Our Staff

Our Staff

Children’s House International has a dedicated staff of professionals, many that have adopted internationally themselves. They understand the ups and downs of international adoption and will walk with you during the journey.


Debbie Price
Executive Director
International Specialist – Eastern Europe

Office Phone Number: 360-383-0623

Adoption is my life and passion! I was adopted at birth, domestically. I have searched and found my birth family. I am also a mother of four children. I became the Executive Director of CHI in 1994, after adopting our daughter in 1991 in Romania, on our own. I have a Bachelor’s of Science in Social Work and have been blessed to have had the opportunity to work worldwide with CHI, developing programs and giving children who really need homes, a chance at having one of their own. A permanent, loving family is what children need. I’ve personally been in the adoption journey from several angles and I enjoy assisting others in theirs. I have traveled to over 40 countries in the past 20 years, developing a greater understanding of the cultures and how much adoption- permanency- is needed in the world for children.


Jeanne Petersen
CFO and Bookkeeper


For most of my teen and adult life in one way or another I have been involved in child care, foster care, adoption, child advocacy, and accounting. My life’s passion has always been children!

My husband and I are both from very large families, so naturally we just assumed our future would lead to a house full of children. Little did we know that in our quest to “have our own children”, our long and bumpy road would lead to adoption. We now have 2 sons (7 years apart), adopted as infants who couldn’t be more “our own”.

In 2001, with our youngest son in school, I was blessed to find a part time job as bookkeeper with Children’s House International. CHI offered me the perfect opportunity to mix my passion for children and my love for accounting. Since then, that part time job has grown by leaps and bounds under the leadership of Debbie Price and the BOD. I look forward to many more years working with the wonderful adoptive families and passionate staff here at Children’s House.


Olympia Mannur
HR Generalist & Bookkeeper


I am the Human Resources Generalist/Bookkeeper with Children’s House International. I’m a staunch believer in the culture of peace and non-violence and committed to peaceful living by practicing peace in everyday life. I am all for building a peaceful and better world through international adoption. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Psychology from Maharani’s College, India and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Central Michigan University, U.S.


Kathy Holliday
International Specialist – Haiti & Latin America
Case Manager for Ethiopia


My life long journey with adoption began in 1993, when I adopted two children from Bolivia. Spending time in the orphanage there with my children and the others, truly changed my life. Even though two were going home with me, I knew I had to do whatever possible to find families for the others, which led me to begin working with CHI in 1994. Through the years, I have helped develop programs in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Haiti and Colombia. I also became involved with the Ethiopia program several years ago. I truly believe that every child that comes home through adoption is a miracle. I very much enjoy working with the children and families we serve.

Lisa Anderson

Lisa Anderson
International Specialist – Ghana, India, and Ethiopia


A little over 16 years ago I adopted my daughter, Devi, from India. While I was there the orphanage director showed me many children that needed families and asked if I could help. This started a fire in me that has burned ever since. I immediately started finding families for those children and soon began working for Children’s House. I adopted my son a few years later. Both of my children were seven years old at the time of their adoptions and both had special needs. My heart is with placing older and special needs children and to fund-raise to establish and sustain programs that can help those children that are not adopted. Since that time I established our Ethiopia program and even named our transition home, The Thomas Center, after my son, Tommy. It’s been a long 16 years full of ups and downs, but it has been much more rewarding than I could have ever imagined. I like to think that my life has meaning because I made a difference in the life of a child.


Heidi Hawkins
International Specialist- China


My passion for adoption began almost 20 years ago when my husband and I began our adoption journey for our oldest daughter. We became one of the first adoptive parents to adopt from China. That was back in 1995, we went back to China two more times to adopt and complete our family, but we never stopped to think that we were done helping orphans. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications with a minor in Asian American Studies from Western Washington University. I began working with Children’s House International 13 years ago and it has been my honor to help over 600 children worldwide to find forever families. In October of 2013, I was honored to be awarded The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institutes Angel in Adoption for helping find families for children with medical needs. I believe that those children need my tough, no nonsense determination to be THEIR voice.

Be it creating orphan fundraisers, hosting adoptive parent events, or helping celebrate becoming multicultural families, I’m there to lend an ear to listen and a hand to help. I often say, “We’re changing lives here people- let’s move!” Reminding anyone that will listen, that EVERY child that finds a family is a MIRACLE and we just have to keep making miracles happen, one child at a time.


Nina Thompson J.D.
International Specialist- China – WA Office


I’m a retired attorney formerly licensed to practice law in Missouri and Kansas. I joined the staff at CHI in 2010 and have focused on placing special needs children in families. I work with all of our programs in Eastern Europe and also India and Morocco. I’ve lived in Bellingham for 13 years and have two teenage children, three dogs and a horse. I enjoy spending what little free time I have riding my horse or reading.


Rebecca Kendall
Case manager for Eastern Europe – WA Office


After being a stay at home mom for almost 10 years I decided to apply for a position at CHI to advocate for children with special needs, my youngest daughter was going into kindergarten at the time. I started at CHI assisting with the Hague re-accreditation. After CHI was accredited I came on board as a case manager for our Eastern European programs. I have three biological children and my youngest was born with a rare condition that caused her to have uncontrollable seizures, which eventually lead to her having a hemispherectomy, where half of her brain was removed. I wanted to help other children with special needs in any way that I could after seeing what a miracle one child could be.


Alicia Gaston
Case Manager for Ethiopia & Ghana – WA Office


I graduated from Western Washington University with a BA in Human Services in June 2011. Working for a non-profit had always been my goal and working with children has been my passion. Though I do not work first hand with the children I feel blessed to play a role in helping find forever families for each of them. I have a six year old son who has been the driving force for everything I do. I spend much of my free time with him and/or running; and for now my son still enjoys riding his bike with me.


Nicole Murray
Case Manager for China – WA Office


I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management from Western Washington University. I was involved in a number non-profit organizations long before college, and I’ve always had a special place in my heart for working with children. Before becoming the China Case Manager at CHI, I was the Program Lead for my local Boys & Girls Club. I loved building relationships with kids and their families, working together to make their futures brighter. When a position opened at CHI, I jumped at the opportunity to help children connect with their forever families. I believe that every child should have the chance to live and grow with people who truly want what’s best for them. I enjoy coming to work every day knowing that I’m playing a small hand in changing lives.


Charlene Wang
China Relations Coordinator – UT Office


I grew up in China and earned a PhD in Engineering in the US. My hobbies are reading, hiking and cooking. In 1993, I heard that China was starting an adoption program and I wanted to help. After a phone call to Debbie, I started my first family with Stefani. CHI’s China program has grown so much over the years and our team has had so much joy in helping kids find their forever families.


Stefani Ellison
China Waiting Child Advocate & Resource Coordinator


Adoption is my passion, personally and professionally. I am the adoptive mother to 13 children, stepmother to 4 more, and have been a foster mother to many others. I started my journey to motherhood in 1995 as a single woman through adoption from China. I met my husband during that process and we married two months after that first adoption was completed. That precious child was the first Chinese adoption facilitated through Children’s House International (CHI). In 1996 I began working as the China Specialist for CHI and have been blessed by working with them continuously since. I have been with CHI and China from the very, very beginning. What a positive and profound impact CHI has had on so many lives for so many years! When we applied to adopt our second daughter from China in 1996, we were required by law to adopt a child who had special needs. I can’t imagine what our lives would be like today if China had not enforced the special needs provision in the law. I’m not afraid of special needs issues anymore. In fact, my husband and I continued to expand our family through special needs adoption. I pray that all the children can have families but also that someone will consider the special needs children as I know that with the hardships come heartwarming blessings. What a child may lack in body, they can make up in soul. These are my feelings because of my own personal experience. In my life, I was the one with the special need and my child was the one that filled it. How was I so incredibly lucky to be given these children?


Kathy Looser MA
Director of Post Adoption and Post Placement Reports – WA Office


I have a Master of Arts in Social Science and have worked in the field of adoption since 1996. I became interested in working in adoption after my husband and I adopted twin daughters domestically in 1988. I complete home studies and post adoption reports for families with CHI. I also love educating parents on the issues that children face and sometimes struggle with as they deal with being adopted into a family instead of being born into it. I enjoy going out for coffee with friends, quilting, reading, traveling, watching movies with my family and going birding.


Anne Buckley-Jones, LMHC
Washington Social Worker


My work as an adoption caseworker began after my husband and I adopted our two children in 1989 and 1993. With a master’s degree in counseling, I had worked as a therapist with children and families since 1985 and focusing on adoptive families felt like a very natural evolution. Over the years, I have felt honored to join with adoptive parents as they embark on the joyful, frustrating, long and amazing journey to bring a child/children into their families. Licensed in the state of Washington, I live in Spokane and work with a variety of families in Eastern Washington.


Theadora Drescher, LICSW, BSW, MSW
Washington Social Worker


I consider it a genuine gift to be present with people on their adoption journey. My adoption journey resulted in being matched with a beautiful, healthy, baby girl from China. This experience pushed me to begin work as an adoption social worker. I have been a Licensed Clinical Social Worker since 1993. I have sharp assessment, writing and advocacy skills. I have a warm and genuine approach that makes people feel comfortable and hopeful. All families have their own personal adoption journeys and I’m honored to be the social worker on that journey.


Rob Devries, ACSW
Washington Social Worker


I have been in adoption work and a certified counselor for over 30 years. I have worked for a social service agency, independent adoption agency, and now for Children’s House International on an as needed basis. I graduated from the University of Tennessee and engage in annual training to update my skills and knowledge. I spend time with family, volunteering, golf, live theater, and minor building projects.


Jennifer Starkey, LCSW
Supervising Social Worker – Florida


I was first exposed to and became interested in adoption work during an internship in 1999, I had always wanted to work with children and it became clear that bringing families together via adoption was the perfect fit for me. I began working with Children’s House International in 2002. I have also worked with The Dave Thomas Foundation as a Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Recruiter, where I helped older children in foster care find their forever families. I have also worked with birth mothers and adoptive families via domestic adoptions here in Florida. My husband and I became adoptive parents in 2010, when we adopted our daughter Hope from China. I earned a Bachelor’s in Psychology in 1998, and Master’s in Social Work in 2000. I then became a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in 2005. I am married with two children, Bella and Hope, both four years of age. My hobbies include reading and spending lots of time with my family.


June Lewis, LCSW, DCSW
Florida Social Worker


I have a background in education and nursing and found my true calling as a social worker later in life. I have both a personal and professional interest in adoption and work exclusively in that field. I am a widow with grown children and my work is an important part of my life. I love life and living things including people, animals, and plants and also enjoy reading, exercising and spending time with family and friends.


Ginger Healy
Supervising Social Worker – Utah


I received my master’s in social work from UNLV and I’m a licensed clinical social worker. I have worked as a social worker since 1996 and started working in the adoption field in 2002 after I adopted my son from Romania. I’m married with four children and I love working in the adoption field but my favorite job is being a mom.


Maryanne McFarland
Utah Social Worker


I am an adoptive parent alumni of Children’s House International. My husband and I welcomed three children, one girl and two boys, from India. We went on to adopt four more children, one private and three from the Foster Care system. I have worked extensively with child welfare and the foster care system. I provide counseling to children in foster care, adoptive parents and children who have found permanency through adoption. In addition to working with Children’s House International, I have a private practice. My family and I are veteran travelers and have traveled to many parts of the world.


Anne Nelsen, CSW
Utah Social Worker


I have been working as a social worker for CHI since 1993 and have appreciated the opportunity to help many amazing families bring home their children to the State of Utah. I have also worked for many years in the juvenile justice field and have had the opportunity to see the consequences when young people have not had the advantages of parents who are able to meet their unique needs. I have enjoyed completing home studies, which has allowed me to become acquainted with so many wonderful families. Even more, I am thrilled to follow the families with post adoption visits and share their joys and, sometimes, challenges, after their children join their families. I have masters’ degrees in social work and in public administration. I am now using my education and experience to expand my juvenile justice consulting and have been withdrawing from adoption work. Although I will miss CHI and the families, I know this is the best decision in order to ensure that I meet the needs of my clients and families.

Melissa Larsen

Melissa Larsen, SSW
Utah Social Worker


I am the daughter of Robert Yeates who started Children’s House International in 1975 with his friend and colleague Ric Oddone, so international adoption has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. I graduated from Weber State University with a Bachelor Degree in Social Work in 1993. When Debbie Price took over as Executive Director of the agency in 1994, I seized the opportunity to work for Children’s House as a social worker. I am married and have four biological children. I enjoy reading, exercising, and watching my children’s ball games and musical performances. In 2012 I had the opportunity to travel to Ethiopia when my brother and sister-in-law adopted a little girl. We are so happy to have her as part of our family and the experience renewed my desire to be a part of the adoption process for other families.


Deborah Driessen-Grikadebbiedriessen@randybarlow.com
Overseas Social Workers
American Adoption Professionals Abroad, Inc.

Since its inception in 1990, American Adoption Professionals Abroad, Inc. has remained on the vanguard of pre- and post-adoption services for Americans living abroad. We are a network of licensed social workers and other adoption professionals, living and working in various countries around the world. We conduct pre- and post-adoption services for American adoptive families living abroad. The partners, Randy, Jane and Debbie are state licensed social workers with many years of experience in adoption, child and family advocacy, counseling and teaching. Randy and Jane live near Frankfurt, Germany while Debbie alternates between Amsterdam, Netherlands and New Jersey.


Marri Syndergaard
Office Assistant – Utah


My name Is Marri Syndergaard I was adopted back in 1993 from Bolivia. I recently became office assistant for the Utah office but have been a volunteer for over a year for Children’s house. I love what this company does by helping children like me find a family.


Yadira Garcia
Office Assistant – Washington


I recently graduated from Gonzaga University with a degree in Sociology. I’m the oldest of seven kids in my family, four of whom were adopted from Mexico. This has given me a unique perspective on the anticipation and excitement that comes with adoption. As office assistant at CHI, I feel incredibly lucky to play a small role in helping our kids find stability and love with their forever families.


Michael Weinstein
Executive Assistant and Office Manager – Washington Office


I was adopted from the Philippines when I was 18 months old. For as long as I can remember, I’ve known I’m adopted and yet never felt “different” than my adopted family. Since coming to work with CHI in 2006, I have enjoyed the many opportunities I’ve had to share my story and gained a new appreciation for the hard work and dedication of the many people that helped change my life. In my free time I enjoy playing sports (soccer, football, basketball), travelling, reading, and not working.