About the Coalition of Adoptive Families

Mission

The Coalition of Adoptive Families (COFAF) was formed to strengthen family ties and to increase awareness around the unique experience of being an adoptive family.

COFAF accomplishes this by providing education, resources, and support to adoptive parents, caregivers, and adoptees, as well as networking with adoption professionals and strategic institutions.

Our story

In June of 2013, the Coalition of Adoptive Families (COFAF) was founded by three adoptive parents, Fil Foldon, Deborah Miller-Gnann, and Rebecca Nelson, who were frustrated by the lack of post-adoption information, as well as the lack of experienced adoption professionals available to help with parenting challenges.  COFAF was formed by these parents to provide education and resources to adoptive parents so they can better understand and address the needs of their children.  Almost from the beginning, COFAF was assisted by a number of committed adoption professionals who were well aware that services to adoptive families needed to extend beyond the point of adoption. As one of the only post adoption service initiatives in central Ohio, COFAF has since 2014 offered education and training to adoptive parents, primary caregivers, and adoptees.

COFAF incorporated in June of 2013 and became a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in December of 2015.  COFAF is a membership-based organization and receives financial support from our members and donors, program fees and events.

Co-Founder and Executive Director – Deborah Miller-Gnann

Deborah Miller-Gnann is a Co-founder and Executive Director of the Coalition of Adoptive Families (COFAF).   Ms. Miller-Gnann is also a founding member of Central Ohio Families with Children from China (COFCC) and has presented as a panelist at the 11th Annual Wells Conference on Adoption Law at Capital University Law School, the Korean American Adoption Network 2013 Conference on a Post-Adoption Resource Panel for Young Adoptees and Families, and has been a guest lecturer for Dept. of Human Development and Family Science, The Ohio State University on Adoptive Parenting.

Ms. Miller-Gnann worked for many years in the public sector including as an attorney and Director of the Consumer Services Department for the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and Director of the City of Cleveland Office of Consumer Affairs.

Ms. Gnann is an adoptive parent.

Secretary and Member – Betsy Smalley

Betsy Smalley is an adoption and foster care trainer and consultant she is also the co-author of Telling the Truth to Your Adopted or Foster Child: Making Sense of the Past (2015), now in its 2nd edition and Wounded Children Healing Homes: How Traumatized Children Impact Adoptive and Foster Homes (2009).

Ms. Smalley has 45 years of experience in child welfare, adoption placement, post adoption services, and training.  She has worked almost 20 years as the Foster Care and Adoption Training Manager for the Institute for Human Services in Columbus, Ohio.  In that role, she created an extensive Pre-service Training Curriculum for Foster, Adoptive, and Kinship Parents, used by several state systems in the US, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan for foster and adoptive parents.  Ms. Smalley also developed training for adoption and foster care workers used in several states, in the US as well as in Canada, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kyrgyzstan.

Ms. Smalley has been the recipient of a number of state and nation awards I including North American Council for Adoptable Children nation Adoption Activist Award 2010, National Staff Development and Training Assn.  Lifetime Achievement Award (2010), Adoption Network Cleveland Adoption Triad Advocate Award (2000), and the Dan Schneider Award for Leadership  in Child Welfare Training (2012).  She remains involved in adoption and foster care work as an independent trainer, consultant, and author.

Treasurer and Member – Marni Hall

Ms. Hall is a 1967 Adoptee who received her original birth certificate after Ohio opened its adoption records. She found her birth mother and experienced a successful reunion. Ms. Hall spent 2015 focused on adoption where she attended support meetings, read books, and networked with others touched by adoption. As a result, she discovered she had never processed the impact adoption had on her life. She began the process of unpacking those feelings and grieving the loss she had experienced. Ms. Hall is now passionate about adoption and the importance of being in conversation.

Professionally, she is a CPA specializing in government accounting. Since 2013, Ms. Hall has worked for the Columbus City Auditor where she focuses on financial reporting. Prior to that, she performed financial reporting for two of Ohio’s public pension systems from 1999-2013. She spent the first ten years of her career in public accounting where she specialized in the audits of governments and not-for-profits.

Ms. Hall enjoys community service and has have served on several non-profit boards over the past 20 years. Because of her experience with auditing and financial reporting of not-for-profits, most of her board experience has been serving as Treasurer of those boards. The boards she has served on were Action for Children, UMCH Family Services, Black Tie Ball, and Clintonville Academy.

Ms. Hall’s family includes her husband Andy and their three children. Their ages are 19, 15 and 11. They enjoy the outdoors, spending many weekends at their cabin in Hide-Away-Hills near Hocking Hills.

Member – Barbara VanSlyck, LSW, MsEd, CA

Barbara VanSlyck has developed and provided therapeutic/education group series for adoptive families since 1992. She has coordinated the development of a comprehensive continuum of adoption and post adoption service programs at Parenthesis Family Advocates and United Methodist Children’s’ Home that included individual therapy, family and group therapeutic services for adoptive children and their families. Ms. VanSlyck specializes providing parenting tools and guidance for adoptive parents who are struggling with a difficult child and adolescent behaviors. She provides therapy, guidance and support to post-adoptive families individually and in group settings. Ms. VanSlyck is the author of “Wasn’t Love Supposed to Be Enough” as well as numerous training manuals for professionals and adoptive family education. She has a masters in Counseling Post Adoption Program Specialist Consultant, Trainer, Assessor and is the parent of two adult adoptees

Member – Paula Andree LISW-S

Paula Andree has 25 years of experience working with families in a variety of settings including community mental health home based services.  Ms. Andree opened the Attachment Bonding Center of Ohio Columbus office in 1999. In 2015, she founded The Family Attachment and Trauma Center. Ms. Andree focuses on supporting parents and working with children and adolescents who have experienced developmental trauma.

Ms. Andree received her Master’s in Social Work from The Ohio State University and her BA in Individual and Family Studies from Kent State University.

Ms. Andree has presented at national conferences for ATTACH and NACAC as well as many local organizations. She is a member of National Association of Social Workers and currently has a private therapy practice in Columbus and Athens.  Ms. Andree is also an adoptive parent.

Member – Becca Gwirtz LISW-S

Ms. Gwirtz received a Bachelor’s degree from Mount Vernon Nazarene College in 1997 with a Bachelor of Arts degree with a double major of Social Work and Sociology (Criminal Justice). She then received a Master’s degree from the Ohio State University in Social work in June 2004 and is a Licensed Independent Social Worker through the state of Ohio with supervisory status. She has had experience in Intake, On-going and primarily foster care and adoption in her career. Her passion in supporting Foster and Adoptive parents is close to her own heart as she experienced the gift of adoption at a very young age. Today, she is currently employed at the Institute for Human Services (IHS) where she revises and creates Adoption curricula for the adoption assessors in the state of Ohio.

Pro-Bono Counsel – Rosemary Ebner Pomeroy

Rosemary Ebner Pomeroy has assisted clients since 1993 in the creation of families through the adoption and assisted reproductive technology/surrogacy processes.  She represents adoptive families, birth parents, foster families, guardians, adoption agencies and relatives throughout the Central Ohio area.

From January 2012 to June of 2014 Ms. Ebner Pomeroy worked at the National Center for Adoption Law and Policy, at Capital University Law School as a staff attorney.  She was involved in a variety of adoption related projects including, National Adoption Day, Adoption Academy, review of profiles for the AdoptUSKids website, and many other activities to promote adoption, particularly from the foster care system.