Meet Our Board of Directors
Brian Franklin - Board Chairperson
Brian Franklin is a Vice-President at Edelman Communications, one of the world’s largest public relations firm and is the father of Samuel, who joined his adopted family in September, 2009. Brian is also on the board of Africa Bridge, an NGO that empowers orphans and vulnerable children in Tanzania. Beginning in 2009, Brian has provided pro bono public relations services to various NGOs and played a critically important role during the Haiti earthquake.
Dana Ernest Johnson, M.D., Ph.D.
Dana E. Johnson is Professor of Pediatrics, member of Division of Neonatology and Founder of the International Adoption Clinic at the University of Minnesota which is one of the largest adoption-related medical programs in the world. Over the past twenty-three years, information gathered through this clinic on the medical status of children adopted from dozens of countries and a wide variety of living conditions has helped establish the field of adoption medicine. His research focuses on the short- and long-term effects of early deprivation on child health and early development. Dr. Johnson is an adoptive parent, serves on the Editorial Boards of Adoption Quarterly and Adoptive Families Magazine and is a Senior Research Fellow in the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.
Kjersti Olsen, Phd.
Kjersti Olsen is currently an Assistant Extension Professor at the University of Minnesota. Prior to her position at the U of Minnesota, Kjersti was the Director of International Programs at Children’s Home Society & Family Services. She also held positions as a Technical Consultant at the University of Minnesota Extension – Family Development, the Director of Major Gifts at the Science Museum of Minnesota and Associate Director of Development for the Minnesota Medical Foundation.
Alexis Oberdorfer-Secretary, MSW
Alexis Oberdorfer has her master’s degree in social work and is the Senior Director of Adoption at Children’s Home Society and Lutherans Social Service of Minnesota. Ms. Oberdorfer has worked in both the private non-profit sector and across the public child welfare continuum for 20 years. She has worked for the Minnesota Department of Human Services where she was responsible for adoption policy and contracts that delivered adoption services throughout Minnesota. She also held a position in Illinois Department of Children and Family Services where she coordinated their Post Adoption and Guardianship Services, and she was the Foster Care Manager for Illinois. Ms. Oberdorfer also has experience training, facilitating support groups, working in early childhood prevention/early intervention with at-risk families, and in Child Protection Service.
Frank Garrott, MBA
Frank Garrott is the President & CEO of Gladney Center for Adoption. He was formally the Chief Operating Officer of the organization, having his first experiences with Gladney in 1987 and 1991 when he adopted two children through Gladney and then later serving as a Gladney Center board member for nine years. Mr. Garrott earned his MBA from the University of Texas after graduating from Duke University. He went on to a career in business consulting, including the last eleven years with PriceWaterhouseCoopers in New York and Connecticut. In addition to his work with Gladney and Joint Council he also sits on the Board of the Christian Mission to the United Nations Community.
Ellora DeCarlo, MSW
Ellora DeCarlo is the President and co-founder of Futuro de los Ninos, a foundation that provides aid for children in Guatemala. Ellora is a founding member of the Guatemala 900 Campaign and serves on the board of Semillas de Amor Children’s Village in Guatemala. Ellora has a Masters in Social Work and over ten years experience in education and advocacy for women and children. She currently lives in New York City with her husband, Gary Cooper, and their 3 beautiful children, Leo, Julia, and Lorenzo. When she is not advocating and/or mothering, she works as an actor and theatrical producer.
Angie is the Co-Founder and President of International Child Advocacy Network (ICAN) a non-profit with a mission to help, without waste. ICAN partners with organizations that are operating internationally and helps raise awareness and funds to assist those in need. Angie resides in Hudson, WI with her husband Dan and their four children and has been advocating for children’s rights for over 15 years.
Dr. Natasha Shaginian-Needham
Dr. Natasha Shaginian-Needham was born and raised in Russia. She received her degree in Psychiatry from the Medical Institute in Moscow in 1989. She has worked in the international adoption community since 1991. In 1994, she founded Happy Families International Center, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to helping orphaned children. She did several in-depth researches in Russia on biological mothers who gave up their children for adoption and developmental issues of children in the orphanages. She has been a champion of International Adoption and child advocate, raising awareness of the plight of these orphaned children. In 2003, Dr. Shaginian-Needham received the prestigious Congressional Angel in Adoption award. She is one of the pioneers of social entrepreneurs in Russia. She received her degree in TV Journalism in 2004 from Ostankino Institute of Tele-Journalism in Moscow. She has been producing a series of documentaries and TV stories to benefit orphaned children since 1993. Currently, Dr. Shaginian-Needham is the Executive Director of Happy Families International Center, Inc. In 2008, she became the co-founder of the Artist Foundation in Moscow where she created and has been running the program “Actors to Children”. Her recent project “I Want to Walk” helps orphaned children with missing limbs get prosthetics and be able to walk.