Adoption Advisory Council Members
Adoption Advisory Council
Carolyn Berger, LCSW, is an AFA Therapist, Adoption Advisory Council Chair and current Board Member. She has written and spoken widely on many aspects of both fertility and adoption. The American Fertility Association was founded in 1999 by the board and staff, with Carolyn Berger Founding Board Chair, and Pamela Madsen Founding Executive Director. Carolyn has a private practice at New York Fertility Services in NYC and in Westchester County, specializing in Fertility, All Forms of Family Building, and Adoption. She works with couples and individuals, helping them create their family building plans and find the fertility doctors and adoption professionals best suited to them. She has a special interest in helping people in the LGBT Community. Carolyn received her MSW degree from New York University in 1983. She is a member of The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), ASRM's Mental Health Professional Group (MHPG), The Adoptive Parents Committee (APC), and The National Association of Social Workers (NASW). She believes her greatest accomplishment to date is creating her own family. She has two sons, one through reproductive technology and one through adoption. They have inspired her to help others build families.
Kathy Brodsky, LCSW received both her Bachelors and Masters of Social Work degrees from Adelphi University in the 1970’s. She is a New York and New Jersey Licensed Clinical Social Worker, a member of the National Association of Social Workers and Joint Council on International Children’s Services. Her prior work experience includes the Children’s Aid Society, Children’s Village, MS Society, Veterans Administration, NYC Board of Education, as well as a private therapy practice. Kathy is a nationally sought speaker whose audiences include the Westchester Family Institute, St. John’s University, RESOLVE, the Adoptive Parents Committee and Joint Council on International Children’s Concerns. She serves as a member of the Advisory Board of the American Fertility Association.
Prior to the creation of Helpusadopt.org, Becky was a successful luxury lifestyle public relations and marketing specialist who owned her own New York based firm, The Fawcett Group. Before she started her own business in 1999, she was Director of Marketing for Philadelphia magazine. She holds a B.A. from Franklin & Marshall College, 1992. In response to their own adoption experience, Becky and her husband Kipp founded Helpusadopt.org (2007) in order to help couples/individuals overcome the financial hurdles they meet along the way to completing their own adoptions. In May 2011, Becky was named one of CNN's Heroes; in September 2011 she was named a "Hero Among Us" by PEOPLE Magazine; and in February Becky was NY1's New Yorker of the week. Becky serves as executive director on a pro bono basis, writes her own blog (www.aninfertileblonde.com), which was recently recognized as one of the top 20 adoption blogs in the country by Adoptive Families Magazine. Since their launch in 2007, Helpusadopt.org has helped to build 82 families by awarding $670,000 through its adoption grant program. The Helpusadopt.org families live all over the country and consist of heterosexual married couples, single parents (both male and female) and LGBT couples. Helpusadopt.org is the only organization of its kind, based on their non-discriminatory approach to family building and adoption, the sizeable grants that they award (up to $15,000) and the fact that there is no application fee.
Amanda Grant is the President & CEO of USAdopt, LLC and an adoptive mother. USAdopt is an adoption consultancy that helps people navigate the complex and confusing process of adoption. The company's services simplify the adoption process and accelerate the journey while minimizing costly risks and mistakes. Amanda earned a BA in English Literature from Pace University, an MA in English Literature from Hunter College - CUNY and she holds a Clinical Certification in Adoption from Rutgers University School of Social Work. She founded USAdopt to help others benefit from the knowledge she gained during the adoption of her son. She developed adoption education tools to guide people through the process more quickly and confidently while helping them to connect with the most fitting adoption professionals. Prior to founding USAdopt, and for over 24 years, Amanda held senior management positions in Client Service for large institutional asset management organizations. Most recently she was Managing Director and Head of Institutional Client Services at Columbia Management. She started a mentoring program for young professionals, has served on the board of StandUp for Kids, a national non-profit helping homeless and at-risk youth, and is a member of the Adoptive Parents Committee.
Sue Orban has served on the AFA Adoption Advisory Board for one year. She has worked in the adoption field for over 20 years and currently works as an Outreach and Education Coordinator for Children’s Home Society & Family Services. Sue has traveled with families to Eastern Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin American to help them with their adoptions. Sue began her professional career in 1988 and has developed and/or managed programs in Eastern Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Sue has a degree in education, which she uses to help families understand the adoption process, options available to them, and preparing families for parenting. She is the proud parent of four children, three adopted internationally.
Sam Pitkowsky is the adoptive parent of two daughters; one from Honduras, and the other from the Dominican Republic. Mr. Pitkowsky currently serves as the President of the New York City Chapter of the Adoptive Parents Committee, Inc. (APC), a parent support group serving over 3,000 New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut families. Sam has represented APC at Joint Council, The Hague Alliance, and the Advisory Council on Intercountry Adoption (ACIA), and has also provided testimony in favor of adoption on Capitol Hill and in 1994 before Congress on the Hague Treaty. With his extensive volunteer work and expertise on international adoption issues, he will be a valuable asset in the guidance of FFTA’s International program. Sam has been named one of the 2007 Congressional Angels in Adoption.
Denise Seidelman is been a professional member of the American Fertility Association and has sat on The AFA’s Adoption Advisory Council since 2008. Denise and her law partner, Nina E. Rumbold, are Partners in the firm of Rumbold & Seidelman, LLP, a law firm concentrating exclusively in the areas of adoption and reproductive law. Denise is a fellow of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys and the American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys. Denise is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the Washington College of Law. She is married and lives in New Rochelle, New York. She has three children ages 20, 21 and 24.
Dawn Smith Pliner is the Founder and Director of Post Adoption Services , a licensed NY, VT, and RI child placement agency working in the field of Compassionate Adoption since 1982. She has served on the Advisory Panel of AFA since 2007 and is a frequent speaker at conferences. Dawn is also the adoptive mom to Aura and Isaac and an avid snowboarder and hula hooper.
For more than 25 years, Rita Soronen has worked on behalf of abused, neglected and vulnerable children. Mr. Soronen has provided leadership for local, state and national efforts working to improve the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, while striving to assure safe, nurturing and permanent homes for North America’s children. As Executive Director of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption since 2001, a national non-profit public charity, Ms. Soronen works to find loving adoptive families for each of the 150,000 waiting children in the United States and Canada’s foster care systems. Under Ms. Soronen’s leadership, the Foundation has significantly increased its grant-making and awareness commitments, while developing signature initiatives that underscore and act on the urgency of the issue.
Michael Traister, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician with a practice in New York City, and has been affiliated with the AFA for many years. For the last two years he’s served as a member of the Adoption Advisory Council. Traister attended medical school at New York Medical College, graduating in 1975. I did internship and residency at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York. He completed a fellowship in Ambulatory Pediatrics at New York University/ Bellevue Hospital Center, and stayed on for the next five years, serving as the Assistant Medical Director for the Pediatric Clinic at Bellevue Hospital. For the last 25 years, Traister has operated a private practice in pediatrics on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, New York, while still working part-time at the Bellevue pediatric clinic. While in pediatric practice, he got involved with the international adoption community after two of his existing family members adopted girls from China in 1995. Those families established Families with Children from China as a parent-run support group and continued to refer new families my practice.
Jeannine Zoppi, Ph.D is a Clinical Psychologist licensed in New Jersey and New York. Dr. Zoppi received her doctorate from Seton Hall University and completed post-doctoral internship and fellowship training at the Karen Horney Institute. She has a private practice in Caldwell, NJ where she treats adults, adolescents and children. Dr. Zoppi’s specialties include psychotherapy for adoption issues, trauma, PTSD, adult survivors of childhood abuse, depression and anxiety. She also provides group therapy for adoption-related issues, including an adoptive-parent support group and group therapy for adoptees. Her services include pre-adoption psychological evaluations, attachment/bonding assessments, parenting capacity evaluations and training and education for adoptive parents and adoption professionals. Dr. Zoppi has presented on the topic of adoption at various local and national conferences, including those sponsored by the National Council for Adoption, the Adoption Initiative, Adoptive Parents Committee and Concerned Persons for Adoption. She is actively involved in the New Jersey Psychological Association, serving as Member-at-Large to the Executive Board, Affiliate Caucus Chair and Chair of the NJPA Public Education Anti-Bullying Committee as well as former President of Essex-Union County Association of Psychologists. Dr. Zoppi is also a member of the American Psychological Association’s Leadership Institute for Women in Psychology Class of 2011-2012.