2014 Expo breakout sessions and presenter bios are listed below. (Info for 2015 Expo breakout sessions and presenters to be announced in 2015.)

Adoption 101 (a basic road-map to the process)

A realistic and thoughtful overview of the current options for adopting a child in today’s world. This presentation will address what the elements of the process entail as well as thought provoking questions potential adopting parents need to consider as they decide on the type of adoption, age range of child, how to meet the unique needs of a child through adoption and some typical special needs that are frequently seen in different types of adoption. Participants will gain a better understanding of not only how the adoption process moves forward but also some key considerations about the lifelong impact of adoption that should be considered right from the beginning.

Presenter: Rebecca Ricardo, Professional Social Worker with Coordinators2inc

Rebecca Ricardo has been a professional social worker working in the field of adoption for over 20 years. She has worked assisting in placement of all types of adoption and also worked in supporting families, adoptees and birth/first parents after placement through support groups, training and therapeutic services. Ms. Ricardo also shares a personal connection to adoption as an adoptee and a mother who has placed a child for adoption. Ms. Ricardo is a frequent trainer and speaker not only for the organization she works, Coordinators2inc, but also nationwide for organizations including the American Adoption Congress, NACAC, American Academy of Adoption Attorneys.

Aging Out of the Foster Care System

Every year hundreds of youth age out of the foster care system in Virginia. Without family support or permanent connections these youth are at a greater risk than the general population of homelessness, substance abuse, unplanned pregnancy, incarceration and even premature death. This workshop will explore real life stories of youth who have aged out of the foster care system, examine the magnitude of the problem and identify steps that individuals, families, churches and organizations can take to make a difference in the lives of youth who are in danger of aging out of foster care.

Presenter: Abigail Schreiner, Policy Planning and Community Relations Manager with Extra Special Parents

Abigail is passionate about raising awareness of foster care in the community and advocating for policies that improve the child welfare system. Abigail conducts community presentations throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia to audiences in churches, mosques, synagogues, libraries and other community organizations. These presentations educate the community about foster care and encourage families to consider fostering. Abigail is a registered lobbyist within the Commonwealth of Virginia and is active in the General Assembly advocating for children and families. She holds a Master of Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University with a concentration in Social Work Administration Planning and Policy Practice and a Bachelor’s Degree of Christian Education and Biblical Literature from Taylor University. Abigail serves on the Board of the Virginia Association of Licensed Child Placing Agencies.She also serves as the Virginia Coalition of Private Providers Associations (VCOPPA) representative on Virginia’s Three Branch Leadership Team. Before working with Extra Special Parents, Abigail worked for six years as a youth minister in a church setting. Abigail also volunteers in the community through Church Hill Activities and Tutoring, is on the leadership team for Needle’s Eye Ministries’ Young Professionals group and is in the 2014 class of the Richmond Christian Leadership Institute.

A Biblical Basis for Adoption & Practical Application for Non-Christians

Life can be difficult, and our broken world presents many problems and issues for us to address. God has shown His love and desire to heal and restore the hurting through adoption. With this idea in mind, how should non-Christians respond to God’s desire to love and heal the hurting? Pastor Tom Kenney will present a thoughtful consideration of how to apply God’s love to this world.

tkPresenter: Tom Kenney, Senior Pastor at Peninsula Community Chapel 

Tom graduated from Virginia Tech in 1975 with a BA in Business Administration. While at Tech he was nurtured by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and joined their staff upon graduation, serving the Vanderbilt campus in Nashville from 1975-1978. Having benefited from the works of men like J.I. Packer and John Stott, Tom earned a Masters of Divinity at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia from 1978-1982. Part-time work in small group ministry at Chelten (Conservative) Baptist Church convinced him that the church was his calling. In 1982 the Tabernacle Church of Norfolk (where Tom grew up) began work on the Peninsula and called him to pastor the church planting effort. Tom and his wife Mabel have been with the Chapel since it started in 1982. They have four grown kids and three grandchildren.

Building Bonds That Last: The Orphan’s Journey to Healthy Attachment

This seminar seeks to educate care providers in the orphan community on the complex nature of attachment challenges faced by youth who have been adopted or are in foster care. More specifically, it suggests that the providers in these youth’s lives should view themselves as primary care figures with significant strength and power to promote healthy attachment development. The seminar introduces the basis of attachment theory and equips attendees with current attachment research. It also provides evidenced-based activities that are tangible, fun and creative for care providers to practice with orphan youth across age and behavior spectrum. All attendees will leave the seminar with the knowledge and skill set to heal not hurt, connect not correct and attach versus alienate.

Presenter: Adele Martelle, LCSW with Genesis Counseling Center

Adele Martelle is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a passion for making complicated topics understandable. Her knack for this comes from years of training and speaking engagements. Adele was recently a key speaker at the 2013 Virginia Association of Child Placing Agencies annual conference where she addressed the unique needs of the state’s orphan care system. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Southern Maine and graduated summa cum laude with a master’s degree in social work specializing in mental health treatment from the University of Maryland, Baltimore. Prior to beginning private practice at Genesis Counseling Center in Hampton and Chesapeake, Virginia, Adele worked in various mental health venues with a focus on trauma and attachment. In the past several years her work aimed at serving at-risk youth in foster care and their foster families. Currently Adele’s psychotherapy practice uses a trauma-informed approach and is trained in dialectical behavioral therapy and attachment therapy. In addition, Adele is trained in Forgiveness Therapy and enjoys using this approach to help client’s experience freedom from past hurt and offenses. Adele seeks to be creative in her practice giving clients of all ages visual examples and tangible skills to practice. She attempts to meet her clients where they are and help them recognize their own potential. Adele is a member of the National Association of Social Work and frequently speaks at marriage seminars and various mental health conferences. Adele strongly believes an important part of her job is to help people heal and empower them to have healthy relationships with others and with God. Adele resides in Norfolk with her husband. They are in ministry and have a heart for the impoverished and abandoned.

The Church Engaging Modern Day Slavery & Violent Oppression (IJM)

In a world full of injustice the statistics can often lead to apathy, idleness or even despair. All of the body of Christ is called to be the Spirit-filled community that surrounds, supports, inhabits and propels the river of justice God is seeking to unleash (Hoang). How is the Church to engage issues of modern day slavery and violent oppression? In this breakout session we will hear stories of injustice around the world, discover briefly what the Word teaches about our God of justice, learn about the work of the International Justice Mission and discuss ways believers can seek justice both locally and globally.

kimberlyPresenter: Kimberly Merida, International Justice Mission

Kimberly Merida is the wife of pastor and author Tony Merida. Kimberly is the mother of five adopted children, four from Ukraine and one from Ethiopia. Kimberly speaks at various women’s conferences and justice ministry events. She serves as adjunct instructor at Southeastern Baptist Seminary and as Justice Advocate with International Justice Mission. She is also a musician and plays weekly at Imago Dei (Raleigh) and at other events. Read Kimberly’s blog.

Creating a Healing Environment for Adoptive & Foster Children

Most foster and adopted children have experienced trauma or neglect in some form, including many children placed from infancy due to prenatal stress. Research is clear, and growing, about the negative impacts of trauma and neglect on the developing brain, yet most prospective parents are unclear what fostering a healing environment in their relationship and daily life looks like. Melody Caton, who has both professional training and personal experience as an adoptive and foster mother relating to these needs, will help attendees consider practical parenting aspects using Karen Purvis’ Trust-Based Relational Intervention model.

Presenter: Melody Caton, Resident Counselor with Hopewell Counseling

Melody earned her bachelor’s degree in Christian education in 1991 and began a career in teaching kindergarten in both the private and public sectors. After eight years of teaching Melody pursued her master’s in community and school counseling from Regent University (2009). Melody has worked with children in the foster care system helping them to understand and deal with grief, loss and trauma, initially as an older child adoption counselor and case manager with Bethany Christian Services and currently as an outpatient Resident Counselor at Hopewell Counseling Ministries. Her work involves work with grief and loss, PTSD, anxiety disorders, depression and family attachment and bonding work. Melody is committed to helping children have restored hope and partnering with families as they navigate their new roles of adoptive parenting. Melody is a native of New England but has lived in Virginia Beach with her husband and family for over 17 years now, calling it home. She is both an adoptive and foster parent.

Faultless: The American Orphan (video presentation)

This film was created to inspire and equip Christ’s followers to more deeply love and care for hurting children in America. Faultless introduces people to Christian orphan care in America by providing an overview of the challenges facing children in foster care, an introduction on how the Bible instructs us to act in light of those challenges and some hopeful examples of men and women across the country responding to the present needs in God-glorifying ways. Faultless was produced by Unthinkable and Lavender Digital Media in collaboration with the Christian Alliance for Orphans and other leading Christ-centered ministries serving hurting children across America. Learn more about the film.

Healing the Orphan’s Heart

This workshop will focus on biblical perspectives and insights related to unpacking the baggage in the hearts of orphans in our attempt to develop love, safety and security found in authentic community. We will examine those painful areas in our hearts that need healing by “Abba” Father.

Presenter: Barbara A. Ward, LCSW with Genesis Counseling Center

Ms. Ward is a licensed clinical social worker with more than 25 years of experience in mental health. She is a graduate of Regent University with a master’s of divinity and is also a life coach. Ms. Ward is a founding staff member with Genesis Counseling Center where she serves as a therapist. She is a retired social worker with the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Hampton, Virginia, and is a licensed and ordained minister. Ms. Ward is part of the leadership team with Kingdom Living Ministries in Newport News, VA. She is the founder and president of Abiding in the Vine Family Life Ministries, Inc., which is a community outreach ministry to the body of Christ and local community.

How Trauma Affects Adopted Children

Participants will hear an overview of the impact of trauma on relationships, attachment, behaviors and the brain. They will gain a better understanding of how this specifically intersects with the challenges of adoption. This workshop will help parents understand the long-term impact of trauma if they want to effectively and successfully parent a child who joins their family through adoption.

Presenter: Jennifer Surratt, Family Support Program Manager with coordinators2inc

Jennifer Surratt has worked as an adoption professional for over 10 years for two different child-placing organizations. Her most recent work has focused on assisting and supportive families post-adoption. She currently is the program manager for the Family Support Program for coordinators2inc, providing clinical services directly to families as well as training and supervision of staff. Ms. Surratt has a trauma and adoption competent background that allows her to provide unique services to adoptive families by helping parents address the needs of their children through the lens of understanding both trauma and adoption.

International Adoption: An Overview

  • A Post-Cold War Growth Industry?
  • The Chinese draw-down
  • The Waiting Child
  • Countries Open / Countries Closed
  • Human Trafficking
  • The Hague Accords
  • Growing Sophistication
  • Growing Bureaucracy, Expense, Delays…
  • Paradoxical Outcomes

Presenters: Lyn & Bob Briscoe and Charles (Chuck) Ruge with American World Adoption

Lyn and Bob have adopted three children internationally.

Chuck Ruge has worked in the international adoption field since 1999. He has a master’s degree in social work and is a grandfather of eight.

Main Session with Tony Merida

tmOur guest speaker, Tony Merida, is the founding pastor of Imago Dei Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. He also serves as the Associate Professor of Preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to Kimberly, with whom he has five adopted children. Tony is the author of Faithful Preaching and co-author of Orphanology: Awakening to Gospel-Centered Adoption and Orphan CareAlong with David Platt and Danny Akin, Tony serves as the general editor and as contributor for the upcoming commentary series with B&H entitled Christ-Centered Exposition. He travels and speaks all over the world in a variety of venues, including pastors’ conferences, church planting conferences, theological institutions, orphan care events and youth and collegiate events, and he has become a leading voice in the growing movement for adoption and orphan care.

Navigating the Legal Challenges to Adoption

An overview of what legal issues adoptive parents will face whether adopting domestically, internationally, through an agency, or through a parental placement adoption.

Colleen HolcombPresenter: Colleen M. Holcomb with Holcomb Law

Colleen is originally from Ohio, graduated Magna Cum Laude from Wellesley College in Massachusetts, and earned a law degree from Regent Law School where she received the National Association of Women Lawyers’ Outstanding Graduate Award. She also earned a Master’s degree in Journalism from Regent University School of Communications and the Arts. Prior to joining Holcomb Law, Colleen was Executive Director of Eagle Forum in Washington D.C., a national pro-family political organization.

During her undergraduate studies Colleen served in various government offices at the local, state and federal levels. Colleen worked in the non-profit sector for several years with The Flying Hospital, Inc., CBN WorldReach, the Christian Broadcasting Network, the Center for Law & Religious Freedom and as the Director of Communications for the Christian Legal Society. Colleen has long been involved in the defense of women, children and the family, authoring articles pertaining to legal and policy issues related to women in the workplace, the sexual exploitation of children, homosexual marriage, adoption and the Federal Rules of Evidence. She co-authored an article entitled “The Rise and Fall of Women’s Rights: Have Sexuality and Reproductive Freedom Forfeited Victory?” which was published in the Winter 2000 edition of William and Mary’s Journal of Women and the Law.

Parenting a Victim of Human Trafficking

In this session we’ll talk about the challenges of parenting a child who was exposed to sex trafficking. There are numerous children in the foster care system who are victims of sex trafficking within our local communities – it is far more common than most people realize. We will discuss the common pitfalls of parenting a sex trafficking victim, safety guidelines for the home, realistic expectations and how to promote healing.

Presenter: Kara Brooks, Intake Director for The Bair Foundation

Kara Brooks, BS, QMHP has worked with at-risk youth in various treatment milieus including residential, wilderness based programs and therapeutic foster care. Kara’s experience as a foster parent provides a realistic approach to her training program. Currently serving as Intake Director with The Bair Foundation, Kara provides ongoing foster parent certification training and assists families as they complete the home study process.

Using PREPARE/ENRICH to Prepare Couples for Adoption

With the addition of three new scales to assess adoption considerations, adoption expectations and adoptive parenting, the pre-adoption version of PREPARE/ENRICH can be incorporated into the home study phase of pre-adoption in order to gather objective information about the couple system and to help prepare couples to bring children home. Details of this tool will be presented.

Presenter: Tracey R. Crawley, LMFT with PREPARE/ENRICH

Tracey CrawleyTracey R. Crawley is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Licensed Professional Counselor at the Hampton location of Genesis Counseling Centers where she does individual and couple counseling. She also trains counselors, church and lay leaders in Prepare-Enrich, holds communication workshops and leads group counseling. Her background includes eight years at the Fleet and Family Support Center providing counseling services, classes and briefings to service and family members, Lutheran Family Services as a treatment foster-care case manager and 15 years as a registered nurse. She is former military and a retired military spouse. She and her spouse of 34 years live in Newport News. They have two grown children.

Trauma and the Orphan

Unfortunately, children are often orphaned due to abuse and neglect, both pre- and post-natally, leaving them at a disadvantage from the beginning. Upon entering the foster care system they are often not afforded the adequate attention, nutrition and overall care needed to thrive like their non-institutionalized counterparts. In fact, lack of proper care in these settings can be so drastic that children suffer dramatic emotional, physical and cognitive repercussions. Studies show that children raised in orphanages demonstrate at least 12% higher scores for behavioral problems than do children raised in more traditional settings (Simsek, Erol, Oztop, & Münir, 2007), and these often include externalizing problems, social problems, thought disorders and attention problems (Simsek, Erol, Oztop, & Ozer, 2008). However, these effects can be minimized or erased if children are adopted into a family and given opportunities to catch up to their non-institutionalized peers. We’ll discuss the implications that involvement in the public child welfare system can have for children, identify challenging areas for families of children with this background and suggest techniques that therapists can use to aid such families. We’ll also consider implications of trauma experienced by foster care and adopted children for their spiritual development and examine provision of special care related to the unique spiritual needs of children with this background.

Presenter: Hannah Jones, Scholar Assistant, Regent Child Trauma Institute, Regent University with Genesis Counseling Center

Hannah Jones is a third year Doctoral student in Clinical Psychology at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Ms. Jones is also a resident clinician and psychometrician at Genesis Counseling Center in Hampton, Virginia. Hannah’s primary clinical and research interests include serving children and adolescents from low socioeconomic status backgrounds and of ethnic minority status, a passion borne of her adherence to the Christian mandate to bring Christ to the world.

Presenter: Katlin Knodel, Scholar Assistant, Regent Child Trauma Institute, Regent University with Genesis Counseling Center

Katlin Knodel is a third year Doctoral student in Clinical Psychology at Regent University and a resident clinician and psychometrician at Genesis Counseling Center. Her primary clinical interests are adolescent and family therapy, and her research focuses on child sex trafficking victims and the mental health and spiritual implications of this practice.

What Adoptees Wish Their Parents Knew

The presenter will use excerpts from Sherrie Eldridge’s book, Twenty Things Adoptees Wish Their Parents Knew as the basis for discussion about what adoptees often struggle to articulate and share with their parents. The presenter will also draw on her own experiences as an adoptee as well as those from the adoptee support group she has led for the past 15 years at coordinators2inc.

Presenter: Rebecca Ricardo, Professional Social Worker with coordinators2inc

Rebecca Ricardo has been a professional social worker working in the field of adoption for over 20 years. She has worked assisting in placement of all types of adoption and also worked in supporting families, adoptees and birth/first parents after placement through support groups, training and therapeutic services. Ms. Ricardo also shares a personal connection to adoption as an adoptee and a mother who has placed a child for adoption. Ms. Ricardo is a frequent trainer and speaker not only for the organization she works, coordinators2inc, but also nationwide for organizations such as the American Adoption Congress, NACAC, American Academy of Adoption Attorneys among others. Ms. Ricardo has been a leader of an Adult Adoptee Support Group in Richmond, VA for the past 15 years. She is also a member of the American Adoption Congress – a national adoptee advocacy group where she has had numerous opportunities to interact and discuss adoption with hundreds of adult adoptees. In addition, she interacts on a regular basis with adopted children through her clinical work.

What is Fostering?

  • The Mission – The purpose of fostering
  • Putting Fostering in Context – Meet the children and reasons why children end up in foster care
  • Challenges – Communication and relationships
  • Searching Beneath the Surface – Misconceptions about the children in care
  • Treating the Root of the Problem – Understanding and dealing with problems
  • Our Goal – Giving children a new hope
  • Open Floor – Questions

Presenter: Manny Ortiz with Intercept Youth, Inc.

Manny Ortiz is currently a Foster Parent Trainer for Intercept Youth Services. Manny and his wife Maribel relocated Boston, Massachusetts to central Virginia 11 years ago with four children. Manny and Maribel had both graduated from a Bible institute and were looking for a slower pace of life, but they never could have imagine what God had ordained for their family. Shortly after arriving in Virginia Maribel felt the call to work with foster children and the rest is history. After six adoptions today the Ortizes have a total of 10 children with seven still living at home. Three years ago Manny left his job in corporate America to work full time with foster care. Today he is not only a strong advocate for children in foster care, but also an inspirational speaker motivating the church to engage in the mission field of foster care.