University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Rudd Adoption Research Scholars

Rudd Adoption Research Scholars have received graduate level training in adoption research during residence in the Rudd Adoption Research Program. This includes graduate students who have participated in the Rudd Adoption Research Lab at UMass Amherst, participants in the Rudd Summer Adoption Research Institutes, and visiting scholars to the  Rudd Adoption Research Program.

Petra Barni

Intern at Family Studies and Research University Centre, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Milan

Petra is part of a national research group that investigates family transitions such as adoption and explores topics such as emotional and behavior problems, alcohol & drug abuse, and the likelihood of admission to psychiatric clinics. She is involved in a cross cultural study that aims to examine the adjustment and quality of family and social relationships of adolescents adopted within four different European countries. Petra’s past research includes a clinical project that explored the fundamentals of team work and an experiment that consisted of observing different professionals (psychologists, social workers, educators, etc.) working with prisoners for rehabilitation. She has attended several adoption conferences globally.

Maya Bartel

Program Research Assistant, Oregon Post Adoption Resource Center

Maya received her Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies at Iowa State University under the supervision of Dr. Tera Jordan. Her dissertation research focused on the experiences of trans parents in navigating adoption systems and processes. She is currently a program research assistant at the Oregon Post Adoption Resource Center where she helps families and professionals seeking adoption-related support.

Alyssa Bish

Special Assistant Professional, Missouri Department of Social Services

Dr. Alyssa Bish is a Special Assistant Professional for the Missouri Department of Social Services, Children’s Division. She has seven years of combined work experience leading, managing, and building strong foster care networks through evidence-based practice. Her research has focused primarily on sibling relationships and resilience outcomes for foster and adopted children. Alyssa serves as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for children in foster care. Being involved in her local community has brought a personal and unique perspective to her research, allowing her to understand the complexities of navigating diversity and sustaining strong family ties with birth, foster, and adoptive families. Her goal in this work is to better understand the lived experiences of children in foster care and how it impacts their family identity. Alyssa is a strong advocate for using research to inform foster and adoption policy in an effort to help families have strong, healthy relationships. 

Krystal Cashen

Graduate Student, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Krystal Cashen is a sixth-year developmental science student at UMass Amherst working with Dr. Harold Grotevant. Krystal's research interests center around how experiences unique to diverse family contexts (e.g., adoptive families, LGBT-parented families) are associated with relational and identity outcomes in emerging adulthood. In addition to her research interests, Krystal is interested in the integration of diversity and inclusive teaching practices in undergraduate psychology courses.

Colleen Colaner

Associate Professor, University of Missouri

Dr. Colleen Colaner is associate professor at the University of Missouri. Her research examines how communication shapes and sustains relationships in complex, diverse, and modern family structures and experiences. A major focus of her research is communication in adoptive families, examining how adoptive parents’ communication with and about birth families sustains adoptee wellbeing. Colleen also researches links between family communication and diverse social identities, such as religion and political identification. In this work, Colleen focuses on children’s communication experiences and abilities, with an aim to understand children’s unique perceptions of their family relationships.

Colleen takes an applied approach to scholarship by translating family communication research to families in the community. Colleen serves as a family communication educator, partnering with mental health professionals in Columbia to provide families with strategies for connecting and coping. Her research is solution-focused to provide families with communication processes to support relational health and personal wellbeing. 

Sarah Côté Auger

Graduate Student, School of Social Work, University of Montreal

Sarah’s research primarily focuses on adoption-from-care and the youth protection system. Her master’s thesis explored the construction of adoptive identity for young people aged 14 to 21 adopted through a foster-to-adopt program in Quebec. In addition, she has previous experience working as a research assistant on projects related to the context of youth protection. Sarah aspires to develop professional expertise in the field of foster-care placements and adoption, and to promote the sharing of knowledge in order to provide quality services to better serve adopted youth and their families.

Francesca Danioni

Graduate Student, Catholic University of Milan

My name is Francesca Danioni and I am a PhD student in Social Psychology at the Catholic University of Milan, where I collaborate at the Family Studies and Research University Centre. I work under the supervision of Professor Rosa Rosnati and Professor Daniela Barni. My research interests mainly deal with value development and family relations, with regard as well to intergenerational relationships and adoptive families. I am currently collaborating on a cross cultural research project that aims at investigating the adjustment of a sample of adopted adolescents (13- 17 years of age) and the quality of family and social relationships in adoptive families. Adoptive families from four different European countries (Italy, France, Norway, and Spain) will take part in this study.

Amélie De Serres-Lafontaine

Graduate Student, Department of Psychology (Clinical and Research), University of Quebec in Trois-Rivières

Amélie’s research has centered on parental commitment and its impact on outcomes of adopted children. She is involved in a longitudinal study that investigates the evolution of parenting throughout placement and changes in placement, as well as the impact changes may have on child development. The study collected data from biological parents, their children, and the foster parents. She has been able to utilize the data to address expressive and receptive language delays and various characteristics of placement trajectory.

Liz DeBetta

Liz DeBetta, Ph.D.

As an adoptee and interdisciplinary scholar-artist-activist Dr. Liz DeBetta’s work is grounded in creativity and social justice and focuses on developing cultural competency around issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. Using storytelling and narrative techniques Liz invites others to create space for empathy and begin healing individual and collective trauma connected to race, gender, sexuality, disability, ethnicity, and other intersections of identity that are misunderstood or misrepresented in dominant culture. She is interested in performance based poetry and 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 first mothers. Her writing has been published on,, in the journals Adoption & Culture and Frontiers and in #MeToo: Essays About why this Happened, What it Means and How to Make Sure it Never Happens Again. She is a facilitator of Adoptees Connect in Salt Lake City and researching the benefits of creative writing to heal adoptee trauma for her current book project Adult Adoptees and Writing Heal that is due in late 2022 from Brill Publishers.

Béatrice Decaluwe

Research Professional, CHU de Québec Research Center

Béatrice graduated with her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Laval University. She completed her doctoral thesis entitled " Inuit customary adoption in Nunavik and child behaviors at school age" under the direction of Dr. Gina Muckle. She is currently involved in several research projects focusing on the "adoption-from-care" context in Québec with Dr. Geneviève Pagé and Dr. Marie-Andrée Poirier.

Simonella Domingos-Tanguy

Graduate Student, Paris-Descartes University

Simonella is a socio-policital scientist and is currently pursuing her Ph.D at Paris-Descartes University. Her doctoral research focuses on a comparison of adoption policies and practices in France and Germany following World War 2. She has previously been involved in the Expertise- und Forschungszentrum Adoption (Expert and Research Center on Adoption) project in Germany.

Mercedes Fernández Oromendia

Clinical Psychology Postdoctoral Fellow, University of California, Los Angeles

Mercedes previously worked in a research lab at the University of Minnesota as an undergraduate focusing on the wellbeing of international and national adoptees which led to her current role at UCLA TIES (Training, Intervention, Education, and Services) for Families. At UCLA TIES she provides a wide range of services to help the development of foster children and their families. She is involved in a project developing manualized treatment to support the welfare of families who have adopted children transracially. She is committed to move the field forward by developing a body of work that focuses on systematically analyzing the needs and strengths of foster-adoptive families.

Marty Forth

Graduate Student, School of Social Work, University of Hong Kong

Marty’s research focuses on adoption, foster care, and family formation in Asia, including open adoption and LGBT parenting. His Ph.D. dissertation explores legislative and policy assessments of adoption and foster care systems in both Hong Kong and Taiwan. Due to the scarcity of ongoing discourse that focuses on eastern countries regarding this topic, he is devoted to building more eastern-based research around adoption, non-biological family formation, and related policy and legal issues within the Asia Pacific region. Additionally, Marty is interested in the opportunity to learn about LGBT or sexual-minority populations and their inclusion in adoption and family-formation systems.

Reihonna Frost

Graduate Student, Clark University

Reihonna Frost is a third year doctoral student in Clinical Psychology at Clark University. She received her undergraduate degree in Psychology from Oberlin College. Reihonna’s research interests are united by the basic question, “What works in adoption?” She is curious about what it means to be an adoptive family and how adoption experiences differ for diverse families. She is particularly interested in questions around adoptive siblinghood and sibling groups in foster care and adoption. She has co-authored several papers on diverse adoptive families and their experiences with friends, family, communities, and schools.

Bonnie Goodwin

Assistant Professor of Macro Social Work, Anne & Henry Zarrow School of Social Work, University of Oklahoma

Bonni Goodwin, Ph.D., LCSW, is an Assistant Professor of Macro Social Work at the Anne and Henry Zarrow School of Social Work at the University of Oklahoma, conducting research in the Center for Child Welfare Training and Simulation. She has worked in the field of Social Work for the past 20 years with children and families, empowering them to overcome challenges toward hope and stability. Bonni has worked in various positions with at-risk children and families, including juvenile justice, victim services with the court system, child welfare prevention services, and providing clinical services to children, families, and groups through an adoption-specialized counseling center. She currently serves with the Oklahoma Human Services child welfare division as the Statewide Coordinator of Adoption Preservation Services. In this role, Bonni conducts research and trains child welfare and mental health professionals on the unique and complex needs of children in foster care and those who have been adopted from state custody. Bonni’s research focus is on permanency through adoption and post-adoption support and services. She continues to examine the needs and gaps of services for children and families in post-adoption and is committed to pursuing best practices in responding to adoptive families’ needs.



Catherine Hamilton

Graduate Student, University of Florida

Catherine is a Certified Nurse-Midwife on the Nursing faculty at the University of New Brunswick in Canada and a doctoral student at the University of Florida. She completed her prior education at Duke and Yale Universities. Her primary area of interest is trauma-informed care of the adoptive family, and has an expertise in Social Network Analysis and mixed methods research, which she is applying to complete her dissertation entitled Understanding the social environments of adoption: A mixed methods study of trauma and social integration in adopted adolescents. With a secondary interest in team science, she has also networked twenty-five years of adoption research to identify the relationships that may be leveraged to strengthen the field of adoption research.

Ryan Hanlon

Ryan Hanlon joined NCFA in August 2017 as Vice President of Education, Research, and Constituent Services, overseeing NCFA's advocacy efforts at the federal level, as well as our various public and professional education programs. He was named President and CEO in May 2022.

In the field of adoption, Ryan has been a speaker at national and international conferences, has worked on accreditation issues, state licensing matters, and adoption-related policy topics. Passionate about research and education, Ryan seeks to ensure that all those impacted by adoption have the resources and support they need to thrive in their families and communities.

Ryan came to NCFA with over thirteen years of experience as an adoption professional. Prior to NCFA, he served as the Executive Director of a Hague-accredited agency that focuses on both domestic and intercountry adoption. Ryan has experience serving as a foster care caseworker as well as with child protective services.

After receiving his B.A., Ryan went on to earn a MA in Liberal Arts, a MS in Nonprofit Management, as well as a master’s degree and Ph.D. in social work. He has served as a social work field instructor and an adjunct professor of social work to both undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral students.

Ryan lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and their four children.

Elliotte Harrington

Graduate Student, Montclair State University

Elliotte is pursuing her doctorate in Counselor Education at Montclair State University working with Dr. Amanda Baden. She is currently working on her dissertation which involves a qualitative study focusing on the post-placement counseling experiences of birth mothers.

Fabienne Hornfeck

Research Assistant, Deutsches Jugendinstitut e.V. (DJI)

Fabienne Hornfeck has a master´s degree in clinical psychology and is currently working as a research assistant at the “Expertise- und Forschungszentrum Adoption” (Expert and Research Center on Adoption, EFZA) located at the German Youth Institute in Munich (DJI). The EFZA is the first nationwide survey of both the policies and practices of German adoption agencies and the experiences and needs of adoptive families. Fabienne´s research focuses on risk and protective factors for the well-being of adopted children as well as on differences between children adopted through domestic and intercountry adoption in Germany.
In addition to her research work, Fabienne works as a clinical psychologist with a focus on behavioral therapy and is interested in human rights topics.

Pamela Jimenez-Etcheverria

Postdoctoral Research Scholar, Universidad de La Frontera, Temuco - Chile

Pamela received her Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Cambridge under the supervision of Dr. Susan Golombok. Her dissertation research focused on the psychological development of adoptive children aged 4 to 9 raised in Chilean families in comparison with children living in Chilean institutions as well as factors associated with the psychological development and well-being of adopted children. She is currently a postdoctoral research scholar at the Universidad de la Frontera, Temuco - Chile where her research focuses on topics that contribute to better decision making in child protection.