Empowered to Connect
ETC Parent Trainers:
Russ & Allison Highton
Ministry Advisor & Team Leader (Counseling & Therapy) - Michelle Badger
Michelle Badger is a Licensed Professional Counselor with 15 years of experience working with youth and families, including adoptive and foster families. Michelle recently attended the training at Texas Christian University under the direction of Dr. Karyn Purvis and obtained her certification as a TBRI Practitioner. Michelle is passionate about her position as a therapist and passionate about coming alongside adoptive and foster families to serve in any way that is needed to help heal and move families towards their goals. Working alongside a team of professionals, Michelle also manages and collaborates to bring respite nights, nurture groups and other events aimed at supporting families. Michelle operates her private practice, Mountainview Counseling LLC in Somerset, NJ. Michelle and her family live in central, NJ. Connect with Michelle and the rest of our team here!
Administrator - Alessandra 'Sandy' Duck
Alessandra 'Sandy' Duck Overseeing event coordination and assisting with hospitality and administration, Sandy facilitates many of our events the Blend, Coffee Fellowships, Foster Care Information Nights. Sandy also helps in coordinating other ministry events to support foster and adoptive families, as well as bring awareness of the plight of orphans and abandoned children! A terrific addition to our team, Sandy wears many hats for our ministry and seeks to educate the church community on how they can meet the needs of the fatherless by staying informed and well-researched regarding issues pertaining to adoption and foster care. Sandy and her husband Michael live with their daughter in NJ.
Ministry Advisor (Family Preservation) - Sheryl Ottenstroer
As the Ministry Advisor, Sheryl Ottenstroer has a focus and a passion for family preservation. Sheryl and her husband Chris seek to serve the orphan through missions and advocacy; focusing on solving the problems that influence the plight of orphans both domestically and around the world. Sheryl has a strength in judgment and advocacy. Sheryl has a keen ability to discern situations and brainstorm with our team on decision making. A devoted friend to Miriam's Heart, Sheryl and her husband Chris (also a Board Member of Miriam's Heart, Inc.) live with their three daughters and their son in Hunterdon County , NJ.
Ministry Advisor (Therapy)- Melissa Carrero
Melissa Carrero is a Speech-Language Pathologist with a license to practice in NJ state and nationally. She provides skilled intervention and therapeutic services for clients who benefit from speech, language, voice, cognitive and swallowing therapy. She has over 15 years experience working to help a people of all ages; including toddlers, pre-schoolers, school-aged children as well as older adults. Melissa has experience working in a variety of settings including home care, schools, out-patient clinics, hospitals and skilled nursing facilities.
Melissa is passionate about her role as a speech therapist to empower and educated her clients and their families in carrying over strategies used in therapy into daily routines in order to improve the overall quality of life for her clients and their families. Melissa lives in Central NJ with her husband and their two elementary school-aged daughters. She loves music, loves to dance and to spent quality time with family; usually playing board games and snuggling on the couch to watch a movie.
Ministry Advisor (Early Childhood Education) - Rachel Janho
Over the past 9 years, Rachel has spent her time interacting with young children, guiding them through development in both the daycare setting and the home setting, as well as in the classroom as an aid. Choosing a career path meant finding the best way to nurture and care for children as they walk through the early stages of life. Rachel’s passion is helping children heal, so they may succeed in their education and in every domain of development. Partnering with adoptive and foster families on their journeys to bring healing to orphans is a goal Rachel is pursuing through Miriam’s Heart. Rachel resides in Central New Jersey, but will be graduating from Summit University of Pennsylvania in December of 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education.
Ministry Advisor (Art Education) – Ifeoma Ejiogu
Ifeoma Ejiogu has an Associates Degree in Education p-12 from Raritan Valley Community College and currently attends Montclair State University, where she is enrolled as a P-12 Fine Arts Education major with a concentration in painting. Ifeoma has been a part of our team from the early development of Miriam’s Heart from the ‘couch ministry’ through to the creation of the professional advisory team! As an Artist, Ifeoma says, “I have come to realize that every moment in life, whether good or bad, creates an opportunity to later revisit, process, or express on canvas…whether a moment or a memory was delightful or harrowing we have the opportunity to portray them as delicate divine moments.” This desire to help our children share their story through art is what makes Ifeoma a true gift to Miriam’s Heart and the children we work with! Ifeoma lives in Somerset, NJ and operates a private art studio appropriately called, “Purpose Studio” in Somerville, NJ more information about Ifeoma and her artwork can be found at: http://artbyifeoma.weebly.com
Ministry Advisor (Occupational Therapy) – Valerie Pena
Valerie Pena is a registered, licensed Occupational therapist with over 30 years of experience in her profession. Her areas of expertise include evaluation and treatment of traumatic hand injuries, developmental disabilities and sensory processing disorders. Valerie has worked in various settings, including hospitals, schools, private practice and long-term care centers. She is certified in the state of NJ to administer modalities, such as TENS, therapeutic ultrasound e-stim and diathermy, and has completed several courses of study involving the therapeutic use of yoga and Pilates in the pediatric population. Valerie has developed multi-sensory programs that have been used successfully in school districts in NY and NJ. Valerie is also a wellness coach, and incorporates her knowledge of clean eating and exercise into her practice.
Valerie enjoys helping others develop improved quality of life and is looking forward to coming alongside adoptive and foster families to help them attain their goals. Valerie is a married mom of 3, and she and her family live in Middlesex County, NJ.
Ministry Advisor (Community Development) – D'Aisha Smith
D’Aisha Smith has been involved in childcare, education, and youth development for over eight years. A 2014 from graduate from Rutgers University, with a Degree in Psychology and focus on Child Development, D’Aisha is an active member and mentor with Urban Impact, which assists at-risk youth from the Tri-State area. D’Aisha has extensive experience working with young people and engaging the community in the implementation and development of programs. D’Aisha works to coordinate youth and children programs with the local government. Studying for her Masters in Professional Studies in Community and Economic Development, D’Aisha is an active blogger for her website, The Virtuous Life, and enjoys anything athletic! D’Aisha lives with her family in central New Jersey.
Ministry Advisor (Social Work & Play Therapy) - Emily Yang
Emily Yang is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a license to practice in NJ. She has been trained in Child Centered Play Therapy and uses play therapy techniques to help children process past trauma and express their feelings. Emily has over 10 years’ experience working with children and families. She currently works as an Intensive In-Home Clinician providing in home therapy to children referred by State agencies in Middlesex County. Emily has long been passionate about helping adoptive and foster families. Her first position post graduate school was as an Adoption Consultant at a large adoption agency where she helped families adopt from China, Vietnam, Colombia and Ethiopia, and she has also completed adoption home studies for five different adoption agencies. Emily worked for four years as a case manager and in-home therapist with a treatment homes program for children in out of home placement. Currently, Emily’s caseload almost always includes foster families and/or families where grandparents are raising their grandchildren. Emily lives in Central NJ with her husband and their two children.