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

Office and Accounting Manager

Alison Parker

Office and 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.

April Fong, MSW, LSW

Adoption Assessor

April Fong, MSW, LSW

Adoption Assessor

April works directly with adoptive parents and birth parents. She conducts home studies, post placement, post adoption support and counseling.

 

April received her Bachelor’s degree in sociology and psychology from Case Western Reserve University prior to attending Washington University in St. Louis, where she earned her Master of Social Work. April was the Adoption STAR Ohio Program Director and now works on an as needed basis. Before joining Adoption STAR, April spent over six years working in the intake department through Butler County Children Services, where she assessed for child safety.

 

April resides in Cincinnati with her husband and children and enjoys spending time at local parks and attractions that the city has to offer.

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.”

Cara Cohen-Haynes, LMSW

Adoption Social Worker

Cara Cohen-Haynes, LMSW

Adoption Social Worker

Cara is an Adoption Social Worker with Adoption STAR, providing home study and post placement services for adoptive parents. Cara is a Long Island native who received her Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University at Buffalo. After working as a primary therapist for children and families in Buffalo, Cara moved to Rochester to be closer to her sister and family. While in Rochester, Cara has worked for the Society for the Protection and Care of Children working with pregnant teens, as well as in the Supervised Visitation Center monitoring visits for families within the court system.

 

Currently Cara is a full-time, licensed social worker with the Rochester Regional Health System located in two OB/GYN offices where she provides a wide array of services to patients and their families. Cara is a certified facilitator for the Centering pregnancy program as well. Cara enjoys spending all her free time outside with her twin boys Hudson and Trevor and her husband Matthew.

Carly Story

Adoption Social Worker and Family Advocate

Carly Story

Carly Story

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.

Chinequia Williams, LMSW

Adoption Social Worker

Chinequia Williams, LMSW

Adoption Social Worker

Chinequia works per diem with adoptive parents writing home studies and conducting post placement visits. Chinequia received her Bachelor’s in Social Work from Daemen College and her Master’s in Social Work from the University at Albany. She has experience in Child Welfare, specifically Preventive and residential services. As an innovative and progressive professional, Chinequia enjoys helping others through life challenges. Her personal nature is nonjudgmental and “down to earth” as in her work ethic.

 

Working with Adoption STAR is a dream come true for Chinequia. She was a previous intern and worked with prospective adoptive. She strongly believes that adoption exemplifies hope, strength and courage and that we are able to experience what it feels like to live in an unselfish world.
When Chinequia is not working, you will find her traveling or spending time with family and friends.

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 Miller, MS

A-OK Adoption Supervisor & Family Advocate

Christine Miller, MS

A-OK Adoption Supervisor & Family Advocate

Christine is the Adoption Supervisor & Family Advocate in Adoption STAR’s A-OK Program. Christine earned her master’s degree in Psychology from Medaille College and her undergraduate degree in Biology with a minor in Psychology from Buffalo State College. Christine entered into the foster care and adoption field after graduating college. The decision to enter the foster care and adoption field was an easy one for Christine, as both her parents and grandparents were foster care providers for many years.

 

Christine has held various roles in the foster care field but most of her efforts have been focused on special needs adoption, primarily finding homes for children with emotional and behavioral challenges. Christine is excited to not only help older children that have been waiting in the foster care system find their “happily ever after”, but to also help a family grow through adoption.

 

Outside of work, Christine enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters, cooking, and completing home renovation projects.

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.

Claire Cappellino, BA

Receptionist and Compliance Clerk

Claire Cappellino, BA

Receptionist and Compliance Clerk

Working as Adoption STAR’s Receptionist and Compliance Clerk, Claire is the friendly face and voice clients see and speak to when connecting to Adoption STAR. Her main duties include managing the front desk, greeting clients, and providing compliance support to clients of the agency.

 

She graduated from the University at Buffalo with a degree in Anthropology specializing in cultural anthropology. The majority of her work was centered around Native American studies. Being part Native herself, she is very passionate about aiding all minorities and giving back to the community.

Currently Claire is studying for her GRE’s so that she can attend graduate school. She plans on continuing to work with nonprofit organizations by pursuing her master’s in public administration or urban development.

 

In her free time Claire enjoys painting, singing, reading, and jamming on the ukulele. She works part time at the Buffalo Museum of Science as a Lead Ambassador. Claire also volunteers at the SPCA on the weekends.

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.

Emily Ward, MSW

Adoption Social Worker and Family Advocate

Emily Ward, MSW

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 Social Worker

Kathy Crissey, MS, LMHC

Adoption Social Worker

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 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.

Kim Bundy

Compliance Associate

Kim Bundy

Compliance Associate

Serving as the Compliance Associate in the main office, Kim focuses on reviewing and assessing client paperwork for state and agency-specific policy compliance. In addition to her focus on compliance, Kim assists with home study and post-placement processing.

 

Kim received her undergraduate degree in Anthropology from Buffalo State College and is now pursuing an MLIS degree through Simmons University, applying her skills in archival practice and attention to detail to agency records and organization.

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.

Ladi Agahiu, LMSW

Adoption Social Worker

Ladi Agahiu, LMSW

Adoption Social Worker

Ladi Agahiu is a New York-based therapist and Licensed Master Social Worker. She graduated from Columbia University School of Social Work and has worked with families in crisis since 2002 in a variety of settings throughout New York City. She also has extensive experience with NYC Children’s Services.

 

Ladi has worked with children and families for many years, in multiple supportive capacities, and most recently in this therapeutic setting. Many times she has worked with individuals working through depression, through trauma from domestic violence, sex abuse, past or current child abuse, and mental health ailments. She strives to create a supportive safe space for children, adults, couples, and families to come and work through their issues.

Ladi also enjoys working with families from various cultural backgrounds, as she was born in Nigeria, and cultural identity is an important part of her life experiences. She looks forward to meeting and working with you.

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.

Lisa Heinzmann, LMSW

Adoption Social Worker

Lisa Heinzmann, LMSW

Adoption Social Worker

Lisa is an Adoption Social Worker, providing home study and post placement services to adoptive parents at Adoption STAR. Lisa received her Bachelor’s Degree from the State University of New York College at Buffalo, and her Master’s degree from the State University at Buffalo.
Lisa has worked at Women &Children’s Hospital of Buffalo for over 20 years in various capacities, which include the women’s clinic, maternity units, hematology/oncology division, emergency room, and pediatric surgical unit.

 

Lisa is skilled in Solution-Focused Therapy. She believes every child deserves hope and a safe place to call “home,” which can be discovered through the adoption process.

 

Born in Western New York, Lisa resides in Williamsville with her husband, David, and their two children. She enjoys spending time with friends and family.

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.

Marie Dolfi, LCSW

Adoption Social Worker

Marie Dolfi, LCSW

Adoption Social Worker

Marie works with adoptive parents writing home studies and conducting post placement visits. She has a private practice specializing in pre-and-post adoption issues for members of the adoption constellation in Albany, NY. She is on the board of the Adoptive Families of the Capital Region, Inc. and the Advisory Board of the Post Adoption Resource Center at Parsons Child & Family Center. Marie enjoys working with Adoption STAR clients because it gives her an opportunity to educate parents on the unique issues adoptive families’ experience. Marie feels fortunate to work with Adoption STAR clients in helping them build the forever families they have been dreaming of.

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.”

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.

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.

Michael Hill, MS

Associate Director

Michael Hill, MS

Associate Director

Michael Hill is the Associate Director. He has been with Adoption STAR since 2009 when he joined the agency as the Project Lead for the federally funded Infant Adoption Awareness Training Project (IAATP).

 

Michael holds a Master of Science degree in Human Services Administration from Buffalo State College and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Work from Luther College. In 1998, Michael started his professional career as a case manager at AIDS Community Services of Western New York, Inc. in 1999, Michael joined the Olmsted Center for Sight and held several positions with the organization, including Case Manager, Program Coordinator, Clinical Supervisor and Communications Specialist/Student Services Adviser. In 2005, Michael became the director of Development and Public Relations for St. Mary’s School for the Deaf, and in 2007 he joined Upstate New York Transplant Services as their Director of Education.

As Associate Director for Adoption STAR, Michael plans, organizes and directs the day-to-day operations of various departments at the agency. In addition, he assists the CEO in the implementation of strategies and systems that ensure that agency operations meet the highest standards of quality. Michael also establishes and maintains relationships with other agencies and organizations in the community.

 

His role as Associate Director enhances his original role as IAATP Project Lead by conducting and overseeing marketing and outreach related activities in an effort to arrange in-services and new partnerships within the community.

Michael is a strong and passionate speaker, and an enthusiastic advocate of permanency planning. As an adoptive father he treasures the fact that he can be a part of the adoption process. Michael’s work is important to him and he is passionate about increasing the agency’s educational outreach within the community. “Pregnancy counseling and adoption education is so important today,” Michael said. “I am looking forward to introducing our curriculum and information to groups, organizations, medical facilities and schools.”

In addition, Michael is the treasurer of the Coalition of Adoption and Foster Family Agencies (CAFFA), a group of 20+ child welfare organizations in the eight counties that make up Western New York.  He’s also a member of the Strategic Leadership Team at Smallwood Drive Elementary School’s PTA.

 

Michael resides in Snyder, New York with his husband Scott and their sons Elijah and Seth. Michael’s favorite pastimes include singing, tennis, gardening and taking his boys for bike rides at local parks or around their neighborhood.

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 & CEO

Michele Fried, BS

Founder & CEO

Michele Fried is the founder and CEO of Adoption STAR. Her foremost responsibilities are the implementation of strategic plans and agency growth/expansion, financial management, board partnerships and supervision of the staff. Michele has her hands full with these responsibilities as well as initiating marketing and public relation campaigns and executing and implementing policies developed by the Board of Directors.

 

Before starting Adoption STAR, Michele worked as an educator in Pennsylvania and then after she and her husband adopted their first child, she entered the field of adoption. In 1989 she founded an adoption agency licensed in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Michele’s own family began to grow and they chose to return home to Western New York. Michele began working locally as an Inclusion Coordinator for individuals with developmental disabilities.

 

As the years went by, Michele was inspired by the great need for a passionate, advocacy based, non-profit child-welfare agency in this area and so Adoption STAR was born in March of 2000! Michele is very proud of the work Adoption STAR has done and continues to do, and states she is touched by the incredible birth mothers that work with the agency.

 

The community-at-large has also noticed Michele and her agency. In 2003, Michele received a Business First 40 Under Forty Award and in 2004 WKBW-TV honored Michele by selecting her to be one of the community’s Everyday Heroes. The YWCA also honored Michele in 2005 by selecting her as one of twenty-six women making a difference in Western New York. In 2009, Michele was the recipient of a Business First Women of Influence Entrepreneur Award. On May 1, 2010 during the Dazzling Decade ~ A Night of Stars 10th Birthday Gala, Michele’s own agency presented her with the First Michele Fried Founder’s Award. In the future, this award will be ongoing and be given to an individual whose contributions, expertise, and dedication to adoption mirror Michele’s.

 

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 and her husband Chuck enjoy spending time with their children. In addition to their amazing kids, they are busy with Olive (a Chihuahua) and Abbey (a Maltese mix) who sometimes accompany Michele to work. Michele enjoys traveling, writing, reading, long walks, and movies — especially true stories and those with happy endings.

Mike Schopp

Board Director

Mike Schopp

Board Director

Mike Schopp is married with two children adopted through Adoption STAR. Mike grew up on Grand Island, N.Y., between Buffalo and Niagara Falls, and went to college at St. John Fisher in the Rochester area. He moved back to the Buffalo area from Rochester in 2000 and has been working as a sports radio talk-show host for Entercom since 2002.

Miriam Rosenberg-Sica

Adoption Social Worker

Miriam Rosenberg-Sica

Adoption Social Worker

Miriam Rosenberg-Sica is an Adoption STAR Social Worker in the Long Island, NY area. Miriam has spent her career in Family Foster Care. Miriam earned her Master’s Degree in Social worker from Fordham University, and subsequently received her LMSW from New York State. Additionally, for the past 20 years, Miriam has completed independent adoption home studies for attorneys, agencies, and the courts.

 

In her work in foster care, Miriam has marveled at the resiliency of the children, and the dedication of their foster parents. The support, devotion, and perseverance of staff and administrators kept Miriam going to work every day.

Moira Madden, MS

Birth Family Advocate

Moira Madden, MS

Birth Family Advocate

Moira Madden is thrilled to be on the Adoption STAR team as a Birth Family Advocate. She has a Master’s of Public Health focused in Community Health Education and is a Certified Health Education Specialist. Her focus is in perinatal, reproductive, and sexual health, as well as health literacy and education, and developing games to facilitate learning. Mo comes from a background of working with teenagers in birth control and pregnancy options counseling, accessing care, designing games, and running group or class. The space she comes from means she wants adoption resources, reproductive & sexual health resources, and fully inclusive and factual information about options and health during pregnancy to be more accessible for absolutely everyone. She lives with her super smart and silly partner, Scott, and their goofy dog, Rilo, and does hand embroidery on the side. Mo really loves Christmas, hiking, the Gilmore Girls, strategy board games and ambitious vegetarian home cooking and baking. If she were a Muppet she would be Ernie.

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

Administrative Support

Quinn Moyer

Administrative Support

Quinn is a student at Williamsville North High School. She is working in the main office a couple times a week. Quinn spends most of her time scanning documents into the agency’s software assessment management system. In addition to being a Scan Clerk, Quinn assists the administrative team as needed. In her free time, Quinn enjoys cheerleading.

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.

Sarah Rochlicka, LMSW

Adoption Social Worker

Sarah Rochlicka, 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.  Additionally, Sarah provides clinical support at a Skilled Nursing Facility in Geneva, NY.  Sarah enjoys spending time with her family and being a mom.

Shafaq Zahra

Compliance Support

Shafaq Zahra

Compliance Support

Shafaq is Compliance Support at Adoption STAR. Shafaq currently goes to Canisius College as a double major in Accounting and Accounting Information Systems with a minor of finance. She has an experience working with Ties in which she helped kids with special needs to perform in physical activities like another normal child.

Shafaq started working with adoption star as an intern but at the end of her internship she was offered a job, which she happily and excitedly accepted. And now she works as an Administrative Assistant of Adoption Star. She helps with management and financial department of adoption star. Her responsibilities include to open and close adoptive parents file, scan and upload certified documents into the family’s website, make outreach folders, update any family registrations and profiles, and she also does the monthly credit reconciliation for Adoption Star.

Shafaq truly believes that everyone is created equally therefore everyone deserves an equal chance to live a beautiful life. And with time and effort everyone can accomplish whatever they want from life. With a free time in hand she likes to make 3D sculptures and paintings and she also enjoys to participate in sports like badminton, tennis and basketball.

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, who was born in 2015, with the help of Adoption STAR. 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 son Jackson, and is so proud to come home every day and tell him 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.

Stephanie Meeker, MS

Adoption Counselor

Stephanie Meeker, MS

Adoption Counselor

Stephanie has a Masters in Psychology and a Bachelors in Education. In addition to her work with Adoption STAR, she works for Farnham Family Services as a Student Assistance Counselor in the Prevention Program.

 

Stephanie is skilled in the areas of crisis intervention and providing one-on-one counseling and education. Stephanie’s additional experience includes classroom presentation, facilitating group sessions and family skills programming.

Born and raised in Oswego County, Stephanie enjoys giving back to her community. In her free time she loves to read, listen to music, write and do research on various topics close to her heart. Spending time with family is most important; including playing fetch with her two dogs on her farm, dinner with extended family, or just cuddling on the couch with her cats.

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.

Sue Shaw, BS

Senior Adoption Coordinator and Birth Family Advocate

Sue Shaw, BS

Senior Adoption Coordinator and Birth Family Advocate

Sue Shaw has worked with birth families since she joined Adoption STAR in 2006. Sue states, “I have discovered a passion for the field of adoption and believe that it is my calling in life.” Sue works directly with expectant parents providing them counseling, referrals and support throughout their pregnancies. Expectant parents who select adoption will work with Sue to make an adoption plan that includes selecting an adoptive family.

 

In 2015, Adoption STAR honored Sue with the Michele Fried Founders Award as her above and beyond passion and commitment to the field is similar to that of the agency’s founder.

 

Over the years, Sue has served on several CAFFA (Coalition of Adoption and Foster Family Agencies) committees on behalf of Adoption STAR.

Sue and her husband live in Cheektowaga, NY with their 2 dogs and 1 cat. Sue is an animal lover, enjoys motorcycle riding, skiing and spending time with family and friends.

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!”

Susan Roman, MSW

Adoption Social Worker

Susan Roman, MSW

Adoption Social Worker

Susan is a licensed social worker with a Master’s degree from Fordham University in New York. She has worked in the adoption field for many years conducting home studies and post-placement visits, as well as in foster care and prevention.

 

Before working in adoption she was Clinical Director of Midtown Community Court in New York City. She lives in Manhattan with her husband, two children and their dog named, Cricket.

Sylvia Appolon, MBA/HRD, CWCM

Adoption Caseworker

Sylvia Appolon, MBA/HRD, CWCM

Adoption Caseworker

Sylvia works with adoptive parents writing home studies and conducting post placement visits. 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.

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!

Valentina Bibko

Client and Compliance Support

Valentina Bibko

Client and Compliance Support

Val works at Adoption STAR in the Compliance Department and also provides support to the Adoptive Parent Team. Val previously served as an AmeriCorps member in the Buffalo area and attended SUNY Brockport as an exercise science major. She is currently working on her bachelor’s degree in social work at Buffalo State College. She also serves as a volunteer in the Hospital Advocate Program at Crisis Services.

 

Being an adoptee herself, Val is extremely passionate about all of the amazing things Adoption STAR does. Outside of work, Val enjoys being outdoors, traveling, trying new foods and binge-watching The Office.

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.

Zack Fried

Compliance Director

Zack Fried

Compliance Director

As a member of the executive team, Zack is responsible for accomplishing compliance objectives, establishing compliance standards, taking the lead on the planning and organization of site visits and licensing reviews, directing staff, human resources, enhancing a client experience through quality assurance, etc.

 

Zack loves to provide guidance and support to all those interested in learning more about adoption and Adoption STAR. 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.

 

Outside of adoption, Zack loves watching movies, getting caught up in a David Baldacci novel, eating, traveling, and spending time with loved ones.

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