Session 3 – Conference Speakers

Session 3A: Becoming a Parent through Domestic Adoption and Assisted Reproduction – A Legal Overview

Shelley Ballard, Attorney At Law, Shelley B. Ballard P.C.

This workshop will present an overview of the domestic adoption process, both agency and private, and will address locating a child, costs, avoiding scams, openness, the interstate process, the Indian Child Welfare Act, birth father rights, the Putative Father Registry, insurance coverage, reproductive options (egg, sperm and embryo donation as well as surrogacy) and recent changes to adoption law.

Shelley Ballard has devoted her law practice to adoption after adopting her oldest child over 30 years ago, handing thousands of adoptions of every type (domestic, international, foster care, related, adult, surrogacy/gamete donation and contested cases). She is active in legislative efforts to improve adoption in Illinois and was recognized by the Illinois House of Representatives in a formal House resolution for her efforts in passing the “Baby Richard Law”, which created the Putative Father Registry and added several safeguards to reduce contested adoptions. Ms. Ballard contributed the chapter on adoption for the Illinois State Bar Association Family Law Handbook and is the author of the chapters on Interstate and Adult Adoption for the Illinois Adoption Law Practice Handbook, published by the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education. She is a member and Secretary/Treasurer of the Board of Directors of Midwest Adoption Center, a nonprofit organization that provides services to persons touched by foster care and adoption, including search and confidential intermediary services. Ms. Ballard is an Honorary Board Member and past President of the Board of Directors of the On Your Feet Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides assistance to birthparents who have placed children for adoption. She has twice chaired the Chicago Bar Association Adoption Law Committee, has been a Fellow of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys since 1990 and has been recognized as a top lawyer in adoption by the Leading Lawyers Network and SuperLawyers. Ms. Ballard is also an Adjunct Professor at the Loyola University School of Law, where she teaches a seminar on Adoption Law.


Session 3B: How Special are Special Needs?

Todd Ochs, MD, Adoption Pediatrics

In this session Dr. Todd Ochs will discuss Special Needs. From pre-adoptive evaluations to post-adoptive care, how do we view and address physical and psychological special needs?

Dr. Todd Ochs is an Adoption and Foster Care pediatrician for over 20 years. He is the adoptive father of four special needs Chinese daughters. He has served as doctor at the only sleep away camp for children on the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum.


Session 3C: Healing in SPACE: Therapeutic Parenting Youth with Attachment and Trauma Struggles

William Kaplan, President & Clinical Director, House Calls Counseling

We are all perfect parents who employ just the right approach for connecting with our children. Except when we don’t. Or when our best just can’t reach them because their experiences of trauma in early childhood make connecting with us particularly challenging. While it is frustrating if we miss the mark with our kids, we don’t need to give up. Instead, we can move beyond traditional parenting approaches to therapeutic parenting – consciously using as many interactions as we can to create healing opportunities – and increase our sense of parenting success. In this workshop, Billy Kaplan, LCSW, will help us understand our children’s behavior in new ways, and he’ll help us learn new approaches for reaching our kids using the skills of therapeutic parenting.

Billy Kaplan’s work is being his daughters’ father and his wife’s husband. To support that work he is the President and Clinical Director of House Calls Counseling, Chicagoland’s premier provider of attachment- focused, trauma-informed psychotherapy to individuals, couples and families in the comfort of the home.

He is currently also a Clinical Consultant of Kaleidoscope, Inc., a child welfare agency. He earned a Master of Social Work from Yeshiva University, the Wurzweiler School of Social Work. He has held positions in foster care, residential, and counseling programs. He has presented workshops locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. He is the co-producer of an educational DVD entitled “Chaos to Healing: Therapeutic Parenting 101.”


Session 3D: Adopting Through Foster Care: What to Expect

Genie Miller Gillespie, Attorney, Gillespie Law Group, LLC

Christina Schneider, Special Assistant General Counsel, Illinois Department of Children and Family Services

The thought of adopting a child through foster care may be overwhelming, but these relationships are also extremely rewarding. This seminar will explain the process of adopting through foster care, highlighting the benefits for both you and the child and discussing the very real concerns you may have about adopting a child who may be older than a newborn, a different race than you, or may have special needs. This seminar will also discuss the post-adoption benefits and support available as well as providing other helpful resources, including time frames and the court process in both juvenile court and adoption court.

Genie Miller Gillespie has been practicing in the area of adoption law for more than 25 years. She is on the Board of the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Technology Attorneys, and was named an Angel in Adoption by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. Genie has been the President of the Family Formation Charitable Trust which gives grants to potential adoptive parents, and was one of the Guardian ad litems appointed to represent children in Cook County adoption cases for fourteen years. She is the General Editor and a chapter author of the IICLE Adoption Law Manual. She was one of the co-founders of the Center for Law and Social Work and has twice been the Chair of the CBA Adoption Law Committee.

Christina M. Schneider is the Special Assistant General Counsel for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services’ Office of Legal Services.


Session 3E: How Children Experience Growing Up Adopted

Dr. Jeff LaCure , Founder and Director , The New England Center for Adoption Support and Family Counseling

This powerful, informative and emotionally provoking workshop will highlight the amazing emotional journey that all adoptees take in their quest for self-discovery and peace. Parents will gain some very important insight into the emotional and intellectual world of their child. Participants will laugh and be moved to tears as they experience some of the most thoughtful, caring and revealing information into the lives of their family and their children.

Dr. Jeff LaCure, Psy.D, M.S.W., LICSW is a psychologist and social worker and nationally recognized adoption advocate, author, clinician and educator. Dr. LaCure has presented nationally on adoption, child welfare and attachment issues. This past fall, Dr. LaCure was the keynote presenter for the Florida Adoption Council Conference in Orlando. Dr. LaCure specializes in working clinically with adoption and foster families and devotes much of this time helping couples enrich their relationships.

Dr. LaCure is the founder and director of The Adoption Support and Family Counseling Center and The LaCure Center for Hope and Empowerment with offices in Andover, Grafton, Oxford and Webster Massachusetts. He has been one of the leading and most influential voices in adoption, foster care and child advocacy for over 25 years. He is the author of “Adopted Like Me”, called the finest children’s book on adoption ever written.” He is also the author of “Remembering: reflections of Growing up Adopted” and “Raising Our Children’s Children.”

Dr. LaCure is on the undergraduate psychology faculty for Lasell College and the undergraduate and graduate psychology faculty for Cambridge College. Dr. LaCure is the father of 4 children and joined his family through adoption at the age of 7 months.


Session 3F: Adoption Affirming Communication

Elba Karim, Director, Roots and Wings Counseling Consultants, LLC

Speaking about adoption to different audiences often leaves both clinicians and families at a disadvantage. Whether it is discussing adoption with health care providers, the school system, friends, or extended family, careful choice of words, including whether or not to share details of the adoption history is paramount. Come learn and exchange ideas about what has been most effective in positively communicating with others about adoption, in a way that is clear and adoption affirming.

Elba J. Karim is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional with over 25 years of experience. Elba is a member of the Illinois Children’s Justice Task Force and numerous professional organizations. She is trained in the principles of Theraplay and Trust Based Relationship Intervention, Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Attachment Focused Family Therapy, and Attachment Focused Parenting, as well as being certified as an Extended Forensic Interviewer. She believes in providing services that are evidence-based and trauma-informed. She uses a collaborative approach that attends to the family and systems of which her clients are a part. She provides consultation and training to educational systems, the judicial system, faith-based organizations, CASA, adoption networks, Children’s Advocacy Centers, and other community partners. She has a special interest in supporting children with Reactive Attachment Disorder, attachment insecurity, complex developmental trauma, foster and adoptive parents, LGBTQ individuals and families, as well as children and youth who are exploring sexual orientation and/or identity. Elba also provides trauma response services to the community and child welfare, including school shootings, witnesses and intended victims of murder, and other high profile highly complex trauma cases. She is the mother of four children (including one who joined the family through adoption) in a multi-racial family. She is the founder of Roots and Wings Counseling Consultants, LLC in St. Charles, Illinois.


Session 3G: ** For Professionals Only ** Ask Ashley

Ashley Mitchell, Birthmother, Speaker, Owner of Lifetime Healing

Ashley will spend this session discussing support for expectant mothers and birth mothers post-placement. She will be answering questions and giving guidance on how to navigate the grief that boils to the surface and to provide the most consistent long term care.

Ashley Mitchell, owner of Lifetime Healing, set out to seek increased care, understanding, and resources for birth mothers.  For almost a decade, Ashley has been one of the most consistent and sought after birth mother voices in the nation.  Well known for her vulnerability and transparency in adoption, her story has touched the hearts of countless members of the adoption community.