Meet Our Caring Staff
The Cradle employs 60 seasoned adoption, nursing, counseling and administrative professionals. Several of our staff have worked at the organization for more than 20 years. We are deeply invested in the work of adoption, mental health and community education.
President and CEO
Prior to joining The Cradle in January 2021, Jason Friedman served as executive director of iMentor Chicago, a nonprofit connecting high school students in low-income communities with volunteer mentors. He also previously held senior leadership roles in Chicago and Washington, D.C. nonprofits, serving in development and communications roles for such organizations as One Hope United and The SEED Foundation. Friedman started his career as a TV news reporter, and his work was recognized with the National Edward R. Murrow Award. He holds a BA in Political Science and Journalism from Emory University.
Friedman and his wife, PBS Chicago Tonight host Brandis Friedman, have been part of the Cradle Family for years. They have two children, Blake and Miles, and Miles was adopted at The Cradle.
Chief Financial Officer
Damika Hayden is excited to begin serving with the team and partners in her new role with The Cradle. She has more than 20 years of professional experience with a diverse background in accounting, finance, banking, and insurance. Prior to joining The Cradle, Damika served as the Chief Financial and Operating Officer for LINK Unlimited Scholars where she was responsible for financial administration, facilities management, human resources, and IT operations. Damika’s career also included working with the Evangelical Church in America, Chubb Insurance, and State Farm Insurance where she successfully helped to launch the State Farm Bank now offering banking products with an alliance with U.S. Bank.
Damika holds a Bachelor of Science in Finance from Illinois State University and a Master of Public Administration with an emphasis in Nonprofit Management from DeVry University Keller Graduate School of Management.
Born and raised in Chicago, Damika is an advocate for the need for community-based help in raising healthy productive children. She continues to be a youth mentor and is a monthly sign language interpreter at her church. Damika is a writer who also enjoys relaxing with a delightful book and a caramel macchiato. She and her husband are the proud parents of two amazing children.
Vice President of Development
Over the last fifteen years, Kristina Lederer has served in leadership roles to help create impactful organizational growth for domestic and international nonprofits. Most recently, Kristina served as the Director of Development of Kakenya’s Dream, a nonprofit organization that empowers girls from severely underserved communities in rural Kenya through educational, health, and leadership initiatives and combats harmful traditional practices such as female genital mutilation and early marriage. In her role, she developed and implemented the organization’s annual fundraising strategy, established a donor giving program and corresponding donor stewardship plan to maintain a strong retention rate year-after-year, and managed a pipeline of institutional funders and prospects to increase organizational sustainability.
Prior to Kakenya’s Dream, she served as the Executive Director of WildlifeDirect and the Director of Development of Advancing Girls’ Education in Africa. Having begun her career as a middle school teacher, Kristina transitioned to nonprofit development at the National Kidney Foundation, eventually living in Uganda to focus on fundraising and program development to improve children’s access to education. Kristina currently serves as a Board Member for 200 Orphanages Worldwide and has consulted with domestic nonprofits across a range of missions.
Kristina is excited to draw from her own experience as an adoptee to build upon The Cradle’s impressive foundation and help deepen the impact in the community. Originally from Maryland, Kristina moved to Chicago in 2019 where she enjoys volunteering with Urban Rivers, urban hikes with her dog, and sharing her passion for travel and the outdoors with her husband and 8-month-old son.
Interim Vice President of Development
Vice President of Community Outreach & Education
Nijole joined The Cradle in 2011 with responsibilities for both The Cradle Foundation and The Sayers Center. Nijole works to educate the African American community about adoption & recruit more African American families to adopt. She also provides on-going support and opportunities for connection to all families who have adopted African American children. Another primary responsibility is raising funds to support The Cradle with an emphasis on The Sayers Center Program. In this role Nijole is responsible for identifying new major donors, soliciting African American owned companies and corporations and increasing gifts among existing Sayers Center families.
Prior to coming to the Cradle, Nijole spent nearly 30 years in sales in the corporate sector, working with a number of magazine wholesale and publishing companies including NewsCorp, Time Warner and Johnson Publishing Company. Nijole received her B.A. in Psychology from Chicago State University. Nijole and husband Larry are the proud parents of Taylor and Cradle baby Harrison.
Director of Human Resources
Director of Marketing and Communications
For over 10 years, Brittany has helped brands and companies celebrate their mission, milestones, and services with authentic digital storytelling and marketing tactics. She gained experience in PR for some of the most trailblazing international agencies and went on to strategize communications, digital and event planning for non-profits, entrepreneurs, and global associations. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Advertising and a Master’s Degree in Integrated Marketing Communications.
Why I Love the Cradle…
I believe in The Cradle’s mission and wanted to be a part of something that strengthens, grows, and builds families.
CO-DIRECTOR OF ADOPTION AND FAMILY SUPPORT
Dana T. Davidson LCSW
Dana Davidson joined The Cradle in 2000 and was instrumental in the formation of The Cradle’s relationship with Planned Parenthood. She has held several positions over the years including Birth Parent Counselor, Adoptive Parent Counselor and Clinical Supervisor of Expectant Parent Services. Dana began her current role in December 2020, overseeing the quality and integrity of the services delivered to clients at The Cradle, with direct supervision of Adoptive Parent Services and The Cradle’s on-site infant nursery. Dana earned her Bachelor of Arts in Social Work from Catholic University and Master of Social Work degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Co-Director of Adoption and Family Support
Pamela C. Tancredi, LCSW
Pam Tancredi has an over 25-year career in child welfare. She earned her Master’s degree from the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. Prior to joining The Cradle in 2000, Pam worked with children and adolescents in residential treatment and independent living settings. At The Cradle Pam has held several roles over the years, including Birth Parent Counselor, Supervisor of Birth Parent Services and Helpline Coordinator. She began her current role in December 2020, overseeing the quality and integrity of the services delivered to clients at The Cradle, with direct supervision of Expectant Parent Services and Post Adoption Services.
Director of Post Adoption Support
Nina Friedman, LCSW
Nina Friedman has extensive experience working with adoptive and foster children and their families, adult adoptees, and birth parents. Prior to joining The Cradle’s staff, she worked with adoptive and foster families at Lutheran Social Services of Illinois and Community Counseling Centers of Chicago. She also had a private social work therapy practice working with individuals, couples, and families.
Nina has a Master of Social Work degree from Washington University in St. Louis with a concentration in Mental Health and a specialization in Family Therapy. As an undergraduate, she majored in Psychology with a minor in Family Relations and Human Development at The Ohio State University. Nina is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the State of Illinois, has her DCFS Child Welfare Employee Licensure and is a Licensed Direct Child Welfare Services Employee.
She represents The Cradle on the Illinois Adoption Registry-Confidential Intermediary Advisory Council, the Illinois Post Legal Adoption Services Meeting of Agencies, the Original Birth Certificate Access Oversight Committee, and the Stakeholder Advisory Team for the National Quality Improvement Center for Adoption and Guardianship Support and Preservation.
Director of Adoption Learning Partners
Noreen holds a Bachelor of Science in Education from Northwestern University with a concentration in History. Before joining The Cradle, she worked for Northwestern University’s Institute for the Learning Sciences, the for-profit company Cognitive Arts (a division of NIIT), and Lake Point Interactive with The Cradle as her primary client.
She has spent 30 years designing and developing training for corporations, nonprofits, schools, and universities.
At The Cradle, Noreen has been with Adoption Learning Partners (ALP) for eighteen years. ALP is The Cradle’s e-learning social enterprise which has served prospective and adoptive parents, and adoption professionals for twenty years. Under the Education and Engagement umbrella, ALP has expanded to include parents of all children and all professionals who work with children through the Our Children offerings and Professional Outreach.
As Director of Adoption Learning Partners, Noreen manages a staff of two and oversees Operations which includes content design and development, client relations, customer service, and site infrastructure. Noreen served on the Leadership Committee and on the employee recognition committee
Why I Love the Cradle…
I help people across the globe form their families! Being prepared makes for a better outcome. We have offered asynchronous online training for twenty years allowing a generation of learners access to experts and education.
Director, Education and Engagement
Education and Engagement Program Manager, Kikanza Harris joined The Cradle in 2018 and leads programming for the Our Children Education and Empowerment Series, virtual and in-person education events related to identity, inclusion, and cultural diversity.
Kikanza previously served as Community Engagement Manager, responsible for building awareness of The Cradle within underserved communities and Corporate Relations and Events Manager. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from Illinois State University and has worked in nonprofit marketing, fundraising, and public relations for more than 20 years.
Kikanza is passionate about doing work that is mission-driven and driving solutions to inequity and empowerment.
Katie Gattone, MSW
Katie Gattone has over 16 years of experience working in the field of social work. She has worked with foster and adoptive families throughout her career with experience completing subsidized adoptions and special needs adoptions. Katie also has experience in licensing and post adoption services. She has a Master’s in Social Work from University of Illinois-Chicago, Jane Addams College of Social Work. Katie enjoys being a part of a fabulous team at The Cradle and helping build families through adoption.
Ashley Akiyama, LCSW
Before joining The Cradle, Ashley earned her Master’s degree in Social Work from the School of Social Service Administration at The University of Chicago. During this time, Ashley completed internships within adoption and children’s grief therapy. Most recently, Ashley worked in a community mental health setting, counseling teens and young adults, and providing coaching and support in their transition to adulthood and independent living. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.
Expectant Parent Counselor
Arletta Barbel, MA
Ever since her experience as a peer mentor in the Big Brother/Big Sister program, Arletta Barbel new she enjoyed mentoring and offering support. Before coming to The Cradle, Arletta worked as a Crisis Counselor at Chicago Youth Centers and as a respite worker at Metropolitan Family Services. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from Southern Illinois University and her Master’s Degree from National Louis University.
Adoption Counselor and Post-Adoption Therapist
Dori Fujii, LCSW
Dori Fujii is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has worked in the field of public and private child welfare and adoption since receiving her Master of Social Work degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana. She has consulted with DCFS in their pre- and post-adoptive services programs and since 1997 and has worked at The Cradle with families adopting domestically and internationally.
Dori has specialized training in attachment focused, trauma-informed treatment modalities and is a registered Circle of Security® Parent Educator and registered TBRI® Practitioner. She has particular interest in helping parents find effective ways of understanding, communicating and connecting with their children and teens. Her approach is practical and relationship oriented. She stresses the importance of being aware of how past experiences play a role in shaping the thoughts, feelings and actions of all members of the adoption circle.
Expectant Parent Counselor
Meg Hopps, LCSW
Meg Hopps has been an expectant parent counselor at The Cradle since 2012. Prior to coming to The Cradle she received her Bahelor’s Degree from Marquette University, with a double major in social welfare and justice and sociology and a minor in family studies. She received her Master’s Degree in Social Work from Loyola University Chicago with a specialization in children and families. In addition to Meg’s experience working with birth parents, she has experience in adoption through the foster care system, providing therapy to children who were adopted, and working with adoptive parents. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Adoption Counselor & Adoptive Parent Intake Coordinator
Carmen Knight, MS, MFT
Carmen has been working in the adoption field since 2006. Before joining the Cradle, she worked with both Bridge Communications, Inc. in Chicago, and The Ties Program-Adoptive Family Travel in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She also interned as a therapist at the International Adoption Clinic at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Some of Carmen’s past experiences in the adoption field include working at culture camps and adoptee camps, leading classes and seminars on adoption topics at various conferences and for adoption agencies, speaking on panels, helping families prepare logistically and emotionally for touring their child’s country of birth, emotionally supporting families doing birth searches and reunions, and working with adoptive families as a therapist. Carmen earned her Bachelor’s Degree from Knox College in Social Science Education and Secondary Education, and her Master’s Degree from Edgewood College in Marriage and Family Therapy.
Lorrin Potts, MSW
Lorrin has worked in the adoption field since 2011. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and her Master’s Degree in Social Work with a concentration in Children, Youth, and Families from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Prior to joining The Cradle, Lorrin worked as an Adoptive Parent Counselor, Expectant Parent Counselor, and Post-Adoption Specialist at an adoption agency in Wisconsin. She also worked for the Resource Link Children’s Mental Health Program with the Children’s Hospital of Illinois and completed an internship in Early Intervention Services. Lorrin chose to pursue a career in social work in order to work in the adoption field, and she is excited to continue her career at The Cradle.
Expectant Parent Counselor
Jennifer Rogers, LCSW
Jennifer has extensive experience in a wide variety of areas, from providing clinical advice to attorneys to running parents’ and children’s support groups. She has also worked in private practice as a therapist and supervised child care programs. Jennifer received her Bachelor’s of Psychology and her Master’s of Social Work from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Kathy has worked in the social service arena for over 25 years. She has worked in the adoption field for the last 20 years, both in the public and private sectors. Kathy has several years of experience working with families adopting medically complex children through the foster care system. She also has experience with expectant parent counseling, domestic infant adoption and international adoption. Kathy received her degree from Northern Illinois University in Family Social Services. Kathy has truly found her passion in assisting families as they navigate their adoption journeys.
Administrative Assistant, Adoption Learning Partners
Resource and Support Specialist
Building Maintenance/ Driver
Senior Charge Nurse
Lisa Printen, RN
HR and Client Services Assistant
Originally from Wisconsin, Mike moved to Chicago about 30 years ago from the Twin Cities. He is a professional singer with the Chicago Symphony Chorus, and a teacher at the Old Town School of Folk Music. In addition to extensive work in church music, he has also done administrative work for several churches, and most recently the Music Institute of Chicago.
Violet has many years of experience with fundraising for non-profit agencies as well as for her alma mater, Michigan State University.