Meet Our Staff
The agency is proud of its incredibly dedicated employees. Not only are many of them personally touched by adoption, but the qualifications of the staff are impressive, including degrees in Social Work, Psychology, Education and other related field. Their combined expertise, training and passion is the secret to the success of Adoption STAR.
The agency invites you to get to know the staff personally by sending them an email, telephoning the agency or simply dropping by the office.
Alison has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with Majors in both Accounting and Finance from the University of Buffalo. She is responsible for handling the day to day accounting responsibilities in the financial office at our main location of Adoption STAR. Alison brings many years of professional background including Non-Profit finance and is thrilled to bring her experience to Adoption STAR. Alison has relocated back to her hometown of Buffalo, New York after many years absence. She is glad to be home and back among family and friends.
Adoption holds a very personal place in Alison’s heart as she is an adopted child of a loving family in Western New York. Alison firmly believes that all children deserve to have a close, supportive family surrounding them and that there is truly a home for every child.
Outside of work, some of Alison’s favorite things to do are spending time with loved ones, gardening and cooking. Alison has two young adult children pursuing careers of their own and she resides with a furry feline named Hugo.
Ana Villalba is an Adoption STAR Social Worker located in Central Florida. Ana graduated with her Bachelors in Psychology from the University Of Central Florida, and is currently completing her final year at the Catholic University of America for her Masters in Social Work. Ana’s experience has been in child welfare where she has served as a case manager, intake and placement specialist, and adoption specialist since 2014.
Ana is passionate about mental health awareness and how it affects individuals and their roles within their family units and society as a whole. Ana has thoroughly enjoyed working with adoptive families and adoptees over the years and is really passionate about permanency for children of all ages and walks of life.
Ana enjoys spending time with her loved ones, reading, spending time outdoors, and watching Disney movies with her toddler.
April works directly with adoptive parents and birth parents. She conducts home studies, post placement, post adoption support and counseling.
April received her Bachelor’s degree in sociology and psychology from Case Western Reserve University prior to attending Washington University in St. Louis, where she earned her Master of Social Work. April was the Adoption STAR Ohio Program Director and now works on an as needed basis. Before joining Adoption STAR, April spent over six years working in the intake department through Butler County Children Services, where she assessed for child safety.
April resides in Cincinnati with her husband and children and enjoys spending time at local parks and attractions that the city has to offer.
April is a Licensed Social Worker and Adoption Assessor in the state of Ohio with over 19 years of experience working with children and families.
Her professional career has included many experiences including working with Child Welfare as well as working as an outpatient therapist with children and families. In addition to her work with Adoption STAR, April is currently working in schools as a mental health therapist. Her passions are introducing children to Play Therapy and assisting families in their adoption process.
April lives with her husband and two daughters. She loves to travel, quilt, and spend time with her family.
Becki is a licensed social worker in New York and New Jersey. She earned her master’s in social work degree from Rutgers University in Camden, New Jersey and earned her undergraduate degree in psychology from Houghton College in Houghton, New York. Becki and her family moved to western New York in March of 2012 after having lived and worked in the Philadelphia/New Jersey area for 20 years.
Becki has worked in the field of adoption since 1996. Most of her efforts have focused on special needs adoption, including finding homes for children in foster care who had emotional and behavioral challenges. Becki also worked with children adopted internationally, many having high medical needs.
Becki enjoys facilitating trainings for potential foster and adoptive families and sharing with them in their journey to grow their families.
Becki believes, “There is nothing as rewarding as witnessing a new family come together and knowing that you played a part in making that happen.”
Candice (pronouns she/her/hers) is Adoption STAR’s first Development Director, joining the agency in December 2017. Prior to this role, she served as Development Director of Compass House for ten years, spearheading all aspects of resource development to sustain safe shelter and comprehensive services for runaway and homeless youth in Western New York.
For close to two decades, Candice has maintained her commitment to invigorating and shaping the way non-profits serve communities through visibility, sustainability, and impact. Her work within organizations has spanned skill-building programs for rural Southern teen mothers with the West Tennessee Area Health Education Program; housing advocacy, counseling and support programs for persons living with AIDS/HIV in Atlanta, GA, with SisterLove and Common Love AIDS Project; economic development in poverty-dense, largely immigrant communities in the Bronx at the Mount Hope Housing Corporation; addressing homelessness in youth populations in Western New York; and, now, ensuring the health, vibrancy, and reach of Adoption STAR’s work with adoptees, birth families, and adoptive families. This is especially meaningful as she and her wife, Louisa, are the adoptive parents of their son, Oliver, who was born and placed with the help of Adoption STAR in 2007.
Candice’s areas of professional specialty include grant writing and case development, results-oriented program design, special events staging, marketing and brand development expressly for nonprofits that demonstrate a lasting commitment to creating anti-oppressive, accessible, equitable, just, and inclusive spaces for all.
She received her Masters of Arts in Africana Studies, Gender and Urban Politics from New York University, preceded by undergraduate scholarship in Race and Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado, and acceptance into Agnes Scott College’s Women, Leadership and Social Change practicum. Candice also serves on the Board of Directors of Gay and Lesbian Youth Services of Western New York.
Cara is an Adoption Social Worker with Adoption STAR, providing home study and post placement services for adoptive parents. Cara is a Long Island native who received her Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University at Buffalo. After working as a primary therapist for children and families in Buffalo, Cara moved to Rochester to be closer to her sister and family. While in Rochester, Cara has worked for the Society for the Protection and Care of Children working with pregnant teens, as well as in the Supervised Visitation Center monitoring visits for families within the court system.
Currently Cara is a full-time, licensed social worker with the Rochester Regional Health System located in two OB/GYN offices where she provides a wide array of services to patients and their families. Cara is a certified facilitator for the Centering pregnancy program as well. Cara enjoys spending all her free time outside with her twin boys Hudson and Trevor and her husband Matthew.
Carol Lamb is a Licensed Social Worker and Adoption Assessor in the State of Ohio. Her professional experience includes working with families and children of all ages.
Carol received her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. While working as a Family Services Worker in the child welfare system, she began to focus her career directly working with foster parents and foster children in the Greater Cincinnati area.
Carol lives in Cincinnati with her husband and three sons. In her spare time she enjoys outdoor activities with her sons, reading, and trying new restaurants.
Chinequia works per diem with adoptive parents writing home studies and conducting post placement visits. Chinequia received her Bachelor’s in Social Work from Daemen College and her Master’s in Social Work from the University at Albany. She has experience in Child Welfare, specifically Preventive and residential services. As an innovative and progressive professional, Chinequia enjoys helping others through life challenges. Her personal nature is nonjudgmental and “down to earth” as in her work ethic.
Working with Adoption STAR is a dream come true for Chinequia. She was a previous intern and worked with prospective adoptive. She strongly believes that adoption exemplifies hope, strength and courage and that we are able to experience what it feels like to live in an unselfish world.
When Chinequia is not working, you will find her traveling or spending time with family and friends.
Christi Scheid works in Ohio as an Adoption STAR Adoption Assessor. She works with prospective adoptive parents as they begin their adoption journey.
Christi has worked for Butler County Children Services for the past 15 years, working with Kinship Caregivers.
Christi enjoys spending time with her husband and their three sons. She also enjoys walking, swimming, coaching soccer and watching her boys play sports
Christine is an Adoption & Matching Specialist in Adoption STAR’s A-OK Program. Christine received her Master’s degree in Psychology from Medaille College and her Bachelor’s degree from Buffalo State College. Christine has experience in the field of foster care and adoption providing prospective parents with on-going training and support, home studies, and matching children coming into foster care or children freed for adoption with prospective families. The decision to enter the foster care and adoption field was an easy one for Christine, as both her parents and grandparents were foster parents for many years. Christine is excited to help older children find their “happily ever after” family through adoption.
Working as Adoption STAR’s Receptionist and Administrative Clerk, Claire is the friendly face and voice clients see and speak to when connecting to Adoption STAR. Her main duties include managing the front desk, greeting clients, and providing administrative support to clients of the agency.
She graduated from the University at Buffalo with a degree in Anthropology specializing in cultural anthropology. The majority of her work was centered around Native American studies. Being part Native herself, she is very passionate about aiding all minorities and giving back to the community.
Currently Claire is studying for her GRE’s so that she can attend graduate school. She plans on continuing to work with nonprofit organizations by pursuing her master’s in public administration or urban development.
In her free time Claire enjoys painting, singing, reading, and jamming on the ukulele. She works part time at the Buffalo Museum of Science as a Lead Ambassador. Claire also volunteers at the SPCA on the weekends.
David is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW-R) who works as a consultant for the Adoption STAR A-OK Program and provides counseling through the Family STAR Post Adoption Department. David delivers education, support and assessments for clients of the agency especially interested in older child adoptions. He brings over 30 years experience working with children, families and parents both as a therapist and workshop trainer.
David worked for Baker Victory Services in Buffalo for 28 years, most recently serving as the administrator for the mental health services provided by the agency.
In 2006, David was trained by Holly Van Gulden in working with Reactive Attachment Disorder and has worked with those concepts with many families in various ways. David conducted parent-training workshops for 10 years with the Baker Victory Adoption Program and worked with families who adopted children through those programs.
David has a private practice in Amherst NY working with children and adolescents as well as adults, couples, and families.
David is also an adoptive parent of one son who has given him a granddaughter. David’s recent interests have developed in the field of photography and he is enjoying the learning curve. In doing so, he has volunteered for the local Heart Gallery, taking photos of prospective adoptees.
Emily is an Adoption Social Worker and Family Advocate for Adoption STAR’s A-OK Program. Emily received her Bachelors Degree from Elon University, and will soon graduate with a Masters Degree in Social Work from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. Emily began her professional career working in fundraising and development for a non-profit organization before making the decision to pursue a career in social work. She most recently worked in foster care facilitating placements of children coming in to care, and supporting families through the fostering and adoption process. Coming from a family that has adopted children from different areas and backgrounds sparked an interest in adoption and child welfare for Emily. She looks forward to working with families who are adding to their family through adoption, specifically with older children looking for their “forever family.” Outside of work Emily enjoys traveling, taking yoga classes, and exploring the Buffalo, NY area.
Flory Herman is a former pharmacist with a doctorate degree in pharmacy from the University of Kentucky, 1982. She graduated law school from the New York Law School (1988 cum laude) and was admitted to the New York State bar in January 1989. Her prior experience includes medical malpractice litigation. In 1992, Flory founded one of the most successful private adoption law practices in Western New York and has been a fellow of the prestigious American Academy of Adoption Attorneys since 1995.
Flory joined forces with Adoption STAR, Inc. in 2006 when she helped develop the “agency assisted private adoption track,” serving as the Agency’s Private Adoption Consultant. In that position, Flory worked hard to implement up-to-date practices in assisting adoptive parents with effective networking and advertising, to enable them to make that special connection with prospective birth parents. Thereafter, Flory served as the Agency’s General Counsel from 2008 through 2010 and now as Counsel Emeritus, since January 2011.
Independent of her role at Adoption STAR, Flory also partnered with her brother, Alan Wishnoff, in Littlelamb Productions from 2006-2009, a video production company that created beautiful and compelling custom video versions of adoptive parent profiles.
Flory also executive produced and directed the documentary-style film “I Have Roots and Branches”… Personal Reflections on Adoption, which received a 2004 Film Advisory Board award of excellence, recognized world-wide for quality family/children’s entertainment.
Flory is always awed by the miracle of adoption, having experienced it both professionally for so many years, and personally. Flory’s focus is often on the “faces of adoption” i.e. the children, adoptive parents and birth families of adoption, promoting adoption reform and educating society to share her “celebration of adoption”. As she puts it, “We want children to know that if they were adopted, it is a wonderful lifelong journey. Let us all celebrate the roots from which they come and the branches that mold them into who they are and where they will go.”
Flory, a proud adoptive mom, lives in East Amherst, NY with her husband, two teenage children and two Italian Greyhounds. She loves to cook, watch foreign films and will take any good easy exercise class!
Frances has worked in the field of social services for the past 15 years. She started her career straight out of college, working in the area of child welfare. In this capacity, Frances worked with children of all ages, their birth parents and foster parents. She provided support, concrete services, resources and advocacy. For six years, Frances assisted in managing various departments, first working with adolescents in foster care and then working with children who needed a higher level of therapeutic care. She is well versed in foster care and adoption policy. She has worked alongside the family court system to advocate for her families.
Currently, Frances has returned to direct practice, providing mental health counseling to patients of all ages.
Frances is experienced in writing home studies. In addition, she has experience in treatment planning and providing bi-lingual therapeutic services to children and adults. She has experience in providing parenting support and counseling, as well as in running a parenting group called The Parenting Journey.
Frances holds a Masters Degree in Social Work from Fordham University. She is a Licensed Master Social Worker in the State of New York. She was born and raised in Washington Heights, located in Upper Manhattan. She currently resides in Queens with her husband and son.
Geoff handles the Internet Marketing for Adoption STAR. He creates and implements SEO/SEM campaigns and analyzes results as well as makes recommendations so Adoption STAR can be found by those who need or desire the services we offer.
Geoff has a dual B.A. in English and Integrative Media from Wilkes University, and a M.S. in Professional and Technical Communication from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. His educational and professional expertise includes search engine optimization, digital marketing strategies, technical and creative writing, and graphic design for print, digital, and video mediums.
Geoff currently resides in southern New Jersey. When not working, he spends his time in the gym, mountain biking, discovering the next adrenaline-pumping activity, or relaxing with friends and family. Adoption has played a prominent role in Geoff’s life, having grown up with several adopted cousins and, more recently, is an uncle to an adopted nephew.
Jessica is a licensed social worker, serving adoptive families in the Rochester area since 2004. In addition to completing home studies, Jessica also visits with families after a child is placed, providing support and completing the post-placement reports needed to finalize an adoption. Jessica also works in administration at the Society for the Protection and Care of Children (SPCC) in Rochester, providing oversight to a variety of child and family programs. In her work with Adoption STAR, Jessica counts it an honor to partner with families in helping them prepare for and welcome the precious gift of a child through adoption.
Kaitlin provides pre and post adoption services including home studies and post placement supervision. Kaitlin received her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from Buffalo State College and her Master’s Degree from the University at Buffalo in the Advanced Standing Master’s of Social Work program. Prior to Kaitlin’s current position with Adoption STAR, she was an MSW Intern with the agency.
Additionally, Kaitlin is a Therapeutic Crisis Intervention and Trauma Informed Care Trainer for families. She has worked directly with families on re-unifying family members, strengthening family bonds, and teaching skills.
Kaitlin is excited to be a part of Adoption STAR! She values family and is looking forward to working with families as they expand theirs!
Kathleen works with adoptive parents conducting home studies and post placement visits. In addition Kathy works as a school social worker for the Buffalo Public Schools. Kathy has worked with Adoption STAR since the agency’s inception. Kathy also mentors graduate student interns who work with the agency. She enjoys working with Adoption STAR clients and says that working with adoptive parents and seeing them with their new children is heartwarming and makes me feel that I am involved in a very worthwhile endeavor.
Kathy has been affiliated with Adoption STAR for over 15 years. Throughout the years Kathy has served in the role of Per Diem Social Worker, Director of Adoption and in Post Adoption Support. Kathy is currently providing home study services for both the domestic infant adoption program and the A-OK program. She helps to facilitate classes and remains very connected to the agency. Kathy is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and is currently working full time at Evergreen Health Services in the role of Mental Health Clinical Supervisor. She also maintains a small private practice at which she sees clients for mental health counseling services. Over the years she has focused on the HIV/AIDS epidemic, adoption related issues, infertility, grief and loss as well as general mental health needs.
Adoption has always been near and dear to Kathy’s heart both from a personal and professional perspective. Kathy is the adoptive mother to four children from China. As a mother to internationally adopted children it has been a goal to help her children retain their heritage and to foster a strong sense of pride in their culture of origin. She notes that she feels fortunate to have been connected with Adoption STAR for so many years and looks forward to continued collaboration with the agency.
As Adoption STAR’s receptionist and administrative clerk, Kimberly serves as the first face and voice clients and the community interacts with when they contact the Agency. In addition to her responsibilities maintaining the front desk, she also assists the staff with day-to-day tasks, including outreach and compliance preparations.
Prior to joining the Adoption STAR staff, Kim worked for many years in customer service, where she gained an appreciation for understanding the special circumstances and cultural differences of each of her clients. She worked to build relationships with everyone she came in contact with.
Currently, Kim is finishing her Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology, with a focus in Museum Studies. Following graduation she intends to pursue a master’s degree in Library and Information Science, focusing on developing systems of file and record organization.
In addition to pursuing her degree and working at the Agency, Kim provides cares to her mother and stepfather, younger sister, and nephew at home.
Kim Wilder is an Adoption Assessor in the State of Ohio, and works as a Birth Family Advocate for Adoption STAR.
Kim received her BSW from West Virginia University and has over 20 years of experience in Adoption and Foster Care in Ohio. She has prepared and assessed families through their Adoption and Foster Care journey’s. Over the years Kim has worked with families interested in foster care, adoption from foster care, international adoption, and infant adoption as well as counseling birth families through their adoption planning.
Kim lives in Greater Cincinnati with her husband, 2 sons, and 1 puppy. Kim enjoys spending time with her family.
Kristin is the Development Associate at Adoption STAR. As a part of the agency’s marketing/development team, Kristin assists with special events, fundraising and public relations. Kristin is also responsible for overseeing Adoption STAR’s volunteer program.
Kristin earned her associates degree in Business at Erie Community College. Her previous experience is in the Human Resource field.
Kristin resides in Lancaster, New York with her husband Scott, 2 parrots, Lennon and McCartney and rabbit, Sid. She also has a son, Ronald who is in the air force reserves. Kristin enjoys cooking and reading. She also enjoys swimming, cycling and running. She completed her first Ironman in Lake Placid, New York in July 2012.
Ladi Agahiu is a New York-based therapist and Licensed Master Social Worker. She graduated from Columbia University School of Social Work and has worked with families in crisis since 2002 in a variety of settings throughout New York City. She also has extensive experience with NYC Children’s Services.
Ladi has worked with children and families for many years, in multiple supportive capacities, and most recently in this therapeutic setting. Many times she has worked with individuals working through depression, through trauma from domestic violence, sex abuse, past or current child abuse, and mental health ailments. She strives to create a supportive safe space for children, adults, couples, and families to come and work through their issues.
Ladi also enjoys working with families from various cultural backgrounds, as she was born in Nigeria, and cultural identity is an important part of her life experiences. She looks forward to meeting and working with you.
Laurel Pfund-Byron provides pre and post adoption services, including home studies and post placement supervision. Laurel received both her BS and Masters Degrees in Elementary Education from SUNY Oswego.
Laurel taught at New Haven Elementary School in the Mexico District for 31 years before beginning her current work as an adjunct instructor in the Curriculum and Instruction Department of the School of Education at SUNY Oswego.
After coaching synchronized swimming for 35 years, Laurel maintains her judging certification for the sport. Laurel lives in Oswego with her husband John, and has 2 grown sons.
Linda is a Licensed Social Worker and Adoption Assessor in the state of Ohio. She currently serves as the Ohio Birth Family Advocate at Adoption STAR. She has spent her career in Child Welfare, for both public and private Foster Care/Adoption agencies. She has over 25 years of experience working with families and children, providing home study services, counseling, crisis intervention, training, and parent coaching. She believes in resiliency of others and that every person has innate strengths to be shared. Linda considers her greatest strengths to be her enthusiasm, compassion, and ability to motivate others.
Linda has been married to her childhood sweetheart for 40 years and together they have three adult children and one beautiful granddaughter! She enjoys spending time with family, playing with her two rescue dogs, making things from wood, crafting, swimming, reading, cooking, and being outdoors in the sun.
Lisa is an Adoption Social Worker, providing home study and post placement services to adoptive parents at Adoption STAR. Lisa received her Bachelor’s Degree from the State University of New York College at Buffalo, and her Master’s degree from the State University at Buffalo.
Lisa has worked at Women &Children’s Hospital of Buffalo for over 20 years in various capacities, which include the women’s clinic, maternity units, hematology/oncology division, emergency room, and pediatric surgical unit.
Lisa is skilled in Solution-Focused Therapy. She believes every child deserves hope and a safe place to call “home,” which can be discovered through the adoption process.
Born in Western New York, Lisa resides in Williamsville with her husband, David, and their two children. She enjoys spending time with friends and family.
Lynlee earned her Masters degree in Social Work as well as one in Public Health at the University at Buffalo. During her time earning her MSW Lynlee was Adoption STAR’s intern and now loves her time as a Home Study Social Worker.
Lynlee’s professional interests lie in the areas of Maternal and Child Health and would love to work surrounded by babies all day. As the oldest of four children, Lynlee has spent her life surrounded by a big family and is thrilled to assist in helping others have that experience.
Marie works with adoptive parents writing home studies and conducting post placement visits. She has a private practice specializing in pre-and-post adoption issues for members of the adoption constellation in Albany, NY. She is on the board of the Adoptive Families of the Capital Region, Inc. and the Advisory Board of the Post Adoption Resource Center at Parsons Child & Family Center. Marie enjoys working with Adoption STAR clients because it gives her an opportunity to educate parents on the unique issues adoptive families’ experience. Marie feels fortunate to work with Adoption STAR clients in helping them build the forever families they have been dreaming of.
Meg is a licensed master social worker in New York. She obtained her Master’s degree in Social Work from the State University of New York at Buffalo after completing her undergraduate degree in social work from the State University of New York at Fredonia.
Meg has worked within the adoption field for many years. Previously Meg was the Social Work Manager for an adoption agency in Massachusetts, specializing in adoptions from China. During her time there she was able to obtain her License as a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker in the state of Massachusetts.
Meg’s experience as a social worker also includes working with children with social emotional disorders and/or behavioral challenges and their families. Her volunteer work includes working to provide humanitarian aid to children living outside of family care.
Meg currently is our International Adoption Coordinator, working with all of our New York State families through their internatatonal adoption journey and overseeing our programs in OH and FL as well. She has also provided pre and post adoption counseling as well as home study and post placement services for Adoption STAR predominately in the Rochester, NY area.
Meg states, “I have worked in adoption for a number of years and have never found any other work more rewarding. I have been fortunate to work with families both pre and post adoption as well as provide adoptive parent education and other resources to assist families through their adoption journey. Two areas of significant focus for me have been special needs adoption and adopting an older child.”
Melanie is an Adoption Social Worker providing support to Adoption STAR’s A-OK Program. She has a passion for older child adoption with over a decade of experience in the foster care adoption field.
Melanie received her Masters in Social Work from Roberts Wesleyan College and Bachelor’s degree from Houghton College. One of her most meaningful professional experiences prior to Adoption STAR was finding adoptive homes for waiting youth in danger of aging out of the foster care system.
Outside of work, Melanie enjoys spending time with her 2 children and husband. Her favorite things to do include family gatherings, live music, walking and hiking, and vacationing in the Adirondacks.
Melanie believes that all children deserve a life-long family, and that all types of families can give children a chance at a promising future.
Michael Hill is the Associate Director. He has been with Adoption STAR since 2009 when he joined the agency as the Project Lead for the federally-funded Infant Adoption Awareness Training Project (IAATP).
Michael holds a Master of Science degree in Human Services Administration from Buffalo State College and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Work from Luther College. In 1998, Michael started his professional career as a case manager at AIDS Community Services of Western New York, Inc. in 1999, Michael joined the Olmsted Center for Sight and held several positions with the organization, including Case Manager, Program Coordinator, Clinical Supervisor and Communications Specialist/Student Services Adviser. In 2005, Michael became the director of Development and Public Relations for St. Mary’s School for the Deaf, and in 2007 he joined Upstate New York Transplant Services as their Director of Education.
As Associate Director for Adoption STAR, Michael plans, organizes and directs the day-to-day operations of the Development Department. In addition he assists the CEO in the implementation of strategies and systems that insure that agency operations meet the highest standards of quality. Michael also establishes and maintains relationships with other agencies and organizations in the community.
His role as Associate Director enhances his original role as IAATP Project Lead by conducting and overseeing marketing and outreach related activities in an effort to arrange in-services and new partnerships within the community.
Michael is a strong and passionate speaker, and an enthusiastic advocate of permanency planning. As an adoptive father he treasures the fact that he can be a part of the adoption process.
Michael’s work is important to him and he is passionate about increasing the agency’s educational outreach within the community. “Pregnancy counseling and adoption education is so important today,” Michael said. “I am looking forward to introducing our curriculum and information to groups, organizations, medical facilities and schools.”
In addition to Michael’s professional work, he is a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo, an active member of YMCA Buffalo/Niagara’s Independent Health Family Branch, and a member of the Human Rights Campaign (the largest LGBT civil rights advocacy group and political lobbying organization in the United States). Michael resides in Snyder, New York with his husband Scott and their sons Elijah and Seth. Michael’s favorite pastimes include singing, tennis, gardening and taking the boys for long walks at local parks or around their neighborhood.
Michele is a New York State Certified School Psychologist with many years of experience in the field of special education. She is an adoptive mom to a wonderful boy and is the Vice President of the New York City Chapter of the Adoptive Parents Committee, an adoptive parent support group. Michele helps to coordinate programming for the annual APC Conference as well as for monthly support group meetings.
Michele conducts homestudies and post placement visits. She is honored to be able to help people create their families through adoption.
Michele Fried is the founder and CEO of Adoption STAR. Her foremost responsibilities are the implementation of strategic plans and agency growth/expansion, financial management, board partnerships and supervision of the staff. Michele has her hands full with these responsibilities as well as initiating marketing and public relation campaigns and executing and implementing policies developed by the Board of Directors.
Before starting Adoption STAR, Michele worked as an educator in Pennsylvania and then after she and her husband adopted their first child, she entered the field of adoption. In 1989 she founded an adoption agency licensed in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Michele’s own family began to grow and they chose to return home to Western New York. Michele began working locally as an Inclusion Coordinator for individuals with developmental disabilities.
As the years went by, Michele was inspired by the great need for a passionate, advocacy based, non-profit child-welfare agency in this area and so Adoption STAR was born in March of 2000! Michele is very proud of the work Adoption STAR has done and continues to do, and states she is touched by the incredible birth mothers that work with the agency.
The community-at-large has also noticed Michele and her agency. In 2003, Michele received a Business First 40 Under Forty Award and in 2004 WKBW-TV honored Michele by selecting her to be one of the community’s Everyday Heroes. The YWCA also honored Michele in 2005 by selecting her as one of twenty-six women making a difference in Western New York. In 2009, Michele was the recipient of a Business First Women of Influence Entrepreneur Award. On May 1, 2010 during the Dazzling Decade ~ A Night of Stars 10th Birthday Gala, Michele’s own agency presented her with the First Michele Fried Founder’s Award. In the future, this award will be ongoing and be given to an individual whose contributions, expertise, and dedication to adoption mirror Michele’s.
Michele carefully named the agency using the acronym STAR and was determined to utilize the words within the name to provide comprehensive services to all members of the adoption triad: Support, Training, Advocacy and Resources (STAR).
Michele believes in permanency planning and believes that every child deserves a forever family. She created Adoption STAR to operate on the belief that there is a family for every child.
Michele and her husband Chuck enjoy spending time with their children. In addition to their amazing kids, they are busy with Olive (a Chihuahua) and Abbey (a Maltese mix) who sometimes accompany Michele to work. Michele enjoys traveling, writing, reading, long walks, and movies — especially true stories and those with happy endings.
Miriam Rosenberg-Sica is an Adoption STAR Social Worker in the Long Island, NY area. Miriam has spent her career in Family Foster Care. Miriam earned her Master’s Degree in Social worker from Fordham University, and subsequently received her LMSW from New York State. Additionally, for the past 20 years, Miriam has completed independent adoption home studies for attorneys, agencies, and the courts.
In her work in foster care, Miriam has marveled at the resiliency of the children, and the dedication of their foster parents. The support, devotion, and perseverance of staff and administrators kept Miriam going to work every day.
Moira Madden is thrilled to be on the Adoption STAR team as a Birth Family Advocate. She has a Master’s of Public Health focused in Community Health Education and is a Certified Health Education Specialist. Her focus is in perinatal, reproductive, and sexual health, as well as health literacy and education, and developing games to facilitate learning. Mo comes from a background of working with teenagers in birth control and pregnancy options counseling, accessing care, designing games, and running group or class. The space she comes from means she wants adoption resources, reproductive & sexual health resources, and fully inclusive and factual information about options and health during pregnancy to be more accessible for absolutely everyone. She lives with her super smart and silly partner, Scott, and their goofy dog, Rilo, and does hand embroidery on the side. Mo really loves Christmas, hiking, the Gilmore Girls, strategy board games and ambitious vegetarian home cooking and baking. If she were a Muppet she would be Ernie.
Nicole Dyan Tartaglia is an artist, designer, and developer. She works as an UI/X and Visual designer for a large private company. Her freelance brand, nicoletartaglia.com, produces a wide variety of design and art projects including fine art production, branding and web design, art curation, and more. She graduated from Rutgers University in 2005, receiving a Bachelor of the Arts degree in Graphic Design and Computer Science. She served on the AIGA Philadelphia board as Interactive Director for 3 years curating an all QR code animation show and setting up many web workshops for the community. Her work has been exhibited in many galleries and events nationally. Nicole lives in Philadelphia, PA with her husband, two cats, and her baby daughter, Colette ‘Coco’.
Nuala works with adoptive parents writing home studies and conducting post placement visits. She enjoys working with Adoption STAR clients because “being able to help people fulfill their dream of creating a family is an extraordinary privilege.”
Quinn is a student at Williamsville North High School. She is working in the main office a couple times a week. Quinn spends most of her time scanning documents into the agency’s software assessment management system. In addition to being a Scan Clerk, Quinn assists the administrative team as needed. In her free time, Quinn enjoys cheerleading.
Rachael works in the Adoptive Parent Department as a Social Worker and Family Advocate providing support to adoptive families of Adoption STAR from their first steps of the process and throughout their adoption journey.
Rachael received her Masters Degree in Social Work from Case Western Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences and her Bachelors Degree in Social Work from Buffalo State College. She became a Licensed MSW in 2007 and a Licensed CSW in 2016.
Rachael joined New Alternatives for Children (NAC) in New York City in October 2007 ~ First as a Senior social worker and then as a Clinical Coordinator. Rachael worked within a nationally recognized program that trains, assists and strengthens the capacity of families who have adopted one or more children with special needs. Through pre and post adoption support and education, referral and advocacy, crisis intervention and counseling, Rachael helped to support and improve the wellbeing and functioning of adoptive families.
Rachael’s years of experience in the adoption field, her gentle nature, and her strong clinical skills assist individuals and couples as they navigate the many options and emotions involved in the adoption process.
Rachael believes adoption is a beautiful way to create a family and loves supporting families through their adoption.
Rachel greatly enjoys her work with Adoption STAR, providing both home study and birth family services to families in New York City. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from Brandeis University, and her Master’s Degree in Social Work from Columbia University. Full time, she works as a Therapist at a labor union for NYC employees.
Sarah began her education at SUNY Brockport pursuing a career in Psychology and Alcohol/Substance Abuse. She obtained a Master’s degree in Social Work through Binghamton University. Sarah had the privilege of working in a county foster care unit as an MSW intern.Sarah provides pre and post adoption support to adoptive families. Additionally, Sarah provides clinical support at a Skilled Nursing Facility in Geneva, NY. Sarah enjoys spending time with her family and being a mom.
Shannon is as an Adoption Social Worker and Family Advocate in the Adoptive Parent Department. She works directly with prospective adoptive parents in the traditional domestic adoption program.
Shannon received her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Buffalo and her Bachelor’s in Social Work from Buffalo State College. She has experience in the field of foster care and adoption where she has seen first hand how adoption changes lives. Shannon also watched her brother and sister-in-law go through the adoption process and become adoptive parents, and is head over heels in love with her niece, an Adoption STAR baby! In addition to being touched by adoption, Shannon worked at St. Mary’s School for the Deaf providing school-age children with support by way of counseling, planning activities, coaching, and enhancing their communication skills. She is fluent in ASL (American Sign Language).
Prior to joining Adoption STAR on a full time basis, Shannon had been working with the Agency as an adoption social worker providing both pre and post adoption services to adoptive families and birth families.
Shannon is passionate about working in the adoption field. She enjoys working with adoptive families because it allows her to help make the dream of “becoming parents” a reality.
Shaun Doyle comes to Adoption STAR with 20 years of experience working for not-for-profits in the area of developmental disability. After studying at SUNY Fredonia, Shaun moved to Orlando, Florida, to work for Walt
Disney World. There he learned to train not only Disney Cast Members, but also to train people from other organizations on Disney’s Approach to Quality Service and Disney’s Innovation in Action. Shaun also created and led youth programs at the Disney Institute.
Prior to joining the STAR team as the Intake Manager, he was the Director of Training and Staff Development for Autism Services of WNY. In his time there, Shaun developed multiple training curricula in not only working with people on the spectrum, but in leadership, hands-free intervention and customer service. At the start of his career, Shaun traveled to Romania to help train staff in institutions and orphanages that were about to close, to ensure effective and humane treatment for the children that would be returning to their communities. In addition to training and staff development, Shaun also worked closely with the Quality Improvement department to investigate incidents that may have occurred in the programs.
Shaun and his husband Eric adopted their son, who was born in 2015, with the help of Adoption STAR. Adoption is part of his family’s story, and he is passionate about connecting people, building relationships, and following up with other families looking to grow through adoption. He is a well skilled storyteller, a performer by nature and has an innate ability to be inclusive no matter the setting. Shaun is a volunteer Wish Granter at Make a Wish, teaches new member classes at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo and sang with the Buffalo Gay Men’s Chorus for over 10 years, serving as board president in 2012. Shaun is most proud of his role as daddy to his son Jackson, and is so proud to come home every day and tell him that he spent the day working hard to help children find forever families.
Stephanie has a Master’s degree in Rehabilitation counseling with 15 years experience working with people with severe mental illness, and in the chemical dependency and rehabilitation fields. Stephanie wanted to work at Adoption STAR, “Because my own adoption experiences were the lights at the ends of my tunnels! Adoption was the path to fulfilling my dreams of motherhood! I want to be one of the supportive, loving, teaching people along that path for other adoptive families. I think it’s my way of giving to the community and sharing my family in a fulfilling way.” Stephanie conducts home studies and post placement supervision as well as facilitates some of the educational classes for Adoption STAR. Stephanie has three children, two arrived by way of adoption and one by birth. Stephanie feels this has given her a unique perspective on parenting as well as the birth/adoptive parent/adoptee triad.
Stephanie has a Masters in Psychology and a Bachelors in Education. In addition to her work with Adoption STAR, she works for Farnham Family Services as a Student Assistance Counselor in the Prevention Program.
Stephanie is skilled in the areas of crisis intervention and providing one-on-one counseling and education. Stephanie’s additional experience includes classroom presentation, facilitating group sessions and family skills programming.
Born and raised in Oswego County, Stephanie enjoys giving back to her community. In her free time she loves to read, listen to music, write and do research on various topics close to her heart. Spending time with family is most important; including playing fetch with her two dogs on her farm, dinner with extended family, or just cuddling on the couch with her cats.
Steve works with Adoption STAR adoptive families for their home study and post placement needs. He received a Master’s of Social Work from Fordham University in 1995. As an adoptee, an adoption professional, and parent of two children, he is a strong advocate for building families through adoption. Steve has worked professionally in foster care and adoption since 1994, including the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and Family Services of Westchester, Jewish Child Care Association, and Connecticut Adoption and Family Services. Steve is also a member of the Adoption Foster Care Therapist Network. Steve has been in reunion with his biological family since 2004 and lives with his wife and daughters in Westchester County, New York.
Sue Shaw has worked with birth families since she joined Adoption STAR in 2006. Sue states, “I have discovered a passion for the field of adoption and believe that it is my calling in life.” Sue works directly with expectant parents providing them counseling, referrals and support throughout their pregnancies. Expectant parents who select adoption will work with Sue to make an adoption plan that includes selecting an adoptive family.
In 2015, Adoption STAR honored Sue with the Michele Fried Founders Award as her above and beyond passion and commitment to the field is similar to that of the agency’s founder.
Sue has been an active member of CAFFA (Coalition of Adoption and Foster Family Agencies) and has participated on several CAFFA committees on behalf of Adoption STAR.
Sue and her husband live in Cheektowaga, NY with their 2 dogs and 1 cat. Sue is an animal lover, enjoys motorcycle riding, skiing and spending time with family and friends. Sue and her husband live in Cheektowaga, NY with their 2 dogs and 1 cat.
Sue works as a Family Advocate providing support to adoptive families of Adoption STAR from their first steps of the process and throughout their adoption journey. Sue also educates clients interested in the Agency Assisted Private Track program. Sue works closely with all of our family advocates, our adoption supervisor, and director of adoption as they work to meet the needs of our adoptive families.
For several years before Sue became a Family Advocate, she provided incredible support and assistance to prospective adoptive parents and adoptive families as the Adoptive Parent Mentor and Coach.
Sue has been a friend to Adoption STAR and advocate for adoption since she and her husband began their own adoption journey in 2002. She has a background in Human Services and many years of experience in the adoption field. Sue is a well-known and respected adoption guide and has supported countless adoptive families for several years. Additionally, Sue is a three-time Adoption STAR adoptive mom.
Sue lives with her family in Lockport and enjoys photography in her spare time. She also has a passion for helping families navigate through the adoption process. She states, “I believe so strongly in adoption, because I have the honor of living it every day!”
Susan is a licensed social worker with a Master’s degree from Fordham University in New York. She has worked in the adoption field for many years conducting home studies and post-placement visits, as well as in foster care and prevention.
Before working in adoption she was Clinical Director of Midtown Community Court in New York City. She lives in Manhattan with her husband, two children and their dog named, Cricket.
Sylvia works with adoptive parents writing home studies and conducting post placement visits. Sylvia received her Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice with a minor in Women Studies at Florida Atlantic University and her Master’s in Business Administration with a concentration in Human Resource Development from Nova Southeastern University. Sylvia has experience has many years of experience in case management. She is a Certified Child Welfare Case Manager. Sylvia worked for a non-profit community based care agency in Broward County, FL as a Child Advocate, Adoption Specialist, and lastly as a Termination of Parental Rights Specialist. She enjoyed working with families and advocating on their behalf. Sylvia is well versed in the family court system and current family court laws. Sylvia was also part of several agency committee’s that would assist with employee retention strategies. Additionally, Sylvia has experience as a Foster Care Licensing Specialist, Foster Parent Recruiter and Trainer. As a passionate worker, Sylvia mentored all of her teen clients and still mentors them post aging out of the foster care system. Sylvia loves to help others to achieve their goals and is very supportive of her clients. Sylvia considers herself approachable, supportive, passionate, nonjudgmental, and caring. Sylvia loves laughter and making others laugh.
Tyla received her Bachelors and Masters degrees from The University of Akron in Social Work. She is a licensed social worker in the state of Ohio. Tyla is an adoption assessor for Adoption STAR. Tyla also works for Akron Children’s Hospital since 2009. She is a pediatric social worker in the Emergency Department. Additionally, Tyla’s experience includes working with the Common Ground Family Services conducting supervised visitations for families who are mandated through the Domestic Relations court. Tyla’s passion is working with families as well as children and adults with special needs.
Tyla lives in Cuyahoga Falls, OH. She enjoys spending time with her large family of 11 siblings and 36 nieces and nephews!
Val is a part of the Client Relations and Compliance Department as Adoption STAR’s Administrative Assistant. She is often the first person one would speak with when calling the office. Val handles prospective client intakes, processes home study paperwork for clients, and provides administrative and financial support to the agency’s clients.
Val previously served as an AmeriCorps member for a year in the Buffalo area, and attended SUNY Brockport as an exercise science major. Being an adoptee herself, Val is extremely passionate about all of the amazing things Adoption STAR does. Outside of work, Val enjoys being outdoors, traveling, trying new foods, and binge-watching The Office.
As a member of the executive team, Zack is responsible for accomplishing compliance objectives, establishing compliance standards, taking the lead on the planning and organization of site visits and licensing reviews, directing staff, human resources, enhancing a client experience through quality assurance, etc.
Zack loves to provide guidance and support to all those interested in learning more about adoption and Adoption STAR. As an adoptee, Zack feels a special connection to adoption and all the processes involved. He is very open to sharing his personal story. Zack participates as a facilitator in pre-parenthood classes and adoption orientation sessions. Additionally, Zack is the facilitator of ACE (Adoptee Circle of Experience support group) providing support, resources and search information for adult adoptees. He is a talented and frequent speaker at nationwide conferences and workshops.
Outside of adoption, Zack loves watching movies, getting caught up in a David Baldacci novel, eating, traveling, and spending time with loved ones.