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 20 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 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. 

Lizzy Polhill, Adoption Caseworker

Lizzy has always had a passion for adoption and knew early on this would be her career path. She began her career with Heart of Adoptions as a summer 2017 intern in the Orlando office. After graduating in May 2018, she immediately returned to the sunshine state and began working as a master’s level intern with Heart of Adoptions in the Tampa office. She has since stepped into the role of adoption caseworker.

As a member of Phi Alpha Honor Society, Lizzy graduated with honors from the University of Mississippi with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and a Master's Degree from the University of South Florida in Social Work as well. 

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.

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.