Our Agency Staff
American Adoptions Staff
The dedicated staff members at American Adoptions have decades of experience in adoption. With backgrounds in social work, counseling, business and media, our staff can help you on your adoption journey every step of the way. Additionally, many of our staff members have personal adoption experience as adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents.
All of our clients will be matched with an Adoption Specialist, who can help them with any questions during the adoption process. Read our staff bios below to get to know the faces and learn the heart of America's adoption agency.
Shawn Kane - Executive Director, MBA
As Executive Director, I help to provide education, guidance and support to our clients and staff throughout the adoption process. Since we may never meet in person, I'd like to tell you a bit about myself!
Since 2000, I have worked with adoptive families and pregnant women, handled marketing and advertising efforts and continue to help lead, organize and train our staff. The adoption field is very rewarding. Adoption is challenging and complex, and you never really stop learning new things about it. My passion for adoption has grown through the years, and more recently, I have become a proud adoptive father to my daughter Claire! I admire and respect any person who considers adoption. Adoption takes special people making choices for the best interest of a child. Each adoption is a miracle in action!
Megan Kautio - Assistant Executive Director, LBSW
I currently serve as the Assistant Executive Director of American Adoptions. I have been a member of this wonderful team since 2000. In my years at American Adoptions, I have been a Birth Parent Specialist, an Adoptive Family Specialist and Assistant Director. I have enjoyed each role and continue to learn something new each and every day from our brave clients and our dedicated staff members. I love finding ways to support and lead our team so they can provide the best services possible to each and every person who needs our help. Working at American Adoptions is more than a job for me. So many people have trusted me with their lives and, for that, it has become a huge part of my life.
Jennifer Van Gundy - Director of Social Services, LMSW
I have been a member of the American Adoptions team since 2005. I have held several different roles which have allowed me to be a part of many sides of the adoption process, including support for birth parents and adoptive families and home studies and post-placements. My current role is Director of Social Services. Through this position I am able to provide guidance and support to our amazing team of Birth Parent Specialists as they work with clients. I also approve home studies and post-placements completed by our agency. I have a special heart for adoption, as I was adopted as an infant. I was given the most amazing gift when my birth mother chose adoption for me. I feel very lucky and love to share how positive adoption has been in my life.
Jenna Howard - Executive Director of American Adoptions of Texas, LMSW, LCPAA
I have always had a heart for adoption. As an adoptee and an adoptive parent, I know the blessing that adoption has been in my life. I love helping families experience that same blessing with their adoption journeys. I've been involved in the adoption field since 1994,and my work experience has included birth mother counseling, completion of home studies for both domestic and international adoption, and adoption education. Currently, I enjoy my role as Director of American Adoptions of Texas. I earned my Bachelor's in Psychology from Abilene Christian University and my Master's in Social Work from the University of Texas at Arlington. I have my LMSW with Independent Practice Recognition and my Licensed Child Placing Agency Administrator license. My husband and I have four sons and a daughter.
Brighid Titus - Adoption Specialist, LMSW
As a Birth Parent Specialist, my role is to support prospective birth parents through adoption, help them to match with an adoptive family and prepare for the hospital experience. I have my Master's Degree in Social Work, and I maintain my LMSW license. Since I began with American Adoptions in 2008, I have done my best to educate prospective birth parents about all aspects of the adoption process as they face this difficult decision. Each adoption is unique and deserves individualized respect and attention. It is so rewarding to work with prospective birth parents as they choose to give their child the very best life. I hope to work with you, too!
Rachel Marcy - Adoption Specialist, LPC
Hello! My name is Rachel Marcy and I am an Adoption Specialist here at American Adoptions. I have my Master's in Counseling from Mid America Nazarene University, and I am a Licensed Professional Counselor in Kansas. My role is to help birth parents navigate the adoption process and help them develop the plan that is best for them and baby. I am there every step of the way to provide education and emotional support as they make this difficult decision. Adoption services are very close to my heart, as two of my family members are birth mothers who chose adoption for their babies. This has given me a greater understanding of what birth mothers go through and how selfless the act of placing a child for adoption is. Adoption can be a very difficult decision, and I admire you greatly for considering this choice. I look forward to working with you!
Laci Simpson - Adoption Specialist, LBSW
Hi! My name is Laci Leiker and I am an Adoption Specialist here at American Adoptions. I graduated from Kansas State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Social Work. I am a Licensed Social Worker in the state of Kansas. My role at the agency is to work with birth parents considering adoption and assist them in creating an adoption plan. I provide support to birth parents during this difficult decision and work hard to ensure their wants and needs are being met. I am very grateful for the opportunity to work with so many courageous birth parents and to provide all of the support I can throughout their adoption journey. I admire your strength in considering adoption for your child and look forward to working with you!
Laura Marriott - Adoption Specialist, LMSW
My name is Laura Marriott and I am your Adoption Specialist, and can't wait to get to know you. I'm looking forward to collaborating and developing your adoption plan. My job and my passion is to support you and advocate for you as we work together through this process. This is a big decision, and I want you to feel as comfortable with me as possible; so I'd like to tell you a little about myself.
I was born, raised, and still live in Kansas City. I received my Bachelor's degree in Social Work at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas and then immediately continued my education at Missouri State University, where I received my Master's Degree in the same field. After college, I returned to the Kansas City area where I go to as many football, baseball and soccer games for our hometown teams as I can. I love to travel to new places, try novel foods, hike the mountains and explore with my friends and family. I am fortunate to be near my family and spend as much time with them as I am able. In my downtime, I love to get lost in a good book or watch a cheesy movie.
I admire your courage and consideration for your child’s best interests. I understand that this is a difficult decision and I will be here with you through the entire process - wherever it takes us. You are a strong person; I am here to aid you and support you through this emotional time. Please feel free to call me or text me should you have any questions or worries at all.I look forward to working with you!
Jenna Gerdes - Adoption Specialist
Hello, my name is Jenna and I am an adoption specialist here at American Adoptions. Growing up, I always knew I wanted to be in a helping profession. I started by getting my Bachelors in Psychology from Westminster College, followed by my Masters in Social Work from University of Missouri – Columbia. As an adopted child myself, I work hard in my role of assisting birth parents through every step of the adoption process. I admire anyone who considers adoption as an option for their child and hope to provide education, compassion, and support to any one I work with.
Sasha Horn - Adoption Specialist, LMSW
Hello! My name is Sasha Horn and I am an Adoption Specialist here at American Adoptions. I graduated from the University of Kansas with my Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and then attended graduate school at the University of Missouri-Kansas City where I received my Master's degree in Social Work. I am a Licensed Social Worker in both Missouri and Kansas. My role is to assist birth parents on their journey in developing an adoption plan that is unique to their wants and preferences. I provide support to birth parents along the way as they navigate such a difficult decision. I admire you for your courage and strength for considering this choice. I look forward to working with you!
Emily Wheeler - Adoption Specialist
Hi there! My name is Emily and I'm an Adoption Specialist. I am so excited to get to know you on this journey! I want you to know how much I admire you for considering adoption. It's not an easy thing to consider, but it can be a selfless and positive experience, and I look forward to supporting you every step of the way. My job as your specialist is to advocate for you and ensure you feel comfortable, so here's a little bit about me:
I graduated from the University of Kansas City-Missouri with a Bachelor's Degree in Sociology. Studying sociology really opened my eyes to people and communities of all backgrounds and cultures, and I try to apply that open-minded view to all aspects of my life, but especially my work. In my free time, I like to spend time with friends and family, try new recipes in the kitchen, and snuggle up on the couch with a good book (or a good Netflix binge watch!)
Please know that I understand this is a difficult decision. No matter what you decide, I am here for you, and you can reach me anytime via phone call, text, or e-mail. I look forward to talking to you soon!
Carly Spencer - Adoption Specialist
Hi! My name is Carly and I am an Adoption Specialist! My role is to support birth parents in their adoption plan and be their #1 fan the whole way through!
Here is a little bit about me:
I was born and raised in Northern California. I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Oregon. After college, I moved to Kansas where I worked as a Permanency Specialist for children who were in the state’s custody. Now, I am so happy to be a part of this team advocating for women and helping them consider all of their options. I love getting to know people and hearing their stories. Outside of work, you can find me painting, traveling, and spending as much time as I can with my family!
I admire you for taking this step and I support you 100% in whatever you choose. It takes a true selfless individual to put their child’s best interest before their own wants. I will always remind you of your strength throughout this process. Adoption is a very courageous choice and I am here for you through this emotional time. I am always here if you would like to text, call, or email me!
Nicolette Nemeth - Adoption Specialist
Hi! My Name is Nicolette Nemeth and I am your Adoption Specialist who will be working with you to create your adoption plan. Since we will be working so closely together, I would like to share a little bit about me.
I grew up on a little farm in Kansas. After graduating high school I went to Kansas State University where I received my Bachelor's degree in Family Studies and Human Services. I then decide to move somewhere even bigger and found myself in Kansas City. I worked in KC as a nanny for a while before I decided to get my Master's degree in Public Health from the University of Kansas Medical Center. I now love the city life and cannot imagine living anywhere else. Some of my hobbies include exploring the outdoors, finding fun walking trails, hanging out with family and friends, going to concerts, and playing with my cat named Lilly.
Although I have never been directly involved in adoption, I have always loved working with and advocating for all women and children. I feel so privileged to be able to work with birth parents on their adoption journey and help women consider all their options for their child. It takes a true selfless individual to put their child's best interest before their own wants. I admire you for taking this step and I support you 100% in whatever choice you make. I look forward to getting to know you through this process. I understand that adoption can be a very difficult decision and that is why I will be here for you whenever you need me. Do not hesitate to reach out anytime. I am excited to hear from you!
Charlotte Baker - Adoption Specialist
Hello! My name is Charlotte and I'm excited to work with you. I am an Adoption Specialist here at American Adoptions. I have always loved hearing people's stories and I know that as a potential birth mother your story is so very important.
I am from Kansas City, Missouri. I graduated from Northwest MO State University where I earned my bachelor's degree and earned my master's degree in Human Services from Walden University online. I am so thankful to be part of the American Adoptions team. My role at American Adoptions is to help support birth mothers as they navigate through the process of adoption. Considering placing a child for adoption takes incredible strength and courage, and I am honored to be able to play a role in your story.
I try to live my life always keeping the quote in mind "Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always." I hope that you will let me walk alongside you as we find the best path forward. Please feel free to call text or email me. I am here for you!
Kelli Cox - Adoptive Family Specialist, LBSW
Hi! My name is Kelli Cox. As an Adoptive Family Specialist, I look forward to assisting families through education and support as they work their way through the adoption process. I am a licensed social worker and have been at American Adoptions since 2005. During my time here I have not only worked with adoptive families but also with women who were considering adoption for their children to provide them with guidance and support. Adoption is something that is close to my heart, as I have three family members that were touched by adoption. It is wonderful to see how much of a blessing adoption can be in lives of each family I work with. I hope to take my experiences and share them with families to make their adoption experience as positive as possible.
Dacia Peterson - Adoptive Family Specialist, LMSW
My name is Dacia Peterson. I am an Adoption Specialist here at American Adoptions. I graduated from the University of Kansas with a Master's Degree in Social Work and am a licensed social worker in the state of Kansas. I have worked in adoption for over 10 years now and have experienced adoption from both the state foster care and adoption side and the private adoption side. My role is to provide support and education to adoptive families during the adoption process. I am honored to be part of such an important time in a family’s life. I have found my home here at American Adoptions and love working with such amazing families throughout their adoption journey!
Lara Sandusky - Adoptive Family Specialist, LSW
My name is Lara Sandusky, and I am a Licensed Social Worker and Adoption Specialist in Northwest Arkansas. I obtained my Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Texas at Arlington and have spent a majority of my post-collegiate years working for or with a child-placement agency.
My primary focus is to meet with potential adoptive families and complete home studies, as well as support and guide you through your wonderful adoption journey. I look forward to meeting you all very soon!
Emily Droge - Adoptive Family Specialist, LBSW
Hello! My name is Emily Droge, and I am an Adoption Specialist here at American Adoptions. I graduated from the University of Kansas with a Bachelor's Degree in Social Work, and am now a Licensed Social Worker here in Kansas. My role is to provide support and advocacy for men and women that are exploring and creating adoption plans and to help guide them through and ensure that all of their needs and expectations are being met. I provide education about the adoption process and am available for emotional support, as well. I have experienced adoption personally in my own family and have always known that one day I would be blessed with the opportunity of assisting others in their journeys. I am amazed by the strength and courage of each and every adoptive parent that I work with, and I look forward to working with you in any way that I can!
Melanie Leal - Adoptive Family Specialist, LMSW, LCPAA
Hi! My name is Melanie Leal. As an Adoptive Family Specialist, I enjoy helping families with education and support throughout their adoption journeys. I have a Bachelor's Degree in Social Work from the University of North Texas and a Master's Degree in Social Work from the University of Texas. I have worked in the adoption field since 2003 and have worked in several areas of adoption, including home studies, domestic and international adoption, adoption education for families, working with adoptive families, and working with women considering adoption for their children. Several of my family members are adopted, and I greatly enjoy using my experience to help adoptive families throughout their adoption experience.
Erin Ponak - Adoption Family Specialist, LMSW
Hi! My name is Erin Ponak, and I am an Adoption Specialist here at American Adoptions. I graduated from the University of Kansas with a Master's Degree in Social Work and am a Licensed Master Social Worker. I have spent the past several years working with birth parents to assist in creating adoption plans for their children and I am now providing education and support to adoptive families throughout their adoption journeys. I am honored to be part of such a special time in a family’s life and I love getting to know each family throughout the process. I look forward to working with you and helping in any way that I can!
Justin King - Adoptive Family Coordinator
As a member of our Adoptive Family Department, I complete home study reviews for our families before activation. This entails reviewing all home studies done by agencies other than American Adoptions to ensure their compliance with ICPC standards nationwide and collecting all of the family's supporting documentation for their file. I also coordinate all post-placement supervisory visits with both American Adoptions social workers and outside agencies and make sure these are sent to the necessary parties before finalization. If you received a home study through an agency other than American Adoptions and have questions or have any questions about the post-placement process, I'm your guy.
Mike Aguilar - Adoptive Family Coordinator
Hi! My name is Michael Aguilar, and I have worked here at American Adoptions since 2006. I understand that choosing a domestic adoption agency can be very overwhelming, and as a result, I truly believe that knowledge is power, especially when it pertains to adoption. Helping couples complete their families is the most rewarding part of my job here at American Adoptions. My role with the agency is not only to provide information and support to potential adoptive families, but more importantly listen to our families and try to meet their needs. I never know what the next day will bring; every family that I talk to is unique, and it is not every day that a person can help influence the outcome of another's life.
Jason Tabuchi - Adoptive Family Coordinator
As an adoptive family coordinator, I assist families with initial guidance about how the adoption process works. I answer any questions they may have and assist with their adoption plan. I am involved in preparing the family for a successful adoption and work closely with them regarding their specific needs. Together with the other coordinators, we give seminars in different locations for prospective adoptive families. I also assist in the accounting department as my background is in finance. I have been with American Adoptions since 2011, and I love working with families on fulfilling their dream of becoming parents!
Jenny Thomas - Home Study and Post Placement Coordinator
Hello! My name is Jenny Thomas, and I started here at American Adoptions in 2018. I received my Master's Degree in Social Work from the University of Kansas in 2002. I have been a stay-at-home mom with my two wonderful kids for the last 13 years, and I'm so excited to be back to work here at American Adoptions! Most of my previous work has been done in hospital and community mental health. I am the Post-Placement Coordinator, so once placement has occurred, my job is to notify all parties of the post-placement requirements in each particular state. I also do some work in the home study department here at AA. I am here to help you in any way I can!
Laura Braun - Project Coordinator
Hello! My name is Laura, and I am a member of the administration team here at American Adoptions. I graduated from Kansas State University and joined the agency in January of 2018. Some of my tasks include directing incoming calls to the correct representatives, supporting the Social Work department by mailing packets to birth mothers, and assisting other departments and staff when needed. I love working with a dedicated staff and for an organization that is passionate about helping families.
Wade Morris - Director of Community Resources
I have been with the agency since 1995. I provide education and support to adoptive couples on our adoption policies and procedures and educate adoptive families joining American Adoptions. In addition, I network and market our agency with other adoption professionals and organizations and provide outreach in adoption communities nationwide. Adoption is extremely rewarding, and I enjoy assisting couples in becoming parents. As the years go by, watching these children grow up happy and seeing their progress means the world to me.
DJ Barnes - Director of Human Resources
I have had the pleasure of being with American Adoptions since 2005. Within that time, the knowledge I have accrued has allowed me to work in many areas here at the agency. My primary function is keeping up with the necessary licenses we carry in several states. I also serve as the human resources department, where I assist our employees with any HR-related matters. But, above all, my favorite task is filing the Interstate Compact of the Placement of Children (ICPC) packet, as it is the final piece of the adoption puzzle. I am known as the "stork" around the office while I am filing ICPC paperwork, because the new family is able to travel home once it is completed. It's a wonderful feeling knowing I am playing a part in creating the most beautiful thing ever - family.
Michelle Downard - Birth Parent Peer Support / Birth Mother
My name is Michelle Downard, and I am a birth mother who has been working for American Adoptions since 2003. My primary focus is peer support for all the birth mothers that we work with who want to know that they are not alone and that someone else understands how they feel. I placed my son for adoption in February of 1998. He is the love of my life, and I know that it is because of adoption and his wonderful adoptive family that he has had all of the opportunities and experiences that he has been blessed with. I also handle the pictures and letters here at the agency and love being able to talk with both adoptive couples and birth mothers about their experience and contribute in making it a positive experience for everyone.
Doreen Ball - Social Work Support Coordinator
I joined American Adoptions in May 2012. My duties include receiving incoming calls and directing families and birth parents to their proper representative and/or specialist, assisting the Adoptive Family Department by sending out information packets to adoptive families, and assisting with other projects as needed. Adoption has also touched me personally, as I have witnessed it in both my extended family and close friends. I am excited to be working for an organization that brings birth parents and adoptive families together to create forever families.
Desiree Koudele - Communications Specialist
In 2006, just before my first child turned 1-year-old, I knew the only way I was going to be able to balance my new life as a working mom was if I was using my skills to benefit my biggest passion - family. So, I left my desk as the Editor-in-Chief of a magazine and joined the American Adoptions team. At American Adoptions, I work with families to design their adoptive family print profile and also contribute to our website, marketing materials and other information. I received my degree in Electronic Journalism from Kansas State University in 2000 and have experience in all facets of the media, including radio, television, print and the internet. Today, I am a mom of two and still enjoy the fact that I am able to combine my love of all things creative along with my passion for family!
Todd Brace - Lead IT Specialist
Since 2006, I have been working as the agency's IT Specialist. My main duty is developing and maintaining our custom database, software, website and network. But I also manage our office inventory and serve as an all-around fix-it guy.
Alli Garlich - Adoption Specialist, LBSW
Hi! My name is Alli Garlich and I have my degree and license in Social Work and graduated from Colorado State University. I love working with adoptive families here at the agency by providing support and guidance along their adoption journey. I have had a passion for adoption ever since my family adopted my little brother as an infant. He is one of the bright lights in my life and I can't even imagine life without him! Family is one of the most important things in life (in my opinion!) and I love seeing families formed through adoption.
Kathy Grant - Adoption Specialist, LPC
Hi I'm Kathy and I've been working with American Adoptions since 2004 and it's been a wonderful journey. I am a licensed professional counselor in both Kansas and Missouri, I currently also work in substance abuse treatment and also have a private practice. I love working with prospective adoptive families and find it a very rewarding experience helping families welcome children into their lives.
Molly Gray - Adoption Specialist
Hi, my name is Molly and I have been working with children and families for more than twelve years has been one of my greatest pleasures and honors. From the time I was young girl, I knew my life's work was to help families. I earned my Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Social Work and have worked with children and families ever since. I have worked for American Adoptions since 2005. I thoroughly enjoy getting to know couples and helping them take the beginning steps of the wonderful journey of adoption. However: for me, the true highlight is watching these couples transform into families once they bring their babies home. Witnessing the true love and devotion of adoptive families is, without question, the reason I work in the adoption field.
Marzena Murphy - Adoption Specialist
Hi! My name is Marzena and I have received my Bachelors of Arts degree in Psychology and a Masters of Arts degree in Rehabilitation Counseling and Mental Health from University in South Florida. I furthered my career by attending Argosy University where in 2007 I obtained an Education Specialist degree. I am also a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in the state of Florida. My interest in adoption began during my work in the Child Welfare program in the adoptions unit, where my responsibility was to recruit parents to adopt children from foster care. I have continued to expand my love for working with children and assisting families in their dream of having a forevever family by working with American Adoptions of Florida. I began working with American Adoptions in December of 2004. I truly enjoy seeing families becoming parents through the process of adoption. I have received my Bachelors of Arts degree in Psychology and a Masters of Arts degree in Rehabilitation Counseling and Mental Health from University in South Florida. I furthered my career by attending Argosy University where in 2007 I obtained an Education Specialist degree. I am also a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in the state of Florida.
Susan Patterson - Adoption Specialist, LCSW
Hi! My name is Susan Patterson and I am a licensed clinical social worker. In 2001, I reunited with my sister, who was placed for adoption years ago. Between this reunification and my years of volunteer work as a Pregnancy Resource Center volunteer, I have been working with American adoptions since 2006 and in the adoption field since 2003.
Joy Quante - Adoption Specialist, LPC
My name is Joy Quante and I graduated with a Masters Degree in Counseling and I am licensed as a Professional Counselor in Missouri. My job for American Adoptions is to help guide perspective parents at the beginning of their adoption journey. Once a child is placed in their home. My job is incredibly rewarding and very special to me. It is an honor to witness the enthusiasm and excitement of adoptive parents as they prepare to welcome a child into their homes and then to be given the privilege to witness the joy on their faces as they welcome a child into their hearts.
Laurie Shelton - Adoption Specialist, BA
Hi! My name is Laurie and for the last 13 years I have had the good fortune of providing a service that both ignites and satisfies my passion to help people achieve a better life. As an Adoption Specialist for attorneys and private agencies, I have supported over 300 birthparents from diverse cultural, economic and social backgrounds, counseling and guiding birthmothers and adopting families, facilitating communication between all parties. Propelled by desire and hope, but grounded by professionalism, I have made a measurable difference in the lives of each member of the adoption triad. I carry with me all my experiences that I have been lucky to share with all my clients on their individual adoption journey's through life.
Jazmin Taylor - Adoption Specialist, LSW
Hi my name is Jazmin Taylor and I am a Licensed Social Worker. I obtained my Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Cedarville in Ohio. I have worked in the social services field on and off since 1997 and in the adoption field since 2006. Since a young age I have had a passion for adoption and working with adoptive families and birth parents. I am a mother of 3 and we were given the blessing of adopting our son Thomas In 2007 when my family moved to Arkansas. As an adoptive parent I have come to admire birth parents and understand the blessing that adoption provides not only to a child, but to an entire family and community. I believe I have found my true calling working in the field of adoption.
Debbie Velcheck - Adoption Specialist, LCSW
My name is Debbie Velcheck and I have a Bachelors and Masters Degree in Social Work, as well as my state licensure in Missouri. I became interested in the field of adoption soon after graduating from college while doing an internship with the State of Missouri. I worked closely with adoptive parents and love a being part of children finding a "forever home". I began working with American Adoptions in 2007, and truly love being a part of the adoption process. I have a niece and an nephew who joined our family by way of adoption, do I hold adoption close to my heart.