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Stephen Pennypacker, Esq., is the CEO of Service Management Solutions for Children (SMS) and also serves as the President and CEO of Partnership for Strong Families, Inc. Mr. Pennypacker has more than 20 years’ experience working in child welfare as an attorney, administrator and Assistant Secretary for Programs for the Florida Department of Children and Families. He was the national president for the Interstate Compact for the Placement of Children, Deputy Director for Children’s Legal Services and General Magistrate for the Eighth Judicial Circuit in Florida. He has worked for the Eighth Circuit State Attorney’s office, managed the local pilot project for Children’s Legal Services, and spent 15 years in private practice. Mr. Pennypacker has a Bachelor’s in Political Science from Duke University as well as a Juris Doctorate Degree from the University of Florida.
Michael Reneke is the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for Service Management Solutions for Children (SMS). Prior to working with SMS Mr. Reneke was the CFO for Partnership for Strong Families, Inc. (PSF). Mr. Reneke has more than 24-year work history in children’s services including contract management, finance, administration, quality management and compliance auditing. Mr. Reneke’s career has primarily been focused on working with nonprofits in State and Federal programs. He has additional experience working with Early Learning Coalitions, collaborating with the Florida Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, participating in legislative reviews, and working with the Office of the Inspector General.
Deborah Schroth, Esq., is a Florida Board Certified Specialist in Juvenile Law. She is the Chief Legal Officer of Service Management Solutions for Children (SMS) and also serves as the General Counsel of Partnership for Strong Families, Inc. Ms. Schroth has more than 30 years’ experience working in family and children’s law, including child welfare, as an attorney, policy analyst and lobbyist. She worked as Training Director and Appellate Counsel for the Florida Department of Children and Families and worked for 25 years in legal services working for the poor and underrepresented in Florida. She spent five years in private practice, as a generalist. Ms. Schroth has a Bachelor’s in Philosophy from the Catholic University of America, a Juris Doctorate degree from the University of Oregon, and an LLM in tax law from the University of Florida.
Kim Loughe is the Executive Director of Intercountry Adoption Accrediting and Maintenance Entity. Ms. Loughe has over 25 years’ experience working within the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the private child mental health and child welfare arenas. Prior to coming to IAAME, Ms. Loughe previously served as Director of Program Quality and Contract Management for Partnership for Strong Families. Ms. Loughe has an extensive background and experience in child welfare, children’s mental health, continuous quality improvement and accreditation activities and processes. Ms. Loughe has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from the University of Florida.
Jessica Conway has experience with both domestic and intercountry child welfare services. Ms. Conway came to IAAME from Bethany Christian Services, where she served as the Director of Quality and Risk Management. In this role, Ms. Conway served as the agency’s primary contact for the Council on Accreditation and led her agency through the intercountry adoption Accreditation Renewal process. Ms. Conway was responsible for the monitoring and oversight of policy, procedure, and process implementation and compliance related to The Hague Convention and the Accreditation Renewal process. Ms. Conway has also served as a Hague Evaluator for the Council on Accreditation, and she was responsible for reviewing agency compliance with The Hague Convention and Code of Federal Regulations. Ms. Conway has a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Central Michigan University and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Grand Valley State University.
Brittany Phares has been working in the field of child welfare since 2011 and began her career as a Residential Supervisor for a behavioral health overlay services group home housing foster care youth. Prior to starting with IAAME in February 2018, Ms. Phares was an Adoption Program Supervisor where her focus involved reviewing and approving adoptive families, oversight of staff and cases, and monitoring data and outcomes within the adoptions program. While in this role, Ms. Phares led an adoptions unit to enhance best practices, an increase in adoption finalizations, and improvement in overall quicker paths to permanency through adoption for children in foster care. Ms. Phares is a certified trainer of the Rutgers Adoption Competency Training curriculum through the Florida Department of Children and Families and Daniel Memorial, Inc. Ms. Phares received her Bachelor of Science degree in Family, Youth, and Community Sciences with a minor in International Humanitarian Assistance from the University of Florida.
Kim Westfahl has worked in child welfare for over 26 years, with the primary focus of her career in intercountry adoption. Ms. Westfahl has had the opportunity to travel to several countries around the world to spend time with children in need of families, experience the beauty of diverse cultures, and work with government officials, foreign supervised providers, and nongovernmental organizations. Ms. Westfahl worked with Lutheran Social Services of WI and Upper MI, Inc. as the Director of Adoption and Foster Care Services prior to joining IAAME. Ms. Westfahl was involved in her previous agency’s initial Hague Accreditation; and lead the agency through two renewals. Ms. Westfahl has extensive experience in reviewing, monitoring and providing oversight of documentation, activities, and best practices to ensure compliance with state and federal regulations. Ms. Westfahl has Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and is working toward a Master’s degree in Counseling.
Maria Gocke comes to IAAME having over 12 years of child welfare experience, the majority of which have been in the field of intercountry adoption. Maria was previously employed by Illini Christian Ministries as the Director of Adoptions. While at Illini Christian Ministries, Maria was responsible for oversight and management of the adoption service provider’s intercountry and domestic adoption programs. Maria also managed the adoption service provider’s initial accreditation process. Following her time at Illini Christian Ministries, Maria was employed as the Indiana State Director and Domestic Adoption Coordinator for All Blessings International, where she supervised the Indiana adoption programs, as well as supervised the domestic adoption programs for Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Maria is trained as a Trust Based Relational Intervention practitioner and has served as the secretary treasurer on the Kentucky Adoption Coalition. Maria has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Missions from Central Bible College and a Master of Social Work degree from Missouri State University. Maria is also experienced as an adoptive parent, having adopted her son from Taiwan in 2014.
Amy Mullen has worked in child welfare since 2008 and has a passion for the field of adoption. She worked for several adoption service providers in many capacities including, pregnancy and birth parent counselor, home study social worker, domestic adoption coordinator/manager and international adoption manager/vice president. Additionally, Amy serves as a heritage journey staff with a non-profit. Amy was involved in an adoption services provider’s initial Hague Accreditation and lead another adoption service provider through renewal. She received her Bachelor degree in Political Science from the University of Delaware and her Master degree in Clinical Social Work from the University of St. Thomas. In addition, Amy has completed a Permanency and Adoption Competency Certificate from the University of Minnesota.
Amber Blair is a licensed social worker and board-certified music therapist. Prior to joining IAAME, Amber was the Director of Adoption and Foster Care at an adoption service provider, where she assisted with one Hague Accreditation Renewal and led the agency through the following Hague Renewal process. In addition to her background in intercountry adoption, Amber is a trained therapist and mediator with experience in the fields of child welfare, community mental health, special education, and refugee assistance. Amber has a bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy and Voice Performance from Seton Hill University and a master’s degree in Social Work (Child Welfare Certificate) from the University of Pittsburgh.
Betty Kelley has worked in the field of international adoptions since 2006. Before joining IAAME in March 2018, Betty worked as the International Programs Manager at an agency in Maryland and the China Program Manager for an Indiana agency, prior to that. In both positions she was responsible for monitoring and overseeing cases to ensure compliance with Hague Stndards and participated in initial Hague accreditation and renewals. Betty was involved in adoptions even prior to her employment in the field, having created and served as Chair for her local FCC (Families with Children from China) chapter as well as being active in FACE (Families Adoption Children Everywhere). Betty has a Master in Business Administration degree and a Bachelor degree in Accounting, having attended the University of Southern Indiana and Indiana University.
Adam Nelson has been working in Child Welfare since 2010, and began his career as a domestic adoption case manager for AASK in Phoenix, AZ. He moved to Gainesville, FL in 2013, where he worked at Partnership for Strong Families as a case manager for three years and a supervisor for two years. Adam worked for the Texas Department of Family Services before coming to IAAME. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Family and Human Development from Arizona State University.
The duration of April Polyak’s career has been in the field of child welfare and, specifically, foster care adoptions. April comes to IAAME after having served as a Rutgers Certified Adoption Competent Adoption Case Manager, as well as an Adoptive Family Liaison. She is a certified trainer of the PRIDE Practice Model (Parent Resources for Information, Development, and Education) and has used this, coupled with training in TBRI, to educate, support, and advocate for children and families throughout their adoption journeys. April received her Master of Social Work degree with a Minor in Psychology from Saint Leo University.
Charity Provancal-Black began her career as a Counselor III with North Central Florida’s largest community behavioral health provider, traveling with adult and adolescent psychiatrists to provide mental health services and resources to rural communities. She then transitioned into the field of child welfare and became a Family Care Counselor. While working with families involved in the state dependency system, she would critically assess for child safety and work to seek family permanency, all while providing support to minimize the risks of abuse and neglect to the most vulnerable of populations. Prior to joining IAAME, Charity worked at Partnership for Strong Families, the local community based care child welfare agency of North Central Florida, as a Family Service Facilitator. Her duties included assessing for appropriate needs, authorizing and coordinating resources, and collaborating with community providers – all in order to provide children and families specialized services during their involvement with the dependency system. Charity holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, with a specialization in Human Services, from the University of Florida.
Allison “Allie” Ray began working in intercountry adoption in 2006. Allie came to IAAME from an adoption services provider, where she worked as the International Program Manager. She has traveled extensively working with children and families, foreign supervised providers, and government officials around the world. During her time in the field, Allie helped to establish new intercountry adoption programs, guided families through their adoption journey, and conducted home studies. She was also involved in The Hague Accreditation and renewal process with her previous agency. Allie has a Bachelor’s degree in Human Services from Elon University in Elon, North Carolina.
Lillian Thogersen has worked in the international adoption field for over 40 years, beginning as a parent support group volunteer. She is a founding member of an adoption agency and has served on the Board of Directors for several organizations. Lillian’s has acted in the role of an Operations Manager, and for 10 years, as the Chief Executive Officer of an adoption agency. She worked to support the initial Hague Special Commission on Intercountry Adoption in the U.S. and was responsible for bringing the first American adoption agency through The Hague accreditation process. Lillian was among the first eleven CASA volunteer Guardian Ad-Litems and continues to serve in that capacity. She was a member of the Washington State Governor’s Sub-Committee on Adoption, working to update and improve state adoption law. Lillian received a Bachelor degree from Columbia University. She is a mother of nine children, her youngest being a birth child.
Rachel Wegner has over 15 years of experience in research and child development. For several years, she worked in research and corporate finance. Rachel has an undergraduate degree in economics and foreign affairs and graduate degrees in social work and public health.