OUR BOARD OF DIRECTORS
CAROLYN MCLEOD, Chair
Carolyn is both an adoptive mom and a professor of philosophy at the University of Western Ontario. Her research at Western focuses on the ethics of assisted reproduction and adoption. Most recently, she was an invited participant to the International Forum on Inter-country Adoption and Global Surrogacy in The Hague, Netherlands. She also published the book Family-Making: Contemporary Ethical Challenges, co-edited with Francoise Baylis and put out by Oxford University Press (2014). For more on her research and writing, see her website http://carolynmcleod.com. In terms of her personal experience with adoption, she and her partner Andrew have adopted two boys internationally, one at the age of 3 and the other at the age of 5.
JULIUS OMWARE, Vice Chair
APRIL MATTINSON, Treasurer
Professionally, April brings to the board over 15 years of diverse experience, with leadership roles in Finance, Business Analytics and Marketing; and in companies ranging from small, privately held, to global, publicly traded. With significant experience in strategic planning, business decision support, system implementation and financial management, she has enhanced productivity within organizations and improved financial stewardship through better systems, tools and processes. April is currently the CFO at a Marketing Services organization and holds a Bachelor's in Psychology and Health from Queen's University, an MBA from Schulich School of Business and is a designated accountant with a CPA, CGA.
Personally, April and her husband are recent adoptees of an older child through the Ontario public system. Having experienced the transition from having no children in the household to having a pre-teen, April is a strong advocate for post-adoption services, community-based support systems and peer-to-peer networking.
LORI NILES-HOFMANN, Secretary
Lori has been active in efforts to reach out to politicians and interested parties on the issue of improving the adoption system in Ontario, in particular shortening the time from fostering to forever family. She takes her inspiration from the revised adoption system in the UK and would like to see similar initiatives in Canada. She has worked as a high school teacher both in Ontario and abroad, and is now employed in corporate education at a large, international company.
DIRECTORS AND COMMITTEE CHAIRS
ANGELA SIDER, Volunteer Management
Angela brings to the Board the perspective of an internationally adoptive parent of two children who have exceptionalities. In order to meet the needs of her children, Angela has become an advocate in children's mental health by engaging in leadership aspects of the provincial organization, Parents for Children's Mental Health. She is a local Chapter Leader within the Kitchener-Waterloo region and participates and contributes in a significant way to family engagement and the family voice in local children's mental health services. As well, she is a Family Engagement Trainer providing education to service agencies on how to better engage families in supports and services to children.
Professionally, Angela brings 15 years of experience in developmental services managing treatment group home settings for people with a dual diagnosis. She has a specialization in leadership and management with a Master of Arts in Leadership from University of Guelph. Most recently, she has been working as a consultant providing leadership direction and change management expertise to non-profit organizations.
TRACY MOISAN, Marketing & Communications
Professionally, Tracy leads engaging internal and external communications strategies for companies such as Adobe and DocuSign. Tracy further leverages her 15+ years of experience with messaging development, market positioning, storytelling, and strategic communications in order to effectively engage with senior leaders and executives. She has intuitively understood the connection between customer engagement and customer-centric employee engagement; and has leveraged this approach to lead organizational change and deepen company culture, while advocating for deeper employee and customer connections at all levels of an organization.
Tracy brings to the Board a passion for increasing the awareness and understanding of the unique needs of adoptive families in Ontario. As a proud mom to three siblings, Tracy and her husband formed their family through public adoption with the Children’s Aid Society. Through her own first-hand experiences with common post-adoption issues related to early childhood trauma and loss, Tracy understands the critical importance of resources and supports for families. She is also an active member of the FASD Parent Action Group of Southeastern Ontario, formed to influence family advocacy for those living with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
MARY-JO LAND, Mental Health
Mary-Jo is a parent of five, one of whom is adopted. For the last two decades, Mary-Jo has provided psychotherapy to children, youth and their families. In the last 12 years, attachment, trauma and adoption have become Mary-Jo’s specializations. Mary-Jo is past president of The Association for Training in Trauma and Attachment in Children (ATTACh, Minneapolis MN).
Currently, Mary-Jo works with the Adoption Council of Ontario as a facilitator in the Adoption Competency Training for professionals and the Pathways 2 Permanency 2 for parents. Along with an active private practice with adoptive families, Mary-Jo is Program Lead at THRIVE Child and Youth Trauma Service, OASIS Program, which serves Refugee and Immigrant children, youth and their families for Trauma and Acculturation stress. In both Canada and the USA, Mary-Jo provides training to professionals and parents in attachment, adoption and trauma. Mary-Jo lives in Grey County with her husband Kevin Land, where she manages her forest and plays with her grandchildren (not often enough).
MELISSA PIERRE-SOSSOYAN, Advocacy
Melissa brings professional knowledge and experience to the Board and Advocacy Committee from roles held in government, politics, banking and insurance. Originally from Montreal, she graduated from Concordia University in Political Science and Public Administration. Melissa is currently working at TD Insurance as a Customer Care Manager. She is a versatile individual with an expertise in executing different tasks in order to help customers and achieve organizational results.
The mother of two lovely active boys, Melissa brings this important lived experience and perspective to the Board as well. She and her husband adopted their toddler son as an infant and then not too long after welcomed his biological infant brother, both through CAS. As a multicultural and multilingual family, Melissa sees the importance of giving a voice to parents who are interracial and/or adopting children from a cultural minority and would also like to be able to provide support to future parents who are going through public adoption. As well, Melissa has a keen interest in assisting francophone parents, who may originally be from out of province, in locating and accessing specialized resources.
Melissa has learned, as a result of her education, professional experience, and now journey of parenthood through adoption, the value of advocacy and creating awareness to find solutions and bring about positive change and is committed to ensuring Adopt4Life – Ontario’s Adoptive Parents Association – is able to be a credible and sought out voice for all those in our adoption community.
SOFIE STERGAINIS, Openness
Sofie Stergianis is a private adoption professional who has worked in the field of adoption since 1981. Sofie started her adoption career in the Children’s Aid system, and for 14 years worked extensively in adoption and foster care with birth parents, foster families, and adopting families. Since 1994, Sofie has been working as an adoption trainer and adoption practitioner in private practice. She has been offering pre- and post- adoption services and counselling to families, and through the years has been instrumental in assisting with the formation and support of a multitude of adoptive families, both domestically and internationally. Sofie has offered a variety of different adoption education workshops and lectures, and she has been a guest speaker at numerous conferences (for more information - www.adoptioneducation.ca).
Sofie is also the co-author of the children’s book entitled What is Adoption? Helping Non-Adopted Children Understand Adoption. Personally, Sofie is a parent through adoption, and her son is now a young adult. Sofie adopted privately in Ontario, and through the years she has gained a variety of experiential insights in open adoption, including navigating the nuances and intricacies. Sofie looks forward to bringing her professional and personal experiences to the Board.
TEDD KONYA, Social
Tedd is a father to 2 boys (biological brothers), adopted from CAS, with his husband Garry. They worked with a private adoption practitioner to become adopt-ready and were matched with their boys after attending one of the Adoption Resource Exchanges. Tedd is a very strong proponent of the work being done by Adopt4Life due to challenges he faced in finding support post-adoption. He wants to help make sure all new adoptive parents have a network to reach out to in times of need or support for dealing with the challenges that come with adopting children.
Prior to moving to Canada, Tedd was a middle school science teacher in the United States. He currently works in a research at the University of Toronto.
IRWIN ELMAN, Advisor, Provincial Advocate for Children & Youth
JULIE DESPATIES, Founder and Executive Director
Julie has always advocated for those who sought to have their voice heard and needs supported. After fifteen years of non-profit advocacy work with various groups, Julie started her family. From a young age, Julie always felt her true mission in life would reveal itself through her children. So it comes as no surprise that after she adopted a sibling group of three older children, she found her true calling.
As a new adoptive mom, Julie soon realized that much was needed to solidify the Ontario Adoptive Community and she has now dedicated herself and her career to creating positive changes for Adoptive Families.
By forming Adopt4Life - The Ontario Adoptive Parents' Association, we are empowering our community, offering support and providing a unified voice so that our families needs will be heard. Together, we can bring effective change in policies that will allow adoptive parents to help our families and children to thrive.
ERIN INGARD RAU, Associate Director
Erin is a mother to three boys, two of whom joined their family by adoption through Children’s Aid and privately. Erin and her husband have strongly advocated for post adoption services and support for their youngest boys and continue to do so. Having a network of support, resources and contacts through a local peer support group made a significant difference for their family. Experiencing firsthand the value of early intervention, peer support and knowledge exchange, Erin knows this is important for all adoptive families and their children.
Professionally, Erin is an Ontario Certified Teacher with a Bachelor of Education degree from OISE at the University of Toronto. She is also a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA, CGA) and has a Masters in Business Administration. Erin has been very involved in the development of Adopt4Life’s Parent2Parent Support Network and is thrilled to see it grow province-wide for the benefit of all adoptive families and children in need of permanency in Ontario.
Erin is also our Provincial Parent Liaison (PPL)
She can be reached by email at Erin@Adopt4Life.com or by phone: 888.274.6222, 103