Kids Need Families and Families Need Support

Permanency and Adoption Competency Training

If you already have an account with ACO, please use the "Login". If you do not already have an account with us please select “Register”.

ACO Education Month Fall 2020

Go back to event descriptions.


Speaker Bios


Hillary Barnett

Hillary and her husband are small business owners in Northern Ontario. Their miracle of a daughter came to them just before she turned one. As a family, they enjoy reading, hiking, swimming, dance parties and jumping in muddy puddles!


Maryfrances Carton

Maryfrances Carton was adopted from Zhangjiagang, China, but considers herself to be a lifelong Ottawa resident. She has been volunteering with the adoption community for more than ten years in a variety of mentorship and advocacy roles. While she now proudly identifies as an adoptee, that was definitely not always the case. Maryfrances is an avid reader and baker. She also enjoys true crime podcasts and rewatching The Office.


Barb Clark

Barb Clark is an adoptive parent who has made a ton of mistakes and has lived to tell.  She is now passionate about sharing her mistakes with other parents and professionals to make their journey smoother than hers was.  Through humor and real life experiences, she shares information about how trauma impacts children’s brains, and how to move away from consequence based parenting and instead use strategies that promote relationship and attachment building.  She has a particular passion for educating others on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, trauma informed parenting strategies and parent support networks which she does through her position at the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC).


Kathyrn Connors

Kathryn is one of the Community Engagement Liaisons for Adopt4life. As an adoptive mom of three Kathryn has both lived and professional experience in the field of fostering and adoption. All three of Kathryn’s children were adopted through the Foster-to-Adopt program. Kathryn has experience with openness orders, agreements, and closed adoptions. Two of Kathryn’s children are identified as having complex needs and her family has welcomed the challenges and triumphs of special needs adoption.


Judith Alexis Augustine Criag

Judith is a trans racial, trans national, foundling adoptee from Haiti who was adopted into a white Canadian family. Judith searched for her biological family documenting the journey in the film Adopted ID ( and she is presently completing her memoir on her adoption. As a social worker Judith specializes in fostering and adoption and facilitates The Adult Adoptee Network. Judith is a passionate international speaker and author who can be reached at


Brianna Dusome 

My name is Brianna Dusome. I am an Afro-indigenous transracial adoptee. I hold a Bachelor of Social Work degree and am a Master of Social Work candidate nearing completion. I currently work as a counsellor at an Indigenous organization. Strong interest in advocacy for social justice, change, and mental health.


Kara Eusebio

Kara is a transracial adoptee and an international and transracial adoption coach. Born in South Korea she has spoken to hundreds of adoptees, adoptive parents, and prospective adoptive parents in Canada and the U.S. about transracial adoption, special needs adoption, anti-racism, and allyship. She also coordinated the Connect-a-Kid Adoptee Mentorship Program. Find more info about Kara at


Karisa Farinha

Karisa Farinha has been with the AdoptOntairo program for over eight years and is the Senior Clinical Coordinator and ARE Lead. She has worked with families, practitioners, adoption workers and community partners across the province to assist in creating adoptive families for waiting children and youth. Through her ongoing work as an ARE Lead, Karisa continues to find ways to help make those connections between families and adoption workers and seek opportunities to provide education and support to prospective adoptive parents.


Sylvia Gibbons

Sylvia founded and runs a Support Group for Adoptive Families and founded and runs an Adopted Youth Group, both of which are in Simcoe County. She is the ACO's PACT Parent Liaison. In this role she assists and guides Pathways families to form ongoing parent support groups in their communities. Sylvia continues to provide peer support to many adoptive families throughout Ontario. Sylvia has been a PRIDE trainer for eight years. Sylvia is also an adoptive parent.


Leticia Gracia

Leticia Gracia, MSW, RSW, is the Director of the Institute of Childhood Trauma and Attachment at The George Hull Centre.  Leticia has over 25 years of experience working with children and families.  She is particularly passionate about developing and implementing high quality clinical programs to address the needs of children and families living with developmental trauma, a group who struggles to find good care at times!  She is committed to the development and dissemination of knowledge about trauma-informed practices to improve care for traumatized children and youth across child and youth sectors.  She is involved in several research projects to develop better clinical tools and interventions to support trauma work.


Barbara Jones Warrick

Barbara Jones Warrick is an adoptee who works in the field of adoption as a child and family therapist. She brings her lived experience as a child welcomed into a family who are loving, open and supportive of all of who she is. Barbara's work is informed by both professional training with the Adoption Council of Ontario and the ahead-of-her time approach to parenting taken by her parents. She has completed a search and connected briefly with her birth mother. Barbara finds mindfulness effective in understanding her own experiences of adoption and in helping others understand theirs.


Sherri Kinch

At birth Sherri was placed with a foster family and adopted when she was three months old.  Sherri grew up in eastern Ontario, studied accounting at University and became a Chartered Accountant.  She has a successful career in the financial services sector.  Sherri’s adoption was never a secret, in fact, she was told that she was special, she was chosen.  But she didn’t feel special, something was missing.  She didn’t feel like she fit in, who were her people?  It wasn’t until she found ACO did she start to understand the impact that adoption had on her life.  She is now on a journey of self discovery and vows to help others in the adoption galaxy.


Karen Lynn

Karen Lynn lost her son to adoption in 1963. Her son was born, adopted and raised in Toronto. In 1995, Karen began her online search for a way to find her son.  Karen reunited with her son in 1999. Following this reunion, she started the Canadian Council of Natural Mothers, The Coalition for Open Adoption Records with Wendy Rowney and Michael Grand. With Wendy and others she co-founded a local support group, Adoption, Support Kinship. As a result of her efforts, and with a groundswell of support, sealed adoption records were opened in 2009.


Kate Mannion

Bio coming soon!


Dianne Mathes

Dianne Mathes has over 35 years of experience providing therapy and education/training for individuals, couples, children and families and professionals. Using attachment therapy, she specializes in adoption and provides therapy and training on the experiences and realities of early separation, adoption, abandonment, trauma, abuse, loss and grief. Dianne is herself an adoptee and has experienced her own personal journey in adoption and reunion.


Karen McLennan

Karen is a Private Adoption Practitioner approved by the Province of Ontario, and she has worked full-time in the field of adoption for over 25 years. She has extensive experience in all three adoption streams (i.e. public, private, and international), including both pre and post adoption counselling, and she is an active member of a number of adoption-related committees as well as an online PRIDE trainer. Karen also has a part-time counselling practice with specialization in the areas of grief and loss, trauma, attachment, and family and relationship issues.


Deni Melim

Deni Melim teaches in Kingston, Ontario in “Belong”,  a classroom dedicated to elementary students affected by developmental trauma. She collaborates with school boards and community partners. Deni is currently working on her Doctorate of Science in Rehabilitation and Health Leadership at Queen’s University with a focus on developing a provincial framework for trauma-informed education.


Francis Menard

Francis Menard was born in Charlottetown, PEI and was adopted by a loving family outside of Ottawa. He played hockey in the Ontario Hockey League for four years and later attended Saint Mary's University where he completed a Bachelor's of Commerce. Francis is currently a firefighter in Big White, B.C.


Kimberley Miller

As a registered social worker with almost 30 years of child welfare and post-adoption support, kimberley has a wealth of experience and knowledge. Kimberley has great awareness of issues relating to Openness in Adoption as well as Search and Reunion. Kimberley has provided a variety of training for professionals, families and youth throughout her career, and brings her personal experience as an adopted person and a single (formerly) adoptive parent.


Karen Moore

Karen is a mental health professional and the Clinical Director at Open Doors, a children's mental health centre in Lanark County. She has been involved in the world of adoption and children’s mental health for many years through her experience in social work, training and development and leadership positions. Karen is also an adoptive parent of four children.


Danielle Otchie

After working for five years as a frontline social worker in child protection, fostering and adoption, Danielle Otchie developed a passion for ensuring that every child and youth has a family to grow up and grow old in. Danielle brings her local and international experience to the AdoptOntario team at the ACO. Danielle cares very deeply about making the adoption process as smooth as possible for both children and families.


Dr. Sian Phillips

Dr. Sian Phillips is a psychologist, adjunct Professor of Psychology at Queen’s University and Certified Dyadic Developmental practice (DDP), therapist, consultant and trainer. This training is on a book that Sian has recently co-written, called BELONGING: A Relationship Based Approach for Trauma Informed Education.


Wendy Rowney

Wendy Rowney is a reunited adoptee who grew up in a closed adoption.  After reconnecting with her original family over 20 years ago, Wendy became active in the adoption community.  She is a former board member of the Adoption Council of Canada, American Adoption Congress, and Adoption Council of Ontario, and she founded a Toronto-based support group, Adoption, Support Kinship (ASK), with Karen Lynn and others. The group co-led a successful province-wide campaign that culminated in the opening of Ontario’s adoption records in 2009.  In 2018, Wendy spoke before the Senate of Canada regarding the impact of secrecy in adoption on adoptees.


Kathy Soden

Kathy is the Manager of the PACT program (Permanency & Adoption Competency Training) at the Adoption Council of Ontario. She is a Chartered Professional Accountant by training and has worked in the corporate and public sectors and now enjoys applying her skills and experience in the charitable sector at the ACO. Most importantly, she is an adoptive mom of three amazing, unique young people who have taught her what really matters.


Kim Stevens

Program manager at NACAC, Kim is a collaborative partner in two federal curricula, and provides training and consultation on child welfare issues, both nationally and internationally. Kim was recognized as an Angel in Adoption in 2017. She and her husband have six children, four of whom were adopted from the public foster care system.


Cindy Stewart

Cindy is an adult adoptee and a parent to 3 wonderful adult children including twins who were adopted internationally. So she believes she has been in adoption “forever”. She has also been in the field of permanency for most of her career as a Child & Youth Worker, Private investigator & one of the Adoption Council of Ontario's PACT Trainers. Cindy and her sons run a Youth group for Adoptees.


Dawn Tracz

Dawn Tracz has over 25 years of experience working with individuals, couples and children and families. Using family systems and attachment theory she works with the challenges of early separation, adoption, trauma, abuse and loss.  These experiences come together in adoptive families to make them complex and multi-layered.  Dawn is trained to use Thera-play and is a certified yoga teacher (200 hours).  Dawn has a Bachelor of Social Work degree from York University and is working towards the completion of her MSW at Wilfrid Laurier University.  She is a member of the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers.  She is trained in Thera-play, Triple P Parenting Program and has trained with Dr. Dan Hughes in attachment therapy. Dawn works in private practice at the Centre for Connections in Toronto.


Mythri Vijendran

Mythri is a mother of a 6 year old child and works in the not-for-profit social sector in Toronto. Mythri and her partner adopted their child through Children's Aid Society of Toronto, and have had an open adoption since their child was an infant. As a family, they enjoy watching movies, and spending time outdoors.


Aviva Zukerman Schure

Aviva Zukerman Schure is the co founder of the Never Too Late (NTL) program, which facilitates permanency is all its various forms for youth who are close to or have aged out of care.  She has worked with the ACO in various capacities since 2013 after meeting her (now) daughter through the Adopt Ontario program.  She is a mom to 5 kids, one of whom was adopted as an older teen which was the seed for the idea that there should never be an expiry date for finding a family.  


Go back to event descriptions.