Our Team


Richard Heyl de Ortiz | Executive Director

richard@affcny.org | 646-688-4321 X105

Richard joined the Coalition team in January 2015, but he is not new to the adoption and foster care field.  Richard is the former Executive Director of Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (CASA) in Ulster County. He is also a member of the board of directors of CASA of New York State.  Prior to his work with CASA, Richard was the Executive Director of the Youth Resource Development Corporation in Poughkeepsie.  Other work experience includes leadership positions with the American Civil Liberties Union, the YWCA, Head Start and Philadelphia’s William Way Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Community Center.  Richard, who is a Public Scholar with Humanities New York, is also an adoptive father.  He and his husband Anthony live in New Paltz.

Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy | Advocacy and Outreach Coordinator

Claudia Corrigan D'Arcyclaudia@affcny.org | 646-688-4321 X111

Claudia has been online and involved in the adoption community since early in 2001.  She is a former Director of Social Media and has become a forerunner in the use of social networking and SEO for the adoption community. A birth mother since 1987, she has written extensively about her own experiences and feelings as well as publishing the voices of others on her website, Musings of the Lame. Her writings on adoption issue have been published in The New York Times, Adoption Today Magazine, Adoption Constellation Magazine and many others. She has been interviewed by Dan Rather, Montel Williams and appeared on Huffington Post as well as presented at various adoption conferences, other radio and print interviews over the years. Extremely passionate about restoring the rights of adult adoptees to their original birth certificates, she is on the board of directors of the Adoptee Rights Coalition and  a founder of New York Adoption Equality. She resides in Kingston with her husband, children, and various pets.  

Kathryn Doyle-Bunker | AGAPE Hudson Valley Family Support Specialist

Katie Doyle-Bunkerkatie@affcny.org | 845-679-9900 X107

Katie and her husband Scott are the parents of two amazing children who were adopted from the New York State Foster Care system.  After years of working in a variety of positions in the private and government sectors Katie is delighted to be following her passion in supporting other families on their adoption journey.


Barbara Neiman | AGAPE Hudson Valley Family Support Specialist

Barbara Neiman barbara@affcny.org  | 845-679-9900 X108

Barbara Neiman was an occupational therapist for 35 years in pediatrics; supporting children and families with special needs. Barbara is a yoga teacher and national seminar presenter in Mindfulness. She is the author of “Mindfulness and Yoga Skills for children and adolescents: 115 Activities for Trauma, self- regulation, special needs and anxiety “and the “My Calm Place” card deck Yoga, Mindfulness and Meditation strategies for children filled with positive psychology activities. Barbara is an adoptive parent and recently wrote a new work book for teens on adoption. Barbara has a holistic approach and her blogs are available at barbaraneiman.com.

Pat O’Brien | AGAPE Southern Tier-Finger Lakes Director

Pat O'Brien | Southern Tier Finger Lakes Adoption and Guardianship Assistance Program Directorpat@affcny.org  | 607-272-0034 X114

Pat is a nationally recognized trainer and consultant on foster care and adoption issues and the former Executive Director and Co-Founder of You Gotta Believe!, a New York City agency specializing in placing teens and pre-teens into legally or morally adoptive homes. Pat, who is an adoptive father, has worked for over 25 years to provide permanent parents for teens and young adults in foster care before they age out of care.  Pat resides in Coney Island.

Tomasine Oliphant | AGAPE Hudson Valley Director

Tomasine Oliphant Adoptin and Guardianship Assistance Program Director  Hudson Valley tomasine@affcny.org   | 845-679-9900 X113

Tomasine obtained her Bachelor’s in Community Health Education and Master’s in Social Work from Stony Brook University on Long Island, New York. She has experience in serving children in foster care, advocating for at-risk youth, and helping families access services from Long Island to Texas and since 2015, in the Hudson Valley. Tomasine herself was raised in kinship care and has a deep understanding of the complex needs that children and families face following adoption and guardianship. She is extremely passionate about providing trauma-informed care and utilizing creative arts as therapeutic intervention for youth. She resides in Kingston. 

Tasha Ortloff  | Administrative and Design Coordinator

tasha@affcny.orgTasha Ortloff  | Administrative and Design Coordinator | 646-688-4321 X106

Tasha first joined the Coalition as Administrative and Services Coordinator in September 2015. After a brief departure, she returned full-time in December 2016.  A Catskill Mountains native, she completed her Bachelor of Arts at SUNY Empire State College with a concentration in Graphic Design. In addition to her twelve years of administrative and business management experience, her love of the natural world and the arts has found expression in many special projects and pursuits, including her design work which is directed toward clients whose focus is on helping others. Tasha, who lives in Woodstock, is the proud single parent of two now-grown beautiful children.

VACANT | AGAPE Southern Tier-Finger Lakes Family Support Specialist

VACANT | Foster and Kinship Care Specialist

Please see the Coalition Career page for more details on vacant positions or contact us at info@affcny.org | 646-688-4321 or 607-272-0034

Board of Directors

Sarah Gerstenzang | President

sarahgerstenzang@gmail.comSarah Gerstenzang

Sarah works as a therapist with foster and adoptive families at Rennicke & Associates.  She was formerly the Executive Director of the Coalition, the Associate Director of AdoptUsKids, and a Senior Policy Analyst at Children’s Rights. She holds a master’s degree in social work from Columbia University. Her child welfare policy and practice experience includes research and publication on a range of foster care and adoption issues as well as presentations at national and international conferences. Sarah’s most recent book is Another Mother: Co-Parenting with the Foster Care System.  Sarah has been a foster and kinship parent and one of her three children was adopted from the New York City foster care system. She and her husband support three additional siblings who were also in the foster care system and are now grown.

Frank Ligtvoet | Vice President 

Frank Ligtvoetligtvoet@aol.com

Frank is the co-father of two African American children. He is the co-founder of the All Together Now Multicultural Playgroups for adoptive children (2008) and AFCAF/NY (Adoptive Families with Children of African Heritage and their Friends (2011). He lives with his partner Nanne Dekking and their children in Brooklyn.


Jennifer Davis, Esq.






Sam Gerstenzang

Sam Gerstenzangsamgerstenzang@gmail.com

Sam is a Principal at Sidewalk Labs, a Google/Alphabet company that uses technology to solve big urban problems. He most recently ran the product, data, and design teams at Imgur, the image host and community that serves more than 150 million users a month. Prior to Imgur, he was a partner on the investment team at the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. Sam studied History and Symbolic Systems at Stanford University, where he graduated with distinction. He grew up in Brooklyn with kinship, foster, adoptive, and biological siblings.

Olga Sanders, Esq.

olga_Sanders@yahoo.comOlga Sanders

Olga Sanders, Esq. is an attorney residing in Manhattan.  Ms. Sanders’ practice focuses on compensation and benefits matters. She received a J.D. degree, summa cum laude, from New York Law School in 2009. She received Master of Science and an undergraduate degree from Rostov State University.


Julie-Ann Tathem

Julie-Ann Tathemjulieann.tathem@tathemllc.com

Julie-Ann worked in several investment banks in London, San Francisco and New York for thirteen years when she realized she needed to fulfill her dream in a career that also gave voice to her passion. She founded Tathem LLC, which brings new perspectives and consciousness to the traditional mold of career, business and life coaching. Their strength is offering an elevated perspective from where clients can see their lives anew and empower them to make better choices and live more meaningful and fulfilling lives. Julie-Ann has always had an interest in human behavior and psychology and has studied Gestalt Psychotherapy and completed a Masters in Spiritual Psychology. Julie-Ann and her husband live in Westchester County.

Advisory Committee

 Emily Blair

Emily Blairemmyblair@hotmail.com

Emily is a resident of Ithaca. Prior to moving to Tompkins County, Emily was the Assistant Director of Advocacy for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Earlier in her career, Emily also worked as a Policy Analyst and Legislative Assistant at the Alliance for Children and Families and a Policy Analyst for Children’s Rights in New York City, where she also did her graduate intern work. Emily is a graduate of St. Olaf College and Columbia University, where she earned a master’s degree in social work. Emily has completed MAPP training for foster parents in Tompkins County and is certified as a foster parent.

Stewart Blechner


Coalition Board President from 2001 until 2013, Stewart is a an adoptive father and lifelong adoption advocate who lives in Queens County.  His wife, Maris Blechner, is Executive Emeritus and founder of Family Focus Adoption Services in New York City.


Suzanne d’Aversa


 Suzanne is a therapist in private practice in the Capital District. She has been affiliated with Parsons Child and Family Center for 35 years, many as an employee (notably with their post adoption program, among other roles) and most recently as a consultant. Sue has a long-standing commitment to the Coalition and has participated consistently in the Coalition’s advocacy efforts in Albany.

April Dinwoodie


 April is the Chief Executive of the Donaldson Adoption Institute based in Manhattan. April is a fierce advocate for children and families for whom adoption and foster care are everyday realities. She created a specialized mentoring program called “Adoptment,” in which adults who were adopted or who had spent time in foster care serve as mentors to youth in care. She is also a co-founder and Vice President of the Board of Fostering Change for Children, a progressive nonprofit that helps drive innovation in the child welfare system. As an adopted person herself, April brings an important perspective to her work and her commitment to the Coalition.

Marie Dolfi


Marie Dolfi, LCSW is an adoption constellation therapist, advocate, and trainer. She is an active member of New York state and national adoption organizations including Adoptive Families of the Capital Region, the North American Council for Adoption, Voice for Adoption, and the American Adoption Congress. Marie is the proud parent of two terrific young adults who joined her family by adoption. She has been an active Coalition member and volunteer since the mid 1990’s and is committed to the Coalition’s mission of providing support, information and advocacy on adoption and foster care issues.

Karen Kelley


 Parent of seven, four of whom are adopted; Karen is a case manager for Hillside Children’s Center, responsible for providing support, advocacy, education and parenting advice to pre and post adoptive families. She facilitates the Erie County Adoption Resource Center (ECARC) foster and adoptive parent support group and assists with the Coalition’s Facebook page.


Lisa Maynard


Lisa Maynard, LMSW, obtained her Master’s degree and Certificate in Trauma Counseling from University at Buffalo, State University of New York, earned a Certificate in Adoption Therapy at the Hunter College School of Social Work, and is one of 67 people in the world who holds a certificate in Trauma Center-Trauma Sensitive Yoga through the Justice Resource Institute in Cambridge, MA. Lisa is an Implementation Specialist with the Center for Adoption Support and Education (C.A.S.E.), working with the NTI team to implement a web-based training focused on enhancing adoption competency in child welfare professionals and mental health practitioners across the U.S. She is also a therapist in private practice, specializing in adoption, trauma and life transitions for individuals, couples and families. She has received recognition including the Excellence in Adoption Award from the United States Department of Health and Human Service Children’s Bureau, and was named an “Activist of the Year’ by North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC). Lisa is the proud adoptive parent of two, now adults.

Elvira Northington


Elvira is President of the Western New York Foster and Adoptive Families Association, a mother of eight, grandmother of seven and has been a foster parent since 1996. Elvira has served in the community, schools and church ministries for many years and is blessed with her husband, Calvin, who shares and supports her work.


Loren Nowak


 Loren Nowak is the Interim Director of the Office of Accommodative Services at Clarkson University in Potsdam. At Clarkson, he also serves as the Program Director for the CU Partnership for the Advancement of Learning, an initiative focused on supporting the needs of students with high functioning autism, attention disorders and executive function difficulties. Loren has a master’s degree in education, information technology and media management from SUNY Potsdam. He has served as a foster parent liaison and mentor for foster parents in St. Lawrence County, where he and his partner Sara have fostered over thirty children and adopted three boys from foster care. Together, Loren and Sara founded Foster Parents of St. Lawrence County.

Meredith Osta

Meredith Ostamosta@welfareresearch.org

 Meredith Osta is the Program Director for Fostering Futures NY, an innovative program that uses a team approach to provide support to Capital District foster families and the children in their care.   In her current role, Ms. Osta oversees the training and coordination of all volunteer teams and works closely with the foster parents to ensure their needs are being met.  She also works with local departments of social services and non-profit agencies to match teams with foster families. Ms. Osta has extensive child welfare experience at the county level, to including working directly with foster children and foster/adoptive parents.

Dawn Post


 Dawn is an attorney in the metro New York City area. Currently, Dawn is the Co-Borough Director of the Children’s Law Center, which is based in Brooklyn. Prior to this, she was the Juvenile Rights Division of the city’s Legal Aid Society. Dawn is the author of several reports and articles about adoption and foster care, including the 2014 Broken Adoptions Report of the Children’s Law Center and Do Adoption Bonuses Contribute to Broken Adoptions and Should They be Re-Invested. 

John Sobraske


 John is an adopted person, stepparent of adopted children, and an adoption psychotherapist in private practice living in Rochester. He regularly provides training and consultation on foster care and adoption. His research interests related to adoption include anthropology, media and mythology and the application of natural medicine and body-mind methods of healing.


Antoinette Sumter-Cotman

Antoinette Sumter-Cotmanascoznprk@aol.com

Antoinette has been a licensed foster parent for 29 years and is a mother of seven children, including three adopted sons. She is retired from the City University of New York (CUNY); and is President of Share Family Support, a parent led foster/adoptive parent support and advocacy group in Queens. Her volunteer affiliations include service as the National Foster Parent Association Region 2 Vice President.  Antoinette is an active advocate who strongly believes that it is important for foster and adoptive parents to be active in their agency, state, national foster parent associations and other venues offering information and resources.

Kathryn Walek


Kathryn, who goes by Kat, has been a resident of western New York since 1999. She and her husband Adam lead a blended family that includes biological children, stepchildren, children adopted from foster care and via kinship adoptions. Kat is a strong advocate for foster and adoptive parents in Niagara and Erie Counties and has worked with the Niagara County Department of Social Services to recognize outstanding staff, including transporters who play a key role in children’s lives while in care but whose role is seldom acknowledged. Kat and her husband Adam, who live in Sanborn, were Niagara County Foster Parents of the Year in 2011.

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