be found by those who need or desire the services we offer.

 

Geoff has a dual B.A. in English and Integrative Media from Wilkes University, and a M.S. in Professional and Technical Communication from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. His educational and professional expertise includes search engine optimization, digital marketing strategies, technical and creative writing, and graphic design for print, digital, and video mediums.

Geoff currently resides in southern New Jersey. When not working, he spends his time in the gym, mountain biking, discovering the next adrenaline-pumping activity, or relaxing with friends and family. Adoption has played a prominent role in Geoff’s life, having grown up with several adopted cousins and, more recently, is an uncle to an adopted nephew.

Hon. Alec Haniford Deull

Secretary

Hon. Alec Haniford Deull

Secretary

The Hon. Alec Haniford Deull is a Buffalo native who brings to Adoption STAR over fifteen years of child welfare experience in Washington, D.C. Before serving as a Magistrate Judge of the Family Court of the District of Columbia, Alec provided legal representation to children and families in the Washington, D.C. child abuse and neglect system for over a decade. Both of these roles involved representing all members of the adoption triad: children (from infants to teens), birth parents, and adoptive parents. Alec later secured appointment as a Special Assistant to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, for which he investigates and reports upon federal child welfare rights and issues including the Multi-Ethnic Placement Act, bullying and suicide among LGBTQ and other youth, and conditions of government detention of migrant children along our country's southern border.

Ilona Russel, BA

Adoption Counselor

Ilona Russel, BA

Adoption Counselor

Ilona is an Adoption Social Worker for Adoption STAR's A.O.K. Program. She has over a decade of experience working with both older children and families in the field of foster care adoption.

Ilona earned her BA in English, minoring in Women's Studies, from Nazareth College of Rochester. She believes that all children deserve the unconditional love and support that a forever family provides. Ilona loves helping to provide the education and support for families to be successful and happy in their adoption journeys.

Outside of work, Ilona enjoys spending time with her husband and two children. Her favorite things to do are homesteading, crafting, traveling and catching up with friends.

Janeen Akins, LSW

Adoption Social Worker

Janeen Akins, LSW

Janeen Akins, LSW

Adoption Assessor

Janeen is a Licensed Social Worker in Ohio with close to two decades of years of experience working with children and families. Janeen received her bachelors and masters degrees in Social Work from the University of Akron. In addition to her position as an adoption assessor for Adoption STAR, Janeen has been employed at Summit County Children Services for several years as a caseworker.

Janeen resides in Oakwood Village, Ohio with her husband and their children. They enjoy traveling, attending Cleveland sporting events, and playing racquetball.

Jessica Brumbaugh, LMSW

Adoption Social Worker

Jessica Brumbaugh, LMSW

Adoption Social Worker

Jessica is a licensed social worker, serving adoptive families in the Rochester, NY area since 2004. In addition to completing home studies,  Jessica also visits with families after a child is placed, providing support and completing the post-placement reports needed to finalize an adoption.

Jessica also serves as Vice President of Programs at SPCC (Society for the Protection and Care of Children) in Rochester, providing oversight to a variety of child and family programs. In her work with Adoption STAR, Jessica counts it an honor to partner with families in helping them prepare for and welcome the amazing gift of a child through adoption.

Kaitlin Tomasulo, MSW

Adoption Social Worker

Kaitlin Tomasulo, MSW

Adoption Social Worker

Kaitlin provides pre and post adoption services including home studies and post placement supervision. Kaitlin received her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from Buffalo State College and her Master’s Degree from the University at Buffalo in the Advanced Standing Master’s of Social Work program. Prior to Kaitlin’s current position with Adoption STAR, she was an MSW Intern with the agency.

 

Additionally, Kaitlin is a Therapeutic Crisis Intervention and Trauma Informed Care Trainer for families. She has worked directly with families on re-unifying family members, strengthening family bonds, and teaching skills.

Kaitlin is excited to be a part of Adoption STAR! She values family and is looking forward to working with families as they expand theirs!

Kathleen Cores, MSW, LCSW

Adoption Social Worker

Kathleen Cores, MSW, LCSW

Adoption Social Worker

Kathleen was one of the first social workers to join the Adoption STAR team. Kathy is now retired from the Buffalo Public Schools where she spent her career working as a school social worker.  Kathy works with prospective adoptive parents providing pre-adoptive work and follows up with families after they adopt through the post placement process. Kathy has also mentored graduate student interns who were placed at Adoption STAR.

 

Kathy enjoys working with Adoption STAR clients and says that working with adoptive parents and seeing them with their new children is heartwarming and makes her feel that she is involved in a very worthwhile endeavor.

Kathy Crissey, MS, LMHC

Adoption Consultant & Licensed Mental Health Specialist

Kathy Crissey, MS, LMHC

Adoption Consultant & Licensed Mental Health Specialist

Kathy has been affiliated with Adoption STAR since 2002. Throughout the years Kathy has served in the role of per diem social worker, post adoption support and served as the Director of Adoption. Kathy is currently working part time in the main office supervising Family STAR and the per diem workers. Kathy continues to provide home study services in both the domestic infant adoption program and the A-OK program as well as counseling services to all members of the adoption triad. In addition to her work with Adoption STAR, Kathy maintains a private practice office where she provides mental health services for clients. In her private practice, she focuses on general mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety, grief and loss, adoption related issues, LGBTQ+ individuals with a focus on adolescents who are managing issues related to gender identity and clients who are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.

Adoption has always been near and dear to Kathy’s heart both from a personal and professional perspective. Kathy is the adoptive mother to four children from China. As a mother to internationally adopted children it has been a goal to help her children retain their heritage and to foster a strong sense of pride in their culture of origin.

 

Kathy notes that she feels fortunate to have been connected with Adoption STAR for so many years and enjoys her continued collaboration with the agency.

Katie Junevic, LMSW

Adoption Counselor and Family Advocate

Katie Junevic, LMSW

Adoption Social Worker and Family Advocate

Katie is an Adoption Social Worker and Family Advocate in the Adoptive Parent Department. She works directly with adoptive families providing support and guidance during all steps of their adoption journey. Katie received her Bachelor’s degree from Niagara University in Special Education and Elementary School teaching. Katie earned her Master’s degree from University at Buffalo in Social Work, and received licensure in 2021. Katie previously worked with Parent Network of WNY, assisting families and school districts with understanding the special education process, and to ensure a fair and equitable education for students with disabilities.

Katie is an adoptee and is excited to become a part of the Adoption STAR family. When not at work, Katie enjoys spending time with her family, hiking with her dog, camping, and finding new and exciting events and restaurants in the Buffalo area- especially a good cup of coffee!

Kayla Cooper, LMSW

Adoption Social Worker

Kayla Cooper, LMSW

Adoption Social Worker

Kayla works for Adoption STAR writing home studies and providing post placement visits for families adopting through the Infant and A-OK program, in the NYC-Long Island area. Kayla received her MSW from University at Buffalo in 2015 and she was licensed in NYS the same year. During her time in Buffalo she volunteered at the front desk for Adoption STAR and at some of their annual events. Adoption STAR made a lasting impression with their positivity, focus on adoption education and inclusivity and she is excited to rejoin the Adoption STAR team! Kayla has a background in healthcare social work and working with children and families in school based settings. She moved back to Long Island not long after graduation and has a passion for helping and empowering families in her local community and is happy to bring that same enthusiasm to her work with Adoptive Families through Adoption STAR.  She loves baking, spending time with her family (Husband and two daughters) and their dog Chance, visiting the ocean, board games, trying different forms of art and laughing as much as possible!

Kim Wilder, LSW

Adoption Assessor

Kim Wilder, LSW

Adoption Assessor

Kim Wilder is an Adoption Assessor in the State of Ohio.

 

Kim received her BSW from West Virginia University and has over 20 years of experience in adoption and foster care. She has prepared and assessed families through their adoption and foster care journeys.

 

Over the years Kim has worked with families interested in foster care, adoption from foster care, international adoption, and infant adoption as well as counseling birth families making an adoption plan.

 

In addition to Kim’s clinical expertise, she is very knowledgeable about foster care and adoption state codes and regulations and assists the compliance team as needed.

Kim continues to be available to work with all members of the adoption triad and has a passion for educating families considering adoption of older children.

 

Kim lives in Greater Cincinnati with her husband, 2 sons, and 1 puppy. Kim enjoys spending time with her family.

Kristin Ackerman

Development Associate

Kristin Ackerman

Development Associate

Kristin is the Development Associate at Adoption STAR. As a member of the agency’s marketing and development team, Kristin assists with special events, fundraising and public relations. Kristin is also responsible for overseeing Adoption STAR’s volunteer program.

Kristin earned her Associates degree in Business at Erie Community College. Her previous experience is in the Human Resource field.

Kristin resides with her husband Scott and 2 parrots: Lennon and McCartney.  She also has a son, Ronald who is in the air force reserves. Kristin enjoys cooking and reading. She also enjoys swimming, cycling and running.

Kristin Clarke, BSW

Adoption Social Worker

Kristin Clarke, BSW

Adoption Social Worker

Kristin works per diem with adoptive parents conducting home studies and post placement visits. Kristin received her Bachelor’s in Social Work from SUNY Brockport and has been working in the social work field in Rochester, NY for over twenty years. Kristin has extensive experience working with families in crisis due to homelessness, domestic violence, substance abuse and/or mental health crisis.

Kristin collaborates with the Dept. of Health/Human Services and Child Protective Services to ensure families can access services they need to improve their quality of life. Kristin is a constant advocate for the impoverished and underserved families as they navigate through the complex systems that are often difficult to access. She is dedicated to keeping the family unit together, strong and healthy.

Kristin is part of a large family and values the experiences she has gained from her family. As a mom of three daughters, Kristin enjoys spending time with her girls and cherishes the little things like cozy movie nights or a simple “I love you” text.

Kristin enjoys working with families through their adoption journey and being there as they expand their families.

Laurel Pfund-Byron, M.S. Ed.

Adoption Counselor

Laurel Pfund-Byron, M.S. Ed.

Adoption Counselor

Laurel Pfund-Byron provides pre and post adoption services, including home studies and post placement supervision. Laurel received both her BS and Masters Degrees in Elementary Education from SUNY Oswego.

 

Laurel taught at New Haven Elementary School in the Mexico District for 31 years before beginning her current work as an adjunct instructor in the Curriculum and Instruction Department of the School of Education at SUNY Oswego.

 

After coaching synchronized swimming for 35 years, Laurel maintains her judging certification for the sport. Laurel lives in Oswego with her husband John, and has 2 grown sons.

Linda Patterson, LSW

Birth Family Advocate

Linda Patterson, LSW

Birth Family Advocate

Linda is a Licensed Social Worker and Adoption Assessor in the state of Ohio. She currently serves as the Ohio Birth Family Advocate at Adoption STAR. She has spent her career in Child Welfare, for both public and private Foster Care/Adoption agencies. She has over 25 years of experience working with families and children, providing home study services, counseling, crisis intervention, training, and parent coaching. She believes in resiliency of others and that every person has innate strengths to be shared. Linda considers her greatest strengths to be her enthusiasm, compassion, and ability to motivate others.

Linda has been married to her childhood sweetheart for over 40 years and together they have three adult children and one beautiful granddaughter! She enjoys spending time with family, playing with her two rescue dogs, making things from wood, crafting, swimming, reading, cooking, and being outdoors in the sun.

Lucy Shaw, LMSW

Outreach and Engagement Specialist

Lucy Shaw

Lucy Shaw, LMSW

Outreach and Engagement Specialist

Lucy Shaw joined Adoption STAR in May 2019 as the Outreach and Engagement Specialist. Lucy's role is to promote best practices in adoption and build awareness of Adoption STAR’s unique and innovative client services specifically in the NYC Metro area through grant trainings, attending conferences and networking with healthcare and social work professionals. Lucy also provides counseling, advocacy and case management services for expectant/biological parents considering adoption.

 

Lucy holds a Master of Science in Social Work from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Journalism and Asian Studies from the University of Texas. She is a Licensed Master Social Worker with over 15 years of experience serving adults, adolescents and families in NYC.

 

Lucy is also an adoptive mother in an open adoption and believes in supporting the well-being of all members of the adoption triad and demystifying open adoption. Lucy lives in the Harlem neighborhood of NYC with her husband, Jochen, a jazz drummer, and son Daxton. Lucy speaks English and Mandarin Chinese and her favorite thing about parenting in NYC is all the wonderful diverse cultures and opportunities the city holds!

Lynlee Hochrad, LMSW, MPH

Adoption Social Worker

Lynlee Hochrad, LMSW, MPH

Adoption Social Worker

Lynlee earned her Masters degree in Social Work as well as one in Public Health at the University at Buffalo. During her time earning her MSW Lynlee was Adoption STAR’s intern and now loves her time as a Home Study Social Worker.

 

Lynlee’s professional interests lie in the areas of Maternal and Child Health and would love to work surrounded by babies all day. As the oldest of four children, Lynlee has spent her life surrounded by a big family and is thrilled to assist in helping others have that experience.

Megan Montgomery, LMSW

International Adoption Coordinator

Megan Montgomery, LMSW

International Adoption Coordinator

Meg is a Licensed Master Social Worker in New York. She obtained her master’s degree in social work from the State University of New York at Buffalo after completing her undergraduate degree in social work from the State University of New York at Fredonia.

 

Meg has worked within the adoption field for many years, working with families through their international adoption journey from initial inquiry through post adoption. Meg is the International Adoption Coordinator, overseeing our international home study programs in NY, OH and FL.  As an avid speaker and educator, Meg also frequently speaks at adoption related conferences, provides adoption related workshops for families, as well as providing pre and post adoption counseling.

 

Meg’s experience as a social worker also includes working with children with social emotional disorders and/or behavioral challenges and their families. Her volunteer work includes working to provide humanitarian aid to children living outside of family care.

Meg states, “I have worked in adoption for a number of years and could not imagine any other work more rewarding. I have been fortunate to work with families both pre and post adoption as well as provide adoptive parent education and other resources to assist families through their adoption journey. Two areas of significant focus for me have been special needs adoption and adopting an older child.”

Meghan McCauley, LMSW

Adoption Social Worker

Meghan McCauley, LMSW

Adoption Social Worker

Meghan writes home studies and provides post-placement services in the NYC/Long Island area, for families pursuing adoption through Adoption STAR. Meghan began her professional career working in Child Welfare where her role was primarily focused on reunifying children with their parents after safety concerns had been identified. When families were unable to be reunified, it allowed foster families the opportunity to grow by becoming adoptive parents and adopting the child, giving them safe and permanent forever homes. Watching families reunite was rewarding, and being a part of adoptions was extra special.

 

After dedicating six years to child welfare, Meghan decided to return to school and received her MSW from SUNY Stony Brook in May 2020, and in January 2021 became licensed in NYS. She is excited to get back to her roots of working with families and being a part of their journey to adopt. When Meghan is not busy social working, you can find her at the beach, spending time with family and friends, dancing at concerts, or nose deep in a book.

Melanie Schmidt, LMSW

A-OK Adoption Social Worker

Melanie Schmidt, LMSW

A-OK Adoption Social Worker

Melanie is a social worker providing support to Adoption STAR’s A-OK Program. She has a passion for older child adoption with over a decade of experience in the foster care adoption field.

 

Melanie received her master’s degree in social work from Roberts Wesleyan College and bachelor’s degree from Houghton College. One of her most meaningful professional experiences for Melanie has been finding adoptive homes for waiting youth in danger of aging out of the foster care system.

 

Outside of work, Melanie enjoys spending time with her 2 children and husband. Her favorite things to do include family gatherings, live music, walking and hiking, and vacationing in the Adirondacks.

 

Melanie believes that all children deserve a life-long family, and that all types of families can give children a chance at a promising future.

Melissa Brierley, LCSW

Adoption Social Worker

Melissa Brierley, LCSW

Adoption Social Worker

Melissa is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is based out of New York City and Westchester and is employed on a per-diem basis with Adoption STAR.

Melissa is a native of Western New York and obtained her Bachelors Degree in Social Work from Niagara University and Masters of Science in Social Work from Columbia University.

Melissa has diverse clinical experience working in the field of child welfare including preventive and foster care, forensics and behavioral health. Melissa has most enjoyed her work with children and their families and is passionate about this work.

Adoption holds a special place in Melissa’s heart as members of her family have begun the adoption process and are all looking forward to their new addition!

When Melissa is not working, she enjoys traveling, spending time with her family and the many exciting things NYC has to offer!

Michael Benzin

Vice President

Michael Benzin

Vice President

Michael Benzin is currently Vice President of the Adoption STAR Board of Directors. Professionally, Mike is Executive Director of the Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service, a nonprofit radio station that “brings print to life” for people who are blind, have low vision, or have other print challenges. He has more than 30 years of experience working with non-profit organizations, most recently in a private practice that provided fundraising & marketing counsel and support to mission-driven organizations.

 

Mike has worked with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Read to Succeed Buffalo, Aspire of WNY, Sisters Hospital Foundation, the Buffalo Philharmonic, and the University at Buffalo, among others. An active community volunteer, Mike is a board member & Treasurer for the WNY Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and board member & President of the East Aurora Community Nursery & Preschool in addition to his support of Adoption STAR.

Mike is a past chair of the Taste of Buffalo, past Treasurer for the East Aurora Cooperative Market, and past President of the FBI Buffalo Citizens Academy Alumni Association. He is also a Leadership Buffalo graduate and Business First 40 Under Forty honoree.

 

Mike and his wife, Julie, are proud forever parents of Sophia and Charlie, both adopted through Adoption STAR. One of the many attractive qualities they found in Adoption STAR is the agency’s placing as high a priority on the pre- and post-adoption needs of the birth mother as they do with the adoptive parents. They also appreciate the agency’s attention to quality and are grateful for the passionate and caring staff for their support.

Michele A. Kirsh, M.S. Ed.

Adoption Social Worker

Michele A. Kirsh, M.S. Ed.

Adoption Social Worker

Michele is a New York State Certified School Psychologist with many years of experience in the field of special education. She is an adoptive mom to a wonderful boy and is the Community Manager for Hope Connections, a mentoring group for adoptive and foster parents. She facilitates web-based support group sessions for families of children impacted by trauma. Michele is also the Vice President of the New York City Chapter of the Adoptive Parents Committee, an adoptive parent support group. Michele helps to coordinate programming for the annual APC Conference.

 

Michele conducts home studies and post placement visits. She is honored to be able to help people create their families through adoption.

Michele Fried, BS

Founder

Michele Fried, BS

Founder

Michele Fried is the founder of Adoption STAR and CEO Emeritus (as of October 2020).    She has led the agency for over 20 years with incredible love and dedication. Michele has never been fond of titles, always stating that mom remains her favorite one. It is the journey of becoming a mom, that Michele found herself in the adoption field.

 

Michele began her professional career as an educator in Pennsylvania. In 1989 (within two years of adopting their first child), Michele became the director of an adoption agency licensed in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Michele’s own family began to grow, and they returned to Western New York, where she and her husband grew up. Michele was inspired by the great need for a passionate, advocacy based, non-profit child-welfare agency in the area and so Adoption STAR was born in March of 2000!

 

Michele carefully named the agency using the acronym STAR and was determined to utilize the words within the name to provide comprehensive services to all members of the adoption triad: Support, Training, Advocacy and Resources (STAR).

 

Michele believes in permanency planning and believes that every child deserves a forever family. She created Adoption STAR to operate on the belief that there is a family for every child. Michele also developed A-OK (Adopt an Older Kid) a program of Adoption STAR that was announced in 2016. Today it is a busy and successful child placement program identifying adoptive families for children in the United States foster care system. 

 

After 32 years in the adoption field, 20 with Adoption STAR, Michele made the difficult decision to step into a consultative role with the agency. This allows her to spend more time with her large family. Michele and her husband enjoy spending time with their adult children and grandchildren!

Moira Stewart, LCSW

Adoption Social Worker

Moira Stewart, LCSW

Adoption Social Worker

Moira is a licensed clinical social worker who received her undergraduate degree in psychology from LeMoyne College in Syracuse, NY.  She went on to complete her masters in social work from the State University at Buffalo. From there, Moira began her clinical career working with children and adolescents, and their parents, at Child and Adolescent Treatment Services in Lancaster, NY. Following this, Moira spent the next six years working with preschoolers with special needs and their parents, at early childhood programs in Buffalo and Rochester.

After taking time off to raise her children, Moira began working in the Therapeutic Visitation Program at SPCC (Society for the Protection and Care of Children).  She is currently doing per diem work for this program.

Moira was born and raised in Buffalo, and currently lives in Rochester, NY with her husband and two children. Her passion and focus has always been working with children and families to promote positive and healthy relationships within the home.  Moira is excited to be a part of the Adoption Star family and to help facilitate the adoption process for parents who have opened their hearts to bring a child home.

Nicole Monnin, MSW

Adoption Counselor

Nicole Monnin, MSW

Adoption Social Worker

Nicole Monnin works per diem, writing adoption home studies and conducting post placement visits in the South Florida area. Nicole received both her Bachelors and Masters (with a concentration in Child Welfare) in Social Work at Florida Atlantic University. Nicole has been working in case management since 2009.

Nicole is a Certified Child Welfare Case Manager, and has worked for a non-profit community-based care agency in Broward County, FL as an Adoption Specialist as well as a Permanency Roundtable Specialist. She has worked with and mentored young adults who have aged out of the foster care system. Nicole also has experience working in both the school and hospital systems as a social worker. She has a passion for working with families and advocating on their behalf.

Nicole is very passionate about adoption and helping to create forever families through the adoption process.

Nicole Tartaglia

Web Designer and Programming

Nicole Tartaglia

Web Designer and Programming

Nicole Dyan Tartaglia is an artist, designer, and developer. She works as an UI/X and Visual designer for a large private company. Her freelance brand, nicoletartaglia.com, produces a wide variety of design and art projects including fine art production, branding and web design, art curation, and more. She graduated from Rutgers University in 2005, receiving a Bachelor of the Arts degree in Graphic Design and Computer Science. She served on the AIGA Philadelphia board as Interactive Director for 3 years curating an all QR code animation show and setting up many web workshops for the community. Her work has been exhibited in many galleries and events nationally. Nicole lives in Philadelphia, PA with her husband, two cats, and her baby daughter, Colette ‘Coco’.

Nuala Campbell, M.S. Ed., N.C.C.

Adoption Counselor

Nuala Campbell, M.S. Ed., N.C.C.

Adoption Counselor

Nuala obtained her master’s degree in Counselor Education from the State University of New York at Brockport after completing her undergraduate degree in psychology from the State University of New York at Oneonta. Nuala has worked locally as a school counselor, as well as for a children’s mental health agency.

 

Nuala has worked for Adoption STAR for over a decade, in various capacities. She began as a per diem worker, conducting home studies and post placement services and later transitioned into the role of Adoption Counselor for the International Adoption Department, facilitating the journeys of families throughout the international adoption process.  Additionally, Nuala has also served as a support to the domestic infant adoption team and recently added the responsibility of reviewing and editing home studies.

 

Nuala is honored to be part of the adoption journey, remaining in awe of the constant compassion, patience and gratitude she witnesses in adoptive parents while they fulfill their dream of building a family.

Quinn Moyer

Compliance Support

Quinn Moyer

Compliance Support

Quinn works as Compliance Support within the main office and remotely. Quinn assists with ensuring client files look pristine, helps with preparing expectant and birth parent outreach materials, and often has her hands in a variety of projects within the agency.
Quinn is a student at Ithaca College, studying English and minoring in Education Studies.  In her free time, Quinn is an avid reader and enjoys writing.
Rachael Metz, LCSW

Adoption Supervisor and Family Advocate

Rachael Metz, LCSW

Adoption Supervisor and Family Advocate

Rachael is responsible for supervision of services within the adoptive parent domestic infant programs including the interpretation and assessment of policies and the supervision of personnel assigned to the department. Rachael shares the Family Advocate role with a team of dynamic and passionate professionals by providing support to adoptive families of Adoption STAR from their first steps of the process and throughout their adoption journey.

 

Rachael received her master’s degree in social work from Case Western Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences and her bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Buffalo State College.

 

She became a licensed social worker (LMSW) in 2007 and a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) in 2016.

Before joining Adoption STAR in 2013, Rachael worked at New Alternatives for Children (NAC) in New York City, first as a Senior social worker and then as a Clinical Coordinator. Rachael worked within a nationally recognized program that trains, assists and strengthens the capacity of families who have adopted one or more children with special needs. Through pre and post adoption support and education, referral and advocacy, crisis intervention and counseling, Rachael helped to support and improve the wellbeing and functioning of adoptive families.

 

Rachael’s years of experience in the adoption field, her gentle nature, and her strong clinical skills assist individuals and couples as they navigate the many options and emotions involved in the adoption process.

 

Rachael believes adoption is a beautiful way to create a family and loves supporting families through their adoption.

Rachel Edricks, LCSW

Adoption Social Worker

Rachel Edricks, LCSW

Adoption Social Worker

Rachel greatly enjoys her work with Adoption STAR, providing both home study and birth family services to families in New York City. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from Brandeis University, and her Master’s Degree in Social Work from Columbia University. Full time, she works as a Therapist at a labor union for NYC employees.

Raghu Ram, MD

Board Director

Raghu Ram, MD

Board Director

Dr. Raghu Ram is a devoted husband and father, and an experienced family physician in the WNY community. The Ram family adopted their two daughters from India with the help of Adoption STAR. In addition to their daughters, Raghu and his wife Pavani have a young adult son, Suneel. Raghu has lived in WNY for over 30 years, and with his family now lives in Clarence. Raghu is the Regional Medical Director for a team of health care providers at Landmark Health which delivers care at home for frail elderly patients in WNY. The work of Raghu and his team helps to keep these vulnerable patients safe and remain living in their home. Raghu joined the Adoption STAR board in 2015 because he is passionate about the importance of adoption to our society and because of his gratitude to Adoption STAR for the supportive guidance the entire STAR team provided during the family’s two adoption experiences.

Rose Nantongo, MSW

Adoption Social Worker

Rose Nantongo, MSW

Adoption Social Worker

Rose Nantongo is a licensed social worker with over 30 years experience. Shortly after graduating from college, Rose began her first career as a foster care caseworker, and later became an adoption coordinator. She continued her education and received her masters in social work. Rose has held supervisory and managerial positions and from 2001 to 2006, she was the director of Direct Care Adoption.

During her child welfare experience, Rose has continuously worked with children who have special needs. Many of these children have emotional and behavioral problems due to trauma, abuse and neglect. Rose has focused much of her time in the field working with adoptive parents and children in the process of being adopted.

Since joining Adoption STAR, Rose been assigned home studies and post placement work. Rose enjoys working with children and adoptive parents and feels that her experience is valuable to the families she works with.

Samantha VanHout, Ph.D.

Adoption Social Worker

Samantha VanHout, Ph.D.

Adoption Social Worker

Samantha currently works as a Home Study Social Worker, serving the Rochester, NY area. In addition, she works at Mt. Hope Family Center as a Child and Family Therapist and Clinical Supervisor for interns. Samantha holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Ithaca College and a Doctorate in Counseling and School Psychology from the University at Buffalo. Samantha’s research and clinical experience thus far has focused primarily on trauma, parent-child attachment, and the child welfare system. 
In her various personal and professional roles, Samantha always conducts herself from her core belief in the power and impact of healthy relationships. In her role at Adoption STAR, Samantha enjoys partnering and reflecting with families on their journey to expanding their family through adoption.
Sarah Griffith, LMSW

Adoption Social Worker

Sarah Griffith, LMSW

Adoption Social Worker

Sarah began her education at SUNY Brockport pursuing a career in Psychology and Alcohol/Substance Abuse. She obtained a Master’s degree in Social Work through Binghamton University. Sarah had the privilege of working in a county foster care unit as an MSW intern.Sarah provides pre and post adoption support to adoptive families. Sarah enjoys spending time with her family and being a mom.

Shannon Boeheim, MSW

Post Adoption Social Worker

Shannon Boeheim, MSW

Post Adoption Social Worker

Shannon is the Post Adoption Social Worker in our Post Adoption Department, known as Family STAR. She has been with the agency for many years and previously worked with prospective adoptive parents and adoptive families as an Adoption Social Worker and Family Advocate.

Shannon received her master’s in social work from the University of Buffalo and her bachelor’s in social work from Buffalo State College. She has experience in the field of foster care and adoption where she has seen first-hand how adoption changes lives. Shannon enjoys working with adoptees, as well as adoptive families and birth families. She is passionate about working in the adoption field and helping support individuals and families. Shannon grew up in Buffalo and still lives locally with her husband and two children. Shannon is also the proud aunt is an Adoption STAR baby!

Sharon Chick

Past President 2008-2011

Sharon Chick

Past President 2008-2011

In 2005, Sharon became a volunteer with Adoption STAR and served on the Shining Star fundraising committee. In 2006, Sharon became chair of that committee. In 2007, she joined the board of directors. Sharon served as the President of the Board from 2008 through 2011.

Sharon’s journey with Adoption started many years ago when she and her husband adopted their now adult son Brian, when he was an infant, creating their ”forever family”.

Sharon has always enjoyed helping others which is a direct reflection in her career. The agency appreciates Sharon’s years of dedication and service.

Shaun Doyle

Intake Manager

Shaun Doyle

Intake Manager

Shaun Doyle comes to Adoption STAR with 20 years of experience working for not-for-profits in the area of developmental disability. After studying at SUNY Fredonia, Shaun moved to Orlando, Florida to work for Walt
Disney World. There he learned to train not only Disney Cast Members, but also to train people from other organizations on Disney’s Approach to Quality Service and Disney’s Innovation in Action. Shaun also created and led youth programs at the Disney Institute.

 

Prior to joining the STAR team as the Intake Manager, he was the Director of Training and Staff Development for Autism Services of WNY. In his time there, Shaun developed multiple training curricula in not only working with people on the spectrum, but in leadership, hands-free intervention and customer service.

At the start of his career, Shaun traveled to Romania to help train staff in institutions and orphanages that were about to close, to ensure effective and humane treatment for the children that would be returning to their communities. In addition to training and staff development, Shaun also worked closely with the Quality Improvement department to investigate incidents that may have occurred in the programs.

 

Shaun and his husband Eric adopted their son in 2015 with the help of Adoption STAR. Their second son was born in 2019 and was also adopted with the agency’s help. Adoption is part of his family’s story and he is passionate about connecting people, building relationships, and following up with other families looking to grow through adoption. He is a well skilled storyteller, a performer by nature and has an innate ability to be inclusive no matter the setting. Shaun is a volunteer Wish Granter at Make a Wish, teaches new member classes at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo and sang with the Buffalo Gay Men’s Chorus for over 10 years, serving as board president in 2012. Shaun is most proud of his role as daddy to his sons, Jackson and Frankie. Shaun is also so proud to come home every day, and tell his children that he spent the day working hard to help children find forever families.

Stephanie M. Shaw, M.S., C.R.C.

Adoption Counselor

Stephanie M. Shaw, M.S., C.R.C.

Adoption Counselor

Stephanie has a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling with over 25 years of work experience, and 14 years in the adoption field. Stephanie wanted to work at Adoption STAR, “Because my own adoption experiences were the lights at the ends of my tunnels! Adoption was the path to fulfilling my dreams of motherhood! I want to be one of the supportive, loving, teaching people along that path for other adoptive families. I think it’s my way of giving to the community and sharing my family in a fulfilling way.” Stephanie conducts home studies and post placement supervision as well as facilitates some of the educational classes for Adoption STAR. Stephanie has three children, two arrived by way of adoption and one by birth. Stephanie feels this has given her a unique perspective on parenting as well as the birth/adoptive parent/adoptee triad.

Steven M. Baranowski, LMSW

Adoption Social Worker

Steven M. Baranowski, LMSW

Adoption Social Worker

Steve works with Adoption STAR adoptive families for their home study and post placement needs. He received a Master’s of Social Work from Fordham University in 1995. As an adoptee, an adoption professional, and parent of two children, he is a strong advocate for building families through adoption. Steve has worked professionally in foster care and adoption since 1994, including the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and Family Services of Westchester, Jewish Child Care Association, and Connecticut Adoption and Family Services. Steve is also a member of the Adoption Foster Care Therapist Network. Steve has been in reunion with his biological family since 2004 and lives with his wife and daughters in Westchester County, New York.

Susan Reardon

Family Advocate

Susan Reardon

Family Advocate

Sue works as a Family Advocate providing support to adoptive families of Adoption STAR from their first steps of the process and throughout their adoption journey. Sue also educates clients interested in the Agency Assisted Private Track program. Sue works closely with all of our family advocates, our adoption supervisor, and director of adoption as they work to meet the needs of our adoptive families.

 

For several years before Sue became a Family Advocate, she provided incredible support and assistance to prospective adoptive parents and adoptive families as the Adoptive Parent Mentor and Coach. Sue also educated families about the Agency Assisted Private Adoption Track.

 

Sue has been a friend to Adoption STAR and advocate for adoption since she and her husband began their own adoption journey in 2002. She has a background in Human Services and many years of experience in the adoption field. Sue is a well-known and respected adoption guide and has supported countless adoptive families over the years. Additionally, Sue is a three-time Adoption STAR adoptive mom.

Sue lives in Lockport, NY with her husband and three children. She has a passion for helping families navigate through the adoption process. She states, “I believe so strongly in adoption, because I have the honor of living it every day!”

Sylvia Appolon, MBA/HRD, CWCM

Florida Adoption Coordinator

Sylvia Appolon, MBA/HRD, CWCM

Florida Adoption Coordinator

Sylvia works as an Adoption Coordinator for Florida. Her role includes supporting and providing resources to birth parents, writing adoption home studies, supporting adoptive families in post placement visits and resources. Sylvia received her Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice with a minor in Women Studies at Florida Atlantic University and her Master’s in Business Administration with a concentration in Human Resource Development from Nova Southeastern University. Sylvia has experience has many years of experience in case management. She is a Certified Child Welfare Case Manager. Sylvia worked for a non-profit community based care agency in Broward County, FL as a Child Advocate, Adoption Specialist, and lastly as a Termination of Parental Rights Specialist. She enjoyed working with families and advocating on their behalf. Sylvia is well versed in the family court system and current family court laws. Sylvia was also part of several agency committee’s that would assist with employee retention strategies. Additionally, Sylvia has experience as a Foster Care Licensing Specialist, Foster Parent Recruiter and Trainer. As a passionate worker, Sylvia mentored all of her teen clients and still mentors them post aging out of the foster care system. Sylvia loves to help others to achieve their goals and is very supportive of her clients. Sylvia considers herself approachable, supportive, passionate, nonjudgmental, and caring. Sylvia loves laughter and making others laugh.

Tabitha Forte, LMHC

Adoption Social Worker

Tabitha Forte, LMHC

Adoption Social Worker

Tabitha provides home study and post placement services for Adoption STAR in the New York City area. Tabitha is a Licensed Mental health and substance abuse counselor with over many years of experience in behavioral Health services. Tabitha’s primary focus of work is with at risk populations dealing with addiction and trauma among children, adults, and families impacted by mental health. Tabitha has worked in various settings and roles both clinically and administratively.

 

In her personal life, she was a foster parent for several years therefore she not only has the professional experience, but personal as well. She understands the challenges families face when dealing with finding homes for children, reunifying children with their biological families, and the adoption process.

 

Outside of work, Tabitha enjoys spending time with her family. She is a food enthusiast, traveling/exploring new places, and hiking.

Tanya Sellers, MBA

Adoption Assessor

Tanya Sellers, MBA

Adoption Assessor

Tanya Sellers works in Ohio as an Adoption Assessor with Adoption STAR. She works with prospective adoptive parents as they go through the adoption process. Tanya obtained her Bachelor Degree in Psychology from Miami University and went on to obtain an MBA. 

Tanya works for Warren County Children Services as the Adoption Supervisor and has been actively working within child welfare since 2012. 

When not working, Tanya enjoys spending time with her family. She has two children. Tanya also operates an at home bakery for custom cakes and cupcakes in her spare time.

Teri Caldwell, M.S. Ed., CAS

Adoption Social Worker

Teri Caldwell, M.S. Ed., CAS

Adoption Counselor

Teri provides pre and post adoption services, including home studies and post placement supervision.  Teri earned a Master’s degree in Education, as well as a Certificate of Advanced Study in School Counseling at The State University of New York College at Brockport.  Teri has worked as a School Counselor for many years.

Teri first became connected to Adoption STAR in 2003 when her daughter was born and placed with her.  She became a second time STAR Mom in 2008 with the birth of her second daughter.  Working at STAR feels like coming home to her.  Teri is thrilled to be able to assist others as they begin their own path to building or growing their families.

Teri lives in Brockport with her husband and blended family of 5 children, who have been slowly leaving the nest as they become young adults.  They also have the coolest cat in the world, Eleanor Roosevelt aka Nori, who plays fetch and greets them at the door like a dog.

Tyla Dudley, MSW, LSW

Adoption Assessor

Tyla Dudley, MSW, LSW

Adoption Assessor

Tyla received her Bachelors and Masters degrees from The University of Akron in Social Work. She is a licensed social worker in the state of Ohio. Tyla is an adoption assessor for Adoption STAR. Tyla also works for Akron Children’s Hospital since 2009. She is a pediatric social worker in the Emergency Department. Additionally, Tyla’s experience includes working with the Common Ground Family Services conducting supervised visitations for families who are mandated through the Domestic Relations court. Tyla’s passion is working with families as well as children and adults with special needs.

 

Tyla lives in Cuyahoga Falls, OH. She enjoys spending time with her large family of 11 siblings and 36 nieces and nephews!

Wendy Guyker, Ph.D.

Board Director

Wendy Guyker, Ph.D.

Board Director

Wendy Guyker, Ph.D., is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University at Buffalo and a RYT-200 yoga teacher. She researches and teaches in the areas of positive embodiment, yoga, mindfulness and self-care, with an emphasis on practical applications in both clinical and community populations. As a teacher and a psychologist, Wendy strives to embody and grow in others the qualities of compassion, self-awareness, and loving-kindness. Service is critical in the fields of education and psychology; yet to Wendy, it does not feel like a responsibility, it feels more like being whole. She currently also serves on the Board of Directors for Yogis in Service, where she helps to bring yoga’s many qualities and tools to others in the WNY community. As a transracial adoptee herself, she is a longtime volunteer at Adoption STAR and is honored and excited to serve on the Board of Directors.

Yaraixy Vaillant Diaz

Adoption Counselor

Yaraixy Vaillant Diaz

Adoption Counselor

Yaraixy (goes by Roxy), is a home study contract worker in the State of Florida. Roxy’s role includes writing adoption home studies, post placement support, and being a resource. Roxy received her Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice, with a minor in Public Safety and Management at Miami Dade College. She is pursuing her Master’s Degree at NOVA with a major in Psychology and a minor in Substance Abuse, and is expected to complete this in the summer of 2022.

Roxy has been working under the supervision of the Department of Children and Families for several years. She is dual certified as a Child Welfare Case Manager and Licensing. Roxy’s professional experience includes working for multiple non-profit organizations, and work with foster parents. Roxy has assisted on numerous occasions with translation for Spanish speaking families. She has been recruited to travel outside of her county to resolve licensing concerns with families whose first language is Spanish.

Roxy is a caring and compassionate person, who stays committed to whatever task she is working on. Roxy considers herself to be patient, sympathetic and strong minded. She loves to put smiles on others’ faces, as it truly makes her day.

Zack Fried

Associate Director

Zack Fried

Associate Director

As Associate Director, Zack is responsible for the day-to-day operations of Adoption STAR. His position includes accomplishing compliance objectives, establishing compliance standards, and taking the lead on the planning and organization of site visits and licensing reviews. He is also responsible for supervising staff, human resources, and enhancing a client experience through quality assurance, etc. Zack also oversees Adoption STAR’s satellite offices and programs. 

Zack first joined the agency in 2009, but even before that he was a volunteer speaker.  Zack has held various positions over the years working in intake, compliance, as well as client relations. 

As an adoptee, Zack feels a special connection to adoption and all the processes involved. He is very open to sharing his personal story. Zack participates as a facilitator in pre-parenthood classes and adoption orientation sessions. Additionally, Zack is the facilitator of ACE (Adoptee Circle of Experience support group) providing support, resources and search information for adult adoptees. He is a talented and frequent speaker at nationwide conferences and workshops and a tireless advocate for adoption education and permanency planning to be in the best interest of children.

Outside of adoption, Zack loves watching Netflix, eating, traveling, music, cleaning, and spending time with loved ones.

GET THE RIGHT ADVICE
CONTACT ONE OF OUR CARING STAFF

TOLL FREE: 1-866-691-3300