Meet our Staff
Our diverse team of staff and consultants with the National Resource Center for Diligent Recruitment has decades of experience in child welfare and system change. Having worked both on the front lines and in leadership positions, we can provide your child welfare system with key insights and knowledge of diligent recruitment, retention, data-driven approaches, and system change practices that work.
Tracy Serdjenian, Interim Project Director
Tracy Serdjenian, LMSW, has a varied professional background that includes information services provision; community organizing and outreach; direct service work; child welfare training facilitation; and research and policy work. Before joining the National Resource Center for Diligent Recruitment at AdoptUSKids, Tracy worked for seven years at the National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections, serving as the director of information services for five years. In this capacity, Tracy provided off-site technical assistance, facilitated peer-to-peer information sharing opportunities, and helped to develop a wide range of child welfare publications, practice materials, webinars/webcasts, digital stories, and other resources. She has supported youth-led advocacy work with youth currently or formerly in foster care, worked with LGBTQ youth in homeless shelters, and provided vocational and educational support services to adults living with mental illness. She received a master of social work degree from the Hunter College School of Social Work, where she received the Rebecca Donovan Award for exemplary research, and a bachelor of arts degree in sociology from Vassar College.
Rebekah Main, Tribal Child Welfare Specialist
Rebekah Main is a Wasco/Warm Springs tribal member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs (CTWS) and was employed with her Tribe first as the Family Intake Coordinator (1.5 years) then promoted to the CPS Director (13 years). She was a recent NRC4Tribes consultant doing work in Indian Country (3 years). Her experience in Indian Child Welfare entails: Title IV-E, ICWA, family group conferencing, differential response, prevention, permanency planning, foster care, emergency shelter, and culturally specific case management. Rebekah is the NRCDR’s lead contact for all tribes.
Rubette Baldonado, Project Coordinator
Rubette Baldonado has more than 15 years of experience in project development and management in the public and private sectors. Her work has focused on managing technical projects, improving processes and expanding agency programs. She believes in being involved in her community in order to make positive change and actively participates in several nonprofits in the Albuquerque, NM, area.
Alicia Groh, MPP, has more than 15 years of experience in the child welfare field and is a senior consultant for the National Resource Center for Diligent Recruitment at AdoptUSKids. She has extensive knowledge of adoption and child welfare laws, policies, and funding streams as well as experience leading organizations and strategic change efforts. As an independent consultant and contractor, she has assisted organizations with capacity building, strategic planning, communication planning and implementation, and executive coaching. As executive director of Voice for Adoption, a national advocacy organization that speaks out on behalf of waiting children and adoptive families, she developed and led federal-level advocacy and adoption awareness-building efforts. She has worked as a child welfare policy analyst at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau, developing policy guidance for States on federal child welfare programs. She has also worked on post-adoption support programs and child welfare policy at the North American Council on Adoptable Children. Alicia is the NRCDR’s lead consultant for Region 5 (except Minnesota), Region 8, and New Mexico.
Linda McNall, MSW, LISW, has 30 years experience in public and private child welfare programs. She worked as a social worker with Headstart and several private nursing homes before beginning a career with the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD). She retired from state government in 2011 after a 28-year career. During that time, she held a variety of positions including front line caseworker, supervisor, policy and procedures bureau chief, adoption manager, county office manager and regional manager. Linda has participated as a reviewer with the Child and Family Service Reviews and the Title IV-E Reviews. In addition to her work with the NRCDR, Linda provides training for prospective foster and adoptive families through New Mexico State University. She is a licensed independent social worker in New Mexico. Linda is the NRCDR’s lead consultant for Region 6 (except New Mexico), Region 10, and Minnesota.
Marie Youngpeter, MS, has more than 30 years of experience in the child welfare field and is a long time child and family advocate. She previously served in various roles in State government retiring in 2012 where she last served as program manager overseeing Alabama’s state foster care, adoption, recruitment and retention, and independent living programs. Marie has interest and experience in the development and implementation of child welfare policy and practices supporting diligent recruitment and retention, family and youth engagement, stakeholder involvement, and team decision-making. She has worked as a consultant with the National Resource Center for Diligent Recruitment at AdoptUSKids since February 2012. Marie is the NRCDR’s lead consultant for Region 1, Region 2, Region 7, and Region 9.
John McInturf, MSW, has over 35 years of experience in child welfare having served as state Child Welfare Program Director, SACWIS Deputy Director and Director of Performance and Planning. As program director he implemented new evidence based initiatives to enhance Louisiana’s child welfare services. He was a leader in child welfare data and technology having built numerous data tracking systems and advancing technology to support frontline staff. More recently John served as a consultant with the National Resource Center for Child Welfare Data and Technology providing technical assistance to states and territories on using data to help inform practice. John is the NRCDR’s lead consultant for Region 3 and Region 4.
Kathleen Belanger, MSSW, PhD, began her career in child welfare as director of purchased services in public child welfare, designed a management information system for use by direct service staff and regional administration, and evaluated numerous programs for public child welfare and other human service organizations. She is Professor of Social Work at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches TX, teaching for more than 25 years. She assisted in the expansion of the BSW program and development of the MSW program at the university, and initiated and directed the Title IV-E program which is a collaborative partnership among public child welfare, the university and the regional foster/adoptive parent association. Her publications, presentations, research and evaluation include books, articles, book chapters, reports and columns related to racial disproportionality in child welfare, rural child welfare and human services, working with communities of faith, building sustainable programs in and with communities, demystifying data, analyzing foster and adoptive parent recruitment and retention challenges, and building evidence in practice. She is a member of the national Rural Human Services Panel of the Rural Policy Research Institute, has consulted with the Child Welfare Gateway, and numerous other organizations. She continues to work with communities and agencies to solve concrete problems with limited resources.
Maureen Heffernan, MSSA, LISW, is a consultant and trainer who assists organizations in strengthening their services to children and families. Prior to beginning her consulting practice, she worked for more than 20 years in public and private child welfare settings, and has experience in direct service, supervisory, and agency leadership positions. Her work has focused on foster care, kinship care, adoption, and family search and engagement, with a particular emphasis on permanency planning for adolescents. Her expertise includes program assessment and design, staff development, and authoring written materials ranging from articles and work plans to training curricula.
Sarah Webster, MSW, is most familiar with evaluating systems and looking for opportunities to enhance them. She has more than 43 years of social work experience with 27 years in public child welfare. She believes all systems have positives to offer and seeks to build upon those positives. She understands both rural and urban issues and how political climates affect systems. She’s been a child protective services caseworker, supervisor, program director, and regional director before becoming the state director of child protective services for the Texas Department of Protective and Regulatory Services. She’s a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers. She has provided technical assistance systems change, Program Improvement Planning (PIP) development, and interjurisdictional policy.
Angie McLeod Williams, MSW, LCSW, has more than 20 years of experience in social work, including training, legislative advocacy, faith-based advocacy, and public child welfare. Most recently Angie served as the director of permanency planning and placement with the Mississippi Department of Human Services and as such worked as a part of the team charged with the implementation of a federal settlement agreement. Over the course of her tenure there, Angie supervised programs and provided technical assistance and consultation to executive management as well as to regional and county staff on issues related to eligibility, ICPC, independent living, resource home licensure, recruitment, licensure and monitoring of private agencies, adoption, and permanency planning. She also served as co-lead for the state’s Diligent Recruitment Grant and completed the Leadership Academy for Middle Managers (LAMM). Angie brings to her work personal experience as a former licensed resource parent and the mother of two children adopted from foster care.
Gail Gonzalez has 29 years of experience working in social work, with more than 25 years in public child welfare and more than 20 years in management. Her experience includes extensive public and private partnership building, establishing a faith-based program within Texas child welfare; liaison work with multiple agencies and departments; legislative advocacy; policy development and implementation; and serving as executive director of Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Recently, Gail served as the director of placement services with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. Gail was responsible for placement of children in contracted foster care settings, the foster care and adoption programs, ICPC, and the faith-based program. Gail began her career as a caseworker and went on to hold a wide range of positions within the child welfare system, working in both rural and urban settings. During this tenure, she served as state adoption manager and compact administrator, as well as managing legislative implementation; setting policy and procedures for foster care, adoption, and recruitment; and overseeing ICPC within the state. She has deep expertise in licensing regulations, contract procurement, contracting and monitoring of all residential foster care types. She has also managed a quality improvement program of more than 900 mental health and substance abuse contractors. Gail was the executive sponsor in partnership with Texas CASA for the state’s Diligent Recruitment Grant from the Children’s Bureau.
Chauncey Strong, MSW, LGSW, has more than 23 years of child welfare experience in both private and public child welfare settings. He has worked in foster care, adoption, kinship care, youth development, and community-based services. He has extensive experience in direct practice, program development and management, supervisory and senior management, and community leadership. Chauncey is a national child welfare trainer, consultant, and motivational speaker. As a foster care alumnus and adoptee, he is a committed advocate for children and families and has dedicated his career to helping improve the outcomes for those involved in the child welfare system.
We also have a depth of expertise among the rest of the AdoptUSKids project, and tap into that knowledge as needed. Meet the team at AdoptUSKids.