Michael Olivieri was a child in the foster care system for three years.  In those three years he lived in 10 different homes.  With his wife’s encouragement Michael decided to share his story of bullying, addiction, homelessness, foster care placement, drug and alcohol addicted parents, a physically, emotionally and mentally abusive step-father with others to show the ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds.  Michael works with several foster care agencies, sharing his story to encourage foster parents, potential foster parents and foster children. 

He can be contacted at, through his facebook page, olivieridc or his website,   

Michelle Zuckerman, MA, LMFTgraduated with a Bachelor of Arts, with honors in 2005, Master of Arts in 2008, and Graduate Certificate in Clinical Child and Family Studies in 2008 from Roosevelt University in Chicago, Illinois.  Michelle obtained her Marriage and Family Therapist License in 2014.  Michelle has worked in the mental health field for the past eight years, working in various settings and positions, including as an Outpatient Therapist in a non-profit agency, a Social Worker at a children’s shelter, and currently, working as a Marriage and Family Therapist at a high school located in the Sacramento, California area.  Michelle is devoted to providing mental health services and advocacy with foster youth, children, adolescents, and families as well as incorporating mindfulness practices in both her professional and personal life.  Michelle is extremely passionate about helping youth and families, easily building positive, trusting relationships with those she works with.  Michelle’s compassion for working with youth and families continues to be strengthened by the courage and resiliency she witnesses from her every day work.

Michelle may be contacted by email at  

Mickey Goodman is an award-winning freelance writer with more than 500 bylined articles.

MiMi Paris—an internationally recognized author, speaker and coach—started life as an orphan infant, deformed and dumped in a city park.  From there, she spent much of her life in and out of foster care. When she was not in group homes or other institutions, she was forced to live with unrelenting abuse from her “father” and “step mother.”  To this day, she really hasn’t a clue about from whence or from whom she originated. What she does know, however, is who she has become with her fortitude, faith, determination and humor.  She is greatly adored by her “real” family—her friends.

NANA EKUA BREW-HAMMOND is the author of Powder Necklace, which Publishers Weekly called "a winning debut." Named among 39 of the most promising African writers under 39, her short fiction was included in the anthology Africa39: New Writing from Africa South of the Sahara.

Her work has appeared in African Writing, Los Angeles Review of Books, Sunday Salon, and the short story collection Woman's Work. She was a 2017 Aspen Ideas Festival Scholar, a 2016 Hedgebrook Writer-in-Residence, and named to the Miles Morland Writing Scholarship shortlist in both 2015 and 2014. In April 2015, she was the opening speaker at TEDxAccra.

Every month, Brew-Hammond co-leads a writing fellowship at Manhattan's Center for Faith and Work. Also noted for her personal style, Brew-Hammond's fashion sense has been captured by New York Magazine, Essence Magazine, and the New York Times, among many other outlets. Recently, she founded the made-in-Ghana coat line Exit 14. Currently, Brew-Hammond is at work on a new novel.

Nicholas Orvis is a dramaturg, director, stage manager, and all-around theatrical practitioner based in New York City. His directing credits include Sick and Tired (Luna Stages' New Moon Festival and the Strawberry Festival);The Waiting Room (The Gallery Players' Black Box Festival); Peach, or Pig Land (Tandem Theatre Collective/PortFringe Festival); The Cardioluthier (Kirkland Art Center); The Tempest (Wesleyan University Theater Dept.); and Under Milk Wood and Twelve Angry Men (Wesleyan University Second Stage). He has also directed readings and scene nights, and worked as assistant director or dramaturg, at Portland Stage Company and the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, and is the Literary Assistant at Premiere Stages at Kean University. Nick is a co-founder and Artist-at-Large of the Tandem Theatre Collective, a geographically separated but aesthetically linked network of young artists dedicated to innovative methods of creating theatre and devising new works.

Nicole Geroy, 26, former foster child. I have a Bachelor's in criminal justice and am married to a US Army veteran, I enjoy volunteering in my community with my 501c3 nonprofit for veterans "Bombshell Betty's Calendar for Charity". I live in Lancaster California with my husband and four year old "raptor".

When I am not volunteering I enjoy learning about cars, Video gaming, and getting creative with DIY projects.

Nikki Barthelmess is an author of the young adult novels The Quiet You Carry, Quiet No More, and the upcoming Everything Within and in Between. Nikki entered foster care in Nevada at twelve and spent the next six years living in six different towns. During this time, Nikki found solace in books, her journal, and the teachers who encouraged her as a writer. A graduate of the University of Nevada, Nikki lives in Santa Barbara with her husband, daughter, and pride-and-joy Corgi pup.

The Quiet You Carry  
When seventeen-year-old Victoria Parker is suddenly placed into foster care, she struggles to find words for the abuse that upended her life. Determined to keep her head down, stay out of trouble, and graduate on time, Victoria soon realizes that no matter how hard she tries to move forward, the trauma in her past won’t leave her alone.

Quiet No More 
College freshman Victoria Parker is moving on with her life after surviving her father’s sexual abuse and six months of foster care. She’s navigating the adult sphere for the first time and balancing old friendships with new adventures. But when Victoria’s long-lost aunt shows up, asking Victoria to lie about her father’s assault so he’ll get a lighter sentence, Victoria’s fractured past collides with campus politics as she figures out whether and how to share her truth as a survivor.

Nikki Grey is a full-time freelance writer. She is a regular contributor for New Hair Trends, American Survival Guide and other Engaged Media magazines. Her articles have appeared in, The Daily Caller, Washington Examiner and the Santa Barbara News-Press, where she was a features reporter covering style, food, health and wellness and more for nearly two years. Nikki, who entered the Nevada foster care system when she was 12 years old and aged out at 18, has acquired literary representation for her fiction and hopes to use her writing to inspire young readers.

Norma Forde is the Senior Director of Permanency at HeartShare St. Vincent’s Services, opening new doors of opportunity for over 6,800 children, youth and families annually. If you are interested in fostering or adopting, please contact our recruiter at 718-422-2405.

Patrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempts to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.

Since 1832, Pressley Ridge has done whatever it takes to create success for children, adults and families. Pressley Ridge’s innovative programming helps to rebuild communities and families who are facing difficult challenges and complex situations. From mental health and foster care services to residential treatment facilities and education for children with special needs, Pressley Ridge empowers 7,300 kids and families each year with the ability and confidence to succeed. Pressley Ridge was founded and remains headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where the new Pressley Ridge School for Autism and Deaf is currently being built. The organization also serves communities in Central Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia and Delaware.

Rachel Bithell is a freelance writer, former physicist, and full-time parent to six children. She and her family fostered for six years and welcomed eight children into their family, two of whom stayed forever. For three of the years she was fostering, she also trained prospective resource parents in trauma-informed parenting classes. She is passionate about supporting the whole family, transracial parenting, and creating community for resource families.

Rachel Louviere is a 2018 graduate of the University of Southern Indiana with a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene with Cum Laude Honors. She has a passion for children and is actively involved with the youth in her community.

Her goal is to bring her skills and passions into a dental practice in the Indianapolis, Indiana area.

Renee Londner is a retired teacher of Special Education. As licensed foster parents, she and her  husband cared for several newborns.

BEFORE YOU WERE based on these experiences.

Renee enjoys writing stories and haiku poems. Her first picture book, Ruby's Whistle, was published in English and Spanish. Stones for Grandpa won a Sydney Taylor silver honor from the AJL (Association of Jewish Libraries) and shows how a young boy deals with the death of his grandfather and keeps his memories alive.

Her next picture book, a Chanukah story, will be out in 2016.

Rep. Brenda Lawrence, a Detroit native, is a Democrat representing Michigan’s 14th District. She co-chairs the Congressional Foster Youth Caucus and the Congressional Coalition on Adoption.

Richard Lasser founded and ran Teachers’ School Supply, Inc., a worldwide supplier of educational supplies and equipment for 25 years.  Focusing on Head Start, Title One, Charter Schools and Foster Care Programs, the company’s focus was to provide the same educational opportunities to underserved communities as were enjoyed by schools with better funding.  He sold the company in 2012 but has recently come out of retirement to focus exclusively on distributing Foster Care Exit Bags to ILPs, Foster Care Programs, and Juvenile Probation Departments around the country.

For more than 30 years, Rita Soronen has worked on behalf of abused, neglected and vulnerable children, providing leadership for local, state and national efforts working to improve the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, while striving to assure safe and permanent homes for North America’s children.

Leading the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, a national nonprofit public charity, since 2001, and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption-Canada since 2004, Ms. Soronen works to find adoptive families for each of the more than 134,000 waiting children in the United States and Canada’s foster care systems. Under Ms. Soronen’s leadership, the Foundation has significantly increased its grant-making and awareness commitments, while developing strategic signature initiatives that act on the urgency of the issue. In 2013, the Foundation dedicated more than $15 million to grants and award-winning national awareness activities, including Wendy’s Wonderful Kids, Adoption-Friendly Workplace and the 100 Best Adoption-Friendly Workplaces list, National Adoption Day, poster and PSA campaigns, and Finding Forever Families: A Step-by-Step Guide to Adoption.

In October, 2011, independent research results were released from a five-year rigorous research study on the Foundation’s signature and groundbreaking program, Wendy’s Wonderful Kids. The research proved that children referred to the program are up to three times more likely to be adopted. Since 2005, the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program has grown from seven pilot site grants to more than 185 active sites across the U.S., the District of Columbia and five provinces in Canada dedicated to aggressively and effectively moving children from foster care to permanent families.

Ms. Soronen currently serves on the board of the Public Education Committee of the National CASA Association, is a past vice president of the board of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute and a current member of the advisory board, serves on the advisory board of Barco’s Nightingale Foundation, and the We Deserve Love Too organization. Ms. Soronen is a recipient of the Angels in Adoption Award from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, the National CASA Association Kappa Alpha Theta Program Director of the Year Award, the Ohio CASA/GAL Association Statewide Leadership Award and was a 2013 recipient of WSNY’s 20 Outstanding Women You Should Know.

Robby Regal Kim is a writer and father living in New York City. During his childhood, he experienced foster care both in South Korea and Minnesota. When he graduated high school, he received a scholarship from the Orphan Foundation of America and Casey Family Scholars to pursue a journalism degree at the University of Minnesota. He is now involved supporting Manhattan families with an emphasis on youth from adoptive and foster backgrounds.

Rusty Johnson has lived his adult life combining two things: His advocacy for foster/adoptive children and his passion for music. After aging-out of Iowa’s foster care system, Rusty went onto receive his B.A. in Music Education from Central College in Pella, Iowa. He then moved to Texas to pursue his Master’s in Music & Education at the University of North Texas. Shortly after moving to Texas, Rusty was in-demand in both child advocacy and music. Rusty has performed and given talks coast-to-coast and around the world.

In 2006, he created “Rusty Johnson’s American Dreams”, a benefit that has reached thousands and raised thousands for foster/at-risk youth across the United States. Rusty continues his work by speaking, training future foster parents, and playing his saxophone in hopes of inspiring those who will influence countless generations yet to come. For more information about Rusty, his music and advocacy, visit:

Sandie Yeaman lives in Omaha, Nebraska. She grew up in the foster care system. In addition, She has raised many, many foster children, as well as worked as a consultant in Boy’s Town Specialized Foster Care Program.

My name is Saquanna Carrillo. I have been married for over 24 years and I have two grown children and a 10 month old granddaughter. I enjoy spending time with my family, genealogy research, volunteering within my community and physical fitness. I served six years in the United States Marine Corps and I am currently in the beginning stages of writing a book based on my life experiences. I am currently pursuing my Executive MBA and I work fulltime as a supervisor within the Department of Veterans Affairs.