My name is Chris Zollner. Currently I work as a teacher, but I have a background as a professional writer. I am a narration writer and screenwriter who worked with Kritzer Productions, the Department of Defense, the USAF Audiovisual Department and Bosustow Media Group. 

I am currently helping write a documentary of the UPA film studio (the creators of Mr. Magoo, Gerald McBoing-Boing).

My story, “The Kindred,” was published in a recent edition of Aoife’s Kiss.

Rhonda Sciortino, Author of Succeed Because of What You've Been Through, is the National Child Welfare Specialist for Markel Insurance Company.  Rhonda is a foster alum who chairs the Successful Survivors Foundation and serves as a spokesperson for Foster Care Alumni of America. Her weekly radio show can be heard at

Richard Villasana, a proud Navy veteran, is a leading international authority on reuniting children in U.S. foster care with their relatives. Villasana is an author and international speaker who has been featured by the San Diego Business Journal, the Union-Tribune Radio Network show, San Diego Finest Business Radio, and EFE, the world’s largest Spanish language media company. He is the founder of Forever Homes for Foster Kids. For more than 20 years, the organization has been building stronger families and communities by locating relatives of foster children so they can move out of foster care into forever homes.

Forever Homes for Foster Kids has handled foster care cases for several agencies and nonprofits including Casey Family Programs, Seneca Center and CASA of Travis County in Texas.

Villasana’s insights on locating families have been taught to social workers around the country. He specializes in cross-cultural and “family finding” training for universities, social service agencies and nonprofits. To have Villasana speak to your company, school or association, email him at

Visit to become part of the growing number of supporters of foster children because every child deserves a forever home and a happier, healthier life. Villasana can be found on Facebook and Twitter at @FamilyFindingMX.

Sandie Morgan, R.N., Ph.D.(c) is the director of Vanguard University’s Global Center for Women and Justice. She and her husband, Jean, have served as missionaries in Greece, where they first observed children trafficked openly. Sandie and Jean founded, an organization founded to end modern day slavery.


Foster Care Alumni of America is a non-profit association that has been founded and is led by alumni of the foster care system. We use the term alumni to describe those of us who have been in foster care during our childhood/youth.

The mission of FCAA is to connect the alumni community and to transform foster care policy and practice, ensuring opportunity for people in and from foster care.

Addison Cooper, MSW, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker and therapist with focuses in foster care and adoptions. He writes adoption- and foster-care themed movie reviews and discussion  guides at Adoption at the Movies ( Follow him on Twitter @AddisonCooper and on Facebook at

Alexandria Ware is a graduate student at Oklahoma State University-Tulsa pursuing a Master’s Degree in Human Development and Family Science.

Alexandria co-founded Fostering Success, a program that seeks to provide college students in or exiting from the foster care system with resources and skills by providing connections to mentors.

Alexandria’s goal is to advocate for those in foster care with the hope of establishing a center where foster youth will have access to tutoring, mentoring and assistance for future college admissions.

Alice Magnusson is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and has been estranged from her family for her adult life. She credits her survival to her dog and her education. Ms. Magnusson has a B.A. in psychology from University of California, Davis and a Master's in Counseling Psychology, which she completed at the young age of twenty-four. She went on to gain her License as a Marriage and Family Therapist in 2010. She has since worked as an advocate, therapist, and mentor for primarily foster youth from the LGBTQ community in both non-profit and private settings. In 2013, she completed her Pupil Personnel Service Credential in order to work as a therapist in schools for youth struggling to access education due to mental health disorders. As a survivor herself, she offers a unique perspective to thriving in chaos. She can be contacted by email at Alice also writes a blog that can be found at

Amanda Babine has worked in the nonprofit field in both a direct practice and research capacity. She is currently the Director of Evaluate for Change, a program evaluation company. She has also spent the last few years evaluating large citywide programs with partnerships at Columbia University and the City University of New York (CUNY).

Before transitioning into a more quantitative role, she worked at the Center for the Study of Social Policy developing a youth well-being framework while conducting Participatory Action Research (PAR) with marginalized communities throughout New York City. Amanda holds a Master's Degree in Public Policy and Social Work from Columbia University.

Born in Colorado, Angela married a handsome Texan and spend ten years living down in the South before recently moving back to her home state. She and her husband Kyle spent seven years fostering children in the state of Texas and have adopted four - three girls and a boy. She has served as a youth director and as a middle school teacher, and is currently enjoying a season of life as a full-time mama. Angela loves reading, writing, music, running, and spending time with family and friends. She is borderline addicted to puttering around on, and is also a enthusiastic anglophile. Her blog can be found at

Annie Gardiner is a volunteer with Foster Youth Museum

With that middle name, my Mom must have known I was going to break into the fashion world someday, right? My personal style can be described as feminine and engaging. I am always looking for the newest fashion finds that can complement more than one look.

Ashley Rhodes-Courter, MSW, is an internationally recognized child welfare expert, speaker, adoptive parent, and former foster child, foster parent, and volunteer Guardian ad Litem (CASA). She is the author of the New York Times Bestselling memoir, “Three Little Words” and “Three More Words.” Find her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (@RhodesCourter) or learn more at Ashley is currently opening a Therapeutic Family Center in conjunction with her nonprofit, The Foundation for Sustainable Families ( They are in need of volunteers, donations, and fiscal supporters. The Foundation was also gifted a piece of land that will grow more than 300,000 pounds of fresh, organic food to donate to the families they serve.

Bill Lindsey spent his childhood in foster care, and understands the importance of education and character development for foster youth. Bill spent 26-years in the Army with tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Bill retired as a Sergeant Major in 2014, and currently teaches and coaches at the high school level. Bill served as a volunteer educational liaison for the Department of Children and Family Services and continually looks for ways to improve educational outcomes for foster youth.

Bill holds a M.Ed. in Organizational Leadership from Northcentral University, and is currently pursuing a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from Drury University.

Bill contributes his passion for lifelong learning to the educators throughout his life, and all of the foster youth he teaches each day. We learn together, from each other, and overcome obstacles together.

Brian Morgantini is a young advocate for the child welfare system. He works with FosterClub improving transitional outcomes for youth in the foster care system, sits as a member of the National Foster Youth & Alumni Policy Council, attended 2015 DC Shadow Day and spoke at various colleges and conferences on his child welfare experience. He continues to step into opportunities to be a voice for foster youth in our nation. On his down time, he is writing a book and likes hiking, traveling and cooking. 

As a native of New York City, Capri Cruz was born into a poverty stricken family of substance abusers.

At age 7 Capri entered foster care. Over the next 6 years she was placed in 9 different foster homes.

By age 13 she experienced every type of abuse imaginable and an attempt by someone in the home to suffocate her to death in the middle of the night. By 15 she attempted suicide, by 16 homeless, by 17 back in foster care. Now a remarkably fascinating woman, she explains how to achieve EVERYTHING FABULOUS; Mind, Body, Soul and Experiences.  

Caroline Bailey, MS, has worked for the past sixteen years in child welfare and has worn many hats – case manager, adoption specialist, licensing specialist and supervisor. Caroline and her husband were foster parents in the state of Missouri for four years and are the adoptive parents of three lively, and a bit ornery, children. Caroline currently works for a private child welfare agency in Missouri. She has been a guest speaker at churches and conferences regarding infertility, foster parenting and adoption. She is also a Staff Storyteller for the websites,, and In 2015, she contributed for the devotional, Adopted for Daily Life: A Devotional for Adopting Moms. Her writing has been featured by CASA, the Ronald McDonald House; Inspire a Fire Website, America's Heart Gallery Website, CNN iReport, The Forgotten Initiative and she was recently quoted on a card developed for a foster parent advocacy group in Canada.

She writes about her experience with infertility, parenting, faith, child welfare and adoption on her blog, She can be contacted at

Chanel Andrews has enjoyed playing the piano and singing from the tender age of 6 and had private piano lessons at Carnegie Hall annex. Her love of dance and music then placed her in Alvin Ailey for 8 years of training. Born and raised in Brooklyn, the city helped shape her artistry.

Currently she is a participant and Production Team member in the Possibility Project's foster care program.  She also loves to sing reinterpretations of music that spans from the 40’s through today and occasionally writes a tune on her own.

Professional Credentials

Supreme Court Lawyer Charles Greevy of Williamsport, PA
Charles "Skip" Greevy III, has been a practicing lawyer in Williamsport, Pennsylvania since 1969, with a private office in Lycoming County. Since 1976, he has been Solicitor for the Lycoming County Children and Youth Agency, the Lycoming-Clinton County MHMR County Planning Commission since 1983.

Professionally, he has been admitted to the PENNSYLVANIA SUPREME COURT, SUPERIOR and COMMONWEALTH COURTS, and is licensed to practice law in all counties of Pennsylvania.  He is admitted to, and has argued cases before the FEDERAL MIDDLE DISTRICT COURT of Pennsylvania, the THIRD CIRCUIT COURT of FEDERAL APPEALS, and the UNITED SUPREME COURT in WASHINGTON D.C.. 

Charles Greevy successfully argued a landmark adoption case before the UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT in 1982, which restricted the jurisdiction of the federal criminal habeas corpus statute.  He has served as a faculty member for the Pennsylvania Bar Institute.

A word from Mr. Greevy.

To Whom It May Concern:

I would like take this opportunity to lend my endorsement and enthusiasm to Christopher Chmielewski, and his new business venture the first and only monthly foster care industry magazine Foster Focus

It is new innovative ideas like this one that allow veterans of this industry, like myself, to expand and improve upon what we have gained through our years of experience and keeps us modern.  Information in this industry is at an absolute minimum, and the professionals of this industry our yearning for this utterly vital information to be presented to them in a timely efficient matter, it is my opinion that Foster Focus would begin to improve this issue.  In talks I have had with Chris Chmielewski I have learned that he has a plan to completely modernize the foster care industry, through Foster Focus, as well as, six business to business trade publications.  In addition, seminars, both person to person and web seminars featuring the titans of the industry.  Ultimately leading to a facility that would house and teach last year foster children the tools, degrees and life skills that they will need after care. 

It is with all of my history in the industry that I can say that Foster Focus could become almost an industry necessity within one year’s time.  I believe in this project so much that I have offered to write a monthly column called Lawmakers Featuring Charles Greevy for it.

In closing, I urge you to support this young man and his vision of the first monthly foster care industry magazine Foster Focus.

Charles Greevy Esq.

Chuck Prinzen is the founder of Me Inc. Now . He has been a Life Coach mentoring young adults or students since 1973. Chuck graduated from Long Beach Poly High School in 1974 with a Diploma. He attended Long Beach City College on a Scholarship from the Los Angeles Times and studied Early Childhood Education. His passion for coaching sports and working with High School students is his highest achievement. He has coached football players from Pop Warner to High School. His time and dedication he has given to them has allowed some to live their dream. Some of his players have gone on to play at Division 1 Colleges and even the NFL. His current program Me Inc. Now stands for Me Expressing I Need Change Now. His Goal is to Motivate and Inspire Change. It is never too late for change. Chuck lives in Fairfield California.

Chris Downs is a Developmental Psychologist with many years experience working to promote adolescent and young adult well-being, independent living, permanency, and social competence.  He is considered an expert on improving both services and outcomes for youth living in out-of-home care, including foster youth. Chris’ company, The Downs Group LLC, is a national child welfare consulting firm with agency clients across the US. He serves on the National Board of the Foster Care Alumni of America, is married, and lives in Seattle.

Danielle Gletow has been a passionate advocate for children’s rights for nearly two decades. Danielle is the Founder & Executive Director of One Simple Wish, an organization that seeks to empower everyone to make a direct and meaningful difference in the lives of foster children and at-risk youth one simple wish at a time.

Danielle has appeared on CNN, NBC Nightly News, The Katie Couric Show and The Nate Berkus Show and in The Star Ledger, The Christian Science Monitor, The Washington Post and Woman’s World, among others. In October 2013, Danielle was chosen as a Top 10 CNN Hero among tens of thousands of nominees worldwide. In December 2014, Danielle was honored as a PANDORA Hearts of Today finalist receiving a $25,000 donation for One Simple Wish.

Danielle currently resides in Ewing, NJ with her husband, Joe, their two daughters, Mia and Lily, and their beloved dogs Duncan and Alice.

Dawn J. Post is the Co-Borough Director of the Brooklyn, New York office of the Children's Law Center (CLC), a non-profit law firm providing representation to over 10,000 children per year in the busiest Family Court system in the United States in guardianship, custody, visitation, orders of protection and related child protective cases.  Prior to her current position, she was an Assistant Attorney-in-Charge of the Legal Aid Society's Juvenile Right's Practice in the Brooklyn office, providing representation to children in child protective and delinquency cases. Dawn is an expert in children’s rights, advocacy and litigation, and the central theme of her work is that children and adolescents are entitled to have a voice and representation in legal proceedings that have a significant impact on their lives.  

To that end, she promotes cultural competence to address the underlying issues of poverty and social exclusion based upon race and socio-economic status in the legal and foster care systems in the United States.  Dawn provides various trainings on family law matters in New York City focusing on trial skills, the role of the attorney for the child, custody and visitation, and child protection.  Nationally, she has led panels and discussions about providing voice to children in high conflict custody and visitation cases and addressing broken adoptions.  Internationally, she has lectured on the role and responsibilities of the attorney for the child.

Dawn works to find new and innovative ways to improve the lives of the children in the legal system and is effective at reflecting upon and examining the issues and policies which impact children and families from various angles and from a global perspective.  

She recently oversaw a case study examining broken adoptions in custody and visitation cases and these results have been included in an article co-authored for the Capital University Law Review entitled The Revolving Doors of Family Court: Confronting Broken Adoptions.  Dawn sits on various committees including the NYC Family Court Advisory Council for Child Protection as well as TPRs and Adoptions.

Dawn Saffayeh is Executive Director of HeartShare St. Vincent’s Services, helping over 6,000 New York children, adults and families to overcome the challenges of family crises, addiction, mental illness and poverty.

Deb Stone has been a birth, foster, step, and adoptive parent to over thirty children, a Court Appointed Special Advocate for another two dozen abused and neglected kids in foster care, and a trainer for child advocates, social workers, and parents. Her writing has appeared in STIR Journal, The Oregonian, Portland Tribune, Portland Upside, and Clackamas Literary Review. She has essays in The Truth of Memoir: How to Write about Yourself and Others with Honesty, Emotion, and Integrity and Stepping Up: Stories of Blended Families. You can connect with Deb at or on Twitter @iwritedeb.

DeForest B. Soaries, Jr., is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens and the founder and CEO of Harvest of Hope Family Services Network, Inc. After 19 years of developing effective strategies and successful engagement within the foster care community in New Jersey, Harvest of Hope is transitioning into a national organization that functions as a resource to government and community organizations that provide services to youth in foster care.

International Keynote Motivational Speaker, Executive Life Coach and Author DeLores Pressley is dedicated to helping people take action to launch bold, confident and courageous lives. She is the CEO of DeLores Pressley Worldwide and Founder of the Global Up Woman™ Network—a movement to empower and elevate women in business. She may be reached online at Those interested in her Speaker Success Summits specifically may reach her at

Denise is the Director of National Programs for the Children’s Alliance of Kansas.  She has managed the Kansas foster parent training contract for nearly 13 years.  She is also the administrator of the MAPP program both within the US and internationally.

As a Master Trainer and consultant,  Denise is responsible for monitoring  the integrity of the program, maintaining updates and coaching trainers on implementing new techniques and strategies for developing quality foster/adoptive parents and child welfare staff.

Desiree Strange is originally from Dallas, Texas.  She was raised in Joshua, Texas after being adopted around the age of 8 by last set of foster parents. Desiree was in the foster care system for 5 years and lived in multiple homes during that time. Desiree has recently graduated from Tarleton State University with her Bachelor of Social Work degree and will begin graduate school in the Fall.  Desiree has always had a passion to advocate for youth in the system and those aging out of the system.  Her research has focused on college preparation for first generation college students and identifying various barriers encountered when pursuing a college education.

Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health is one of the nation’s largest non-profit organizations providing services, insight and leadership in the evolving field of behavioral healthcare. We serve many of the most vulnerable members of our society in the areas of autism, intellectual and developmental disabilities, specialty mental health and child welfare.

Our foster care programs operate with the belief that all individuals deserve a loving, supportive and nurturing family – and a positive home environment – to help them reach their unique potential. Foster care services for children from infancy to 21 years of age – offered in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts/Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas – include: Traditional Foster Care, Therapeutic Foster Care, Treatment Family Program, Adult Therapeutic Foster Care and Respite Care.

The senior vice president of clinical operations at Dallas-based Epic Health Services, Diane M. McCullom has more than 30 years of experience in the health care industry, with 17 of those years focused in the home health care field.

Ask Diane what inspires her work and she’ll likely share with you that it’s her autistic nephew and the volunteer work she’s done with autism organizations that keep her focused on providing the best possible care to the special needs community. Diane’s dedication to health and wellness extends beyond the office: You can often find her breaking a sweat at the gym or taking a jog on one of Dallas’ many scenic trails.

Dr. Manning is a licensed psychologist and earned his doctorate in clinical psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology.  Dr. Manning has provided training nationwide to a wide range of audiences on topics related to child welfare and mental health.  He has extensive experience working in multiple capacities within government, non-profit community and mental health agencies.  

Dr. Manning wrote a chapter in the recently published book: Darla Henry: The 3-5-7 Model: A Practice Approach to Permanency and co-wrote: Integrating Child Welfare and Mental Health Practices: Actualizing Youth Permanency Using the 3-5-7 Model – American Humane Association: Protecting Children Journal - June 2011.  He is a faculty member at the University of Redlands in the Graduate School of Education and Brandman University: Department of Psychology.  Dr. Manning has also served as an Adult Supporter for the California Youth Connection – Orange County, CA.

Dr. Jamie Schwandt (Ed.D.) is an author and former foster child. He is a TV show host, motivational speaker, lean six sigma master black belt, statistics professor, and a major in the U.S. Army. Dr. Schwandt is the author of the books Succeeding as a Foster Child a Workbook (2017), Finding Your Hero (2015), and Succeeding as a Foster Child (2014). He is the host of the inspiring TV show Dreaming Big and is a fitness expert with a unique mindset for positive growth. Find about more about him by visiting

Dr. John DeGarmo has been a foster parent for 11 years, now, and he and his wife have had over 40 children come through their home. He is a speaker and trainer on many topics about the foster care system, and travels around the nation delivering passionate, dynamic, energetic, and informative presentations. Dr. DeGarmo is the author of several books, including The Foster Parenting Manual: A Practical Guide to Creating a Loving, Safe and Stable Home, and the foster care children’s book A Different Home: A New Foster Child’s Story. Dr. DeGarmo is the host of the weekly radio program Foster Talk with Dr. John, heard each Monday at 8 PM Eastern. He also writes for a number of publications and newsletters, both here in the United States, and overseas. He can be contacted at, through his Facebook page, Dr. John DeGarmo, or at his website,

Author of "The Supportive Parent" and "Foster Parenting Step-By-Step", a renowned speaker and Clinical Director at Mid America Psychological and Counseling Services Dr. Kalyani Gopal answers questions from Foster Focus readers

Dr. Michael W. Corrigan, a former problem child who somehow became a psychologist, is a tenured Associate Professor at Marshall University and a Senior Lecturer in the Ohio State University’s College of Education and Human Ecology. His teaching expertise focuses on child development, educational psychology, research methods and advanced statistical analysis. He has served as the evaluator or primary investigator for more than $19.5 million in federally funded research studies awarded through the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education and Department of Juvenile Justice. His academic work has been published in dozens of peer-reviewed journals and publications, and he has presented at more than 60 conferences worldwide. His books on improving education and helping kids develop into more rounded citizens have been published by Sage, Corwin Press, and Rowman and Littlefield. Corrigan has taught within the Juvenile Detention System, and is one of the lead architects who designed the MDYA360 in partnership with Helix and Oracle. For more information please visit http://VitalChild.Solutions.

Dr. Sue Cornbluth received the award of Who’s Who Among Teachers and Educators in 2007 and 2009. Dr. Sue is an expert in foster care and child abuse. She is the National Foster Care/ Adoption
Expert on where she writes weekly articles on child abuse and parenting. She is also the author of the training manual "The Ambiguous Foster Child: Attachment, Separation, Loss and Loyalty." The manual is based on Dr. Sue's years of research and clinical work with foster children.  Dr. Sue believes that every child and foster child deserves to have a life filled with the happiness and success they deserve!

Dr. Sue is a trainer for foster parents and child welfare professionals at the Pennsylvania Council of Children, Youth and Family Services, which provides training to the Southeast Region of Pennsylvania.  Dr. Sue strives to make positive changes within the foster care system one child at a time. She has counseled numerous abused and neglected foster children and has trained youth professionals on how to work effectively with foster children. Dr. Sue is dedicated to giving child welfare professionals, teachers, parents, and foster parents the tools they need to empower themselves and their children.  She has appeared on numerous television and radio shows in the Philadelphia area and across the country. 

Echo Garrett is the co-founder/Board Chair of Orange Duffel Bag Initiative (ODBI), a nonprofit that does certified executive life plan coaching with homeless youth, high poverty youth and teens aging out of foster care. ODBI won the 2014 Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Award from Emory University and was featured in the Dec. 15, 2013, issue of "Parade." The coaching is based on her multi-award winning book My Orange Duffel Bag: A Journey to Radical Change, winner of 8 national awards and 2 international awards. She frequently speaks on how we can help our nation’s most vulnerable teens become self-sufficient. She has written or contributed to 12 other books, including Why Don’t They Just Get a Job?: One Couple’s Mission to End Poverty in Their Community, and has been published in more than 75 national outlets including Parade, Delta Sky, and Business Week. Echo has been interviewed on Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, NY-1 and served as editor-in-chief of Atlanta Woman magazine.

Eden Klinedinst is a Utah-based writer and an advocate for children in foster care. She has worked as a Guardian ad Litem and currently volunteers for Royal Family Kids, a summer camp which gives foster kids age 6-12 a week of positive memories and royal treatment in a Christian camp environment. Eden is working to help create a new camp in Northern Utah and Elevation Church is collecting funds.

Please go to and include Royal Family Kids in the comment section if you wish to contribute. 

Elizabeth Eowyn Steffel is a survivor of childhood abuse and foster care. Elizabeth emancipated from foster care in the spring of 2003.  She graduated from began working with Title I at risk youth through an AmeriCorps program and through University of Wisconsin Green Bay’s Phuture Phoenix program.  

Elizabeth graduated from the University of Wisconsin Green Bay in 2009, with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Human Development and a minor in Philosophy.  Today Elizabeth is studying for her Masters in Social Work at the University of Southern California.  When Elizabeth finishes her graduate program she hopes to work within the mental health field.  Elizabeth is interested in becoming a motivational speaker for youth in the foster system. She would also like to become an informational speaker for educators and professionals on issues pertaining to foster care.

Connect with Elizabeth on LinkedIn, or Facebook.

Eric David Benari, PMP, is the President of Techie Youth, a charity providing free technology-career training to foster youth. Eric is also the organizer of a data-technology community of over 15,000+ people in New York City. He holds an array of professional certifications in technology, engineering and project management and has formerly held chief-executive and senior roles at various innovative organizations, including Yahoo!

Ernesto Olivares entered the Texas Foster Care system at 12 years old with his three siblings, then lost his father months before high school graduation. Ernesto is a 2013 Outstanding Young Leader and 2014 All-Star with FosterClub. He currently works with FCAA and Youth in Action Boards within the State of Texas. Ernesto inspires to do two things in life: writing a book about his life including his experiences in foster care and to travel the country as an inspiration speaker… and a foster kid.

Evelyn Polk, LMFT is a Foster/Adoptive parent, former Social Worker, and California Licensed Marriage, Family & Child Therapist, who is the founder of For A Child's H.E.A.R.T., Inc. and Author of "It's Heart Work: Being The Village That Raises A Child" and "Meeting Les Brown: Ms. Mamie Brown's Baby Boy" 

Florence Edwards, also known as 'Coach Flo,' is a Certified Holistic Life Coach, author, ghostwriter and entrepreneur who is passionate about helping people transform their fears into success. A former foster youth who survived abuse, bullying, and abandonment, Florence is committed to helping at-risk youth and adults thrive and live their lives out loud. Florence obtained her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from California State University. To contact Coach Flo, visit, or send an e-mail to

Franklin Black, is a writer and software engineer who lives in Dunbarton, New Hampshire. He has published two short stories: “A Bike Trip on the C&O Canal,” in Fresh! Literary Magazine, and “The Bangled Watch,” in Ancient Paths. SOL printed “The Big Prize,” a personal essay. His screenplay, Sage Green, won Honorable Mention at the 2014 Bare Bones Film Festival and reached the semi-finals of the 2013 New Hampshire Film Festival. He wrote Petey Porcupine Rocks the Sox, a children’s book about a porcupine who dreams of going to Fenway Park.

Gary Shulman, MS. Ed. was the Program Director of Social Services, Training Coordinator and Special Camp Fair Coordinator for Resources for Children with Special Needs, Inc. for over 24 years. He transitioned from that position to the role of consultant/trainer on a private basis. Prior to RCSN, Mr. Shulman was the Special Needs Coordinator for the Brooklyn Children’s Museum for 10 years, a multi-sensory interactive learning environment.

Gisheera Jones is a 22 year old African American female. She is a student at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She plans to graduate with a social work degree in May 2017. She hopes to pursue a career working with hospice patients. To support herself she through school she is currently a cashier at an Arkansas own grocery store. She enjoys meditating, playing board games, writing, and going to the movies. After raising her son for six months she decided to place him for adoption to better both of their lives. 

Hank Marotske is Director of Development and Public Relations for PATH Inc, the largest private non-profit treatment foster care agency in North Dakota, Minnesota and Idaho. Marotske started his career as a licensed social worker with PATH, residential treatment counselor at St. Joseph’s Home for Children and WRAP coordinator for Family Improvement Network of Dakota County in Minnesota. He’s served on CWLA foster care advisory committee, PATH executive board, Safe-Passages board, and currently works with the Minnesota Department of Human Services on Youth At Risk of Homelessness (YAHR), and both the policy and editorial committees of the Foster Family-based Treatment Association (FFTA). Marotske spent the better part of more than 9 years in foster care and aged out at age 18. He’s specifically passionate about access and affordable college education and supports, and changing the negative perception foster care has that limits funding, quality foster parent recruitment and philanthropic community engagement.

Helen Levin is an artist who spent almost her entire childhood in a foster home,  and the equivalent number of years receiving help to undo the personal damage wrought by that experience.  She is not only a successful painter, with Museum exhibition credits, she was an educational innovator, a published art reviewer, and is the parent of a successful new media artist. She is hoping the memoir she is now writing, and of which A SPECIAL SUMMER  is a part,  will be helpful to the public. This includes parents, teachers, and especially, the young people who may be going through those trying experiences entirely due to family circumstances beyond their control.

Helen Ramaglia is a former foster child who became a foster/adoptive mother. She is the founder and executive director of Fostering Superstars, a nonprofit for foster children. Helen is a recipient of the 2012 Congressional Angel in Adoption award for her work with foster children and is the author of “From Foster to Fabulous- One little girl’s journey through abuse, foster care, aging out, and life beyond”. She is a popular speaker, trainer and advocate for foster children.

Htet Htet Rodgers is a young advocate for child welfare. She started her work as a Peer Support Representative, working with the Independent Living Providers of the Department of Child and Family Services in Louisiana. Htet Htet attended the D.C. Shadow Day and first ever White House Hack-a-thon in 2016. From there she began her advocacy in a national standard. Now, she sits on the National Foster Youth and Advisory Council and is a National Transitional Youth Database (NYTD) Reviewer for JBS International. She is a faithful member of the Pentecostals of Alexandria and assists with her youth group. In her free time, Htet Htet likes to snowboard, hike, go to the gym, and paint.

J.D. John is a survivor of the foster care system and spends time advocating for various causes. He is a proud member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma and an avid traveler. He is the proud owner of an international foster care advocacy organization based in Las Vegas, NV and has three wonderful dogs that keep him active.

Though Mr. John has not found a relationship quite like the one that he enjoyed many years ago, he remains optimistic that even now love will enter his life when the timing is right and least expected. He says this because he wants all of the LGBT youth and ally who think they are undeserving of real love and happiness, just be patient. We all deserve love and happiness in our lives.

He is also an alumnus of the Wounded Warrior Project; member of Foster Care Alumni of America, International Foster Care Organisation, Voices for Change, National Indian Child Welfare Association and various other local, national, and international organizations.

Jamie Lee Evans is the founder and co-director of Foster Youth Museum. She was raised in Los Angeles, where she experienced foster care in the 70's, and now lives in Oakland.

Janettee McCrary's writing journey began as a small child, writing poetry, essays, and short stories, not only for school assignments, but also to cope with her life as a foster child. She moved up in the ranks to Student Editor of her high school newspaper, and shortly after high school joined The Oklahoman's "Newsroom 101" program. She is the author of several poems, essays, short stories, blogs, and articles posted in various locations (online and off). She is a frequent guest on foster care blogs, and is currently writing her autobiography via her blog, Bruised Wings.

Dr. J.C. Owens, DDS is a dentist at Owens Dentistry in Shamokin PA.  He is a 1997 graduate of Mount Carmel Area Jr/Sr. High School (PA), 2001 graduate of Susquehanna University (Selinsgrove, PA), and a 2006 graduate New York University College of Dentistry. Dr. Owens established his practice in 2006, after a 2 month stay at the LBJ Tropical Medical Center in American Samoa. Owens Dentistry is a general dental office providing care for patients 6 months and older with services ranging from fillings and cleanings to dental implants, prosthetics, laser and cosmetic dentistry.

Dr. Owens is the proud daddy of 4 year old daughter Scotlyn, and in his spare time is a marathon runner, skier, gardener, beekeeper, and book lover. He is a member of the American and Pennsylvania Dental Association/s and served two terms as President of the Central Susquehanna Valley Dental Society. He is also member of St. Pauls Espicopal Church in Bloomsburg PA.

Jessica Tamez was in foster care from the age of 11-15 in Los Angeles County.

She is now adopted and lives in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Established in 1954, the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles manages charitable assets of more than $1 billion (as of 12/31/15) entrusted to it by over 1,200 families and ranks among the 10 largest Los Angeles foundations. The Foundation partners with donors to shape meaningful philanthropic strategies, magnify the impact of giving, and build enduring charitable legacies. In 2015, The Foundation and its donors distributed $96 million in grants to more than a thousand nonprofit organizations with programs that span the range of philanthropic giving.  Over the past 25 years, The Foundation has distributed more than $1 billion in grants to thousands of nonprofits across a diverse spectrum.

First Place for Youth (First Place) was the recipient of a $70,000 two-year General Community Grant from the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles (The Foundation) for its Steps to Success Education and Employment Program. The initiative connects hundreds of foster youth ages 18-24 with a network of positive, caring adults who provide ongoing, intensive education and employment support services so that youth can earn their high school degree or GED, enroll in college, and build fundamental work skills. Pictured above is a First Place educator instructing on principles of personal finance.

Through The Foundation’s grant, First Place will be able to expand its Los Angeles County program by 70 percent to provide more than 200 at-risk foster youth with critical education and employment support services over the next two years. 

Johnny Madrid is a communication consultant to Foster Youth in Action, a national coalition of foster youth-led advocacy groups. He has been involved in foster care advocacy for almost 20 years, beginning as a youth member of California Youth Connection (“CYC”), where he participated on their advisory board, legislative committee, and the Youth Empowerment Training Project. While in CYC, he facilitated dozens of focus groups with peer foster youth, gave speeches across the country, lobbied legislatures and trained over 150 social workers. While a student at Stanford University, he wrote his honors thesis on higher education and founded the Stanford Foster Care College Project. After receiving the Harry Truman Scholarship, Newsweek featured him as one of “15 Students You Don’t Know But Will.” After graduating college, he joined the securities division of Goldman Sachs and pursued a career in finance. Across ten years, he also worked at Sanford Bernstein, Lombardia Capital Partners, Varadero Capital, and UBS. Notably while at Lombardia, he managed over $650 million in advisory assets for the U.S. Treasury. In October of 2012, Latino Leader magazine featured him in the “Leadership Landing” section of their magazine. In his personal time, he has served as an executive board member for three nonprofit organizations – California CASA, A Home Within, and Foster Youth in Action – and is a member of New America Alliance, an association composed of more than 100 prominent Latino business leaders.

Stephen W. Rideout is a retired judge who consults with states and localities on projects aimed at improving court, agency, and community collaboration regarding child welfare matters so as to improve permanency outcomes for children in foster care. He also volunteers as a member of the Juvenile Grant Planning and Review Council of the Maryland Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention.  During his tenure as Chief Judge of the juvenile and domestic relations district court in Alexandria, VA from 1989-2004, Judge Rideout worked in and with his community to find ways to improve foster care outcomes, reduce the court’s delinquency caseload and contested custody docket, and to increase the number of prevention and early intervention programs that supported young people and their families.

Nationally Judge Rideout has been involved in a number of efforts to improve child welfare outcomes and has received the 2003 HHS Adoption Excellence Award, the 2004 National CASA Judge of the Year Award, The 2005 and 2010 Mitchell Wendell Jurist Award from the Association of Administrators of the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children.

The 2006 Lettie Pate Whitehead Evans Award for lay leadership from The Virginia Theological Seminary, Alexandria, Va., the 2009 Foster Care Alumni of America Volunteer of the Year Award, and the 2012 Golden Apple award for Dorchester County by the Comptroller of Maryland for his volunteerism with the school system.

A former Group Home Administrator and social worker in foster care, Julia Neiman is a top selling author, youth entrepreneurship coach and founder and Executive Director of Group Home Consultants, a 501(c)(3) public benefit corporation that creates programs for foster youth. She is an experienced behavioral specialist and life skills coach with 20 years of experience working with foster teens.  She believes that their dreams matter and is passionate about teaching them how to make those dreams come true.

Contact Julia via email at

Join Julia on Facebook:

Connect on LinkedIn:

Julie Lawson Timmer is a novelist whose  new book, Untethered (coming from Putnam June 7, 2016) explores the life of a child who was adopted out of foster care and later “rehomed” by her adoptive family. She is a volunteer mentor through Foster Care to Success. She can be found at, and on Twitter at @JulieLTimmer.

Karla Marie Williams is a national radio personality, speaker and writer. She has interviewed and partnered with some of the most influential pioneers in adoption, foster and orphan care. As a member of the Bethany Christian Services Board, Karla passionately and candidly shares her personal and professional experience on adoption and foster care. Karla is author of a monthly column in Foster Focus Magazine and part of the blogging team for I Corinthians 13 Parenting. She trains and encourages parents to raise confident and well-adjusted children through adoption. Karla and Tom were nominees as Family of the Year 2013 for MARE (Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange). They are proud parents of 6 great kids via adoption and live in Grand Rapids, MI.

Katherine Jones is a resident of Citrus Heights, CA. She is an advocate for animals, abuse survivors, and foster care youth. 

Katherine Reddick is an educator and the author of “Access Denied,” a memoir about her experience growing up in the foster care system. She has a Ph.D. in organizational psychology and specializes in social services reform through public speaking, advocating for children’s safety as a legal advocate, program developer and consultant for organizations dedicated to reforming foster care and preventing child abuse. She is also an accomplished author and has worked in public education for the past 17 years. For more information, visit

As a youth in the foster care system, Katia Aguirre always tried to look past her situation. Even though she lived with many foster families, Katia was finally able to settle with one family that provided her with the support she always needed.

In 2015, Katia received her Associates in Administration of Justice degree from Northern Virginia Community College and is continuing to pursue her education as a Junior at George Mason University. She hopes to continue on to Law School and become as attorney as well as an advocate for Foster youth. 

As a lifelong resident of Mt. Carmel, PA and a nurse for 14 years, the health and wellness of those closest to her has always been one of Kelly Ryan’s most important priorities.

She currently work as an Elementary School Nurse in the Mt. Carmel Area School District.

She is the mother of 3 beautiful children and has been married to her best friend for over  fifteen  years!

The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most recognizable structures to define a modern city. Yet, for author Kevin Hines the bridge is not merely a marker of a place or a time. Instead, the bridge marks the beginning of his remarkable story. At 19 years old, Kevin attempted to take his own life by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge - a distance which took four seconds to fall. Recently diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, Kevin had begun to hear voices telling him he had to die, and days before his attempt, he began to believe them.

The fall would break his body, but not his spirit. His story chronicles the extraordinary will of the author to live mentally well in the face of his mental illness: bipolar disorder with psychotic features. With each mental breakdown, however, the author’s desire to live mentally well- and to be a mental health advocate- pulls him from the depths of his condition. Kevin’s story is a remarkable testament to the strength of the human spirit and a reminder to us to love the life we have. His story also reminds us that living mentally well takes time, endurance, hard work, and support. With these disciplines in place, those living with even very difficult diagnoses can achieve better lives for themselves and those who help to support and care for them.

Born into the world with drugs in his system, Kevin Y. Brown, started very early in life overcoming obstacles. Due to his mother’s drug addiction, he was placed into the notorious California foster care system at the young age of 9 months where he remained until he emancipated at 18. Primarily raised in one of Northern California’s worst neighborhoods, Kevin had to decide what kind of man he was going to grow up to be early on.

Progressively learning his potential through the eyes of mentors and peers Kevin started to understand himself and the experience he wanted others to have when they were around him. Finding his Brand Within has led Kevin to join the 3% of foster care children who graduate college as well as being a college athlete, on air-host for MTV networks and being a Fashion Marketer at Parish Nation clothing company in New York City.

Today Kevin is the president of Legacy Thinking Labs a leading public speaking and consulting firm located in New York City, which specializes in helping companies, students and professionals identify their personal brand in order to increase productivity, self esteem and positive momentum towards their goals.

Kevin is also the author of “10 Ways Anyone Can Graduate College DEBT-FREE: A Guide to Post College FREEDOM” a comprehensive guide that shares the strategies that led him to have zero college debt and a positive college experience. He has spoken across the nation to thousands of students, professionals, parents, and policy leaders live. Whether presenting to students or the staff who motivate them Kevin is sure to bring clarity to inspire and create measurable goals to maximize potential and resources

Kimalee Finelli resides in central Florida where she lives  with her husband and their two young sons.

Kimalee has been enjoying writing since an early age of 13, and has studied with the Long Ridge Writer's group. She is currently working on her first novel.

Kimberly Raff is a stay at home mom building a business through DoTerra essential oils and mentoring others. She has been married for 10 years and has two amazing children ages 16 and 7. She is often asked for parenting advice and loves to share insight with friends and family. During her down time, Kimberly has a passion for learning new things, from crocheting and scrapbooking, to gardening and raising chickens. She and her husband purchased their first home together in 2012 where they have a dog, cat, snake, chameleon, turtle, salt water fish tank, freshwater pond, and 12 chickens. From city life to farm life, Kimberly is enjoying the life she has chosen and those who are in it. She continues to build a relationship with her mother and siblings. Currently Kimberly is a CASA volunteer in the state of Colorado and has a passion for ensuring foster youth have a voice and know that they matter as well as educating the community about foster youth alumni. If you have questions or would like to get in touch with Kimberly you can contact her through her website: or follow her on her Facebook page:

Kristopher Sharp is a 27-year-old native Texan. He formally served as a legislative aide for Senator Patty Murray and was a congressional fellow for the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus in the U.S House of Representatives. As a former foster child and homeless youth, Kristopher has spent his entire professional career working to improve public policies affecting children, youth, and families. He holds a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Houston-Downtown and a Master of Public Administration from Texas Southern University.

Mr. Adams was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1950. He grew up in the quagmire of the Michigan Foster Care System from birth. He was finally sent to and graduated from, the famed "Father Flanagan's Boys Home...better known as "Boys Town, Nebraska. His education was furthered at Midland Lutheran College. He has had a professional career in government, nonprofit, academia and private industry. Mr Adams is a strong advocate and a frequent contributor to Foster Focus.

Leah Leason is a wife, writer, and foster care alumni. Growing up throughout the foster care system in Minnesota has inspired her to write and share her experiences and life. She hopes to inspire others to speak up about their experiences, break social stigmas surrounding foster care, and shed some light on an often neglected group of people. You can find her blog at 

Leslie Brownlee is a sophomore at Trinity Washington University, studying psychology and English. My goal and dream is to become a counselor for children and young adults in transition within the foster care system. I want to be involved in helping them understand their stories and how to use what their past has taught them in their present circumstance of having to navigate through the unique world of Foster Care and life after it. In my free time, I enjoy watching King of The Hill, boxing training at Champion boxing for Fitness, and being a nanny for my sweet Rose Rubenstein.

Leslie Class is a business professional and trainer who teaches programs with a focus centered in patient communication, civility and clinical care for the allied healthcare professional. Her company, Learning Curve Career Center (LCC), specializes in providing quality and affordable training for aspiring healthcare students, and healthcare professionals worldwide. LCC works collaboratively with organizations, and administrators in public and private sector, to provide these training programs as a resource to community members nationally. LCC has a programmatic concept of providing resources to the public. Leslie is a Medical Assistant with 20 years experience in the field, including, practical experience, business management, instruction, and program administration. She has been training students in the fields of Allied Healthcare since approximately 2000.

A popular instructor and mentor, Leslie has worked on hundreds of programs in healthcare, bravely initiated her own national workforce initiative, is fearless in the arena of self-promotion, and entrepreneurial aspirations. She has had numerous articles and book features about her work. She is well loved by corporate clients, and industry professionals. She has faced and overcome many personal struggles, survived difficult adversity, and become an advocate for helping others in need. She finds personal fulfillment by contributing regularly to different communities and residents and established Learning Curve Career Center (LCC) in 2007.

Liz Hunter is a Social Worker, Foster Alum, Adoptee, Foster & Adoptive Parent, Writer, & Public Speaker. She is the upcoming author of a memoir chronicling her 15 year journey to adoption. Her degree specializations are Psychology, Sociology, Social Work, & Criminal Justice.

She worked as a foster/adoptive parent trainer for the state of IL for four years. Currently, serves on the board of Children’s Home & Aid and the Restore Network and also runs a blog called Foster Noise/Adopt Peace. She uses this blog to elevate the voices of the real life heroes and survivors of the foster care system.

Loren Michaels Harris, a Motivational Speaker and recording artist resides in Naperville, Illinois.  Loren shares his story of having survived 5 years within the Michigan foster care system after his adopted mother unexpectedly passed away when Loren was only 10 years old. Over the next 5 years, Loren experienced in total 22 mothers if one were to include his birth and adoptive mothers.  Loren feels that by sharing his story he not only has been able to heal many of the wounds relating to his own low self-esteem and the shame of foster care, but in turn...the wounds of other survivors as well.  Today Loren shares his stories with audiences across America, striving to uplift, motivate, and inspire wherever he is invited.  Loren's first single from his album "No Fences" is currently available on, itunes, and cdbaby, and a portion of the proceeds are to benefit The Orlando Victims Fund.  To learn more about what is going on in the life of Loren Michaels Harris, please visit 

Luke Kliewer lives in Hastings Nebraska with his wife and 4 children. Luke is a professional speaker and has spoken to thousands about the struggles of foster care and foster parenting.  With a background that includes being a former foster youth, adopted child, foster parent and adoptive parent Luke brings every angle of the foster care system to his presentations. Luke, and his wife, also direct the local Royal Family Kids Camp in Hastings. His website is and you can contact him at

After being placed in foster care at age 15 and aging out at 18, Lynn Tonini went on to earn a BA from Gettysburg College in Psychology. She worked over 12 years at Milton Hershey School (MHS), a residential K-12 school for at-risk children in PA, where she developed an interest in training and development. She earned a Master’s of Education from the Pennsylvania State University while at MHS, and spent a few years working on the team that provided training for the Houseparents. She then moved into a career in corporate training for employers and clients in a variety of industries. During that time, she spent five years running an awards program that recognized corporate training organizations from around the world for their successful employee learning strategies. She began Aging Out Institute in 2010, and continues to focus on broadening its services and impact. 

I am a former youth in care. (Went into care at 9, became a permanent ward- aged out of the system at 21) Advocate for child welfare and First Nations issues since the age of 16. I am now 24 years old. From Wikwemikong First Nations in northern Ontario.

I am Ojibway and Acadian. I graduated from Canadore College in 2013: Journalism- Print and Broadcast diploma. Currently in my second year at St. Thomas University completing a Bachelors of Arts degree with a double major: Communications and Public Policy & Political Science.

Been a member of various government and non-government working groups to try to change child welfare policies. Been a part of several panels in different levels of government and non-government. Involvement with the Canada’s National Youth in Care Network (2010) and an International Youth in Care Network- attended the International Youth in Care Summit in 2012.

Member of the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies groups: YouthCAN, and YPAAG "Our Voice, Our Turn" Project (Ontario's Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth’s office): co-chair of youth-led hearings, co-author of many reports to government. Member of the Blueprint Working Group for Fundamental Change in the child welfare system in Ontario. Member of New Brunswick's Youth in Care Network (Partner's for Youth): partnered with social development in information sessions for foster parents. help facilitate discussions/ communication lead/  MC Youth in Care Summit. Member of The Strategy for the Prevention of Harm for Children and Youth in New Brunswick (New Brunswick Provincial Children and Youth Advocate's Office)  Have been involved with the New Brunswick’s Adoption Foundation Coordinated the Redress Project on university campus to spread awareness about the missing and murdered First Nations women in Canada. Currently: Research assistant with St. Thomas’s University School of Social Work. Project focuses on research about young women that have aged out of the child welfare system and where they are today. How they define what success is, and what would have made their lives better.

Created a documentary regarding Urban First Nations communities as a youth journalist. Through YouthCAN I was a communications intern & assistant coordinator of annual youth in care conference

City Living NY is dedicated to helping youth aging out of the foster care system to achieve their personal goals and reach for their dreams. We provide stability by giving clients urgently needed essential household goods like pots and bedspreads - in order to make their first apartment a home. We continue to be there for youth as hands-on mentors. We empower our clients to become stable and self-sufficient by making referrals to effective counseling, education, and job training programs. City Living NY is a unique, holistic after-care program, working with our clients to overcome complex and varied challenges in order to have the same opportunities as any young adult on the road to independence. When a youth ages out of foster care, City Living NY's work is just beginning. 

Martina, a native German, based in NYC has been a cinematographer, director and producer shooting award-winning documentaries and features for over a decade. Saving Face the 2012 Academy Award Winner for Short Documentary earned her an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Cinematography in 2013. Her recent work includes The Eagle Huntress, Watchers of the Sky, Through A Lens Darkly and Hot Coffee. Her directorial debut Spring in Awe won the Media Awareness Award at the Media That Matters Film Festival in 2004 and the Best Editing Award at the Brooklyn Film Festival and was part of PBS’ New York Reel the same year. Her second film Aliens Among Us played theatrical at IDA’s DocuWeek, 2009 and on numerous festivals.

While pursuing her passion for documentaries, Radwan devotes her time and resources to travel to Mongolia, where she started an NPO in 2008, with the goal to rebuild street children’s lives through education and entrepreneurship.

Matt Doughty was born into a chaotic life. A mother whose drug addiction led to negligence and third-degree burns. Pair that with an absent divorced father led Matt to a series of poor decisions. At age fourteen Matt had been through so much he fell victim to street drugs and ran away. Matt would go on to spend the next 8 years as a ward of the state. From foster homes to group homes. From juvenile placements to county jail and prison!

After Matt’s release from prison in 2000 he was soon after well on his way back to jail or death. Then something happened that changed his life forever. Matt got control of the wheel of his life and was able to clean up, become a fire fighter, first responder, presenter, trainer, and public speaker.

Matt now speaks to foster parents thanking them for the love and care he received. Matt speaks to at-risk foster youth. Matt struggled with ADHD as a child and relates to the struggles the kids are faced with. Matt speaks to inmates getting ready to parole from prison giving them tools to be successful. Matt also speaks to firefighters about PTSD; a depression condition, that if not treated can have an adverse effect on others and their families.

Matt made it his dream and mission to share his story with the foster world as a way to give back to such a broken system. Matt can be reached for speaking engagements at Doughty’s Inspirational Training LLC, also @fosteredbyfaith on Facebook or online at

Matt Rosen is Executive Director of Foster Youth in Action, a national nonprofit that is building a movement of youth leaders and their allies to transform foster care policies and the lives they impact.  Matt brings more than 16 years of leadership and management experience in community youth development and youth civic engagement. Most recently, Matt served as Vice President of Programs for the San Francisco-based Youth Leadership Institute, leading the organization’s efforts to deepen its work in youth organizing and youth-led policy advocacy. Matt is an experienced program designer and trainer, as well as the author of several publications, toolkits, and curricula in the areas of youth development, youth philanthropy, and youth-led policy advocacy.  He attained a Masters in Social Work and Urban Planning from the University of Michigan and started his career in housing and community development in Detroit.  When he’s not raising money, writing emails, or talking on the phone, he likes to spend time with his family and friends and take an occasional bike ride.

MelissaRoshan (MelRo) Potter is a model, fierce advocate for foster-youth, national spokeswoman for Children's Rights, speaker, and mother of two.

Michael Jennis has worked for the same company for 33 years as a Controller/HR Manager. He spent his time in foster care from age 5-18.

Michael has begun the task of writing a book, He hopes through his advocacy and book to raise awareness about current youth in foster care.

Michael Olivieri was a child in the foster care system for three years.  In those three years he lived in 10 different homes.  With his wife’s encouragement Michael decided to share his story of bullying, addiction, homelessness, foster care placement, drug and alcohol addicted parents, a physically, emotionally and mentally abusive step-father with others to show the ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds.  Michael works with several foster care agencies, sharing his story to encourage foster parents, potential foster parents and foster children. 

He can be contacted at, through his facebook page, olivieridc or his website,   

Michelle Zuckerman, MA, LMFTgraduated with a Bachelor of Arts, with honors in 2005, Master of Arts in 2008, and Graduate Certificate in Clinical Child and Family Studies in 2008 from Roosevelt University in Chicago, Illinois.  Michelle obtained her Marriage and Family Therapist License in 2014.  Michelle has worked in the mental health field for the past eight years, working in various settings and positions, including as an Outpatient Therapist in a non-profit agency, a Social Worker at a children’s shelter, and currently, working as a Marriage and Family Therapist at a high school located in the Sacramento, California area.  Michelle is devoted to providing mental health services and advocacy with foster youth, children, adolescents, and families as well as incorporating mindfulness practices in both her professional and personal life.  Michelle is extremely passionate about helping youth and families, easily building positive, trusting relationships with those she works with.  Michelle’s compassion for working with youth and families continues to be strengthened by the courage and resiliency she witnesses from her every day work.

Michelle may be contacted by email at  

Mickey Goodman is an award-winning freelance writer with more than 500 bylined articles.

MiMi Paris—an internationally recognized author, speaker and coach—started life as an orphan infant, deformed and dumped in a city park.  From there, she spent much of her life in and out of foster care. When she was not in group homes or other institutions, she was forced to live with unrelenting abuse from her “father” and “step mother.”  To this day, she really hasn’t a clue about from whence or from whom she originated. What she does know, however, is who she has become with her fortitude, faith, determination and humor.  She is greatly adored by her “real” family—her friends.

Nicholas Orvis is a dramaturg, director, stage manager, and all-around theatrical practitioner based in New York City. His directing credits include Sick and Tired (Luna Stages' New Moon Festival and the Strawberry Festival);The Waiting Room (The Gallery Players' Black Box Festival); Peach, or Pig Land (Tandem Theatre Collective/PortFringe Festival); The Cardioluthier (Kirkland Art Center); The Tempest (Wesleyan University Theater Dept.); and Under Milk Wood and Twelve Angry Men (Wesleyan University Second Stage). He has also directed readings and scene nights, and worked as assistant director or dramaturg, at Portland Stage Company and the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, and is the Literary Assistant at Premiere Stages at Kean University. Nick is a co-founder and Artist-at-Large of the Tandem Theatre Collective, a geographically separated but aesthetically linked network of young artists dedicated to innovative methods of creating theatre and devising new works.

Nikki Grey is a full-time freelance writer. She is a regular contributor for New Hair Trends, American Survival Guide and other Engaged Media magazines. Her articles have appeared in, The Daily Caller, Washington Examiner and the Santa Barbara News-Press, where she was a features reporter covering style, food, health and wellness and more for nearly two years. Nikki, who entered the Nevada foster care system when she was 12 years old and aged out at 18, has acquired literary representation for her fiction and hopes to use her writing to inspire young readers.

Norma Forde is the Senior Director of Permanency at HeartShare St. Vincent’s Services, opening new doors of opportunity for over 6,800 children, youth and families annually. If you are interested in fostering or adopting, please contact our recruiter at 718-422-2405.

Renee Londner is a retired teacher of Special Education. As licensed foster parents, she and her  husband cared for several newborns.

BEFORE YOU WERE based on these experiences.

Renee enjoys writing stories and haiku poems. Her first picture book, Ruby's Whistle, was published in English and Spanish. Stones for Grandpa won a Sydney Taylor silver honor from the AJL (Association of Jewish Libraries) and shows how a young boy deals with the death of his grandfather and keeps his memories alive.

Her next picture book, a Chanukah story, will be out in 2016.

For more than 30 years, Rita Soronen has worked on behalf of abused, neglected and vulnerable children, providing leadership for local, state and national efforts working to improve the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, while striving to assure safe and permanent homes for North America’s children.

Leading the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, a national nonprofit public charity, since 2001, and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption-Canada since 2004, Ms. Soronen works to find adoptive families for each of the more than 134,000 waiting children in the United States and Canada’s foster care systems. Under Ms. Soronen’s leadership, the Foundation has significantly increased its grant-making and awareness commitments, while developing strategic signature initiatives that act on the urgency of the issue. In 2013, the Foundation dedicated more than $15 million to grants and award-winning national awareness activities, including Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, Adoption-Friendly Workplace and the 100 Best Adoption-Friendly Workplaces list, National Adoption Day, poster and PSA campaigns, and Finding Forever Families: A Step-by-Step Guide to Adoption.

In October, 2011, independent research results were released from a five-year rigorous research study on the Foundation’s signature and groundbreaking program, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids. The research proved that children referred to the program are up to three times more likely to be adopted. Since 2005, the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program has grown from seven pilot site grants to more than 185 active sites across the U.S., the District of Columbia and five provinces in Canada dedicated to aggressively and effectively moving children from foster care to permanent families.

Ms. Soronen currently serves on the board of the Public Education Committee of the National CASA Association, is a past vice president of the board of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute and a current member of the advisory board, serves on the advisory board of Barco’s Nightingale Foundation, and the We Deserve Love Too organization. Ms. Soronen is a recipient of the Angels in Adoption Award from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, the National CASA Association Kappa Alpha Theta Program Director of the Year Award, the Ohio CASA/GAL Association Statewide Leadership Award and was a 2013 recipient of WSNY’s 20 Outstanding Women You Should Know.

Robby Regal Kim is a writer and father living in New York City. During his childhood, he experienced foster care both in South Korea and Minnesota. When he graduated high school, he received a scholarship from the Orphan Foundation of America and Casey Family Scholars to pursue a journalism degree at the University of Minnesota. He is now involved supporting Manhattan families with an emphasis on youth from adoptive and foster backgrounds.

Rusty Johnson has lived his adult life combining two things: His advocacy for foster/adoptive children and his passion for music. After aging-out of Iowa’s foster care system, Rusty went onto receive his B.A. in Music Education from Central College in Pella, Iowa. He then moved to Texas to pursue his Master’s in Music & Education at the University of North Texas. Shortly after moving to Texas, Rusty was in-demand in both child advocacy and music. Rusty has performed and given talks coast-to-coast and around the world.

In 2006, he created “Rusty Johnson’s American Dreams”, a benefit that has reached thousands and raised thousands for foster/at-risk youth across the United States. Rusty continues his work by speaking, training future foster parents, and playing his saxophone in hopes of inspiring those who will influence countless generations yet to come. For more information about Rusty, his music and advocacy, visit:

Sandie Yeaman lives in Omaha, Nebraska. She grew up in the foster care system. In addition, She has raised many, many foster children, as well as worked as a consultant in Boy’s Town Specialized Foster Care Program.

My name is Saquanna Carrillo. I have been married for over 24 years and I have two grown children and a 10 month old granddaughter. I enjoy spending time with my family, genealogy research, volunteering within my community and physical fitness. I served six years in the United States Marine Corps and I am currently in the beginning stages of writing a book based on my life experiences. I am currently pursuing my Executive MBA and I work fulltime as a supervisor within the Department of Veterans Affairs.   

Serena L. Hanson, MSW is an alumni of the foster care
system, earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Family
Counseling from Barclay College and a Master’s degree in
Social Work from Newman University, both in Kansas, which
is her home-state. After aging out of foster care, Serena began
working in child welfare and giving back to the system that
dramatically impacted her life.  

After over 15 years working in foster care, and adoption, she
has worked with countless foster and adoptive families to
prepare for service, mentored youth in residential settings,
supported children of all ages who are awaiting permanency
through adoption, and worked with hundreds of CASA
volunteers to advocate for children in the courtroom.

Serena is currently the Training Director for the Oklahoma
CASA Association in Oklahoma City and is an Adjunct Faculty
at the University of Oklahoma – Anne & Henry Zarrow School
of Social Work.  

Serena also operates, independently, as a Child Welfare
Consultant and Trainer and is an experienced motivational
speaker, workshop and seminar facilitator, resource family
developer, program administrator and advocate. She and her
husband, Justin, live in Norman, OK with their four children -
two boys, Shawn and Derek, ages 13 and 11 and two girls,
Chloe and Sarah, ages 9 and 7.

Connect with Serena online at

Shalita O’Neale is the Founder and Executive Director of Hope Forward, Inc. (formerly The Maryland Foster Youth Resource Center); a non-profit based in Baltimore City that works with transitioning and former foster youth (ages 17-25) to connect them to housing, education, employment and supportive networks.  Hope Forward also works to incorporate youth voice into child welfare system change.

Mrs. O’Neale has over 12 years of experience working and advocating for youth in the foster care system and is also an Alumna of Maryland’s foster care system. She graduated from the University of Maryland at College Park with a BA in criminology and with her Masters of Social Work at the University of Maryland Baltimore, School of Social Work.

Shalita is also the Founder and CEO at Fostering Change Network LLC, a company with a mission of providing professional development and networking opportunities to adults from the foster care system. 

In 2011, she was honored as one of The Daily Record’s 20 In Their Twenties and the BFree Daily’s 2nd Annual 10 People to Watch Under 30, the Prince Georges County Social Innovation Fund’s 2015 Forty Under 40, the Baltimore Business Journal’s 2015 Forty Under 40 and featured in the 2013 October issue of Baltimore Magazine’s 40 Under 40. Mrs. O’Neale is also a member of the National Association of Professional Women (NAPW) and serves on the Children’s Justice Act Committee (CJAC) and the Board of the Legal Aid Bureau.  Mrs. O’Neale is also a Graduate of the Greater Baltimore Committee’s 2013 Leadership Program.

Shalita has a passion for giving back to the foster youth community and has spoken at numerous seminars, conferences and workshops on the foster care experience and takes every opportunity to stress the importance of community collaborations and partnerships to service the transitioning and former foster youth population. She doesn’t believe in reinventing the wheel, but understands that community organizations and non-profits must learn from and support each other to improve outcomes for youth without families.

Sharon Olivia Blumberg is a recently retired, school teacher, having taught Spanish and English for over 20 years.

In addition, she is a freelance writer and voiceover artist. She resides with her husband outside of the Chicago area.

Shelley Calissendorff is a long-time advocate for animal, environmental and humanitarian causes; after volunteering as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), and adopting a daughter with special needs from foster care, Shelley Calissendorff added foster-adoptive family advocacy to her list. 

The founder and administrator of three Facebook pages, you can ‘Like’ her work at PreserveFamiliesWithRADChildrenNow, BIG4MashUp and at Smile.At.Your.Baby. Follow Shelley on Twitter @SmileAtYourBaby.

Shenandoah Chefalo is the author of Garbage Bag Suitcase, A Memoir (Sourcebooks 2016) who speaks to groups about her experience in the U.S. foster care system, and how it might be improved. She is a foster care activist and is making plans to open a boarding school for foster youth in Northern Michigan. Find Shen on Twitter at  @ShenChefalo

Starla Hester is a freelance writer living in Tuscumbia, Alabama and a graduate of the University of North Alabama where she earned a bachelors degree in Business.

She was a foster parent for three years and recently became the godparent of one of her ex-foster children. Starla enjoys reading, writing, and yoga. She has several publications on Catholicism and her struggles with infertility.

Steven Shaw is a senior at Texas Southern University majoring in general studies. Post-graduation, he plans to pursue master’s degrees in both Social Work and Hotel Restaurant Management. He currently works at Hilton Americas Houston while attending school. In addition to his studies and paid employment, Steven volunteers for and is founding member of Voices for Change, a group primarily composed of young adults who aged out of the Texas foster care system who are dedicated to advocacy and improving the experience of youth in the foster care system. Steven also sits on Foster Youth in Action’s Leaders United team, a national advisory board for a coalition of sixteen youth-led organizations. Steven himself was in the Texas foster care system for 15 years. Steven has been privileged to speak in front of Congress and White House officials on numerous issues dealing with foster care. He played a key role in advocating for an ombudsman bill position in Texas, dedicated solely to children and youth in foster care. He has also participated in numerous panels and presentations that have increased awareness about foster care among community and state level stakeholders. He strives to show foster youth that they can thrive even if the road is tough.

Tatyana Rozhnova, survived the foster care system and has overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Without the guidance of parents, she has used her faith as the light to find her way. Now, at twenty-nine, Tatyana has given over thirty speeches throughout her home state of Ohio. She started a Non-profit called Opportunities Knocking TLP which serves high-risk youth from ages 14-24. She is also an active board member at Lighthouse Youth Services in Cincinnati. All while still a full-time student. Her life’s passion is to serve the less fortunate while bringing hope to others through her story and example.

Connect with Tatyana

Taylor Haris is a freshman at Slippery Rock University, majoring in Athletic Training and Dance. In June of 2013.

Taylor graduated from Grace Prep High School in State College, Pennsylvania. She has been a classical ballerina for many years, and her goal is to be an athletic trainer or physical therapist specializing in working with dancers and gymnasts.

When Taylor is not in the dance studio or at school, she likes to simply spend quality time with family and friends.

Taylor thanks all of her wonderful family members for their constant love, patience, support, and willingness to serve others wholeheartedly.

All credit for Taylor’s work with the Foster Care System goes to God, who loves to open doors for dreams to fly.

Terry R. Hill is a Texas native, was trained with two degrees in aerospace engineering. He is the author of the series In the Days of Humans of which Third Exodus was voted by readers as one of the top five science fiction book in Indy Author Land's "The 50 Self-Published Books Worth Reading (2013/14)".

When not writing of different worlds, alternate futures, and the human condition he has worked for NASA since 1997 with a very satisfying career as an engineer and project manager spanning programs from the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station, space suit development, to exploration mission planning.

Always looking to maximize what life has to offer, Terry has found himself performing on stage, helping to house the less fortunate, skydiving, hammering away at the Berlin Wall, wearing space suits, ice swimming in Finland in the dead of winter, bathing in the hot springs of Japan, and forging into the unknown as a parent. Life is too short to let opportunities pass us by as we only get one chance to ride.

Timothy Bell is a son of the State of Washington where he grew up in foster care for over six years before “aging out” at age eighteen.  While in foster care he experienced his very first healthy relationships, some of which survive to today.  Now, at 27, he is a local, state, national, and international advocate for young people in and from foster care.  

Aside from his duties on the National Foster Care Youth and Alumni Policy Council, Tim helps coordinate a youth board in the state of Washington called Passion to Action, is the President of the Washington State chapter of Foster Care Alumni of America, and advocates for youth rights and youth voice in Japan through an organization called the International Foster Care Alliance.  

He hopes to be a life long learner with the next stage of that process being a law and/or graduate degree. Throughout his life, Tim has experienced multiple, though brief, periods of homelessness, near constant struggles with mental health, and has witnessed his brothers and sisters from care constantly under-perform.  It is because of these struggles that he stands ready to help address the problems facing foster youth and foster families.

With Kevin Ryan, the president of Covenant House International, Tina Kelley is the co-author of Almost Home: Helping Kids Move from Homelessness to Hope, (Turner, 2012), a national bestseller. She was a reporter at The New York Times for a decade, where she was part of the Metro section team that won a 2002 Pulitzer Prize in the Public Service category for coverage of the September 11 attacks. She wrote 121 “Portraits of Grief,” short descriptions of the victims. She now works at Covenant House.

Tony Hynes works with Adoptions Together, an adoption placement agency, as a Discussion Group Facilitator. Tony is a transracial adoptee, and was adopted by Mary Hynes and Janet Simons in the mid 1990s.  His family faced a custody battle with his birth family, who felt Mary and Janet, two white women, were not the right people to raise him. Tony writes about his experiences growing up as both a transracial adoptee  and as a child growing up in a same sex headed household in his memoir "The Son With Two Moms.." Today, Tony is an advocate for families like his, and serves on the Board of Directors for Rainbow Families, an organization devoted to promoting the rights of LGBTQ Families everywhere.  Tony has done a book reading as part of the Takoma Arts series and at other places.  He also has been invited to be a speaker at several conferences on adoption throughout the nation, especially those involving trans-racial adoptions.  In the fall of 2016 Tony was awarded a full scholarship to begin his PhD studies in Language, Literacy, and Culture at the Univ. of Maryland Baltimore County. (UMBC), where he has begun work on his dissertation, which focuses on racial connectedness among transracial adoptees. 

Author, professional blogger, mosaic artist and award-winning journalist Trace A. DeMeyer is former editor of the Pequot Times in Connecticut and editor/co-founder of Ojibwe Akiing… Trace A. DeMeyer is Shawnee-Cherokee with European ancestry and the author of three books and a contributor to many others. Her memoir “One Small Sacrifice: A Memoir,” describes little-known history of the Indian Adoption Project and Indian Child Welfare Act; the new second edition was released in February 2012. “Two Worlds: Lost Children of the Indian Adoption Projects” was published in 2012 and was co-authored with Patricia Busbee. It is an important contribution to American Indian and First Nations history. Trace blogs about American Indian Adoptees at At, she blogs about her adoption activism and human trafficking news. She tweets regularly [@Trace15] and has a Facebook page for her books “One Small Sacrifice” and “Two Worlds.” Her writing, interviews and poetry has been published in newspapers and journals in the USA, Canada and Europe. Trace, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Superior, has received numerous news and feature writing awards. She teaches courses on blogging and social media at Greenfield Community College. In 2014 she is a contributor to new books: Adoptionland, Lost Daughters and Adoption Reunion in the Age of Social Media. She is currently working on a new book CALLED HOME, an anthology of adoptee narratives.

Dr. Tracy Rawls has over 21 years’ experience working with vulnerable populations; and for the past 11, with children and youth in the child welfare system.

Tracy joined Cenpatico in 2010 and serves as the Vice President of Child Welfare. In this role, she has had the opportunity to lead a team of dedicated foster care advocates in the effort to improve systems of care for children in foster care.  She is particularly focused on community providers, stakeholders; the needs of the children as well as those who care for them. Her goal is to integrate the Medicaid and Child Welfare world, and serve as a behavioral health parents to the systems.

For seven years prior to joining Cenpatico, Tracy served as the founding Executive Director of the Adoption Coalition of Texas, a grass roots nonprofit organization responsible for finding forever families for children/youth languishing in the system.  Tracy has a passion for teens, those that tend to wait the longest and be the most misunderstood.

Most importantly, Tracy also has direct; personal experience with children in foster care as she adopted three (3) separate times – all teens. Thus, she has direct experience not only working with children in foster care, but in the realities of behavioral health issues, trauma and developmental delays, and approaches to help children heal.

With a Doctorate in Management, Tracy’s focus is on improving systems of care.

As a former foster child who feared his lifestyle would lead to prison, Travis Lloyd dedicated his life to personal development and living a life of passion and purpose. Today, he serves as an inspirational speaker, author, trainer, and consultant offering a wealth of experience as a mental health professional, Registered Nurse, and Adjunct Professor. He is known to share stories of overcoming and inspiring others through real life stories, poetry, and lyrics from his life as a youth and now as a caring advocate. You can watch and share a video about the Impact of Trauma and his latest book at or invite him to make a difference in your community by calling 646-535-TRAV.

My name is Travis Vangsnes.  My wife Jess and I reside in Clinton, SC with our four kids (two we adopted this year).  We're currently licensed foster parents and have served as house parents in a Children's Group Home where I also worked as a grant writer researching child and family welfare in South Carolina.  Currently I'm employed as an InHome Caretaker assisting my brain injured brother in a nearby town.  I'm a blog writer, mountain biker, documentary watcher, and bubble gum chewer.   

Vivian Malauulu is a part-time college professor by day, a full-time longshore worker by night, and a freelance journalist on the side. She specializes in full-length human interest features that will educate or inspire others with in-depth stories about community, education, and labor issues. Vivian was born in Honduras and immigrated to Los Angeles when she was seven years old, speaking zero English.

She has a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism, a Master's in Educational Administration, and several teaching credentials. Vivian and her husband George have been married for 17 years and they live in Long Beach, CA where they are busy raising their four children against a blessed backdrop of church, school, and sports.

Wendy Middleton has traveled across the country and visited many family-friendly adventure spots. Her family was not wealthy, so they sought out the inexpensive fun places. Her articles will focus on
different areas of the country. She has a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in Library Science. She has worked as an English teacher and a Reference Librarian.

If you have any suggestions or requests you can email her at She was also Foster Focus Editor Chris Chmielewski's unofficial foster mom for a few months, after he left Care so that he could finish out his senior year of high school.