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Conference Speakers

Amanda L. Baden, Ph.D.

Amanda L. Baden, Ph.D. is a professor at Montclair State University (NJ) and a licensed psychologist with a practice in New York City. She was the recipient of the John D. Black Award in 2014 for the Outstanding Practice of Counseling Psychology and was named the Outstanding Graduate Advisor for Montclair State University in 2017. She is a member of State the Board of Psychology for New York State, was a Senior Fellow for the Donaldson Adoption Institute, and is a member of the Advisory Board for the Rudd Adoption Research Program at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She co-chaired the Biennial Adoption Initiative Conferences in New York City since 2000. She has published numerous articles and book chapters focusing on transracial and international adoption identity, counseling for adoptees and birth parents, and racial and cultural issues in adoption. She is one of the editors of the book entitled, The Handbook of Adoption: Implications for Researchers, Practitioners, and Families (Sage Publications). She is an adult adoptee from Hong Kong and an adoptive parent. 

Greg Barsh

Greg Barsh, MD, PhD, is a faculty investigator and faculty chair at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, and a Professor Emeritus at Stanford University. His research group studies the genetic mechanisms that underlie differences in individual appearance and for which a deeper understanding promises new insight into both basic biology and human disease. Barsh received his MD and PhD in human genetics and pathology from the University of Washington, and completed postdoctoral and clinical training at the University of California, San Francisco. He has served as chair of the NIH study section on Genomics of Health and Disease, and is an Editor-in-Chief of PLOS Genetics. Barsh joined HudsonAlpha in 2009, and was named Smith Family Chair in Genomics in 2020.

Susan Branco

Dr. Branco is a licensed professional counselor in Virginia and Maryland. She is an approved supervisor in Maryland, Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC), and an Approved Clinical Supervisor (ACS). Dr. Branco earned her BA in Human Services and MA in Rehabilitation Counseling from the George Washington University. She earned a doctorate in Counselor Education and Supervision from Virginia Tech. For fourteen years she maintained an independent clinical practice specializing in working with adults, children, and families connected to adoption and foster care. In addition, she has professional experience working in community mental health, prenatal care clinics, and with immigrant populations. She utilizes attachment theory, family systems, and trauma informed approaches in her clinical practice.

Susan Cox

Susan has been an adoption and child welfare advocate for more than twenty-five years.  Adopted from Korea in 1956, her life experience as an early international adoptee gives her a unique and personal perspective.Susan’s current and past board memberships include: Child Welfare League of America Adoption Advisory; The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute Ethics Committee; Women’s Campaign International; Oregon Korea Foundation; International Concerns Committee for Children; the Center for Family Connections; North American Council on Adoptable Children; the USAID Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid; The White House Council on Women in the America’s; the Joint Council on International Children’s Services and the Oregon Commission on Asian & Pacific Islander Affairs.  In 2002, the Congressional Coalition on Adoption presented Susan with an “Angel in Adoption” award.  She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities in 2010 by Northwest Christian University and in 2016 she was inducted into the National Council for Adoption Hall of Fame. 

April Curtis

April has utilized her lived expertise to serve as a national consultant for the past 20 years where she worked on developing youth programs, youth councils, grants, board development, strategic planning and trainings for organizations across the United States and Puerto Rico. She has also consulted on several conferences, sat on several panels and has served as a keynote speaker. She has presented and trained both youth and adults in the child welfare community on various topics. She is a founding board member of Foster Care Alumni of America and served on the CWLA Board of Directors for 12 years and is now a Fellow for CWLA. 

She is currently a Board of Directors Member for FCAA National and serves as Chair. She is a co-founder of the IL Chapter. April, a diligent advocate, and leader, now works to help youth and families in her community solve problems, advocate for themselves, and improve their lives.

April works with the National Foster Youth and Alumni Policy Council via FCAA. She also participates in the coordination of the CWLA annual National Conference and Alumni PowerHouse Conference(a conference geared towards bringing youth and alum of the child welfare system together.  

Her work with her state leaders provided an opportunity for her to consult for the Director of DCFS in the Strategic Planning and Innovation Division in transforming the IL Child Welfare, Juvenile Justice, and Mental Health Systems. She helped integrate new normalcy policy, youth bill of rights,  reunification strategies, joint youth, and alumni legislative shadow days, transformation summit, systems of care program pilots,  permanency policy and procedures revisit, older youth in care support services, employment initiatives, stakeholder engagement and youth Advisory board redevelopment. She has developed many trainings that help with stakeholder engagement, trauma-informed practice, life skills, and professional development. 

April Curtis, an alumnus of the Illinois child welfare system. April is a graduate from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. April, a diligent advocate, and leader, now works to help youth and families in her community solve problems, advocate for themselves, and improve their lives.

Liz DeBetta

Liz holds a PhD in Humanities & Culture from Union Institute & University (certificates in Women's and Gender Studies/Creative Writing), MA in English from the City University of NY (College of Staten Island), BA in Theatre/Speech from Wagner College. Liz is the writing and performance mentor for Act Risk No More and is also a member of Actor's Equity and SAG-AFTRA. She is interested in performance based narrative writing for healing and social change from a feminist perspective within the areas of adoption culture and reproductive justice as a way of disrupting dominant narratives and shifting paradigms for adoptees and birth mothers. Her writing has been published on and in #MeToo: Essays About Why This Happened, What it Means and How to Make Sure it Never Happens Again. She is a team facilitator of Adoptees Connect in Salt Lake City and is currently researching the benefits of creative writing to heal adoptee trauma.

Chris Downs

Chris Downs has devoted the last 35 years trying to improve services and outcomes for older, at-risk youth in America. Dr. Downs is an accomplished Developmental Psychologist with scores of publications and presentations in his dossier including co-authorship of the landmark What Works in Foster Care? published by Oxford Univ. Press. Over the years he was lead author on numerous life skills assessments and resource libraries for youth used by over 2 million youth and their caregivers. Chris is a gifted teacher who delivers inspiring, cutting edge trainings on adolescent development to a wide variety of audiences nationwide. His Seattle-based company, The Downs Group LLC, offers training, assessment and consultation to all agencies that share one central concern: improve how they deliver services and lift outcomes for the youth they serve. 

Alex Gilbert

I’m Adopted is a global online community created and run by Russian – New Zealand adoptee Alex Gilbert. I’m Adopted established in July 2015. I’m Adopted shares stories, resources and topics for adoptees. Alex was born in Arkhangelsk, Russia in 1992 and placed in the Orphanage until he was adopted when he was two years old to his New Zealand family. He managed to find his birth parents in 2013 with social media. He has since been back to Russia four times. His story and I’m Adopted work has widely been shared in media in New Zealand and Russia. He created I’m Adopted to help others adopted around the world connect. He has released two books My Russian Side and I’m Adopted in 2014 and 2018. Alex spoke to Government Ministers at the New Zealand Beehive at the start of 2017 as well as speaking in Moscow in 2017 to the Children’s Rights Commissioner of the Russian Federation, Anna Kuznetsova. Outside of I’m Adopted, Alex works in Television and creates his own videos for adoptees. He also started his own initiative to send supplies to his orphanage in Russia. Since we started we have shared over 900 stories worldwide for adoptees worldwide. Many stories that have been shared have helped many find their birth families with the help of others in the community. I’m Adopted is not only available in English, but also in Spanish and Russian.

JaeRan Kim

JaeRan Kim, PhD, MSW, LISW, is Assistant Professor at University of Washington, Tacoma in the School of Social Work and Criminal Justice. Dr. Kim’s research is focused on the intersection of adoption and disabilities, particularly exploring disability, race, and transnational experiences on post-adoption stability. JaeRan has over 15 years of experience working with foster and adopted children and families and has developed numerous training curricula for child welfare professionals. She is also the author of the blog Harlow’s Monkey, which focuses on the transracial/transnational adoptee experience.

Joe Kroll

Joe Kroll, an adoptive and birth father and proud grandfather, became involved with NACAC in 1975 and served as NACAC's executive director from 1985-2015. As executive director, Joe moved  NACAC from a small grassroots organization to an acclaimed nonprofit that serves thousands of adoptive parents each year and strives to improve the child welfare system for foster children and the families who care for them.
As a passionate advocate for children, Joe’s work included talking with individual families about how to obtain post-adoption support, training parent group leaders and other foster and adoptive parents, and testifying before Congress and speaking at the White House to achieve needed system reforms to better serve vulnerable children and families. He remains committed to achieving system reform by building a network of adoptive families at the grassroots level. By bringing together parents, professionals, and policy makers for more than three decades at NACAC, Joe significantly improved the lives of adoptive families throughout the U.S. and Canada.
In 2016 (January-May)and then again 2018 (July-November ) Joe served as the interim director of Voice for Adoption as VFA transitioning to a new executive director. He continues to serve on the VFA board as the financial manager.

Holly Laws, Ph.D.

Holly Laws Ph.D. is a lecturer in Clinical Psychology and the Director of the Methodology Program for the Center for Research on Families at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her research focuses on how close relationships impact mental health outcomes over time using novel multilevel modeling techniques for dyadic (two-person) and longitudinal data. Her peer-reviewed publications apply multilevel and structural equation modeling techniques to analyze dyadic, longitudinal, and intensive longitudinal data. She completed her postdoctoral training at Yale University School of Medicine, which included advanced methodological training. She returned to UMass Amherst as a Research Methodologist, directing the methodology program for its Center for Research on Families.  She has conducted multiple workshops on dyadic and multilevel modeling across a range of disciplines, including Yale’s Center for Research on Inequalities and the Life Course, the North American Chapter of the Society for Psychotherapy Research, and the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR). Dr. Laws is the director of the methodology program at the UMass Center for Research on Families.

Heewon Lee

Heewon Lee is a licensed genetic counselor practicing in the Cancer Risk Management Program at M Health Fairview in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her research interests include how adopted individuals navigate health information using direct-to-consumer genetic testing (DTC-GT). A member of the Korean adoptee community, she is a contributor to the direct-to-consumer genetic testing (DTC-GT) working group of the NIH's Inter-Society Coordinating Committee (ISCC) for Practitioner Education in Genomics. 

Richard Lee

Richard M Lee, PhD is the Distinguished McKnight University Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. He has been conducting research on the cultural life experiences and adjustment of Korean adoptees since 2000. Using longitudinal, survey, and mixed-method approaches, he specifically focuses on adoptees' and their families' experiences with cultural socialization, perceived discrimination, ethnic identity development, birth family search and thoughts, and most recently genetic testing. Dr. Lee also has begun to study Korean adoptees as parents themselves and how they approach raising their own children.

Tom May

Thomas May, PhD, researches issues at the intersection of medicine, public health and moral/social/political philosophy, with a special interest in issues related to autonomy and healthcare. He has focused on issues of how autonomy relates to self-identity and well-being; the role of autonomy in deciding how rights to genomic information, as well as rights to genomic ignorance, should be framed; and the assessment of risk within the context of other-regarding implications that emerge from genomic information. May’s approach is to carefully parse the relevant considerations, outcomes and justifications salient to healthcare decision-making, and through this to balance potential benefits and risks in a way that is appropriately contextualized to the patient, condition and provider circumstances that frame decision-making. In addition to publishing two books and many articles on autonomy in leading philosophy journals, he has published on related topics in NatureSciencePediatrics, Vaccine, American Journal of Public Health, and Milbank Quarterly.

May has served as an advisor to the the National Vaccine Program Office, the Florida Department of Health; the State of Illinois Guardianship and Advocacy Commission, and the State of Wisconsin on Emergency Preparedness. He has twice chaired the Ethics Forum of the American Public Health Association, and has served on the American Philosophical Association’s Committee on Philosophy and Medicine.

Hollee McGinnis, Ph.D.

Hollee A. McGinnis, Ph.D. was selected in the fall of 2019 to hold the inaugural position of program committee chair for the Rudd Adoption Research Program Conference. She is an assistant professor in the VCU School of Social Work and an active member of the Rudd Adoption Research Program Advisory Board.. She is interested in children’s mental health and well-being, child welfare and alternative care systems, and global social work. Her research broadly examines the social and cultural determinants of children’s mental health and well-being, with a specific focus on improving outcomes across the lifespan for children with histories of early childhood adversity and child welfare involvement in the U.S. and globally. This research is informed by her post-MSW training in children’s mental health at the Yale Child Study Center, work as the policy director at the Donaldson Adoption Institute, and founder of the non-profit organization for adult intercountry adoptees and adoptive families, Also-Known-As, Inc.

Gina Miranda Samuels

Gina E. Miranda Samuels is an Associate Professor at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration, and Faculty Affiliate at the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture. Her scholarship explores processes of identity, belonging, relational (im)permanence, ambiguous loss, and the effects of chronic displacements from one’s experience of family and home among youth and young adults with histories of foster care, homelessness, and/or transracial adoption.  Prior to her academic career, Dr. Miranda Samuels was a child welfare caseworker, a juvenile probation agent, and also a clinician with youth under court supervision for violent offenses.

Tim Monti-Wohlpart

A New York born adoptee, in reunion since 1998. He is the AAC's National Legislative Chair and New York State Representative. In 2002 and 2003, he served as Vice President and Legislative Liaison for New York Statewide Adoption Reform. At that time, he lobbied for unrestricted original birth certificate access for adult adoptees. In 2015, he began a grass-roots effort to restore, advance, and enact the unrestricted access bill after it was changed in June 2015. His public petition, supporting that effort, has been provided to key legislators, Governor Cuomo and the Department of Health.  He holds a B.S. in marketing, with minor in political science, and a Master of Education. He lives in Brooklyn.

Glenn Morey

Glenn Morey is half of a husband/wife filmmaking team, along with Julie Morey. Glenn is an inter-country adoptee, born in Seoul, Korea, in 1960, abandoned as a new-born, and adopted at the age of 6 months to the US. He lives in Denver and has enjoyed a 40-year career in branding, media, and filmmaking. He was an Executive Producer for the documentary film, "House on Fire: Black America Responds to AIDS," featuring the late Julian Bond, Rep. Maxine Waters, Kweisi Mfume, Maya Angelou, and many
other African-American leaders; awarded Best Documentary for the Houston International Film Festival and broadcast on PBS. The Morey’s current documentary film project, Side by Side, presents the stories of 100 former South Korean orphans and “social orphans” who were adopted to Western countries or who aged out of Korean orphanages. In collaboration with the New York Times Op Docs editors, the project was adapted into the short doc, Given Away. The short doc, Side by Side, won the Gold Jury Award for Best Short Documentary in the Social Justice Film Festival. It was also an Official Selection of the San Diego Asian Film Festival, Boston Asian American Film Festival, and others. In 2019, Side by Side completed exhibitions in Seoul and New York City, with its 12-screen video art installation, and is in planning for a national tour. In 2020, Side by Side will be released as a 4-hour Audible Originals title.

Grace O'Neil

Grace is a junior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst pursuing a BA in English as well as a minor in linguistics and certificate in Professional and Technical Writing. She became a mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters in the fall 2019 as a part of the Adoption Mentoring Partnership (AMP). Grace is the president of the Adopted Student Advisory Panel (ASAP), a student organization that focuses on creating a space for adoptees on campus to speak about their experiences with adoption openly with other adopted persons as well as engage in forms of educational outreach within the larger community.

Julia Rimmer

Julia Rimmer is Research Fellow at the University of East Anglia, England. Julia gained her PhD at University of Sheffield and has over ten years' post doctoral experience working on a number of projects in Health and/or Social Sciences at UK universities, often working with mixed methods but specializing in qualitative research. She is currently helping to lead a narrative analysis study working with Prof. Beth Neil on the Economic and Social Research Council funded study: ‘From being adopted to becoming a parent: when adopted people become parents and adopters become grandparents’. Please contact Julia ( ) for more details and publications.