Who Are We?

We are a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting foster, kinship, and adoptive families of children and youth with disabilities and other special needs. We serve families, educators and child welfare professionals in the Northern Virginia area.

Formed Families Forward’s mission is to improve developmental, educational, social, emotional and post-secondary outcomes for children and youth with disabilities and other special needs through provision of information, training and support to adoptive and foster parents, and kinship caregivers.

Find our Equity Commitment statement HERE.

View a brief video overview of what FFF is and does HERE.

Directions to Formed Families Forward Offices can be found HERE.

Who Are Formed Families?


  • About two percent of children under 18 years in the U.S. in adoptive homes. (US Census, ACS, 2022)
  • Around 400,000 children and youth are in foster care at one point in time in the US. (AFCARS*, 2021)
  • Around 11% of children in US are in households headed by grandparents or other relatives; this is called kinship care. (US Census, ACS, 2022)
  • Nearly 14% of children in Virginia are in adoptive, foster or kinship families (i.e., not related to the adult householder as a biological child or stepchild. (US Census, ACS, 2022)
  • In a U.S. classroom of 30 students, on average, at least one student is adopted or in foster care, and more are in kinship families.


  • While many adopted and foster children are physically and emotionally healthy and experience educational success, some are at greater risk of emotional, behavioral and learning problems.
  • Children who were adopted are significantly more likely than non-adopted peers to have or have had diagnoses of depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, behavior or conduct problems and have problems with social behavior.
  • Children and youth in foster care and kinship care are at higher risk of having disabilities and requiring special education services. Some specific studies have found:
    • 37% of infants and toddlers in nonrelative foster care had developmental delays. 29% of children 3 to 17 years old placed in nonrelative foster care have identified  developmental, cognitive, or academic needs.
    • Children and youth in foster care are significantly more likely to be identified as eligible for special education with an emotional or behavioral disturbance.
    • More than a quarter of children who have substantiated maltreatment had been identified as having a disability; the most common type of disability was emotional disturbance. Other common disabilities included intellectual and developmental disabilities and learning disabilities.
    • Children with substantiated maltreatment with disabilities were about two times more likely to be in out of home placement than children with substantiated maltreatment without disabilities.
    • More than half of children in out of home care scored in the clinical range on standardized measures of mental health, with conduct disorders, ADHD, post traumatic stress disorder, depression and generalized anxiety disorder being the most prevalent disorders.
  • Overall, more than a third of adopted children have special health care needs; more than half of children adopted from public foster care have special health care needs.

Data sources:
Casanueva et al., 2020  National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW) Child Well-Being Spotlight; 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health and 2007 National Survey of Adoptive Parents; Smithgall et al., cited in National Working Group on Foster Care and Education, December 2008; Zetter et al., 2004; Bay Area study, cited in National Working Group on Foster Care and Education, December 2008; Tirella, Chan, & Miller, 2006; Beverly et al., 2008; Geenen & Powers, cited in National Working Group on Foster Care and Education, December 2008; Lightfoot, Hill & LaLiberte, 2011; Tarren-Sweeney, 2013

*AFCARS- Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families


Kelly Henderson, Ph.D. | Executive Director

A special educator by profession, Kelly is a former public school teacher of students with emotional and behavioral disorders, and has worked in national and federal special education policy and research settings. Kelly’s family is formed in part through public foster care and adoption. Her teen and young adult children have a range of learning, behavioral, medical and cognitive disabilities. Kelly has trained adoptive, foster and kinship families and agency personnel on special education-related needs of children and has provided information and supports to many individual families. She serves on numerous advisory boards and committees.

Kelly earned a Ph.D. in Special Education from the University of Maryland College Park and served as an Executive Branch Policy fellow for the Society for Research in Child Development. In addition to her work at FFF, Kelly serves as part-time instructional faculty at George Mason University, training graduate students and special education teachers. Kelly believes that formed families must have information and advocacy tools to improve the delivery of appropriate services, and to increase the academic, social and behavioral outcomes for children and youth with special needs. Email Kelly at Kelly.Henderson@FormedFamiliesForward.org.

Rachel Hamilton, M.Ed. | Education Specialist

Rachel Hamilton is a former teacher who has taught various grade levels and subjects in the United States and in three foreign countries. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education and Masters in Education in Instructional Technology. She and her husband, who is a retired Army officer, have three children, who were adopted through domestic and international adoptions. Throughout Rachel’s professional and personal experiences, she has helped others navigate supports for mental health, physical health, learning difficulties, and frequent military family relocations. She gained extensive experience with developing 504 Plans and Individualized Education Programs (IEP) both for her children and others. Rachel has years of experience helping her teen and young adult children deal with a broad range of learning, behavioral, medical, and cognitive disabilities.

Rachel is highly involved in her community by serving on a state board that advocates for mental health, working as a family support group facilitator, and serving as an instructor. She has also served as a Master Trainer with Army Family Team Building, a Master Trainer with the Girl Scouts of America and a teacher and leader of children and adults in her church. She looks forward to sharing her experiences and helping others at Formed Families Forward. Email Rachel at Rachel.Hamilton@FormedFamiliesForward.org.

Renee Myers, NCSP | Content Specialist

Renee is a graduate of the University of Maryland and The Pennsylvania State University.  She is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist who worked in both the Prince William County, VA and Charles County, MD school systems before “retiring” to become a full-time mom and community volunteer.  In addition to her professional training and experience with special education, Renee has personally navigated the system for two of her children, one of whom was adopted from China.  At FFF, Renee is committed to providing parents and caregivers with user friendly resources to help them access the special education and disability services their children need to be successful. Email Renee at Renee.Myers@FormedFamiliesForward.org.

Melissa Lebling | Family Support and Outreach Specialist

Melissa has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland. She has spent most of her career in Early Childhood Education, leading and directing preschool programs. In 2014, her and her husband started doing foster care. They have had over 19 children live in their home and hearts and have adopted four children through Fauquier County Department of Social Services.

Melissa is currently enrolled in two different programs aimed at helping parents and educators to support children who have been affected by trauma through foster care, adoption, and children with vulnerable nervous systems. As an adoptee, a former foster parent, and an adoptive mother, she is passionate about helping others through this journey. She also enjoys working with educators and parents to help them understand the complexity of children, their behaviors and how to meet them where they are. Email Melissa at Melissa.Lebling@FormedFamiliesForward.org.

Stacia Stribling, Ph.D. | Deputy Director

Stacia began her career as an elementary school teacher in Fauquier County, VA. After 8 years in the public school system, she left to pursue a doctorate in early childhood education and literacy. As a teacher educator, she taught graduate courses to pre-service and in-service teachers. She has extensive experience in qualitative research focused on issues of equity and social justice in education, presenting her research at national and international conferences and publishing numerous journal articles and book chapters. She also co-authored a book on effective anti-racist professional development for teachers. In 2013, Stacia and her husband grew their family through foster/adoption. She is now a strong advocate for them and for others who have experienced trauma and are living with FASD, providing training sessions for local classroom teachers and administrators on these issues.  Email Stacia at Stacia.Stribling@FormedFamiliesForward.org.

Bianca Martin, CPRS | Peer Group Facilitator/Consultant

Bianca Martin is a Certified Peer Recovery Specialist who serves the community by using her lived experience. Bianca and her husband are former kinship foster parents with Fairfax County and have legal custody of their nephew, who has mental health and learning challenges. Bianca has experience navigating special education for her family and other families. She has served as a Family Support Partner at another nonprofit organization, and works part time at public school. At FFF, Bianca co-facilitates peer-led support groups for foster, adoptive and kinship parents and caregivers.

Elisa Rosman, Ph.D. | External Evaluator

Elisa is an experienced program evaluator who has worked with nonprofits to support meaningful project review and improvement. She is currently a freelance writer and evaluator on multiple projects in the areas of early childhood and child welfare. She served as Project Director for School Readiness Consulting, as well as Director of Research for the National Council for Adoption. As mom to four, including three children adopted from China, Elisa is personally and professionally familiar with the challenges that some adoptive and foster families experience and is dedicated to conducting sensitive yet comprehensive evaluation.

Jocelyn Route, MSW | Outreach Strategy Consultant

Outreach Strategy Consultant Jocelyn Route has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Political Science from Howard University. Jocelyn Route also earned her Master’s Degree in Social Work from Howard University where she began working as a frontline behavioral health case manager serving vulnerable youth and young adults.  Jocelyn most recently served as the Strategic Planning, Policy and Engagement Officer for a DC Government agency working on behavioral health and substance abuse grants, the agency’s strategic plan and stakeholder engagement strategies.

Jocelyn Route is a proud mother and in her spare time she enjoys being very active in her children’s school and sports activities. She is very involved in her community serving as an elected council member. She focuses on educating members of her community about civic engagement and voting rights. Jocelyn is a motivational speaker who empowers women to celebrate womanhood and she promotes whole self wellness.

Sarah Smalls | Kinship Family Consultant

Sarah is a kinship caregiver to three grandchildren in the northern Virginia area. Formerly an executive administrator with the federal government, Sarah has worked part time as a parent liaison in a local Fairfax County elementary school and is the past Vice President of Kinship for FACES of Virginia Families (now NewFound Families). She is a member of the federal Advisory Council to Support Grandparents Raising Grandchildren convened by US Department of Health and Human Services. Sarah served as FFF’s Family Resource Coordinator from 2011 to 2020; she now consults with FFF on issues related to kinship care regionally and statewide.


Marcos Correa, MS | Board Secretary

Originally from San Antonio, TX, Marcos has lived in the Washington, DC area for the past 15 years working for U.S. Department of State. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology of Organizations and Masters of Science in Organizational Management. Marcos is married to his husband Christopher with whom he adopted their beautiful daughter in March 2020 named Harper Luna. Both Marcos and Chris are over the moon with the addition to their family unit! Marcos, Chris, and Harper live in Alexandria, Virginia with their dog, Sir Oliver Winston!

Monique Lilakos, DSW, LCSW

Monique is a mother to two children and a grandparent caregiver for her 16-year-old grandson who she has raised.  Monique is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 22 years of experience. She works with the Federal Government and has a private practice.  Monique works with individuals across the lifespan, with a focus on adolescents, young adults, and kinship families. Many of her clients have found great success managing life challenges. Monique is particularly sensitive to people facing issues related to mental health, finding resources, anxiety, depression, trauma, and family wellness. Monique’s approach is rooted in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Attachment Theory and Family Systems Theory, which are evidence-based approaches to treatment that focus on helping clients holistically, mind, body, and spirit.

Anahita Renner

Anahita Renner is a mom, foster mom, immigrant, and community volunteer.

She and her husband Chris have been certified as foster and adoptive parents since 2017. They have fostered three infants and provided respite care for countless others, in addition to caring for their birth son who was born in 2019. She and her husband have been motivated to become foster parents by witnessing the situations of their school friends in foster care as well as the experience of Chris’s father, who was adopted by his foster family. Anahita also serves as an appointed parent representative to the State Executive Council for Children’s Services.

Ana and her family live in the City of Fairfax.

Bernard (BJ) Snyder

After retiring from the Marine Corps in 2020 Bernard (BJ) Synder took a position as a telecommunications technician for Prince William County ensuring first responders can talk during a crisis. He has started pursuing his other passions of education and counseling. BJ completed his Master’s degree in Education in 2022 and began his MA in Human Services Counseling in 2023.

In his spare time he volunteers with Crisis Textline helping people through a variety crisis moments.

BJ lives in Orange County with his wife and four children.

Dee Stewart

Demetrius Stewart is a Washington, D.C. native and currently resides in Northern Virginia. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Psychology with a minor in Christian Counseling.

Volunteerism and mentoring young people fuel her passion of giving back to her community. Mrs. Stewart is well aware of the challenges teenagers, young adults and families may face in today’s society. Mrs. Stewart possesses a wealth of knowledge and experience through volunteerism, education, and  avocation community outreach.

Nancy Thompson, Esq. | Board Chair

Nancy is a mom to one adult daughter who she and her husband adopted as an infant 18 years ago. She is a retired lawyer with experience in Law School administration, corporate compliance, policy making and regulation. During the past 12 years, she has been active in PTA leadership in Fairfax County and has extensive IEP advocacy experience. As a parent to a young adult on the autism spectrum, Nancy is committed to improving  academic services and expanding post-graduate opportunities for students with disabilities in Virginia.

Diana Wertz, MAT

Diana has worked with families throughout her career as both a classroom teacher and a school administrator. Currently, she works for Fairfax County Public Schools in their Family Resource Center. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Boston College and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Manhattanville College. Living as a military spouse for the past 16 years, Diana has travelled all over the United States and overseas. She and her husband have an adopted son and a biological daughter. She is passionate about building relationships with families and ensuring that they have access to the supports and services that they need.