NCFA is proud to bring these featured speakers to the 2020 Virtual National Adoption Conference! 

Meet the Speakers



Graduate Research Assistant, PhD Candidate, Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development at Texas Christian University

Session One: The Connected Family: Understanding and Supporting Adoptive Families


The focus of her work is on the adoptive family system and how to best support the entire family using TBRI. In addition to her research, Jana trains parents, siblings, and families at Hope Connection 2.0, a therapeutic camp for adoptive families. Her interest in adoptive family work began when her family adopted seven children internationally when she was a teenager. Prior to working at the Institute, Jana has worked as a post-adoption therapist and has supported children and adolescents who have experienced trauma in various other settings.


Research Scientist, Child Welfare research, Child Trends

Session Two: Developing a Comprehensive Approach to Post Adoption Services and Supports


Ms. Rushovich has over 15 years’ experience managing research and evaluation studies in the child welfare and public health fields.  She has extensive experience in qualitative research methods, including focus group design and analysis, implementation science, and fidelity assessments. She recently completed the evaluation of two evidence informed foster parent trauma-training models in child welfare. She participated in developing continuous quality improvement (CQI) plans and processes for community-based agencies, including conducting evaluations of their current practices and making recommendations on how these could be improved. She has presented evaluation findings at numerous conferences. She is currently the project director on several studies, including a post-reunification support study, a randomized trial of Team Decision Making, and a state post-adoption services needs assessment. She is the principal investigator on an evaluation of a regional partnership grant to improve outcomes for substance exposed infants and a Caregiver Support Team service.


Adoption Program Manager for the Virginia Department of Social Services

Session Two: Developing a Comprehensive Approach to Post Adoption Services and Supports


Ms. Jones has worked in child welfare for more than twenty years in various capacities; She completed course work towards a doctorate degree in Social Work at Norfolk State University’s Ethelyn R. Strong School of Social Work with an emphasis on adoption.  She completed the LEAD (Leading Educating and Developing) program at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service and the Virginia Department of Social Services Leadership Academy in 2007. In 2018, she graduated from the Virginia Commonwealth Management Institute.  She served as an adjunct professor at Norfolk State University in the Ethelyn R. Strong School of Social Work and served on the Community Advisory Council for Virginia’s Wesleyan’s Department of Social Work for the development of their Bachelor of Social Work program.  Since 2014, she has served as the Adoption Program Manager for the Virginia Department of Social Services.  She retired from the Virginia Army National Guard in 2012 after twenty-three years of service. 


Research Analyst, Child Welfare research, Child Trends

Session Two: Developing a Comprehensive Approach to Post Adoption Services and Supports


Ms. Hebert’s primary research includes courts, juvenile justice, child welfare, and prevention and intervention strategies, including community and systems-level efforts. Allison holds a BA in sociology and criminology from Drury University and a MS in justice, law, and criminology from American University. At Child Trends, Allison works on a variety of projects, including leading the quantitative data analyses for a randomized trial of Team Decision Making, providing evaluation-focused TA to sites implementing child abuse and neglect prevention activities, and serving as a quantitative analyst on a rigorous evaluation of a state’s juvenile reentry reform efforts. 


Professor of Pediatrics and member of the Divisions of Neonatology and Global Pediatrics at the University of Minnesota Medical School

Session Three: The Role of Pre-placement Medical Review in Contemporary Adoptions: Setting Expectations, Assessing a Child's Needs and Supporting Successful Family Formation


Dr. Johnson co-founded the International Adoption Clinic at the University of Minnesota in 1986. His research interests include the effects of early institutionalization on growth and development and the outcomes of internationally adopted children. Dr. Johnson has authored numerous scholarly works including co-editing Adoption Medicine published by the American Academy of Pediatrics. He has received the Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Adoption Research from the Rudd Adoption Research Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Distinguished Service Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award from Joint Council for International Children’s Services, the Friend of Children Award from the North American Council on Adoptable Children and the Harry Holt Award from Holt International. In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of National Council for Adoption, he serves on the Board of Directors of OneSky Foundation and SPOON Foundation and on the Advisory Board of the Both Ends Burning Campaign.


Adoptee, Adoptive Parent, Social Worker

Session Four: "The Talk": How to Speak with Children About Race and Adoption


Ms. Mack is a NYC native currently living in Richmond, VA. She obtained a BA in psychology from CUNY and an MSW from Virginia Commonwealth University. Her experiences as an adoptee, adoptive parent, and social worker all shape her understanding about adoption. She is a proud mom of her 22 year old son, who came to her family at age 17, and her daughter, who was just born in December 2018. Her near two decades of professional experience includes seven years helping families and children navigate the journey of adoption.




Permanency Program Manager with KidsPeace’s adoption program

Session Five: Preparing Children Already in the Home for New Foster/Adoptive Siblings


Ms. Zehner has been working with mental/behavioral health for the past 12 years. She has an undergraduate degree in Psychology and master’s degree in Social Work. Having worked in community, residential, and inpatient settings, A.J. has gathered well-rounded experiences with children and families. Currently, she is working as a Permanency Program Manager with KidsPeace’s adoption program to provide permanency services to children and youth in foster care, and families. A.J. is also a Licensed Social Worker and works as a therapist seeing children and families in an outpatient setting. A.J. has presented at local and statewide trainings in Pennsylvania on topics including parenting challenging behaviors, trauma and effects on behaviors, community trauma, and has created and facilitated support groups on permanency topics.


International Adoption Coordinator, AdoptionSTAR

Session Six: The Baggage We Carry: Creating an Awareness of How Our Past Impacts Our Parenting and Making it Work


Meg has worked within the adoption field for many years, working with families through their international adoption journey from initial inquiry through post adoption. Meg is the International Adoption Coordinator, overseeing AdoptionSTAR's international home study programs in NY, OH and FL.  As an avid speaker and educator, Meg also frequently speaks at adoption related conferences, provides adoption related workshops for families, as well as providing pre and post adoption counseling.


Meg’s experience as a social worker also includes working with children with social emotional disorders and/or behavioral challenges and their families. Her volunteer work includes working to provide humanitarian aid to children living outside of family care.


Vice-President of Communications, Gladney Center for Adoption

Session Seven: Honestly and Transparently Advocating for Children from Hard Places: Ethically Recruiting Families for Children


Jennifer provides a unique and engaging perspective on the subject of adoption and has worked in the adoption field for over 16 years. In addition to her professional experience with adoption, Jennifer and her family adopted a precious little boy 10 years ago.

As a Fort Worth native, Jennifer Lanter received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication from the University of Texas in Arlington. She began her career at the Gladney Center and has since dedicated her career to creating bright futures through the miracle of adoption.

Jennifer has extensive media experience and has worked with People magazine, Oprah Winfrey Network, Lifetime, MTV, Washington Post, New York Times and several other media outlets. Jennifer is passionate about public speaking and loves the message of hope and adoption across the world!


Co-Founder and CEO, Center for Adoption Support and Education (C.A.S.E.

Session Eight: Search and Reunion in Adolescence 

Over the past 30 years, Debbie has focused her extensive therapy experience around treating adolescents and families dealing with issues of depression, anxiety, attention, and complex learning challenges. Since co-founding C.A.S.E. in 1998, Debbie has specialized in treating the complexities of adoption that surface in adolescence as well as children adopted internationally who are experiencing post-trauma stress and adjustment challenges. Among her many professional accomplishments, Debbie co-authored the widely acclaimed book, Beneath the Mask: Understanding Adopted Teens. Debbie is a highly respected and sought-after keynote and workshop presenter both nationally and internationally. She is the proud recipient of the Children’s Bureau 2015 Adoption Excellence Award. She collaborates with community organizations that support at-risk teens and integrate allied support services for teens with complex needs. Debbie Riley and her husband Mike are also proud adoptive parents.