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.
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, 2019)
- Another two percent of children are in foster care in the US. (US Census, ACS, 2019)
- Over 11 % of children in US are in households headed by grandparents or other relatives; this is called kinship care. (US Census, ACS, 2019)
- Nearly 15% 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, 2019)
- 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:
- 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, while 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.
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
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.
Nina Manganaris, LCSW | Deputy Director
Nina has a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who brings experience from the private sector, nonprofit agencies, the federal government, and the military in addressing family needs. Nina is the proud mother of three grown children and a grandmother to two. She has personal experience navigating the special education system as she helped her own child obtain the support and services she needed. Nina has worked with adoptive, foster and kinship families over the years providing support, information, and guidance as they work to help their children be successful. She has additional expertise in trauma, parenting education and grief. Nina is passionate about working with families and children and believes in a strength-based approach.
Lisa Mathey, M.Ed. | Training and Administrative Coordinator
Lisa parents two teenagers who joined her family through domestic adoption as infants. Prior to the adoptions, Lisa and her husband were certified foster parents for six years. Both children receive special education services through the Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) system, giving Lisa insight to the importance of youth, parents, and caregivers having access to community resources and support to be an effective members of an IEP team. Professionally, Lisa has worked for statewide nonprofit associations and agencies providing support and resources to adoptive, foster, and kinship families to address their unique challenges as a formed family. Lisa plans and oversees our training events and conducts outreach activities to formed families and professionals.
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.
Beth Spivack, MSW | Family Support and Outreach Director
Beth worked in marketing communications at large corporations and nonprofits before making a career change and earning a MSW from Virginia Commonwealth University. The career change was inspired by the adoption of her daughter from Ethiopia. Beth has worked in schools, as an addiction specialist and in therapeutic foster care. At Formed Families Forward Beth supports families and professionals through training and consultations, especially around topics related to childhood trauma, traumatic stress and building resiliency. She also supports family engagement efforts in our Virginia Tiered Systems of Supports work. Beth is especially passionate about working with underserved populations and providing equitable services across all systems.
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 as well as those with whom she works as a Family Support Partner at another nonprofit organization. At FFF, Bianca co-facilitates a peer-led support group of foster, adoptive and kinship parents and caregivers.
Jocelyn Route, MSW | Social Media Consultant
Social Media 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!
Margaret Kajeckas, MSW, MPA | Board Treasurer
Margaret is a birth and adoptive mom to three children ages 14-20. As a Congressional staffer she worked on early education and child nutrition programs, then spent 13 years living in Africa working on maternal and child health issues. She holds a Master’s of Social Work at George Mason University and works as a therapist in a local private practice.
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 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.
Ana and her family live in the City of Fairfax.
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.
Pamela is a birth parent of four and a kinship adoptive mom to one. In the past Pamela has been a foster parent to two children. Professionally, Pamela is in the business administration field for a government contracting company in Herndon, VA.