Session 1 – 2015 Conference Speakers

9:35 am–10:35 am

1A - Domestic Adoption: A Master Class Covering the Basics and Beyond (PP, WP)
Rebecca Gruenspan, Adoption Consultant, RG Adoption Consulting & Michelle Hughes, Adoption Attorney

If you are asking yourself these questions – What is the best approach to realizing my dream of having a baby if I’m over 40/single/LGBT? Open adoption scares me – can the birth parent(s) come take my child from me? Is it more difficult to adopt out of state and why would I even want to? How do some people adopt so quickly and for others it takes years? I’ve heard the terms adoption facilitator and adoption consultant, but what’s the difference and do I even need one? How do I know what information on the internet I can believe? Can I work with more than one agency at a time? Can I even afford adopting? –this workshop will help take your adoption journey to the next level.  It’s not your typical Adoption 101!

Rebecca Gruenspan, MSW, is the founder of RG Adoption Consulting (  A single adoptive parent with years of experience as a therapist, fundraiser, event planner, presenter, and mentor, she works with hopeful adoptive parents to educate, guide, and be a hand to hold through the domestic adoption process.
Michelle M. Hughes, an adoption and assisted reproductive technology attorney (, is a member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys and the Chicago Bar Association Adoption Committee and is co-chair of the Confidential Intermediary Advisory Committee with DCFS.  She co-founded Bridge Communications, Inc., which provides diversity training and transracial, international, and general adoption education.
1B - International Adoption and the Children Available (APro, PP, WP)
 Alison Lamsma, International Adoption Coordinator, Bethany Christian Services
International adoption has changed over the past 10 years.  This workshop will help you better understand the process of international adoption from application to finalization as well as the children available for international adoption.

Alison Lamsma has worked at Bethany Christian Services ( since 1997.  She was born in West Africa and spent the first 18 years of her life there.  Alison received her bachelor’s degree in social work from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1997 and then began working at Bethany Christian Services.  She has had several different positions at Bethany, each one teaching her a lot about the families and children that she is privileged to serve.  In 2003 she earned a master’s in social service administration from the University of Chicago.  Alison has worked with birth parents, foster families, and adoptive families.  She is a frequent speaker on transracial adoption and international adoption.

1C - Adopting through Foster Care: What to Expect (APro, FP, PP, WP)
 Genie Miller Gillespie, Attorney at Law
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 her own practice in Chicago concentrating exclusively in adoption and guardianship.  She is one of the eight attorneys appointed as guardian ad litem in adoption cases in Cook County and was a co-founder and former legal services director for the Center for Law and Social Work.  Genie has spoken at numerous seminars and meetings for attorneys, agencies, and foster parents and twice has been the chair of the CBA Adoption Law Committee.

1D - Parenting Upstream: A Panel (AP to all ages, FP, PP, WP)
Pam Shepard, Supervisor of Post-adoption Services, Holt-Sunny Ridge Children’s Services
This workshop will feature a panel of adoptive parents who have had to adapt their parenting techniques and strategies to fit the needs of their children, both biological and adopted.  Panel members will share their struggles and challenges regarding discipline, attachment, sensory processing, medical issues, and more.  The workshop will highlight the differences and similarities of parenting adopted and biological children.  These parents’ honesty and transparency will make you laugh and cry at the same time. 

Pam Shepard (MSW, LCSW) has over 18 years of experience in the child welfare field.  She currently provides individual, family, and group therapy for anyone connected with adoption at Holt-Sunny Ridge Children’s Services (  Pam has been trained in Theraplay®, Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy®, and Trust-Based Relational Intervention®.

1E - Theraplay: Wooing Your Child with Fun! (AP to all ages, FP, WP)
Mandy Jones, LCSW, The Theraplay Institute

This workshop will describe Theraplay®, an attachment-focused parent-child therapy.  Theraplay® can help bring you and your child closer emotionally.  By using activities that are based on normal attachment interactions, you will find ways to reach the child who, because of past hurts, has trouble trusting in you and letting you really feel you are his or her parent.  This will be a hands-on experience in practicing the four kinds of Theraplay® activities—structure, engagement, nurture, and challenge—that can be used with children from the very young to teenager.  You will learn the importance of playful interactions and how helpful they can be in reaching hurt children.  Come ready to have some fun!

Mandy Jones is an LCSW and attorney specializing in working with children, adolescents, and families. She focuses her work on foster and adoptive children. Mandy is trained in Theraplay and complex early childhood trauma. She is a child and family therapist for several agencies around Chicago, including A Home Within and Metropolitan Family Services, and is the owner of Connected Counseling Chicago.

1F - Q & A with Keynote Panelists Amy Kenney, Carmen Knight, and Nathan Ross (all)
Moderator: Amanda Reid

Following their engaging keynote panel presentation, adult adoptees Amy Kenney, Carmen Knight, and Nathan Ross will remain on stage to elaborate on their stories and experiences.  Though they each joined their families through adoption, their journeys are very different and diverse.  Adult adoptee Amanda Reid will moderate the panel, taking questions from the audience.

Amanda Reid is an adult adoptee who discovered her passion for helping others in the adoption community after searching for and being reunited with her birth mother.  For the past year she has helped CAFFA with various activities, including volunteering to be the leader of the teen camp at Kaleidoscope over the summer.  Amanda is currently pursuing a master’s degree in marketing and communication at Loyola University Chicago.