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Adoption Law Institute 2012

Speaker(s): Anne Reynolds Copps, Brendan C. O'Shea, Deborah Steincolor, Denise Seidelman, Douglas H. Reiniger, Elizabeth A. Thornton, Gregory A. Franklin, Jonathan Korzen, Margaret E. Swain, RN, JD, Michael S. Goldstein, LCSW, Nidhi Desai, Professor LaShanda Taylor, Rebecca L. Mendel, Robin Fleischner, Stephen Lewin, Susan Sommer
Recorded on: Jun. 20, 2012
PLI Program #: 35446

Elizabeth Thornton is a Staff Attorney with the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law. Her work at the Center focuses on strengthening representation of parents in the child welfare system by evaluating parent representation programs, supporting system reforms, and providing resources, training, and technical assistance to parents' attorneys and other child welfare professionals.  Ms. Thornton also works on the Center's Permanency Barriers Project -- helping jurisdictions develop and implement best practices to improve permanency outcomes for children in foster care.  Prior to joining the Center, Ms Thornton represented parents and children in child welfare proceedings in California. Ms. Thornton holds a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School. 

LaShanda Taylor is an Associate Professor at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law where she teaches in the HIV/AIDS Legal Clinic. Formerly, she was a staff attorney at the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law where she worked on the Bar-Youth Empowerment Project. Prior to joining the ABA, LaShanda worked at American University Washington College of Law (WCL) where she was a Practitioner-in-Residence with the General Practice Clinic then an adjunct associate professor.  She has also served as a Skadden Fellow, attorney and Project Director at The Children's Law Center in the District of Columbia and as an Assistant Child Advocate with the New Jersey Office of the Child Advocate. 

Margaret Swain is an attorney in private practice in Baltimore, MD.  A former surgical, delivery room and IVF clinical nurse, her practice concentration is in Assisted Reproductive Technology Law, Adoption and Guardianship. Ms. Swain is a fellow of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, where she chaired the ARTs Committee, and served four years on the Academy's Board of Trustees. She is a long-standing member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and co-chaired the formation of its Legal Professional Group, of which she is Past-Chair. A member of the ABA and its Family Law Section on ART, Ms. Swain is also a charter fellow of the American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys, and an appointee to the AAARTA Executive Council, as well as Chair of its CLE Committee. Ms. Swain also serves on the Executive Council of ASRM's affiliate, The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology.  Ms. Swain has authored a number of textbook chapters, is a frequent lecturer, and is an adjunct professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law. She is a 2008 recipient of the national Congressional Coalition on Adoption's "Angels in Adoption" award.

Robin Fleischner's boutique law practice is dedicated exclusively to forming families through adoption, surrogacy, and assisted reproduction. She became an adoption attorney in 1986 as an outgrowth of adopting her two sons and is licensed to practice law in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. She takes pride in providing caring, personalized, and solution-oriented legal services. Robin has handled over 1,000 adoptions and is nationally known for her expertise in adoption matters. To take advantage of extraordinary recent medical advances, Robin is now using her adoption expertise in surrogacy and assisted reproduction. Robin is a fellow of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys and the American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys and a member of the Board of Governors and the Legal Advisory Committee of the Adoptive Parents Committee and the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. She is a participant in the LGBT Bar Association Family Law Institute. Robin frequently speaks and writes about adoption, surrogacy, and assisted reproduction.

Susan Sommer is Director of Constitutional Litigation and Senior Counsel at Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of LGBT people and those living with HIV through impact litiation, education and public policy work.  Sommer has litigated cases around the country seeking parenting and marriage rights for lesbian and gay adults, including in New York Debra H. v. Janice R., seeking parenting rights for the non-biologically related parent in a same-sex couple; Godfrey v. Spano, seeking recognition of out-of-state marriages of same-sex couples; and Hernandez v. Robles, seeking the right to marry within the state for same-sex couples. She has advocated with state and local governments for legislation and administrative policies protecting the parent-child relationships of children reared by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender parents.

Anne Reynolds Copps is a 1981 graduate of Albany Law School. She was admitted to the Bar in 1982. She was a partner at Martin, Shudt, Wallace, DiLorenzo & Copps until 1995 when she opened her office as a sole practitioner, concentrating on adoptions and real property. She is a frequent lecturer for the Bar Association on real property and adoption issues and ethics.

She is a past-president of the Rensselaer County Bar Association and Capital District Women's Bar Association. She is currently a Member of the Real Property Law Section Executive Committee, serving as secretary. She served for six years on the Committee on Professional Responsibility for the Appellate Division Third Department which reviews disciplinary matters for attorneys. She is a member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys.

She received the Distinguished Member Award from the Capital District Women's Bar Association and the Nancy Burton - Straight but Not Narrow Award from the Capital District Gay and Lesbian Community Council. In January 2003 she received the Attorney Professionalism Award from the New York State Bar Association. She also received the New York State Bar Association Pro Bono Award for the Third Department in 2003. In 2007, she received the Barry Gold Firm Leadership Award in pro bono from the Legal Project.

Brendan C. O'Shea is a member of the firm of Gleason, Dunn, Walsh & O'Shea, Albany, New York. Mr. O'Shea is a member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys. He is a member of the Adoption Committee of the Family Law Section of the New York State Bar Association. 

Denise Seidelman is a partner in Rumbold & Seidelman, LLP, a firm devoted exclusively to adoption and reproductive law since 1996.  She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the Washington College of Law. She was admitted to practice in New York in 1980 and in New Jersey in 2006. She began her legal career as a trial attorney for the Criminal Defense Division of the New York City Legal Aid Society.

Ms. Seidelman is a Fellow of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, the American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys and a member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. She is on the American Fertility Association Adoption Advisory Council and a member of the National LGBT Bar Association Family Law Institute. She has presented at the New York Judicial Institute and has also lectured on the legal aspects of the adoption process and on reproductive law before the York State and New York City Bar Associations and at the Center for Adoption Policy. She is a regular speaker at the APC annual adoption conference and a contributor to the American Fertility Association newsletter on adoption related issues.  

Doug Reiniger has 40 years of experience in child welfare, foster care and adoption. He has devoted his career to combining social work and the law, and in working with children and families as a practitioner, administrator and teacher. He began his career as a social worker in 1969 and began practicing law in New York in 1981.


For almost 30 years Doug has practiced exclusively in family law and adoption. From 1969 to 1981, he worked as a child care worker and social worker in foster care and adoption agencies. He was a founding partner of Rosin & Reiniger, and is now of counsel to the successor firm of Rosin Steinhagen Mendel, a law firm in New York City that specializes in adoption and foster care; representing adoption and foster care agencies. As a social worker, Doug worked with children, biological parents and foster parents. As a lawyer, Doug has represented foster care and adoption agencies, children, biological parents and grandparents, foster parents and adoptive parents. His specialty is litigation, representing his clients in contested court proceedings relating to termination of parental rights and adoption. In addition to appearing in hundreds of trials, Doug regularly represents clients on appeals, and has often argued before the appellate courts of New York, including the Court of Appeals.

Education, Teaching & Licenses

Doug has a BA in psychology (Iona College, 1970), a Master of Social Work degree from Fordham University (1974) and a law degree from Fordham University (1980). For almost 10 years (1990-99) he was on the faculty of Columbia University School of Social Work, as associate professor and coordinator of their Law Minor Program (in collaboration with Columbia Law School). Doug is a certified social worker in New York, and admitted to practice law in New York, Wyoming and before Federal Courts including the United States Supreme Court.

Gregory A. Franklin is a member of the firm of Ashcraft Franklin Young & Peters, LLP, in Rochester, New York.  A graduate of the Fordham University School of Law, adoptions comprise approximately 75% of Mr. Franklin's law practice. Mr. Franklin represents adoptive parents and birth parents in both domestic and international adoptions. Mr. Franklin has represented families in more than 1,900 adoptions, of which approximately 25% have been international adoptions. He has also represented more than 350 birth mothers in domestic adoptions. Mr. Franklin has worked extensively in the area of assisted fertility, representing gestational carriers, surrogate mothers, egg and sperm donors, and their intended families. He is admitted to practice in the State of New York and in the Federal courts.

Mr. Franklin is a Fellow of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, and is a past Chair of its International Adoption Subcommittee.  He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Assisted Reproduction Technology Attorneys. He is a member of New York Attorneys for Adoption and Family Formation, Inc. He is a member of the Adoption Subcommittee of the New York State Bar Association, and has been recognized as a New York Super Lawyer in 2008, 2009 and 2010. He is a member of the New York State Bar Association and its Adoption Subcommittee. He is a member of the Monroe County Bar Association and past-Chair of the Ethics and Fee Arbitration Committees, and has been a member of the Judiciary, House Finance and Academy of Law committees. He has previously chaired the Regional Advisory Council of the New York State Division of Human Rights. He is a member of the Judicial Evaluation Committee of the Greater Rochester Area Women Attorneys organization.

Mr. Franklin is a frequent lecturer on adoption related topics. He has lectured to and taught a wide variety of groups, including professional Continuing Legal Education seminars, bar associations, parent groups, doctors, social workers and other professional and parent organizations. He has authored numerous articles on adoption related topics, and has edited portions of legal textbooks on adoption related topics.  He has also acted as an expert witness in adoption related trials.

Jonathan Korzen founded Korzen Public Relations, Inc., in January 2009. Korzen PR is a media, public relations and corporate communications consultancy currently representing the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys and the American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys. Past clients include New York Public Radio, the Audio Publishers Association and Blackstone Audiobooks.

Jonathan Korzen joined in 1997, an Internet audio service for downloading audiobooks and other spoken word programming. Over 10 years at Audible he rose to lead public relations and corporate communications, spent time in London to launch, and placed more than 400 positive reviews and articles across all media. In 2007 Korzen became Communications Director for the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine and managed all media attention surrounding the November, 2008 rededication of the Cathedral after a 7-year repair project.  

MICHAEL S. GOLDSTEIN is an Attorney, New York State Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and adoptive father of three who concentrates his practice in adoptions. During the past 30+ years, Michael has been involved with over 2,500 successful adoptions, which include domestic, agency, international, readoption, single parent, two parent, second parent, and foster care adoptions. Michael's representation has assisted clients to be successful in adopting within the United States and other countries through advertising, word-of-mouth, internet, and contacts with the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys (AAAA; a nationally recognized group of adoption attorneys), as well as with many adoption agencies. In 2007 Michael and his wife, Joy, co-founded "Forever Families Through Adoption, Inc.," a New York and Connecticut licensed adoption placement agency and resource center. 

Michael, who received the prestigious 2006 Congressional "Angels in Adoption" Award, is one of only three attorneys nationally to be approved by the U.S. Department of State to provide adoption services under the Hague Treaty. He is a founding member, past Board Member, and current Fellow of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys (AAAA), founding member of the New York Attorneys for Adoption and Family Formation, Governor Emeritus and Legal Advisor of the Adoptive Parents Committee, and has appeared on national television and radio as an adoption expert.  Michael is also a partner of The Joint Council on International Children's Services (JCICS), the founder of the Foster Teen Employment Network (FTEN), a board member of the Port Chester Community Services, an Advisory Board member of the Westchester Children's Association, and a member of the Rye-Brook/Port Chester Rotary Club and the Chamber of Commerce.  In addition, he is also a frequent lecturer and contributing author for the Tri-State Adoptive Parents Committee, the North American Council on Adoptable Children, Jewish Child Care Association/AMETZ, National Infertility Network Exchange, Resolve (American Infertility Association), and Wanna Be Moms/Wanna Be Dads at The Center for Gay and Lesbians.  Michael has authored articles and chapters in publications such as the Consumers Report, "AdopTalk" Monthly Newsletter, and the New York City Bar Association's Continuing Education Program "What Every Lawyer Should Know About Adoption." 

NIDHI DESAI practices both adoption and reproductive technology law; her emphasis is in the area of collaborative reproduction. Nidhi worked closely with Illinois House Representative Barbara Currie in a successful legislative effort to enact "The Gestational Surrogacy Act." In addition to being one of the principal authors of the Gestational Surrogacy Act, she testified on behalf of the Illinois State Bar Association in front of both the state House and Senate judiciary committees and was instrumental in gaining unanimous support for this legislation.

Nidhi has previously served on the Leadership Council of the Illinois local area affiliate of RESOLVE. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys and the American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Law Attorneys and is a member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

Nidhi serves on the Illinois State Bar Association's "Genetics and Human Reproduction Task Force," and has authored a chapter on surrogacy and assisted reproduction for the IICLE Practice Handbook on Illinois Adoption Law.  She serves on the board of the Legal Professional Group of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine as its immediate past Chair. She is a frequent speaker on infertility legal issues, both locally and nationally, addressing medical and legal professionals including the American Society of Reproductive Medicine and The American Academy of Adoption Attorneys.  

Rebecca L. Mendel, Esq. is a partner in the New York City firm, Rosin Steinhagen Mendel. She has been with the firm since 1998, and became a partner of the firm in 2004.   Rebecca Mendel graduated from Emory University in 1993, with a B.A. in political science. In 1998, Ms. Mendel received her J.D. from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

At Rosin Steinhagen Mendel, Ms. Mendel=s focus is on is adoption law, and she handles domestic independent/private adoptions, step-parent adoptions, second-parent adoptions, birth parent representation, re-adoptions, registration of foreign adoption decrees, private agency adoption, adult adoptions, and foster care adoption matters. 

Ms. Mendel has also represented numerous foster care agencies in termination of parental rights proceedings and other aspects of foster care litigation in pursuit of permanency for children in foster care. Ms. Mendel also assists in custody/visitation matters and estate planning. She also manages the appellate practice of the firm. 

Rebecca Mendel has lectured about adoption at numerous organizations. Recently, Ms. Mendel lectured about adoption law as part of the training for the New York City Family Court Judges. 

Ms. Mendel is a fellow of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys and a fellow of the American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys. Ms. Mendel is the Chair of the Family Court & Family Law Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. She is also a member of the New York State Bar Association, Committee on Adoption. Ms. Mendel serves on the Adoption/TPR advisory committee to the Administrative Judge of the New York City Family Courts. On that committee, Ms. Mendel also serves as the chair of the adoption subcommittee.

Stephen Lewin, Esq., is a partner in the firm of Irwin, Lewin, Cohn & Lewin, P.C., which maintains offices at 845 Third Avenue, Suite 1400, New York, New York 10022. Although the firm is a general practice, Mr. Lewin's primary areas of practice include: (i) domestic adoption cases (both private and agency), (ii) Hague and non-Hague international adoption cases (both private and agency), and (iii) practice before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. (He also handles matters pertaining to (a) estates and trusts law and (b) real estate law.)

Mr. Lewin has practiced adoption law for the past twenty five (25) years. He is a founding member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys and has served as the Co-Chairperson of its Inter-country Adoption Committee.  Additionally, he has been a member of the Academy's Hague Treaty and Legislative Committees. 

Mr. Lewin has lectured on adoption law at the Association of the Bar of the City of New York as part of its Continuing Legal Education program.  He was appointed to a committee established by the Surrogate's Court to consult on adoption and foster care issues. He has been appointed to serve as a guardian ad litem in adoption matters. Mr. Lewin lectures at the Jewish Child Care Association - Annual Adoption Seminar, and before other groups and organizations. He was a reviewer for Adoption Law in New York.

Since 1987, Deborah Steincolor, an attorney licensed in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania, has been devoted to practicing adoption law. She has participated in over 1,900 adoptions representing prospective adoptive parents in achieving their dreams through private networking, creating and coordinating adoption plans, and finalizing the adoption placements. Since 1994, Deborah also represents expectant mothers in considering their options and participating in adoption plans. Also, she represents adopting parents in adoption finalization proceedings whose children are placed with them through adoption agencies.

    In 2011, Deborah expanded her practice to include assisted reproductive law in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. She guides intended parents through private networking to connect with gestational carriers and egg donors. She provides services to gestational carriers, egg donors, and intended parents in contract preparation and review, as well as, court proceedings to obtain orders of parentage.

     Deborah obtained her Masters Degree and License in Social Work because the adoption and assisted reproduction processes are core experiences for her clients. She recognizes the emotional, psychological and legal aspects will simultaneously impact her respective clients as they strive to achieve their goals. As a member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys and the New York Academy of Family Formation Attorneys, she remains up to date on current practice. She regularly presents workshops at adoption conferences.