Session 1 – Conference Speakers

Session 1A: Roadmap To a Quicker Domestic Adoption

Rebecca Gruenspan, Founder & Chief Consultant, RG Adoption Consulting

Rebecca Gruenspan, founder of RG Adoption Consulting, will cover every step of the domestic infant adoption process as well as strategies on how to fast-forward your journey, saving you weeks of tedious legwork and helping you to bring your baby home quicker.

As founder and chief consultant of RG Adoption Consulting, Rebecca helps individuals and couples across the U.S. navigate the domestic adoption process so that you can finally start (or grow) the family you know you’re meant to have — without wasting any more precious time.


Session 1B: International Adoption 101

Kristina Berg, Director of Adoption, Children’s Home Society of Minnesota

Lisa Trinh, Coordinator, Children’s Home Society of Minnesota

Despite the decline in international adoption, there is still a great need. During this presentation we will cover the international adoption process from agency selection, to country program options, trends, travel, and what happens once the child is home. The audience will take away practical tips and advice applicable to all who are considering building their family through international adoption.

Kristina is an adoption professional with 13 years experience working across international, infant, foster care and post adoption services. She holds degrees in Social Work and Multicultural Studies.

Lisa is an adoption professional with over 15 years experience. She is an adoptive parent and has worked across multiple program areas including international adoption, child advocacy, foster care and post adoption services.


Session 1C: What to Look for in an Adoption Competent Therapist

Pam Shepard, Supervisor of Clinical Services, Holt-Sunny Ridge

What makes a therapist adoption competent? Is it personal experience, training, job experience or a combination of those? Something else entirely? Putting your trust in someone to help navigate your family through post adoption can be daunting and anxiety provoking. In this workshop, you will learn what to look for, what questions to ask and also hear from those who have worked with an adoption competent therapist. The panelists will enlighten the audience about their own experiences of identifying a therapist that meets their needs.

Pam Shepard (MSW, LCSW) has over 23 years of experience in the child welfare and adoption field. She has been the Supervisor of Clinical Services at Holt-Sunny Ridge in Bolingbrook for 8 years, which is a branch office of Holt International located in Eugene, Oregon. Pam is trained in Theraplay, Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy, and EMDR. She is also a TBRI (Trust Based Relational Intervention) practitioner and educator. Pam attended Olivet Nazarene University where she obtained a B.A. in Psychology and then attended Dominican University to obtain her Master of Social Work degree. She is also a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Pam has been a foster care case manager, expectant mother counselor, home study social worker for both domestic and international programs and an adoption preservation therapist before working at Holt-Sunny Ridge.


Session 1D: “I am Pamela, I am adopted”

Pamela Cook, “I am Pamela, I am adopted”, I am Pamela

This is Pamela’s journey of being transracially adopted, and how she continues working through challenges of being comfortable in her own skin. Her motto is “Love has no color”, a concept that becomes self-evident when we take the time to know each other as individuals, challenging our assumptions, stereotypes and cultural bias.

Pamela Cook is the co-founder of Bridge Communications Inc. where she helped couples navigate the challenges associated with transracial adoption. More recently, she founded Mosaic Experience LLC. a consulting company dedicated to diversity, leadership development and team building.


Session 1E: Parenting the Sensational Child

Linda Neuharth, Occupational Therapist, Milestones For Kid’s Success

This session will be centered around an overview of Sensory Processing Disorder, red flags to look for in children, understanding how behavior and sensory problems are integrated, and adapting your parenting style to help your sensational child flourish.

Linda Neuharth has been a Pediatric Occupational Therapist for over 25 years, with vast experience working cross culturally overseas in orphanages and schools. She is currently employed as a therapist
with a specialty in working with kids from hard places with sensory, behavioral and emotional regulation challenges.


Session 1F: Why Are We Still Sad? Living with Ambiguous Loss

Joann DiStefano, Adoption & Life Performance Coach, GIFT Family Services

Sally Ankerfelt, Adoption & Life Performance Coach, GIFT Family Services

Adoption does not occur without loss. Yet, discussing loss can be difficult and complex. This workshop explores ambiguous loss and how it differs from other types of loss. It examines the experience of adoptees, first parents and families, adoptive parents and families, and those involved in foster care. Attendees will learn how to recognize and honor the grief of ambiguous loss, discover ways to live with loss, and move forward in hope.

Joann DiStefano, BA, JD, MLS, CPC, MCNLP: After parenting two adopted children with challenges, Joann has come to recognize that becoming aware of her own unresolved issues and patterns has helped her in being a better mother to her children. Joann believes that taking these steps has helped her to truly connect and attune with her children, especially when implicit painful experiences surface. With her certifications and trainings, Joann has learned how to help families with techniques that can assist them in becoming aware of their patterns and unresolved issues for stronger connections and atunement.

Joann is affiliated with GIFT Family Services, LLC and Coaching4Movement, Inc., both in Chicago.

Sally Ankerfelt, B.A. M.Div., CPC:  Parenting three adopted children, Sally has to come to recognize how traumatic the experience of adoption can be.  As adoptive parents, we can feel ill-equipped to handle and respond to our children.  With certificates in coaching and trauma studies, Sally helps families find renewal by exploring trauma-informed approaches to parenting.

Sally is affiliated with GIFT Family Services, LLC in Chicago , IL and Empowering Women Leaders Coaching in Minneapolis, MN