Session 3 – 2015 Conference Speakers

11:55 am–12:55 pm

3A - Borrow This Process:  How We Adopted Twice in Less than Fourteen Months (PP, WP)
Mike Lepley, Executive Director, The Adoption Lantern

At this dynamic session, Mike will let you “borrow this process” that has resulted in scores of quick and successful domestic infant adoptions.  The inability to have biological children led Mike and his wife to domestic infant adoption.  After turning to adoption, they discovered a unique path and successfully adopted twice using this process.  They adopted their son in less than fourteen months and their daughter in less than five months and have helped others do the same.  From taking that first step to assembling the right adoption team, avoiding profile book mistakes, and selecting placement sources, this session is a must-see for anyone considering or pursuing adoption.

Mike Lepley is the executive director of The Adoption Lantern ( and has worked with pre-adoptive clients across the United States to help build their families through adoption.  Mike is a professional member of RESOLVE, Save the Adoption Tax Credit, and CAFFA and is a frequent speaker and writer on adoption.

3B - Living Out the “Happily Ever After” (AP to all ages, PP, WP)

Traci Heim, Director Of Education, Refuge Ministries & Joel Longshore, Executive Director, Refuge Ministries

Adoption is often romanticized.  Most adoption preparation is geared toward getting through paperwork, dealing with government agencies (both foreign and domestic), and making it through THE WAIT, all leading to that final goal – and they lived happily ever after!  What families don’t usually discover until they have achieved that goal is that everything thus far had been a preamble to the real story.  Families realize they have not properly prepared for what happens next.  This session will discuss the realities of what it takes to graft in a new family member: how to release grief over lost dreams, for the child and the parent; how to build a foundation for your new child; how to endure and overcome institutional behaviors; how to love and cherish a child who seems unlovable; and how to promote healthy attitudes in yourself and your children.
Traci Heim of Refuge Ministries ( is mom to ten children through adoption.  She has two children from Russia, three from Ethiopia, and five from Ukraine.  Her family has birth-order bumped, artificially twinned, and adopted two sibling groups and a child with HIV. Traci has spoken at adoption conferences about parenting adopted children and navigating the different issues associated with HIV. 
Joel Longshore is the father of two children through international adoption.  His compassion for adoptive families is what drives him as the executive director and administrative leader of Refuge Ministries (  Joel has a background in biblical studies and youth ministry and has served in various capacities in both church and para-church settings
3C - From Abandonment to Abundance Workshop (AP to all ages, APro, BP, FP, PP, WP)
Anita Ellis, Foster Care Alumna

From Abandonment to Abundance Workshop is an informative interactive session regarding living a life in foster care and establishing emotional and mental stability.  This workshop will help foster care and adoptive parents learn best practices in developing a support system for youth.  Lessons will be shared regarding case workers, court visits, and living in kinship care.  Participants will get a sneak peak of the stories shared in her book From Abandonment to Abundance.

Anita Alston Ellis ( serves the community through advocating for foster care youth.  She is one of the founders of EmpowerMEnt in Georgia, established through the Jim Casey Youth Opportunity Initiative of metropolitan Atlanta.  Anita has served on the One Church, One Child board of directors and has provided advisement to Child Welfare League of America’s peer mentoring program.

3D - Teaching our Children to Confidently Handle Stereotyping (AP to all ages, APro, BP, FP, PP, WP)
Julia Bradley, Adoption Educator

This workshop will assist adoptive parents, adoption professionals, and others in educating adopted children regarding stereotyping related to adoption.  Topics will include discussion of adoption, ethnic, and racial stereotyping and heritage country bashing.  While the workshop will include information about identifying stereotypes, the primary focus will be on the adoptee’s choices when faced with these issues, as well as examples of appropriate responses.  One unique aspect of this workshop is a discussion on appropriate ways to handle heritage country bashing, which can be overt yet with subtle implications.  Country bashing is not often included when discussing stereotypes, and some of the global issues leading to country bashing are quite complicated.

Julia Bradley, Ph.D. ( is an adoption educator and adoptive parent.  She has presented adoption education programs to teachers, school administrators, and parents.  She serves on the board of directors for the Chicago Families with Children from China organization (FCC) and is the FCC liaison to the local China Cares organization.

3E - Openness in Today’s Law and Practice (AP to all ages, APro, BP, FP, PP, WP)
Sally Wildman, JD, Law Offices of Sally Wildman

Adoption law and practice in Illinois now provides greater rights to adoption parties, including direct contact between birth and adoptive families, birth parents’ bill of rights with consents and surrenders, adopted adults’ right to request original birth certificate, and the right of all parties to register with the Illinois Department of Public Health.  As we discuss these and other aspects of openness in domestic adoption, attendees are asked to share their experiences and views to help us reach an understanding of long-term effects of these newer practices on adoptive families.

Sally Wildman’s law firm ( principally represents adoptive parents in various types of adoptions but also represents, upon request, birth parents and adopted adults who search for biological family members.  A member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys and the Chicago Bar Association Adoption Committee, Sally advocates for changes in both federal and Illinois law to improve the adoption process.
3F - Meet the Birthparents: A Panel (AP to all ages, APro, BP, FP, PP, WP)
Vicki Twomey, Board Member, 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!

Vicki Twomey is a board member at On Your Feet Foundation (, a facilitator of birth mom weekend workshops and retreats, and a public speaker.  In the past she worked as a counselor helping expectant moms understand their adoption options and helping post-adoption moms “get on their feet.”