Session 2 – Conference Speakers

Session 2A: Adoption Choices

Michelle Hughes, Attorney, Law offices of Michelle M. Hughes ,P.C.

As any new hopeful adoptive parent (HAP) quickly learns adoption has changed over the decades and there are so many choices to consider, not to mention the acronyms. This presentation will cover the basic options of DIA (domestic infant adoption); Foster care adoption; and International adoption. It will discuss the parameters of each type of adoption as well as the time line and estimated expenses for services. It will wrap up with the general court process.

Ms. Hughes established her own law firm, the Law Office of Michelle M. Hughes in 1993 and her legal practice focuses primarily on family building both in adoption, (working with private agency, DCFS, independent adoption, co-parent adoption and related adoption) and assisted reproductive technology. She also does real estate and corporate contractual work. She has conducted seminars on general adoption education, as well as transracial, domestic and international adoptions. Ms. Hughes has testified in Springfield regarding several bills for the State of Illinois. She has discussed multiracial issues, including transracial adoption, in many forums, including appearing on several TV broadcasts and on radio. In 1994, she co-founded Bridge Communications, Inc. specializing in diversity training, with an emphasis on transracial, international and general adoption education.

Session 2B: Building and Maintaining Connections: Birth Country Travel for Families who have Adopted Internationally

Leslie Jenkins Reed, International Service Coordinator, Cooperative for Education

On behalf of Cooperative for Education (CoEd), Leslie will share stories, insights, and lessons learned about birth country travel from the organization’s 15 years of hosting adoptive families in Guatemala. While each family’s and individual’s experience is different, we have learned that families can use birth country travel as a powerful way to explore children’s questions of identity and connections to their birth country while also building connections within families by traveling together. Many families find deep satisfaction in the opportunity to give back and serve in their children’s birth country, and many begin a relationship that lasts a lifetime. This presentation will explore those opportunities and seek to answer questions that parents have about visiting their children’s birth country, whether Guatemala or elsewhere.

As International Service Coordinator at the nonprofit organization Cooperative for Education (CoEd), Leslie helps families connected to Guatemala through adoption reconnect to the country through the Heritage Tour, speaking engagements, and opportunities for philanthropy. Cooperative for Education’s mission is to break the cycle of poverty in Guatemala through education, and this includes education of people in the United States and elsewhere of the realities of life in Guatemala. Bringing a sensitive and compassionate touch, CoEd and Leslie help families who have adopted internationally have a powerful impact in their child(ren)’s birth country.

Session 2C: EMDR: A Promising Treatment Approach for Trauma Related to Foster Care and Adoption

Colleen Norwell, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, PC Psychotherapy

This session will provide foster parents, adoptive parents and professionals information about Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), a form of therapy that has been successful in use with treatment of trauma, as well as a variety of mental health conditions by relieving affective distress, reformulating negative beliefs and reducing physiological arousal associated with traumatic events or symptoms related to a diagnosis. Information provided will include a brief history of the evolution of EMDR and how it can be used to treat the myriad of issues that present around adoption, trauma and attachment. Participants will also have the option to participate in some demonstrations of examples resourcing/coping skills that would likely be taught within EMDR treatment.

Colleen Norwell is an adoptee and Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She currently works as a therapist in the western suburbs specializing in trauma and works closely with child, adolescent and adult adoptees, as well as adoptive parents. Colleen has previously had the honor of working specifically in the field of adoption with Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago, as well as in residential care for DCFS youth at Thresholds.

Session 2D: Adoption vs. Guardianship: What is right for your family?

Sara Kahn Wool, Adoption Attorney/ Family Mediator, Sara Kahn Wool, Esq. LLC

For parents the choice of whether to adopt or become guardians of children placed in your home is not always clear. The laws have extended guardianship to non-relative parents. This presentation will cover the permanency options of adoption and guardianship in depth to help parents decide which one is right for their family.

Sara Kahn Wool has been practicing alternative dispute resolution and family law in Chicago for over 10 years. Sara has been appointed to the DCFS Statewide Adoption Attorney List, the 19th Judicial Circuit Family Mediation Program as court- approved mediator and court-approved child representative for Lake County. She frequently volunteers as a mediator in Lake County and currently serves as an arbitrator for the Circuit County of Cook and Lake County Mandatory Arbitration Programs. In addition to representing families in Illinois, Sara volunteers and serves on executive boards in her community and schools. Sara understands the complexity of issues within family law and she is committed to working with her clients to achieve the best possible outcomes.

Session 2E: Hidden truths of stressed parenting: Things I’m not supposed to say out loud. (Hint: Say them here!)

Judy Orbach, LCSW, Private practice

A round-table interactive conversation with adoptive parents about the often difficult, gut-wrenching feelings and thoughts we harbor during the challenging times as we parent our children.

Judy Orbach, LCSW is a psychotherapist with a private practice in Skokie, Illinois. She treats children, adolescents and adults and specializes in adoption across the life span, grief/loss, infertility, transracial adoption issues, and children with chronic illness. She can be reached at 312-296-4562 or by email at

Session 2F: How Am I Going to Afford This?! A Discussion on Covering Adoption Costs

** Please note that the title of this session is listed as 2F. Financial Options for Adoption **

Becky Fawcett, Founder & President,

One of the biggest questions people ask when starting the adoption process is “How am I going to afford this?” Though adoption can be expensive and involve some financial risks, there are options available. In this workshop, Becky Fawcett, Founder & President of will discuss key ways to make adoption more affordable – from applying for adoption grants to fundraising on your own, and everything in between.

Becky Fawcett is the founder and president of, an equality based organization that seeks to reduce the financial burden of adoption by awarding large, life-changing, problem-solving grants. Becky and her husband Kipp adopted their son, Jake, in 2005, and their daughter, Brooke, in 2009. After adopting their son, Becky and Kipp, were so grateful that they had the financial means to adopt that they decided to make a donation to an organization that would help ease another family’s financial burden. Sadly, they could not find an adoption grant organization that was based on a mission of equality. To address this need and help all types of families, they founded in 2007. Under Becky’s leadership, has grown from a kitchen-table organization into a strong, national presence with a full time staff of five, board of 14, hundreds of volunteers, and thousands of donors. Becky has received a number of accolades as the founder of She was named one of CNN’s 2011 Heroes, and a “Hero Among Us” by PEOPLE Magazine. She received the Congressional Institute’s Angels in Adoption Award in 2013. She was recognized by The Wall Street Journal as a Donor of the Day, and last year, she was recognized by Neiman Marcus as a strong woman who is making noise within her community. Her groundbreaking work has also been featured on The Today Show, Good Morning America, The Steve Harvey Show and Becky lives in Manhattan with her husband Kipp and her children Jake and Brooke.

Megan Wood

Session 2G: Meet the Birthparents: A Panel

On Your Feet Foundation – BirthParent Panel On Your Feet Foundation, BirthParent Panel, On Your Feet Foundation

This panel will consist of multiple birthparents sharing their experiences and answering questions. The goal of this panel is to share the whole story of what being a birthparent means—the good and the bad, the happy and the sad. Adoption is not a point in time – it continues into the future and changes as we all grow together. We look forward to your questions and hope to learn as a team!

On Your Feet Foundation was founded in 2001 by adoptive parents, adoption professionals and a birth parent who recognized the need for practical help for women who had chosen adoption for their child. We are a small, nonprofit 501c3 organization that provides personal support to birthparents to help them get “back on their feet.” OYFF focuses on helping our clients build a better life by giving them the tools they need through case management and coaching, monetary grants and through the creation of a community of other birthparents.

Currently, case management services and monetary grants are available to birthparents living only in the states of Illinois and Indiana. Our annual retreats are open to any birthmother who would like to attend. On your Feet Foundation also provide speakers for adoption related educational courses and panels, including birthparents, adoptive parents and adoption professionals.

MJ Wood is a 39 year old birthmother who placed her son in a closed adoption more than 20 years ago. She has been speaking at high schools and workshops informing people about adoption for the last 20 years. MJ has been involved with On Your Feet Foundation and attended several birthmother retreats, sharing her story with others for several years.

MJ will be joined by Lacey, Kiara, Rebeckah and Torri:

Lacey placed her daughter Tiffany over 2 years ago, and parents a little girl and boy. Lacey and Tiffany’s parents have an open adoption.

Kiara has an open adoption with her son Jason’s parents. Kiara frequently visits Jason and his family; Jason’s siblings (an older sister and younger brother) love visiting with them, too.

Rebeckah Gray is a member at On Your Feet Foundation (, a birthmother to a 16 year old son with an open adoption plan and a real estate closing coordinator. In the past, she has spoken on one other birthparent panel and is looking for more opportunities to speak and help others in adoption plans.

Torri placed Athena over a year ago and parents two little girls. Torri and Athena’s parents have an open adoption, despite living states apart.