Nijole YutkowitzVice President of Community Outreach & Education
Nijole joined The Cradle in 2011 with responsibilities for both The Cradle Foundation and The Sayers Center. Nijole works to educate the African American community about adoption & recruit more African American families to adopt. She also provides on-going support and opportunities for connection to all families who have adopted African American children.
Another primary responsibility is raising funds to support The Cradle with an emphasis on The Sayers Center Program. In this role Nijole is is responsible for identifying new major donors, soliciting African American owned companies and corporations and increasing gifts among existing Sayers Center families.
Prior to coming to the Cradle, Nijole spent nearly 30 years in sales in the corporate sector, working with a number of magazine wholesale and publishing companies including NewsCorp, Time Warner and Johnson Publishing Company.
Nijole received her B.A. in Psychology from Chicago State University. Nijole and husband Larry are the proud parents of Taylor and Cradle baby Harrison.
Simone WheelerVice President of Development
Simone Wheeler brings over fifteen years of fund development and philanthropic innovation, primarily in human services and child welfare. Simone has served as the Director of Development for The Children’s Advocacy Center, where she led a Major Gifts Program to the agency, which resulted in the launch of a new Prevention Program in 2018 and a balanced budget for CAC’s Safe from The Start program after a significant state funding cut in late 2016.
Simone holds the designation Certified Fundraising Executive (C.F.R.E.) qualification after completing professional practice and performance requirements and passing a comprehensive exam on fundraising best practice. The C.F.R.E. is the only accredited, globally recognized certification for fundraising professionals.
Originally from England, Simone has a Bachelors Degree in German & Russian from Leeds University. She lives with her husband, young family, and rescue dog Molly in the northwest suburbs and is passionate about fitness. Together with her son, Simone started horse riding lessons last year. She quickly learnt riding requires patience, perserverance, focus and humor, not dissimilar to fundraising work.
Dana T. DavidsonLCSW, Co-Director of Adoption and Family Support
Dana joined The Cradle in 2000 and was instrumental in the formation of The Cradle's relationship with Planned Parenthood. She has held several positions over the years including Birth Parent Counselor, Adoptive Parent Counselor and Clinical Supervisor of Expectant Parent Services. Dana began her current role in December 2020, overseeing the quality and integrity of the services delivered to clients at The Cradle, with direct supervision of Adoptive Parent Services and The Cradle's on-site infant nursery. Dana earned her Bachelor of Arts in Social Work from Catholic University and Master of Social Work degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Pam TancrediLCSW, Co-Director of Adoption and Family Support
Pam has an over 25-year career in child welfare. She earned her Master's degree from the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. Prior to joining The Cradle in 2000, Pam worked with children and adolescents in residential treatment and independent living settings. At The Cradle Pam has held several roles over the years, including Birth Parent Counselor, Supervisor of Birth Parent Services and Helpline Coordinator. She began her current role in December 2020, overseeing the quality and integrity of the services delivered to clients at The Cradle, with direct supervision of Expectant Parent Services and Post Adoption Services.
Katie GattoneMSW, Adoption Counselor
Katie has over 16 years of experience working in the field of social work. She has worked with foster and adoptive families throughout her career with experience completing subsidized adoptions and special needs adoptions. Katie also has experience in licensing and post adoption services. She has a Master’s in Social Work from University of Illinois-Chicago, Jane Addams College of Social Work. Katie enjoys being a part of a fabulous team at The Cradle and helping build families through adoption.
Ashley AkiyamaLCSW, Cradle Counselor
Before joining The Cradle, Ashley earned her Master’s degree in Social Work from the School of Social Service Administration at The University of Chicago. During this time, Ashley completed internships within adoption and children’s grief therapy. Most recently, Ashley worked in a community mental health setting, counseling teens and young adults, and providing coaching and support in their transition to adulthood and independent living.
Arletta BarbelMA, Cradle Counselor
Ever since her experience as a peer mentor in the Big Brother/Big Sister program, Arletta knew she enjoyed mentoring and offering support. Before coming to The Cradle, she worked as a Crisis Counselor at Chicago Youth Centers and as a respite worker at Metropolitan Family Services. Arletta received her Bachelor's Degree from Southern Illinois University and her master's degree from National Louis University.
Dori FujiiLCSW, Adoption Therapist
Dori Fujii is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has worked in the field of public and private child welfare and adoption since receiving her Master of Social Work degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana. She has consulted with DCFS in their pre- and post-adoptive services programs and since 1997 and has worked at The Cradle with families adopting domestically and internationally.
Dori has specialized training in attachment focused, trauma-informed treatment modalities and is a registered Circle of Security® Parent Educator and registered TBRI® Practitioner. She has particular interest in helping parents find effective ways of understanding, communicating and connecting with their children and teens. Her approach is practical and relationship oriented. She stresses the importance of being aware of how past experiences play a role in shaping the thoughts, feelings and actions of all members of the adoption circle.
Meg HoppsLCSW, Cradle Counselor
Meg has been an expectant parent counselor at The Cradle since 2012. Prior to coming to The Cradle she received her bachelor’s degree from Marquette University, with a double major in social welfare and justice and sociology and a minor in family studies. She received her master’s degree in social work from Loyola University Chicago with a specialization in children and families. In addition to Meg’s experience working with birth parents, she has experience in adoption through the foster care system, providing therapy to children who were adopted, and working with adoptive parents. She is a licensed clinical social worker in the State of Illinois.
Carmen KnightMS MFT, Adoption Counselor
Carmen has been working in the adoption field since 2006. Before joining the Cradle, she worked with both Bridge Communications, Inc. in Chicago, and The Ties Program-Adoptive Family Travel in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She also interned as a therapist at the International Adoption Clinic at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Some of Carmen’s past experiences in the adoption field include: working at culture camps and adoptee camps, leading classes and seminars on adoption topics at various conferences and for adoption agencies, speaking on panels, helping families prepare logistically and emotionally for touring their child’s country of birth, emotionally supporting families doing birth searches and reunions, and working with adoptive families as a therapist. Carmen earned her bachelor’s degree from Knox College in Social Science Education and Secondary Education, and her master’s degree from Edgewood College in Marriage and Family Therapy.
Lorrin PottsMSW, Adoption Counselor
Lorrin has worked in the adoption field since 2011. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and her Master’s Degree in Social Work with a concentration in Children, Youth, and Families from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Prior to joining The Cradle, Lorrin worked as an Adoptive Parent Counselor, Expectant Parent Counselor, and Post-Adoption Specialist at an adoption agency in Wisconsin. She also worked for the Resource Link Children’s Mental Health Program with the Children’s Hospital of Illinois and completed an internship in Early Intervention Services. Lorrin chose to pursue a career in social work in order to work in the adoption field, and she is excited to continue her career at The Cradle.
Jennifer RogersLCSW, Cradle Counselor
Jennifer has extensive experience in a wide variety of areas, from providing clinical advice to attorneys to running parents' and children's support groups. She has also worked in private practice as a therapist and supervised child care programs. Jennifer received her Bachelors of Psychology and her Masters of Social Work from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Kathy SantangeloAdoption Counselor
Kathy has worked in the social service arena for over 25 years. She has worked in the adoption field for the last 20 years, both in the public and private sectors. Kathy has several years of experience working with families adopting medically complex children through the foster care system. She also has experience with expectant parent counseling, domestic infant adoption and international adoption. Kathy received her degree from Northern Illinois University in Family Social Services. Kathy has truly found her passion in assisting families as they navigate their adoption journeys.
The Cradle Board of Directors
- Board Members
- Angela S. Ames
- Jason D. Asper
- Jerry H. Biederman
- J’ai Brown
- Penelope Boardman
- James G. Connelly III
- Jane Cummins
- Jeanne E. Enright
- Jessica A. Garascia
- Margarita E. Kellen
- Heather A. Kelley
- Lawrence H. Rubly
- Sarah Van Steenburg
- Stephen M. Whisdosh
- Ryan Whitacre
- George S. Wilkins
- Cradle Foundation Board of Directors
- Joel E. Solomon, Chair/Treasurer
- Phyllis S. Thomas, Secretary
- Therese K. Fauerbach
- Corry M. Connelly
- Cradle Associates Co-Chairs / Liason to the Board of Directors
- Casey Karl
- Braeden Schaefer