These are the fine people responsible for selecting our Adoption STAR LGBT Scholarship award recipients.
As you may recall, I Do Love Buffalo, Western New York’s first and only event and wedding expo that’s specific to the LGBT community, chose Adoption STAR as the designee of funds raised at their May 2015 event. The co-founders of I Do Love Buffalo, Heather Bellini and Soda Kuczkowski, asked that the funds be used to offset adoption-related expenses for LGBT adoptive parent clients of the agency that are home study approved and awaiting placement of a child.
On Friday, July 15th, Adoption STAR will be announcing the two winning families (one family will receive $3,000, the other family will receive $1,000). We wanted to share information on the committee members that reviewed scholarship applications in an effort to determine who will receive the awards.
Hon. Alec Haniford Deull is a Buffalo native who is very happy to be living on the Niagara Frontier again after an absence of over twenty years. Alec brings to Adoption STAR the lessons of his more than 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. Much of the casework in both of these roles involved representing all members of the adoption triad – children of varying ages, birth parents, and adoptive parents. Alec currently serves as a Special Assistant to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
Christian Eshelman is a Technical Sergeant in the New York Air National Guard where he has served for eight years and participated in multiple overseas operations, as well as stateside humanitarian missions. He serves as openly gay, representing the LGBTQ community with a distinguished and decorated record.
Christian was transracially adopted in the 1970s at three years old. His older and younger brothers are biological to his parents. Being black in a white family did offer him his share of struggles, but was given solid values and support from his adoptive family. In 2005, he supported an Adoption STAR birth mother in making an adoption plan for her unborn baby. This led to Christian’s support of the agency, sharing his experience with prospective adoptive parents and other adoptees. In 2006, he was happy to be reunited with his birth mother’s family. He is a Western New York resident, Commander of his local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post, and an active voice for veteran’s rights and benefits.
Candice and Louisa Fletcher-Pacheco are former Adoption STAR clients that adopted their wonderful son Oliver with the help of the agency. Candice is the Development Director at Compass House, an organization committed to providing runaway, homeless and street youth with safe shelter and services. Louis is the Western New York Political Organizer for New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) and the Chairwoman for the Working Families Party. Candice and Louisa have been married for 19 years and, as Louisa says, “we are very committed to telling our story publicly. We are committed to working with youth, and volunteer for Gay and Lesbian Youth Services (GLYS). We go to high schools and present our stories. In the 90s, when I came out, there were very few icons. I’m committed to being a strong role model for our youth, despite all of the negative messages that come to them. They are not outside of anything. They are here, and they are perfect.” The family resides in North Buffalo.