Contributors

Contributors

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 www.whenfostercaregoesright.com

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

Sonia Martin serves as the Director of Lifeline Children Services, a full-service orphan care ministry, in the Central Alabama area. She engages the central Alabama church community in implementing Families Count, birth mother support and services, and speaking to parents, professionals, Judges, DHR attorneys, & GAL’s at various conferences in the southeast on topics such as parenting kids from hard places and how to measure bonding and attachment in deciding best placement for children in foster care.

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.

Stormy Lukasavage is a recent graduate from Washburn University with a Bachelor’s degree in Science in Criminal Justice.

An advocate of foster care since 2011, his current passion is improving the educational standards for foster youth. He spent three years in foster care in the state of Kansas.

His passions are fitness, music, and culinary studies. Stormy’s future goal might potentially be as an active member of the Peace Corps.

Sydney Northcutt, 21, is a public relations student at San Diego State University in San Diego, California. Sydney, along with her 15 teammates in her capstone public relations class, assisted Los Angeles-based nonprofit Kids in the Spotlight with public relations efforts for the spring 2020 semester.

Sydney has previous nonprofit experience from her role as the Community Development & Engagement Assistant at public media station KPBS. She loved the opportunity to get involved with another nonprofit with a special mission. Sydney will graduate in December, and will pursue a public relations career in the professional sports industry.

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 facebook.com/TatyanaRozhnova27

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 www.splitfeathers.blogspot.com. At www.larahentz.wordpress.com, 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 www.OvercomingEmotionalTrauma.com 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.   

Trey Rabun, MSW, leads Amara’s efforts in outreach and recruitment of foster parents. He and his partner have been foster parents for two years and currently have an almost 3-year-old foster child.

Victor Sims is a 2020 Casey Excellence for Children Award winner who grew up in Florida’s foster care system and is active as an advocate for children in foster care. Mr. Sims is focused on bringing about positive changes to the foster care system, traveling throughout Florida and the country speaking to legislators about creating reform for youth in care. In June 2019, he was recognized by the American Bar Association as a Reunification Hero.

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.

Warren Hilton currently serves as the Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs at Kutztown University. In this role he leads enrollment and student affairs efforts designed to recruit and retain students. Prior to Kutztown University, Warren was the Dean of Enrollment Management at the Community College of Philadelphia (CCP). He has held positions at Drexel University, University of Maryland-College Park, Johns Hopkins University, Stevenson University, and Moravian College. His corporate experience includes working at Johnson and Johnson, DuPont, and Coretech Consulting. Warren currently serves on the board of HealthSpark Foundation and previously served on the board of the Lehigh Valley Red Cross and as a member of the Minsi Trail Boy Scouts Urban Scouting initiative. Warren received his Ed.D. in Educational Leadership and Management from Drexel University; a Masters of Arts in Student Affairs and a B.S. in Computer Science from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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