Creating a Family Board of Directors
Gina Samuels, Board Chair
Gina Miranda Samuels is an adult transracial adoptee and an Associate Professor at the School of Social Service Administration and a Faculty Affiliate of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture at the University of Chicago. Her scholarly interests include transracial adoption, mixed race and multiethnic identity formation, interpretive research methods, and the development of relational, kinship, and cultural ties among young adults whose childhoods are shaped by foster care and adoption.
Dr. Baden is a Professor in the Counselor Education Program at Montclair State University in the Department of Counseling and Educational Leadership. She is a member of the Doctoral Faculty and an active researcher. Dr. Baden currently leads the Adoption Research Team. She is an avid proponent of multicultural competence and specializes in adoption-related research in counseling and psychology.
Dr. Baden earned her Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology at Michigan State University. She is also an adult transracial adoptee.
Erica Burgess, BSW, brings over 20 years of experience of combined direct care and management experience in the child welfare system through the private sector. The majority of Erica’s career was spent as the Director of Foster Care and Adoption for a North Carolina nonprofit. Her years working in the private sector have provided Erica with the experience and knowledge in child welfare including program development, staff development and training, fiscal oversight, program evaluation, consultation, and project management. Erica has a passion for improving the lives of the children and families served in the child welfare system. She has specific expertise in the areas of foster care, adoption, kinship care, licensure, programming for transition age youth, recruitment and retention of foster, adoptive and kinship caregivers.
Dr. Coleman is an Assistant Professor and researcher in the Department of Pharmacology and Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has done extensive research on the effects of alcohol on brain development including studies of both the central and peripheral effects of ethanol on cellular biological processes that contribute to both addiction and alcohol-related diseases.
Dr. Coleman earned his M.D. from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine as well as a Ph.D. in Neurobiology.
Micah Ennis is the Director of Rowan County Department of Social Services, where she has served in varying capacities for 27 years. Micah has served on community arts boards and helped establish the local Prevent Child Abuse Rowan and its subsidiary Terrie Hess House Child Advocacy Center. She describes herself as a servant leader and seeks to support and grow servant leadership within the organization and community. Micah’s personal mission includes excellent service to families and children, especially children involved in the child welfare system. She holds an M.S.W. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Micah and husband, Eric, have a blended family of 5 grown children and 8 grandchildren. During non-pandemic times, weekends are spend loving on grandchildren, playing Scrabble with friends, and visiting the local coffee shop.
Robin Gurwitch, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist with close to 30 years of experience in evidence-based treatments and the impact of trauma/disaster/terrorism on children. She is a professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University Medical Center and the Director of Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) and Child-Adult Relationship Enhancement (CARE) Training at the Center for Child & Family Health.
Dr. Gurwitch earned her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Stephen W. Hayes
Steve Hayes is an attorney specializing in adoption and assisted reproductive law. Steve has been a litigator for more than 40 years. He has been recognized in Best Lawyers in America, Wisconsin Super Lawyers, as a Leader in the Law and in Milwaukee Magazine as one of the top attorneys in his field in the Milwaukee area. He has volunteered his time as president or board member for lawyer organizations, including the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys, Milwaukee’s public television station, his church and various adoption groups.
Steve has been lead counsel in numerous Wisconsin and federal appellate cases in the areas of children’s law, including surrogacy, wrongful adoption and termination of parental rights cases. He continues to represent several Wisconsin adoption agencies, adoptive parents or birth mothers and was recognized as an Angel in Adoption by the Congressional Coalition in Adoption in 2006.
Alicia is a mother and grandmother of children with different abilities. Her advocacy journey began 30 years ago with her daughter. She has lived experience as a kinship caregiver. Additionally, she has been a part of two research projects on kinship caregivers: Urban Institute, Washington DC and the Nationwide Caregiver Project. She was also interviewed as part of the Creating a Family Legal Options Project and serves on their Kinship Advisory Committee. It is her passion to serve all families in North Carolina, so that no family will be left behind. Whether serving in a leadership role or as an active member of various local organizations, she gives it her all.
Heather Luczak is Director of People Development at MX Technologies. She is an insight and L&D manager with a demonstrated ability of distilling both data and information into consumable, actionable materials to improve organization performance.Her work often requires creativity and unconventional thinking to look at problems in a new way, and pull together the right resources across teams and silos to execute the right solution.
Heather holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Human Development, Family Studies, and Related Services from Brigham Young University.
Renae is passionate about using technology to improve the lives of individuals and families. She has extensive experience in user experience (UX) design, UX research, software engineering, digital design, and web development.
After several years of infertility and a couple rounds of in-vitro fertilization (IVF), Renae and her husband Jameson were blessed to become parents to their son, and they hope to expand their family further through adoption.
Jamie Morningstar is a fixture in the Utah Product Management scene and has been a part of several of Utah’s most interesting and successful Software as a Service brands. She currently serves as a Staff Product Manager at Qualtrics in Provo, Utah. Jamie holds a degree in Computer Science from St. Mary’s College of Maryland and an MBA from BYU. She was honored as a 2014 Woman to Watch and a 2017 Forty Under 40 award recipient by Utah Business Magazine. In her spare time Jamie loves to ski and cycle, participating in many cycling charity events each year as a leader of Team Cycle4Cure.
Jamie and her husband Stephen are proud parents to four kids, two by birth and two by adoption. They were grateful users of Creating a Family resources throughout their daughters’ adoption processes from Kazakhstan and China. Through their adventures in adoption, Jamie’s heart and mind were opened to the depth and complexity of the global orphan crisis. In response, she started to get involved with hands-on orphan advocacy and education projects. She leads an annual orphanage work trip to the Hogar de Amor orphanage in Colima, Mexico and is excited serve on the board of Creating a Family.
Gaile and her husband adopted 2 children from foster care, have another child through guardianship, and have fostered over 18 children in the past 10 years. Her passion is helping other families overcoming trauma and coaching parents and school systems when interacting with children with trauma. She has served as a Parent Advocate for the last 8 years. Before that she spent 17 years as a special education teacher in North Carolina. She is also the Board President for Foster Family Alliance of North Carolina.
Gaile has a master’s degree in special education from UNC-Greensboro and currently holds NC teaching certification in four areas.
Debora Phillips is the CEO of Children’s Connection Inc., a child welfare organization in Texas providing families in crisis and childcare providers support ranging from children and pregnant women Medicaid case management, nutrition program, pregnancy support services, breastfeeding education, parental education, and adoption and home study services.
Debora is also a former social worker and special education teacher.
Nick Sgarlata is the Executive Director of Bridge to Brighter, a non-profit dedicated to supporting youth in and aging out of foster care through resources and programming that help them achieve their goals.
Nick and his wife, Carrie, have three biological children and two adopted children. They are also licensed foster parents.
Dr. Elizabeth Williams is an integrated care psychologist serving children, teens and their families in her practice embedded within Hendersonville Pediatrics in Hendersonville, NC. She works with all ages, from toddlers through graduating seniors. She is also a founding partner and consultant for Health Integration Consultation Services, whose mission is to facilitate behavioral health integration into medical practices.
Dr. Williams grew up in South Carolina and received her Bachelor’s Degree from Furman University. She received her M.A. and Ph.D. at East Tennessee State University. She spent a year as a Visiting Assistant Professor at East Tennessee State University before joining the Hendersonville Pediatrics Behavioral Medicine team in January 2017. She enjoys outreach and is a regular public speaker in her community.
Brinton Wright is the principal member of the Law Offices of Brinton Wright, PLLC, in Greensboro, North Carolina. Mr. Wright’s practice consists primarily of adoption law (adoptive parent, birth parent and agency representation). He is a member of the Family Law Council of the North Carolina Bar Association and co-chairs its Adoption Committee. Mr. Wright has been influential in the drafting and promoting of numerous changes to North Carolina adoption statutes, including changes that promote interstate adoption and that clarify adoption procedure. He was the first North Carolina lawyer to become a Fellow of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, a national organization of attorneys who have distinguished themselves in the field of adoption law. (The Academy is now called the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys, and Mr. Wright is an Adoption Fellow.)
Mr. Wright was involved with the governance of the Children’s Home Society of North Carolina, North Carolina’s oldest and largest adoption agency, for more than 20 years, having served on its Board of Trustees, Executive Committee, and Foundation Committee. From 1999 to 2001, he chaired the agency’s Board of Trustees. He is a recipient of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s “Angel in Adoption™” award and the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys’ “Mentor Who Made a Difference” award. Mr. Wright earned his B.A. degree from John Hopkins University, M.B.A. degree from the University of New Hampshire, and J.D. degree from Wake Forest University School of Law. Mr. Wright is a regular presenter at seminars on North Carolina adoption law.