Our Speaker Line-Up

Hear firsthand stories from incredible individuals with unique upbringings. From foster care to adoption, guardianship, and other unique family dynamics, our speakers are here to shed light on their life experiences. With valuable insights to take home to your own family, our speakers will share their past and uncover what they are doing now to create a brighter future for children in their footsteps. Save your seat now.

Dr. Chaitra Wirta-Leiker

Welcome Keynote Speaker, Licensed Psychologist

    Dr. Chaitra Wirta-Leiker the Welcome Keynote Speaker for the conference this year. She is a licensed psychologist, international/transracial adoptee of color, and an adoptive parent. She specializes in providing mental health support focused on adoption, trauma, and racial identity work through her private practice based in Denver, Colorado. She is a frequent speaker and trainer at adoption agencies, camps, and conferences throughout the U.S., and the creator of the National Adoptee-Therapist Directory. She authored “The Adoptee Self-Reflection Journal,” “The Adoptive Parent Self-Reflection Journal,” and will be releasing a children’s book series entitled “Adoptees

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    Nathan Ross

    Lunch Keynote Speaker, Project Specialist, North American Council on Adoptable Children

      Nathan Ross is a project specialist at the North American Council on Adoptable Children. Nathan entered foster care at the age of ten, and he was adopted as a teenager. Upon discovering that his resource-filled foster care experience was unique, he decided to center his career around increasing outcomes for future generations of children. Today, he uses his knowledge as a transracial adoptee and child welfare professional to train caregivers, foster care and adoption workers, and system administrators across North America. Additionally, Nathan works with agencies and states to develop programs and policies

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      Barb Clark

      Training Specialist, North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC)

        Barb Clark works at the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) as a Training Specialist. She is a parent to children through adoption and is passionate about helping professionals and parents avoid the making the many mistakes she made before she understood the impact trauma has on the brain. She is committed to improving the education and lives of individuals who were prenatally exposed to drugs and alcohol and other forms of trauma. She uses humor and real life experiences to help professionals and parents challenge the use of traditional strategies and

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        Sara Sanson

        Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LIMHP, LCSW)

          Sara is a LIMHP, LCSW with a heartfelt passion for working with children, adolescents, young adults and their families through difficult and stressful times. She has an extensive 11 year background in attachment and post-adoption support and she has a strong passion working with families touched by adoption. Sara is an Adoption Competent Therapist (TAC), Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT), Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), Family Systems Work, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Circle of Security-Parenting Facilitator and Integrative Team Treatment for Attachment Trauma protocol IATP-C trained

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          Brenna Poindexter

          Executive Director, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Nebraska

            Relationships are powerful. Throughout my career, I have had the privilege to cultivate relationships, help sustain relationships, and create countless relationships that have impacted my life. I am grateful to work to defend the potential of youth as the Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Nebraska. Prior to joining the team at BBBS, I served Nebraska’s adoption community in a variety of capacities. Those areas include: marketing and outreach, peer mentoring program development, training creation and implementation for parents and professionals, assisting in service to families, statewide conference planning, legislative

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            Briana Woodside


              Briana Woodside is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Social Work from the University of Nebraska at Kearney and her Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Briana joined MECC with 10+ years of experience working with children and families, specifically in the field of adoption. Through this work she supported all members of the adoption constellation in navigating their roles and understanding and honoring the child’s perspective and experiences. Briana has received certification in TAC (Training for Adoption Competency) and

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              Michelle Westengaard

              Director of the the Department, Occupational Therapy at the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Munroe-Meyer Institute (MMI)

                Michelle “Chelli” Westengaard is the Director of the the Department of Occupational Therapy at the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Munroe-Meyer Institute (MMI). Chelli joined MMI in January of 2022 bringing 21 years of experience working in a pediatric setting. She specializes in feeding and swallowing, binocular and cortical visual impairments, sensory processing and autism spectrum disorders. Chelli has had the opportunity to gain experience in multiple settings to include: outpatient, inpatient, NICU, multidisciplinary clinics and the school system. Chelli has had the fortune of working across the continuum with physical and neurodevelopmental

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                Jody Angel-Trejo


                  Jody has earned her degrees from the University of Nebraska. Her fist degree was a bachelor of science in Psychology with a minor in Sociology at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln in 1997. She later received her Masters of Education in Community Counseling at the University of Nebraska – Kearney in 1999. Jody held her first job providing outpatient therapy at the Child Guidance Center in Lincoln, NE. She then moved to Richmond, VA in late 2000 where she began her career in VA working at a day treatment center as a

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