Mary Wheatley, Executive Director
Mary Wheatley joined Heart of Adoptions, Inc. in June 2012 as the new Executive Director. As Executive Director, she is responsible for supervising all staff members and for overseeing each adoption case. Mary is held accountable for compliance with agency licenses, training and evaluating staff, and monitoring the entire adoption process.
Mary graduated from Georgia College and State University with a Master’s Degree in Psychology, and devoted many years to adolescents in residential facilities. As program manager with the crisis stabilization unit, she was able to improve levels of therapeutic care for all ages. As a proud adoptive parent of two beautiful girls, Mary was eager to join the field of private adoptions in 2005 and loves creating families through adoption.
Meredith Shepard, Adoptive Parent Coordinator
Meredith Shepard joined Heart of Adoptions in August 2013 as an Adoptive Parent Coordinator. She works closely with waiting adoptive families handling day-to-day needs and assisting with matching adoptive families to birth families. Meredith has worked in the area of social work for over 15 years and has experience with child development, adoption, foster care, and developmental disabilities.
Meredith graduated with honors from Eckerd College with a Bachelor of Arts in Human Development and Walden University with a Master of Science in Non-Profit Management & leadership.
Erin Fawver, Home Study Coordinator
Erin Fawver joined Heart of Adoptions, Inc. as the Home Study Coordinator in July 2014. Erin oversees the completion of homestudies and post-placement supervision as well as all homestudy and background screening updates. She enjoys educating adoptive families about homestudies and the adoption process as a whole. Erin's extensive family social work experience consists of quality home studies, post-placement supervision, adoptive parent education, and managing adoptive parent’s day-to-day needs. Erin also has experience in adoption marketing and social media.
As a member of Pi Gammu Mu, the Social Science Honor Society, Erin graduated from The University of South Florida with honors. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and Anthropology.
Shannon Howard-Lascari, Senior Caseworker
Shannon graduated from University of South Florida in 2007 with a Bachelors Degree in Psychology. She started working in Child Welfare immediately after graduating college as a Case Manager, where she worked with children and families involved in the Dependency System. Shannon worked as a Case Manager for four years before transitioning into a Family Adoption Specialist, where she worked with adoptive families looking to adopt from foster care. Shannon eventually worked for the lead agency providing technical assistance, support, and oversight to the case management agencies in Pinellas and Pasco Counties. Wanting to gain management experience, Shannon then went to work for a Hillsborough community based care organization as an Assistant Program Director where she was responsible for three case management supervisors, 25 case managers, and provided direct oversight on cases involving approximately 600 children in the Dependency System.
Shannon’s passion for adoption and creating families through adoption led her to Heart of Adoptions where she joined the adoptions team in February 2018 as a Senior Case Worker and Intake Coordinator. In her role, she works directly with birth mothers conducting intake interviews, screening birth parents, and matched adoption applicants. Shannon sets initial appointments with clients to meet with staff for the initial assessment. Once the assessment is complete, Shannon assigns the case to a birth parent caseworker for continued attention and care. As a Senior Case Worker, Shannon also provides training, mentoring, and support to the front line staff.
Carolyn Fucillo, Adoption Caseworker
Carolyn graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from The University of South Florida in Tampa in 1992. In 2004, she realized her passion lay in the area of helping children and families and began her career in child welfare case management where she has been involved for the past fourteen years, working with birth, foster and adoptive parents. Carolyn started off as a Case Manager in Pinellas County before moving to Hillsborough County in 2006 as a Case Manager Supervisor, managing a team of seven case workers. After four years as a supervisor, she continued in child welfare as a Permanency Specialist, helping guide cases toward in obtaining permanency. As opportunity arose, Carolyn used her prior ten years of experience to move into an Assistant Director position, where she managed three teams of seven case managers and a total of 500-600 children at all stages of the case management process providing supervision and training.
While Carolyn enjoyed being in a leadership role, her desire to once again work directly with the birth mothers and adoptive families led her to Heart of Adoptions, Inc. in March 2018. Her role will be as a Case Manager for the birth parents and assisting them through their pregnancy and the adoption process.
Paula Thrasher, Adoption Caseworker
Paula graduated from Saint Leo University in 2015 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work. She chose Social Work with the intent to work in adoptions and assist children with finding forever homes. Shortly after graduating Paula began working in Child Welfare with children and families in the dependency system as a Child Protective Investigator. In 2016, Paula continued working in Child Welfare as a Case Manager. She later became a Supervisor in charge of her own team. Paula’s passion to work in adoptions led her to Heart of Adoptions in April of 2018. Her role as a Case Manager for birth parents is to assist them through their pregnancy and the adoption process.
Judi Martin, Office Manager
Judi Martin joined Heart of Adoptions, Inc. in November 2004 as the Office Manager. Judi ensures the Tampa office of Heart of Adoptions runs smoothly by providing support to all staff. Previously, Judi was the office manager of a local engineering firm before she became a mother of a beautiful baby girl and opened her own fully licensed family day care. Judi devoted all her energy and love into her daycare kids for 6 years until her daughter began school full time. She than joined a renowned local historic preservation architectural firm as an office manager before joining the HOA team.
Jason Lauer, Administrative Assistant
Jason Lauer joined Heart of Adoptions, Inc. in January 2010 as an Administrative Assistant. Jason primarily acts as a liason between our adoption agency, our legal team, and the local courthouse. He is responsible for filing all new adoption cases with the courts. Jason is also responsible for maintaing our closed files and records, aiding caseworkers in obtaining support needs for our birth mothers, and assisting in daily clerical needs. He continues to be a valued member of our adoption team.
Elizabeth Unruh, Department Assistant
Elizabeth joined Heart of Adoptions part-time in January 2016 but has previously worked for Heart of Adoptions off and on for approximately 10 years. Elizabeth is currently the Adoptive Parent Department Assistant. Her primary duties include data entry, managing and organizing files, and processing incoming paperwork. She previously worked at Heart of Adoptions as both an Administrative Assistant and Casework Assistant.
Vidisha Patel, Accountant
Vidisha Patel joined the agency in July of 2016. Vidisha is responsible for all asset, liability and capital account transactions, maintaining accounting controls by preparing and recommending policies and procedures, guiding accounting clerical staff by coordinating and answering questions, reconciling financial discrepancies by collecting and analyzing account information, maintaining financial security by following internal controls, preparing reports, and ad-hoc tasks. Vidisha holds a BS and MBA with an Accounting concentration and possesses eight plus years of precise skill sets and qualifications from her previous experiences at a Big-4 firm and Fortune 500 companies.
Tom Tate, Casework Services
Tom joined Heart of Adoptions in February 2017 as an Executive and Accounting Assistant. Previously, Tom managed his family’s Italian restaurant business for over 20 years. Originally from Ohio, he came to Florida to attend College at the University of Florida, and graduated with a degree in finance. His day to day duties include aiding caseworkers in obtaining support needs for our birth mothers, helping with accounting matters, and also any other tasks our executive director or caseworkers ask of him. He is our Jack of all trades, eager to help out anyway he can to enrich the adoption process for all members of the adoption triad. Tom is the proud dad of three children, one of whom is adopted.
James Taylor, IT Support Technician
James Taylor joined Heart of Adoptions, Inc. in June 2017 as the in house IT support technician. James primarily acts as the IT support technician between our adoption agency and our legal team. He is responsible for hardware and software related issues.James is also responsible for various IT related task.
Crystal McWilliams, Subsidy Coordinator
Crystal McWilliams joined Heart of Adoptions, Inc. in October 2017 as the new Subsidy Coordinator. She is responsible for the completion and submission of subsidy packets for children who are in the adoption process and meet special needs as defined by the Social Security Act, Title IVE, Section E.
Crystal studied Fine Art at the University of South Florida, with a concentration on drawing and printmaking. After 22 years in the picture framing industry, she accepted a temporary position of Administrative Assistant with the Department of Children and Families. Her assignment was to function as a backup to the Revenue Maximization Specialists. Community Based Care in Hillsborough County took over the duties of DCF’s Revenue Maximization team on 7/1/2004, with Crystal as the Supervisor of the new unit. Until joining the team at Heart of Adoptions, Inc, she supervised the team that processed the Title IV-E eligibility determinations for both foster and adoption in Hillsborough County.
Stephanie Blok, Marketing Coordinator
Stephanie Blok has worked in the field of adoption since 2007. She joined Heart of Adoptions in 2017 as the Marketing Coordinator. She over sees all facets of marketing including social media and the company blog, as well as copy management for the brochures and websites. In addition to the technical side of marketing, she will also be part of community education, as we reach out to social service agencies in our community with information and trainings on adoption.
Before she began working in marketing, Stephanie worked as an adoption caseworker for three years and treasures the time she had working closely with birth families and adoptive couples.
Stephanie graduated from Clearwater Christian College in 2003 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications with a Minor in Psychology.
Gabriela Bonn, Adoption Caseworker
Gabriela Bonn joined Heart of Adoptions, Inc. in June 2006 as an Adoption Caseworker Assistant. After receiving her degree, Gabriela was later promoted to Adoption Caseworker and began working closely with birth mothers handling their day-to-day needs, monitoring medical care and overall well-being. Additionally, she coordinates the interaction between adoptive parents and birth parents. She has previous experience working with youth in a parenting program. Gabriela has experience in both domestic and international adoptions, specifically working internationally with Guatemala.
Gabriela obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Florida Gulf Coast University in 2013.
Natalie Londono, Adoption Caseworker
Natalie Graddy joined Heart of Adoptions, Inc. in December 2012 as an Adoption Casework Assistant. Natalie was later promoted to Adoption Caseworker and began working closely with birth mothers handling their day-to-day needs, monitoring their medical care and overall well-being. Additionally, Natalie conducts home studies and post-placement supervision in the Orlando area.
Natalie obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work at Florida Gulf Coast University in 2013.
Amy Dean, Caseworker Assistant
Amy joined Heart of Adoptions Inc. in January 2016 in our Merritt Island office. Prior to this she was an Adoption Assistant for another Florida adoption agency for 8 years. She works closely with birth mothers handling their day-to-day needs, monitoring their medical care and overall well-being. She graduated from Rockledge High School and has an AA degree from Brevard Community College. Amy has 3 children and uses her experiences as both an adoptee and an adoptive parents to serve and support our clients. She brings with her a wealth of knowledge. Amy's prior employment includes: Aggressive Constructors, General Nutrition Center, Fern Creek Elementary, and Interlachen Pediatrics.
Sylvia Faniel, Adoption Case Worker
Sylvia Faniel joined Heart of Adoptions in January 2016 as an Adoption Case Worker and has worked in the field of private adoptions since 2008. Sylvia has a Master's degree in Mental Health Counseling from Webster University and a Master's Degree in Public Administration from University of Central Florida. She works closely with birth mothers handling their day-to-day needs, monitoring their medical care and over all well-being. Prior to joining Heart of Adoptions, Sylvia was the executive director for six years with another adoption agency and spent 17 years as an executive assistant/paralegal for Royal Palm Homes in Orlando. Sylvia has four children, three of which were adopted at birth and uses her experience as an adoptive parent to serve and support our clients.
Janice Kane, Casework Services
Janice joined Heart of Adoptions in Feburary 2015, when our Broward County satellite office opened. Prior to that she did freelance work for our agency on a as-need basis. She acts as a agency representative and handles consents, releases, discharges, notaries, general office and administrative tasks. She graduated form Broward College in 2003 with an AA degree. Janice was born in Broward County and has never lived elsewhere. She has four children and uses those experiences to relate to both birth and adoptive families. She has been on the school PTA board for 4 years, a Girl Scout Leader for 7 and a school volunteer for 30 years.