Main Office Staff

Part Time Specialists


Main Office Staff Bios

Beth Hall (she/her)
Co-Founder and Executive Director
E-mail: beth@pactadopt.org

Beth Hall is the white adoptive mother of a Latina daughter and an African American son (both now young adults), and grew up with an adopted sister. She co-founded Pact in 1991 to combat the discrimination she witnessed against adopted children of color and their birth families. Since that time, she has facilitated the placement of over 1000 infants of color into strong, loving homes. She is the co-author, with Gail Steinberg, of the book Inside Transracial Adoption (Perspectives Press, 2000), as well as numerous articles on adoption and race. She is a nationally known advocate for adopted children of color who regularly lectures and leads workshops on ethical, non-racist adoption practices. To learn more about Beth including information about her publications, speaking engagements, and various film clips she has appeared in, click here.

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Susan Dusza Guerra Leksander (she/her)
Agency & Clinical Director
First/Birth Family Advocate
E-mail: susan@pactadopt.org

Susan Dusza Guerra Leksander, LMFT is a first mother, transracial adoptee, and a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in the adoption and foster care triads. As First/Birth Family Specialist, Susan focuses on the needs of expectant parents considering adoption, and first/birth families of who have placed children of color for adoption. Susan placed her daughter for adoption in 2001 in an “open” adoption which was subsequently closed by her daughter’s adoptive parents. She was transracially adopted as an infant and, with the support of her adoptive parents, reunited with her first families as a teenager. Susan envisions a world where all expectant parents and first/birth parents are fully empowered, accurately informed, and emotionally supported, in order to make the best decisions for their children and themselves.

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Deanna Matthews (she/her)
Pact Family Camp Director
E-mail: deanna@pactadopt.org

Deanna Matthews is a biracial (African American/white) single parent who has found great commonality between her own experience of racial ambiguity and that of many adoptees of color. She brings that understanding to all her work at Pact, as well as a passion for educating adults and supporting children in defining their identity in positive ways in a racialized world. She has been involved in organizing Pact Family Camp since 2009, and became Camp Director in 2011.

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Patrick Morris (he/him)
Director of Finance & Operations
E-mail: patrick@pactadopt.org

Patrick serves as Pact’s lead on operations and finance. He has worked in a variety of corporate management and consulting roles throughout his career, including with large companies like Whirlpool, Belkin, and BestBuy, as well as work developing early and mid-stage startup ventures. Patrick’s work with non-profits includes cause-driven agencies that have focused on Sickle Cell Anemia and Emancipated Foster Youth. Patrick holds an MBA with distinction from the UCLA Anderson School of Management and attended Saint Mary’s College and Morehouse College.

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Malaika Parker (she/her)
Adoptive Parents of Color Collaborative Director
E-mail: malaika@pactadopt.org

Malaika Parker, Director of Pact’s Adoptive Parents of Color Collective, is herself a Black adoptive parent of color who works to design resources and create community for adoptive families headed by people of color. She understands firsthand how hard-and important-it is for same-race adoptive parents to find resources that apply to their own family dynamics as opposed to those that apply to family led by white parents. Malaika is the founder of Hummingbird Urban Farming Collective and previously worked as Director of Community Engagement for Justice Matters and the Director of Bay Area PoliceWatch, a project of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. She has a Master’s degree in Social Justice and Equity in Education, and received a 2020 Women of Color LeadStrong fellowship from the LeaderSpring Center.

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Ben Powning (he/him)
Youth Programing Coordinator
E-mail: ben@pactadopt.org

Ben Powning, Pact’s Youth Programing Coordinator, is a mixed raced (Colombian, Filipino and white) transracial adoptee born and raised in the Bay Area. Ben attended and graduated from San Francisco State with a degree in communications. Ben has many years of experience working with children and is inspired by the importance of his own role models to be one for the children of Pact. Because of his own struggles to find and create a healthy racial and adoption identity, he is excited to work with both the youth and families at Pact. Ben feels like being at Pact is being at home and he looks forward to providing that kind of welcoming and nurturing space for all of the youth who participate in Pact programing.

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Raquel Vivanco (she/her)
Event Coordinator
E-mail: raquel@pactadopt.org

Raquel is the adoptive mother to 2 latin@ persons. She has been an active member of Pact for over 10 years. She brings her experience with nonprofit organizations and human resources to Pact, as well as dedication to ethical adoption reform.

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Katie Wynen (she/her)
Pact’s Adoption Social Worker & LGBTQ Advocate
E-mail: katie@pactadopt.org

Katie Wynen, MSW, is a transracial, international Colombian adoptee, with a Masters in Social Work. Katie has worked with members of the adoption triad since 2006. She studied under Dr. Joyce Maguire Pavao in Boston before moving to California and joining the Pact staff where she works in adoption placement, leads groups, works with tweens and teens and provides adoption education nationwide. Katie is an Angels in Adoption 2019 Recipient from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

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Part Time Specialists Bios

Laura Anderson (she/her)
Transracial Adoption Consultant
E-mail: laura@pactadopt.org

Laura Anderson has been a licensed clinical psychologist working with children, adolescents and families for nearly 20 years. Dr. Anderson provides national and international training on a variety of child psychology topics. She has spent much of her career working with foster youth, foster parents, foster care agencies, as well as with adopted youth and their families in various settings. Dr. Anderson is also a transracial adoptive parent herself. In addition to providing adoption competent support, Dr. Anderson specializes in affirming care for LGBTQ+ youth and their families.

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Jaciara Bayer (she/her)
Nor-Cal Youth Coordinator / Home Study Social Worker
E-mail: jaci@pactadopt.org

Jaciara Bayer is a transracial/international adoptee from Brazil; raised in a Jewish single parent household, in a minimally diverse town. Jaci works as a Fost-Adopt Social Worker for an Oakland based Foster Family Agency as well as conducting home studies for Pact’s pre-adoptive families. Jaci first started working with youth & professionals in the field of adoption/foster care through opportunities with Pact which she has remained connected to for the past 7 years. “Pact is an incredibly unique and sacred place that is so vital for all members of the triad, especially our youth. It is a space that I truly enjoy being a part of." In addition to her career based work, Jaci is a member of the Board of Directors for S.P.A.C.E. (School of Performing Arts and Cultural Education) a well-known organization in her hometown that she actively participated in as a youth.

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Aaryn Belfer (she/her)
Point of View Editor
E-mail: editor@pactadopt.org

Aaryn Belfer is the editor of the Pact Point of View, Pact's e-Newsletter, and various other Pact communications. Aaryn works part-time by day as a clinical research coordinator, one member of a talented team looking for a cure for ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease). She is a writer by night, penning a biweekly column at San Diego CityBeat, and works as a copy editor and freelance writer during the witching hours. She likes to write, run, practice yoga, play tennis, travel, and do just about anything under the sun (except for bungee jumping, hot air ballooning, deep see diving, or laundry). Spending time with her transracially adopted daughter, Ruby, and her husband, Sam is paramount to everything. No matter what hat she is wearing, she approaches all tasks with an eye on social justice, anti-racism, and equality, including advocating appropriately on behalf of the often-marginalized members of the adoption triad: adoptees and first parents.

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Miranda Chartoff (she/her)
SoCal Youth Coordinator

Miranda is a transracial adoptee who grew up yearning for the kind of community that she is working hard to create for Pact Club youth. She graduated from Boston University with a degree in Public Relations and most recently from King’s College London with an MSc in Organizational Psychology. She calls her work with the Pact community the work of her heart and is honored to be a part of the Pact family!

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Jayshell Holts (he/him)
SoCal Youth Coordinator

Jayshell is an ally with who is also the co-founder of Melanin Market which aims to provide a platform for Black-owned business while teaching inner-city youth the ins and outs of entrepreneurship. He is the Director of Support Services for a non-profit with a focus of providing educational support to inner-city youth. Jay is always eager to work with youth to build everlasting community.

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Julie Kiani (she/her)
Data Services Director
E-mail: julie@pactadopt.org

Julie discovered Pact, and its breadth of resources and community, as an adoptive parent in a multi-racial family. Sincere appreciation for all Pact has to offer led Julie to a professional relationship with Pact, and she now heads data services for the organization with a primary focus on Salesforce implementation. Julie’s background combines data, engineering and marketing, with the bulk of her recent career spent serving Comcast and Dividend Finance. Julie holds a Master’s degree from University of the Pacific’s School of Engineering in Data and Analytics, and her Bachelor’s from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in Mechanical Engineering.

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Jake Plut (he/him)
Nor-Cal Youth Mentor

Jake is a transracial adult adoptee from California, a graduate of New York University with degrees in Music and Black Cultural Studies. He currently works as a freelance producer and songwriter as well as with the community organization US4US in his native San Francisco. He has been a member of the Pact community since he was 3 years old and is excited to return as a member of the staff again by working with younger adoptees coming up behind him.

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Michele Rabkin (she/her)
Communications Specialist
E-mail: michele@pactadopt.org

Michele Rabkin and her African American husband adopted their multiracial daughter with help from Pact. Michele is tremendously grateful for all that Pact does to create and support families like her own. In addition to working as a university administrator, she does free-lance writing and editing for Pact and other organizations she cares about.

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Takai Tyler (she/her)
Pre-placement Consultant
E-mail: takai@pactadopt.org

Takai Tyler, MSW, holds a Masters Degree in Social Work and has over 20 years of experience in non-profit management. She is passionate about working with youth and families in the areas of trauma healing and empowerment through an equity lens. As a Black adoptive mother, she holds a special commitment to supporting families of color created through adoption. She currently serves on the Advisory Council for the Adoptive Parents of Color Collaborative at Pact and is the co-founder of the Village APOC, an Adoptive peer parent support group.

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