Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

Address

Office Location:

DSS Main Office
​Wallace H. Kuralt Centre
301 Billingsley Road
Charlotte, NC 28211

West Charlotte Location
Community Resource Center
3205 Freedom Drive
Charlotte, NC 28208
Hours: Mon-Fri  8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Contact

Customer Connection
704-336-3000

Adoption Conference Speaker Bios

Mistress of Ceremony - AM

portrait of speaker Brigida Mack

Brigida Mack is an engaging and dynamic communicator. She has spent nearly two decades honing her skills, first, as an award-winning TV news anchor/reporter and now, as a motivational speaker, host and content creator.

A native Charlottean, Brigida is passionate about her love and commitment to her hometown. She strives to encourage, uplift and educate others, not only with her powerful and engaging content on social media, but also whenever she serves as a speaker, host, panelist and moderator. 

Brigida is also a dedicated mental health advocate and passionate about helping others commit to an active and healthy lifestyle. In 2013, she founded her "TeamNOSugar" 30-day challenge. In May of 2022, she successfully rebooted her wildly popular wellness challenge that helps people kick their sugar habit to continue to inspire others to take agency of their health and change their lives.

Brigida is also a die hard college basketball fan (Go Heels!) and loves reading, being active, and traveling the world with her husband. 


Morning Keynote Speaker - 

portrait of speaker Debbie Riley

Debbie B. Riley, LCMFT is the CEO and co-founder of the Center for Adoption Support and Education (C.A.S.E.), a nonprofit meeting the mental health needs of adoptive, foster and kinship families. A nationally recognized adoption expert and dynamic public speaker, Ms. Riley is a licensed marriage and family therapist with  40 years of professional experience, including extensive health care management, administrative expertise, designing and developing nationally acclaimed adoption-competent programs, direct delivery of specialized counseling services which affords her the broad knowledge and nationally respected expertise needed to promote mental health training, child advocacy and public policy development.

Ms. Riley created a continuum of innovative, culturally responsive evidenced-informed programs to improve the behavioral outcomes of foster and adopted youth and their families which has become a nationally recognized model. Ms. Riley consults with national child welfare agencies on complex child welfare issues and systems of care enhancement. For over a decade she has built and implemented a framework for training an adoption competent mental health workforce nationally and is the founder of TAC (Training for Adoption Competency) Curriculum currently taught in 16 states within the United States. Through a federal cooperative agreement awarded to C.A.S.E. from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Ms. Riley serves as the PI for the National Adoption Competency Mental Health Training Initiative (NTI). NTI developed, piloted, and evaluated two state of the art web-based adoption competency curriculum to build the capacity of child welfare professionals and mental health practitioners that serve youth moving toward permanency, through adoption or guardianship. She also has been a contributor on two other federally funded curriculum initiatives, The National Training and Development Curriculum (NTDC) and CORETeen.

Ms. Riley received her Bachelor of Science in Family and Community Development and Master of Science in Marital and Family Therapy from the University of Maryland, College Park.  She is co-author of the book, Beneath the Mask: Understanding Adopted Teens (Riley and Meeks, 2006) and Adoption Specific Therapy, A Guide to Helping Adopted Children and Their Families Thrive (Waterman, Langley, Miranda, and Riley, 2018). She is a contributing author to several book chapter and articles including, The Need for Adoption Competent Mental Health Professionals in Transracial and Intercountry AdoptionsCultural Guidance for Professionals (Fong and McRoy, 2016); Training for Adoption Competency Curriculum in The Routledge Handbook Of Adoption (Wrober, Helder, and Marr, 2020); Adoption as a Diversity Issue in Professional Preparation: Perceptions of Preservice Education Professionals, Adoptions Quarterly (Taymans, Marotta, Lynch, Riley, Ortiz, Schutt, Mallery, Embich, 2008); Adoption Competent Clinical Practice; Defining Its Meaning and Development, Adoption Quarterly (Atkinson, Freundlich, Gonet, Riley, 2013); and Training for Adoption Competency: Building a Community of Adoption-Competent Clinicians, Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services (Atkinson and Riley, 2017).

Ms. Riley is the recipient of the 2015 HHS Adoption Excellence Award for Individuals and Professionals, the 2005 Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute Angels in Adoption Award, the 2005 HHS Adoption Excellence Award for support for adoptive families, the 2003 Maryland Governor's Council on Child Abuse and Neglect Award for Outstanding Advocate, and the 2003 Voice for Adoption Award for Outstanding Work in Post-Adoption Services.


Mistress of Ceremony - Midday

Collen Odegaard.jpg

Colleen Odegaard is an Emmy Award winning broadcast journalist, certified life coach, video and media coach, and the host of the "Wake Up Your Life" podcast – which has been voted Best Podcast by Charlotte Magazine for two years in a row.

She wants all of us to stop living on autopilot and "wake up" to creating richer and fuller lives through self-awareness and mindfulness. Colleen relates to her clients and listeners with her personal stories, a sense of humor, and practical steps we can all take to create positive changes in our lives.

Colleen is recipient of the Dr. Maya Angelou Women Who Lead Excellence Award for her contributions to her profession and community. She has also been awarded the Career Mastered Women's Leadership in Action Award for her leadership and service. Colleen also serves on the board of Congregations for Kids, an organization that care for children in foster care.


Midday Keynote Speaker -

Jason.jpg

Jason Johnson is a writer and speaker who encourages families and equips churches in their work with foster care and adoption.

Jason attended Texas A&M University, where he met his wife, Emily. After graduating, he began his pastoral ministries studies at Dallas Theological Seminary while also working in ministry.

In 2008, Jason had the privilege of planning and leading a church with the "Acts 29 Network", through which he helped start a non-profit committed to serving, supporting, and equipping foster and adoptive families in the city of Houston.

Jason currently serves as the Director of Church Mobilization and Engagement for the Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO). In his work, he speaks about church-based ministry structures, organizational leadership, and strategy at churches, conferences, forums, and workshops. He also encourages families that are in the trenches and those that are considering getting involved.

Jason and his wife, Emily, live in Texas with their daughters. He has authored 4 Books: Reframing Foster Care, Everyone Can Do Something, ALL In Orphan Care, and Effectively Engaging Churches. Jason also blogs regularly at www.jasonjohnsonblog.com


Master & Mistress of Ceremony - PM

portrait of speaker Derrick Jacobs and Jacinda Jacobs

Derrick "Fly Ty" Jacobs is a nationally recognized motivational speaker and radio and TV personality who joined the NBA as an Arena Host for the Charlotte Hornets in 2014. He hosted the NBA All-Star in 2019 and hosts speaking events, galas, charity events, concerts, comedy shows, family reunions, weddings parties and proms. He's hosted next to some of the biggest names in the industry from Charlie Wilson, Kevin Hart, Jay-Z, Beyonce and Steve Harvey. Flyty is also a luxury mobile barber with over 30 years of experience. He specializes in quality and convenience. He is a Master Barber for men, women & children.

Jacinda Jacobs ventured into the TV industry on 2009 at WBTV— a CBS affiliate in Charlotte, NC. She's worn the hat of reporter, weather forecaster and TV host. She is world renowned media personality, motivational speaker, and the best-selling author of "Uniquely Qualified". Jacinda, along with her husband, currently hosts the "Fly Ty and Jacinda Show on Sundays from 6a to 12pm on V101.9 FM. She is also the founder and executive director of the Stolen Lunches Bible Study Community, a 501c3 nonprofit organization that supports those looking to grow in their faith

Flyty & Jacinda met as in-arena hosts for the NBA's Charlotte Hornets. They have hosted the NBA All-star together as well as a slew of national events. This dynamic duo is the most sought-after husband and wife co-host team out there.


Afternoon Keynote Speaker - 

Image of speaker Darryl McDaniels

Darryl "DMC" McDaniels is a legendary music icon who first impacted the world over 30 years ago. From the first rap group to grace the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine to the first to appear on MTV, Grammy nominated Run-DMC changed music, culture, fashion, language and made American history. It would be hard to overstate his influence on popular culture.

Thirty-five million record sales later, and more than ten years after the untimely death of his bandmate Jam Master Jay, DMC continues to create, inspire and motivate. In 2009, as a member of Run-DMC, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in 2016 he received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy given to "performers who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording."

In 2014 he launched a comic book company called Darryl Makes Comics, a new journey that helps bridge the gap between the worlds of hip-hop and the fantastic adventures he got wrapped up in as a youth. The company's first full length graphic novel hit stores in October 2014 and has since followed up with a new release annually. http://www.dmc-comics.com

Darryl is also the co-author of two critically acclaimed books: his recent memoir entitled, Ten Ways Not to Commit Suicide (2016/Harpers/Amistad), and a past autobiography King of Rock; Respect, Responsibility and My Life with Run-DMC (2001/ Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martins) as well as an award-winning solo album Checks, Thugs & Rock and Roll. That album produced the hit single "Just like Me" featuring Sarah McLachlan; a song DMC wrote after discovering he was adopted, that spoke to his new revelation and began his journey down another life path, in search of his birth mother. While his search struggle was captured in the 2007 Emmy Winning VH1 documentary DMC: My Adoption Journey, the process gave DMC tremendous insight and purpose, prompting him to become an advocate for adoption and children in foster care.

In between his work as a musical artist and producer, published author and speaker, or his work with his nonprofit, McDaniels has been invited around the globe to address various youth groups on respect, responsibility, and self-awareness, including an invitation to the White House by President Obama. Darryl has also appeared before Congress and various State legislatures in support of adoptees and foster children, worked with First Lady Michelle Obama on part of her Get Fit Campaign and was a featured speaker at the 2016 Kennedy Forum #Young Minds Matter event on Mental Health, and at the 2017 SXSW Music Festival.

He has received numerous awards including the Hard Rock's Love All Serve All Award for his numerous philanthropic endeavors, Doing Art Together (DAT) Honoree for his contributions to helping under-served communities in NYC in the classroom and life, and the coveted CHILDREN'S RIGHTS Champion Award for his tireless work on behalf of foster children through his FELIX ORGANIZATION/ Adoptees for Children, as well as his work providing other year-round opportunities for children in foster care. 


Workshop Presenters - 

portrait of speaker Sixto Cancel

Sixto Cancel is the Founder & CEO of Think of Us. Think of Us (TOU) is an action tank designed to drive systematic change in child welfare policy and practice through focused projects and sweeping initiatives. Sixto was named as one of Forbes' Top 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs and is on the 2021 Forbes Under 30 Lister Board. Sixto has been recognized as a "White House Champion of Change'', a BET "Millennial Maker", and was named one of the "Top 24 Changemakers in Government under 24" by the Campaign for a Presidential Youth Council and Sparkaction. Since 2010, Sixto has served as a Young Fellow at the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, where he has played a key role in the initiative's work of extending foster care permanency for older youth. Sixto is a Clinton Global Initiative University Alum, a FastForward Alum, an Ashoka Fellow, a Board Member of Adventr – an interactive SMART video tech company – and most recently on the Advisory Board for Box, Inc. Sixto and the team at Think of Us are working to ensure that every person has the conditions they need to heal, develop, and thrive.


portrait of speaker Vernisha Crawford

Vernisha Crawford earned her bachelor's degree in Sociology from UNC Charlotte and has a master's degree in Leadership from Grand Canyon University. She is a master's Level Certified Professional Life Coach & Community Consultant. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Vernisha specializes in trauma, mental health, resilience, and organizational change, with a knack for entrepreneurship. Her most honorable badge is motherhood, where she gets to learn from and experience her 5-year-old daughter every day. Vernisha is the Founder and CEO of Bringing You Excellence (B.Y.E.), LLC, a national consulting firm that helps organizations become trauma-informed and prioritize wellness. Vernisha serves as a member of the Early Childhood Executive Committee at Smart Start, as well as the NC ACES Task Force Advisory Board, NC Juvenile Justice Behavioral Health Committee, and Charlotte Lab School Board. Vernisha also teaches a Criminal Justice course at Belmont, Vanderbilt, and Fisk Universities.


portrait of speaker April Dinwoodle

April Dinwoodie is a nationally recognized thought-leader on adoption and foster care; keynoting, training, and facilitating for audiences of all sizes.  April's podcast "Born in June, Raised in April: What Adoption Can Teach the World!" helps to educate and inspire conversation about adoption, foster care, and family diversity. She is the founder of Adoptment, a mentoring program that matches foster youth with adopted adults.  April works as a Corporate Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging consultant, as well as a parent coach. She also works with several New York City private schools, facilitating adoption affinity groups for young people and parents and helping educational professionals better understand adoption.  


portrait of speaker Becky Wilmoth

Becky Wilmoth is an Enrolled Agent, the highest credential awarded by the IRS. She is a member of the National Foster Parent Association, the National Council for Adoption/Adoption League, the North American Council on Adoptable Children, the Kaskaskia College Business/Accounting Advisory Board, the National Association of Enrolled Agents, the National Association of Tax Professionals, the Illinois Society of Enrolled Agents, the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, and the Adoption Tax Credit Working Group. She is a guest writer and speaker at national adoption conferences, webinars, internet radio programs, blogs, and podcasts. Additionally, Becky is a member of the Christian Alliance for Orphans. She also services adoptive parents as an Adoption Tax Credit Specialist® at Bills Tax Service, a professional tax accounting business owned by Alan and Jaime Newcomb, EA who are foster and adoptive parents.


portrait of speaker O'Neale Atkinson

O'Neale Atkinson IV, LCSWA (He|Him) serves as the Deputy Executive Director for Time Out Youth.      O'Neale moved to Charlotte in June of 2011 and worked with The LGBT Community Center of Charlotte, as well as Q-Notes, before joining the Time Out Youth Center in 2013. He is currently working on his clinical licensure and is passionate about developing queer-centered social work practices to effectively serve members of the LGBTQ community, as well as training and educating other systems to be more competent when working with LGBTQ people.

portrait of speaker Danielle Willis

Danielle Willis, LCSWA (She|Her) is the Director of Clinical Services for Time Out Youth. Danielle recently relocated to Charlotte after living in the mountains of Asheville. Danielle earned her bachelor's degree in Psychology at the University of Florida and is a Master of Social Work from Florida State University. With almost ten years of experience in the field, Danielle has worked with teens in many capacities, but her focus is uplifting the LGBTQ+ community. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the city of Charlotte with her partner and relaxing with their cats.










   ​


Address

Office Location:

DSS Main Office
​Wallace H. Kuralt Centre
301 Billingsley Road
Charlotte, NC 28211

West Charlotte Location
Community Resource Center
3205 Freedom Drive
Charlotte, NC 28208
Hours: Mon-Fri  8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Contact

Customer Connection
704-336-3000