Meet Our Team
For more information on the support our Provincial and Regional Liaisons can provide, please visit our Parent2Parent Support page.
Julie | Founder and Executive Director
Julie has been a passionate advocate for those who sought to have their voices heard and their needs supported, through her 20+ years of nonprofit advocacy work. Her commitment to ensuring strong supports for children and youth grew through her own journey to parenthood after she and her husband adopted a sibling group of three older children. Julie soon realized that much was needed to strengthen the Ontario adoptive community with the goal to support permanency for children and youth through stronger families. In forming Adopt4Life, Ontario’s Adoptive Parents’ Association, Julie empowered the community and offered support, and now creates a unified voice for adoptive families so that parents, caregivers, and children can thrive.
Julie’s vision for Adopt4Life has developed from an idea into a growing provincial network that delivers Parent2Parent support, helping to achieve permanency for children joining their families through public, private, and international adoption, as well as kinship and customary care. Julie, along with the Adopt4Life team, have formed collaborative relationships with many Children’s Aid Society agencies across the province, as well as with organizational partners including the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS), Office of the Children’s Lawyer, and the Adoption Council of Canada.
Being a changemaker is at Julie’s core. Creating awareness to the permanency needs of children touched by adoption particularly those with a history in care has been a significant part of her focus with Adopt4Life. She was an influential voice in providing recommendations and input to the new Child, Youth, and Family Services Act (Ontario, 2017); participated in the work of the Motherisk Commission where she advocated directly for impacted adoptive families; and was an engaged member of the Ministry of Children and Youth Working Group on Child and Family Wellbeing (2017). As a member of that group, Julie helped to guide the implementation of new legislation with the objective to strengthen the child welfare system to better protect and care for some of Ontario’s most vulnerable young people.
Erin | 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.
Even before becoming a parent through adoption, Erin was active in learning about issues surrounding adoption, including attachment and trauma. She has lived experience with toddler and infant adoption, varying degrees of openness, transitioning from care, adoption outside a local CAS, attachment parenting, reactive attachment disorder, parenting a child with special needs, the importance of early intervention, and advocating in the school system for services and supports. As well, when their youngest son joined their family as an infant Erin induced lactation and is now a part of an online community supporting others seeking to breastfeed without birthing. Erin also assisted in forming a local youth group that has been running since Fall 2013.
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.
She can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone toll free at 1888 274 6222, 103.
Joy | Policy and Knowledge Lead
Joy is a parent of three children, adopted as a sibling group at ages one, two, and three. For two decades, Joy has practiced occupational therapy, first in adolescent mental health, and now in community-based services to individuals experiencing the effects of injury.
Through her occupational therapy career and parenting journey, Joy has maintained a focus on promoting connection, validation, adaptation, identity, and hope. Since becoming a parent through adoption she has pursued ongoing learning opportunities addressing these issues, including ACT (An Adoption and Permanency Curriculum for Child Welfare & Mental Health Professionals). Joy has particular interests in trauma and trauma-informed communities, connected parenting, pre-natal substance exposure/FASD, trans-racial and First Nations adoption, and sibling adoption. It is Joy’s desire for individuals, families, and systems to experience barrier-free and timely access to preventative and responsive supports, strategies, and opportunities in order to meet their needs and promote well-being
She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone toll free at 1888.274.6222, 113.
Kathryn | Team Lead & Openness Specialist
Kathryn is an adoptive mom to 3 young children as well as a child of an adoptee. Two of her children biological siblings, adopted through the Children’s Aid Society. All three of her children were adopted through the Foster-to-Adopt program. Through her unique adoption experience, Kathryn and her husband have embraced the various levels of openness including experience with openness orders, mediation, openness agreements and closed adoptions. Kathryn also has experience in special needs and complex needs adoption as two of her children have multiple diagnoses.
Kathryn holds a Master’s Degree in Critical Disability Studies as well as a Bachelor of Social Work. Her previous work experience includes supporting families of children with special needs and providing crisis intervention to young adults with developmental disabilities. She is also certified as a Triple P–Stepping Stones instructor and a Crisis Prevention Intervention (CPI) facilitator as well as in ACT (An Adoption and Permanency Curriculum for Child Welfare & Mental Health Professionals). Kathryn has extensive experience in supporting families who have children with special needs including funding, respite, school support and resource allocation. It is through her personal and professional journey, that she developed an in-depth understanding and focus on the advocacy of children and their families.
Kathryn is both our Openness Specialist as well as the Team Lead for the West, North and East Regions.
She can be reached by email at email@example.com.
Valerie Howes | Community Engagement Liaison
Valerie is a mother of two; her eldest child is grown up and her youngest is a teenager, who joined the family through adoption at the age of 15. She is a single mother and her family is bi-racial.
As a freelance writer and the former Special Needs Editor at Today’s Parent, Valerie has written and edited dozens of stories on adoption and parenting topics, including: attachment, openness, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder, complex trauma, mental health, Indigenous parenting and grief and loss. She has also produced videos about parenting kids with autism, Down syndrome and sensory sensitivities as well as editing e-books to help parents raising kids with autism, ADHD and cerebral palsy. Her National Magazine Award-winning work has appeared in publications such as Globe and Mail, National Post, Reader’s Digest, The Guardian (UK), Toronto Life, Toronto Star, Chatelaine and Canadian Living.
A big believer in connecting people and creating supportive communities, Valerie recently founded and ran a sponsorship group to support a Syrian family during their first two years in Canada. She also sits on the board of the Amy Project, a barrier-free performing arts mentorship program for girls and non-binary youth. In her spare time she fosters dogs and volunteers for the Toronto rescue organization Redemption Paws.
Valerie is our provincial Community Engagement Liaison.
She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone toll free at 1888 274 6222, 106.
Regional Parent Liaisons
Heather | Kitchener-Waterloo RPL
Heather has years of knowledge and experience as an adoptive and foster parent. She and her husband have 3 beautiful children and are currently fostering children ages 0-3. They are also kin parents and have one heart child who is 22 years old. Given their experience, they have been chosen to mentor through a program called Wraparound for children leaving care.
Having spent years learning about issues surrounding adoption and fostering (attachment, trauma, safeguarding, lifebooks, FASD and more), Heather now uses her knowledge gained to facilitate an adoptive parent support group, KW Adopts, and as a PRIDE trainer. Heather is also on the Board of Directors for her foster family association and is an active member of various focus groups and committees. Always seeking to make a difference for adoptive families’ journeys, Heather has become sought after for speaking engagements on the topics of openness and transitions. She has also obtained certification in Critical Incident Management and is trained in advocacy.
Heather is one of our Regional Parent Liaisons (RPL) for the Kitchener-Waterloo Region
She can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone toll free at 1888 274 6222, 107.
Lesli | Kitchener-Waterloo RPL (Currently away on Parental Leave)
Lesli is a proud mother of 8 children; 4 by birth and 4 who grew in her heart. Lesli and her husband, Jeff, have been foster parents for over 15 years and she has spent more than 10yrs working in child and youth mental health. Her passion makes her a strong advocate for youth in and out of care. She is the co-founder and executive director of Wraparound families, which seeks to find families and support within communities for youth who are moving on to independent living or have aged out of foster care. Leslie's involvement in the First Nations community and her passion for helping families who have adopted First Nations children learn more about their child's heritage are of critical importance for her, including helping adoptive families connect with their First Nations community. Lesli is also a PRIDE co-facilitator and continuously attends training related to addictions, attachment, trauma, FASD, advanced facilitation and more.
Lesli strongly encourages having a good support system, as she is very thankful for her church and aboriginal communities who have been a constant source of support for her family.
Lesli is one of our Regional Parent Liaisons (RPL) for the Kitchener-Waterloo Region
She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone toll free at 1888 274 6222, 108.
Teresa | Central RPL
Teresa is a single adoptive parent to one child adopted through Children's Aid. Her daughter came to her at the age of 5, initially as a place of safety and then as an adoptive placement. Her daughter has special needs and multiple medical conditions, and as a result Teresa quickly learned to navigate and become a strong advocate in the medical, developmental, and education systems.
Teresa has a Bachelor of Nursing Science and is a Registered Nurse. She's spent the majority of her career working with children who have exceptional medical, developmental, and psychosocial needs, and she's highly involved with the special needs parenting community. She has done some specific training and work with families caring for those at risk of, or infected with HIV and Hepatitis, and helped develop and facilitate a medical portion of PRIDE training. She was also involved with the development and initiation of a FASD screening pilot project with Children's Aid.
Teresa's parents also fostered, she spent a number of months volunteering at an orphanage internationally, and professionally she has worked to support and advocate for the medical needs of children in care. She has learned about many of the challenges surrounding fostering and adoption from each of these different experiences and perspectives, and from this she developed a passion for supporting children and families who've had contact with the system and hopes to help them thrive on their journey.
She can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone toll free at 1888 274 6222, 115.
Heidi | London RPL
Heidi lives in London with her husband and is the adoptive mom of 2 children. Heidi’s family is a trans-racial, trans-cultural family grown through international adoption from South Africa. Heidi adopted her children, son in 2008 and daughter in 2014.
She has over 20 years of educational and professional experience including childhood & family relations, developmental services work and early childhood education. She has always had a focus on promoting inclusion and diversity, fostering empathy, increasing resilience, and developing secure connections.
Heidi is involved with the Families with Children Adopted from South Africa Parent Support Network and sits on the Networks Leadership Circle. She is committed to providing quality support and services to adoptive families through her role at Adopt4Life.
Heidi is one of our Regional Parent Liaisons (RPL) for London.
She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone toll free at1888 274 6222, 114.
Joyce | Ottawa RPL
Joyce is both a biological and adoptive mother. She and her husband of 32 years, have five adopted children and one biological child. The children have been adopted through the local Children’s Aid Society, as well as through private adoption, and two of her children are kin adoptions. Her children range in age from 31 years of age, right down to 7. She and her husband know what it means to “adopt for life”! They have also fostered children and youth, in the past, and are still in relationship with their foster children (now adults).
Joyce is a Social Worker and has years of experience working with the Children’s Aid Society and more recently with the Queensway Carleton Hospital in Ottawa. Joyce and her now, 30 year-year- old son, often speak at the CAS Pride panels and they have a passion for advocating for older adoptions. Joyce also has experience with open adoptions and realizes this type of adoption involves challenging, but rewarding experiences. She also has experience with Attachment issues and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder and Learning Disabilities, including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. She brings a myriad of experience both as an adoptive mother, foster mother and professional Social Worker.
Joyce is one of our Regional Parent Liaisons for the Ottawa region.
She can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone toll free at 1888 274 6222, 105.
Lauri | Ottawa RPL
Lauri is Mother to two teenage sons and an eleven year old daughter who, at age two, travelled from Kazakhstan to join her new family.
Lauri comes to us with a wealth of experience in policy, administration and in conflict resolution. Among her previous work, she led management committees in the collective bargaining process, managed teams in the delivery of fair and equitable services to workers in the public and broader public sectors and was recognized for her ability to come up with mutually beneficial solutions in highly conflictual situations. She has worked as a Negotiator, a Manager of Operations, Director of Human Resources and as an Executive Advisor. She is certified in dispute resolution with the Canadian International Institute of Applied Negotiation.
After twenty years in administration, Lauri returned to her studies where she focused on the role of family in increasing capacity and outcomes for children who suffer early trauma. Her placement at the Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa was invaluable in giving her the practical knowledge she needs to be an effective and passionate advocate for children and their families. Since completing her M.Ed. in Counselling Psychology, she has worked diligently to help families get what they need to be successful in their parenting journey by building community, creating relationships and advocating for families. Lauri is also certified as a Triple P Group facilitator.
Lauri is one of our Regional Parent Liaisons for the Ottawa region.
Jessica | Toronto RPL
Jessica is the adoptive mother of three beautiful children through the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto. Jessica is very familiar with the domestic adoption process and post adoption issues. Jessica’s daughter has special needs and requires a lot of support within the medical and mental health community, as well as at school. As a result Jessica has learned to advocate and has gained a lot of experience with finding her daughter the resources and support she needs to thrive.
After Jessica adopted her children she became very involved with post adoption support. She has been matched with newly adoptive families to provide support and mentorship. She has also spoken to new and perspective parents on panels for the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto and the Adoption Council of Ontario which she finds very rewarding. As a Family Support Services Specialist with Shepell-fgi, she assessed the childcare or eldercare needs of various families in order to connect them with resources and services they needed.
Jessica is one of our Regional Parent Liaisons (RPL) for Toronto.
She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone toll free 1888 274 6222, 110.
Rebecca | Toronto RPL
Rebecca is the mother of two incredible teens; one joining their family as an infant, the other as a toddler (through Children’s Aid and privately). Each of her children have explored varying degrees of openness over the years. Currently, Rebecca and her family foster babies awaiting adoption. Twenty years ago, she and her husband fostered an older child, with whom they continue to enjoy a special connection. Not having received the supports they needed early in the adoption process, Rebecca continues to advocate for adequate supports for her family and others on this journey.
For over 25 years, Rebecca has worked exclusively in the nonprofit sector, passionately supporting and empowering marginalized people. She has a wealth of experience in the areas of special needs, inclusion for those with a disability, Gentle Teaching, trauma, attachment parenting, gender and sexual identity (LGBTQ2S+), mental health, multi-faith relations, developing family support systems, suicide awareness and prevention. She is President of two community boards, which involve her in diverse and complex community life.
Rebecca is grounded by her faith and nurtures her family through strong support networks. She feels blessed to be able to help others build circles of support, allowing families to develop and maintain safe and meaningful relationships through supportive connections and with access to trauma informed services.
Rebecca is one of our Regional Parent Liaisons (RPL) for Toronto.
She can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone toll free 1888 274 6222, 109.
Marketing & Communications
Van Loc | Marketing & Communications Designer
Van is a former Youth in Care and Kin-in-Care-Caregiver to her siblings. As a creative with a background in advocacy work in Ontario and child-welfare organizations, she is interested in design that is able to support communities and tell cross cultural narratives. Van is a recent graduate of the YSDN design program from York University.
Van is our Marketing and Communications Designer.
She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.