Adoption Initiative Planning Committee

Amanda L. Baden, Ph.D. 

Professor, Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ

Amanda L. Baden, Ph.D. is a transracial adoptee, adopted internationally from Hong Kong. She believes in examining issues of race, privilege, oppression, and power in adoption to promote ethical and sensitive practice with transracial adoptees and their families. 

Dr. Baden is a full Professor and the Doctoral Program Director of the graduate Counseling Program at Montclair State University (NJ) and a licensed psychologist with a practice in New York City. She focuses her research and clinical practice on the adoption kinship network, transracial/international adoption issues, racial and cultural identity, and multicultural counseling competence. Dr. Baden was an editor of The Handbook of Adoption: Implications for Researchers, Practitioners, and Families. Dr. Baden serves on the Board on the New York State Board of Psychology, the Advisory Board for the Rudd Adoption Research Program (UMass-Amherst), the Board of Creating a Family, as Senior Fellow for the National Center on Adoption and Permanency, as chair of the Adoption Initiative Biennial Conferences held in NYC, and as a Senior Fellow for the former Donaldson Adoption Institute. 

Dr. Baden is an APA Fellow for Division 17 of the American Psychological Association, was awarded the John D. Black Award in 2014 from the APA and Division 17 for the Outstanding Practice of Counseling Psychology, Outstanding Graduate Advisor for Montclair State University in 2017, and Angel in Adoption in 2005. 

Daniel Drennan,

Associate Professor, Emily Carr University of Art + Design, Vancouver

Daniel Drennan ElAwar was adopted via Lebanon to the United States at the age of two months. In 2004 he returned sight unseen, and taught graphic design and illustration at various Beirut universities. He continues to work as a special advisor to the Beirut-based children's rights organization Badael/Alternatives on issues of adoption and adoptee return. From January to June, 2016, he was a research fellow at the Asfari Institute of Civil Society and Citizenship, focusing on adoption and citizenship in terms of displacement, dispossession, and disinheritance. As of June 2016, he is in reunion with his family in Greater Syria. He currently works as an associate professor teaching Illustration and Printmaking at Emily Carr University of Art + Design, Vancouver, Canada.

Angela Gee, MFT

Angela Gee is a Chinese adoptee, born in Louisiana and adopted in-race. She's an adoptive parent in a transracial family and licensed marriage and family therapist practicing in Los Angeles, California. Being of an early adoptee cohort, Angela discovered her adoptee community later in life; as she provides support and education by facilitating ongoing support groups and workshops for adolescent and adult adoptees and counseling adoptive parents, she receives the rich and rewarding connection of our community . In addition to her clinical practice she participates at national adoption conferences and is an adjunct professor at Antioch University Los Angeles.

Megan Nam Holtz, LMSW

Meggin (Nam) Holtz, LMSW, is a Korean adoptee. Nam has been involved in adoption advocacy, awareness, and support for over a decade. Her award-winning documentary film, "Found in Korea," about birth search, country of origin travel, identity, and adoption was created to serve as a catalyst for conversations about adoption among youth and adults. She served as the Teen Mentor facilitator at "All Together Now," a support group for adoptees and their families, wrote, "Who Cut My Umbilical Cord?" published in "Flip the Script," and holds an MSW from Silberman School of Social Work. Nam comes from a performing arts background and enjoys bringing creativity into her work. Nam is currently working in a private practice with adopted people and their families, and also continues macro work towards adoption reform and education as a public speaker. 

Rafael A. Javier, Ph.D., ABPP

Professor, St. John's University

Rafael Art. Javier is a Professor of Psychology and the Director Inter-agencies Training and Research Initiatives and the Post-Graduate Professional Programs at St. John's University. He also functioned as the first Director of the Center for Psychological Services and Clinical Studies at St. John's University for almost 20 years. He is currently on the faculty and a supervisor at New York University Medical Center, Department of Psychiatry, and the Object Relations Institute. Prior to joining St. John's University, he was the head of psychology at Kingsboro Psychiatric Center and on the faculty at Downstate Medical Center.

Dr. Javier has presented at national and international conferences on psycholinguistic and psychoanalytic issues in research and treatment and on ethnic and cultural issues in psychoanalytic theories and practice, including on issues of violence and the impact on general cognitive and emotional functioning. He has published extensively on the subject including several co-edited books: "Reaching Across Boundaries of Culture and Class," "Domestic Violence" and "Personality Development and Psychotherapy in our Diverse Society: A Source Book" all published by Jason Aronson. The "Patterns of desire: Sexual diversity in psychoanalysis," coauthored with Dr. William Herron was published by Nova Science Publishers, Inc. in the spring 2006.  Early in 2007, he was the senior editor for the "Handbook of Adoption: Implication for Researchers, Practitioners and Families" co-edited with Amanda Baden, Frank Biafora and Alina Camacho-Gingerich, published by Sage Publications. Another book scheduled for publication by the fall 2007 is "The Bilingual mind: Thinking, Feeling and Speaking in two Languages," to be published by Springer Publications.

He is on the editorial board of the Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, the Journal of Social Distress and the Homeless, and the Journal of Infant, Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy. He is Associate Editor for the Journal of Social Distress and the Homeless and was recently appointed as the Associate Editor for the Journal of Psycholinguistic Research.  His current research activities include issues of violence and moral development, suicide in adolescents and young adults, and bilingualism. He is in private practice. He holds a diplomate in psychoanalysis by the American Board of Professional Psychology and another diplomate in clinical psychology by the same board. He was also awarded a diplomate of the American Board of Psychological Specialties with a Forensic Specialty in Psychological Assessment. It was issued by the American College of Forensic Examiners.

JaeRan Kim, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work and Criminal Justice at the University of Washington at Tacoma

JaeRan was adopted from South Korea and grew up in Minnesota. Prior to completing her doctoral degree, she worked with foster and adopted children and families and with adults with disabilities in residential care. JaeRan's research is focused on the intersection of adoption and disabilities, in particular exploring disability, race, and transnational experiences for adoptees. As a public scholar, she is passionate about engaging in community-based projects; her blog Harlow's Monkey, which focuses on the transracial/transnational adoptee experience, is one of the longest-running transracial adoption blogs in the United States.

Visit JaeRan's website for more information about her work.

Jane Platt, Ph.D.

Jane Platt and her husband are the adoptive parents of two now-adult daughters from China. For many years she helped organize the Jane Brown Adoption Playshops sponsored by the New York City Chapter of Families With Children From China where she was an active member. She also holds a Ph.D. in psychology from Yale University, has served on the faculties of Harvard and the NYU School of Medicine, and is a licensed psychologist in New York State where she previously had a private practice.  Jane has been on the planning committee for all of the AIC conferences except the first one.  She is currently volunteering her services in the non-profit sector, primarily as board chair of an organization that tries to empower young parents and build stronger families.

Amy Strickler, LSW, LMSW

Interim Director, Intensive Weekend Program, Assistant Professor of Teaching

Amy Strickler, LSW, LMSW, is a Licensed Social Worker in New Jersey and New York. She earned an M.S. in Social Work from the Columbia University School of Social Work, and has an advanced Certificate in Adoption from Rutgers  Strickler is the Assistant Director for the Intensive Weekend Graduate Program at the Rutgers School of Social Work. She is also an Assistant Professor of Teaching within the MSW program at Rutgers.

Previously, she was employed by the Lower East Side Family Union, New York City, for 20 years, where she rose to the position of Associate Executive Director. During her tenure as Associate Executive Director, Strickler expanded their Child Welfare Preventive Service program, and developed and implemented programs serving Families Living with HIV/AIDS and Families with a Developmentally Disabled Child. She has also worked within the field of International Adoption, conducting assessments of prospective adoptive families as well as providing and pre and post adoption counseling. Strickler has many years of experience in direct practice, management and administration.

Sunanda "Suni" Sharma

Doctoral Candidate, Montclair State University

Bio: Sunanda "Suni" Sharma is a doctoral candidate and research fellow to Dr. Amanda Baden in the Counseling PhD program at Montclair State University. Suni is currently a licensed associate counselor (LAC) in the state of New Jersey and a nationally certified counselor (NCC). Suni received her master's in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Monmouth University in 2019. Suni currently works in private practice. Suni has served as a master's level NBCC minority addictions fellow during which time she learned a great deal about providing mental health services to underserved and minoritized populations. Suni is currently the chapter president of Montclair's Chi Sigma Iota chapter, Chi Sigma Mu where she co-founded a social justice advocacy group for students to learn about how to engage in social justice action. Suni's research interests include: transracial adoption, South Asian women survivors of domestic violence, and social justice advocacy.

Ricardo Carias

Master's in Counseling, Concentration in School Counseling, Montclair State University

Ricardo Carias is a Montclair State University graduate student within the Master's in Counseling program with a concentration in school counseling. Ricardo is currently a graduate assistant to Dr. Amanda Baden, working on matters of adoption research and other projects. Alongside his work with Dr. Baden, Ricardo also works at the Mediation Resource Center within Montclair State University, working hands-on with on-campus residents to solve immediate and ongoing roommate crises and personal issues. With school counseling, Ricardo is interested in pursuing a career that allows him to work with minoritized populations to strengthen their life chances and opportunities beyond primary and secondary level education.

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