Who We Are
  • Kim Perez

    President, CEO

    Kim joined The Cradle on December 1, 2016 as President and Chief Executive Officer, responsible for bolstering the organization’s capacity to continue leading the way in services for building and strengthening families for years to come. 

    She has extensive non-profit and social service experience, most recently as the Executive Director of People’s Resource Center, a non-profit in Wheaton serving low-income families. Kim spearheaded that organization's expansion and capital campaign for a new, permanent facility in Westmont to serve the low-income community in the southeast region of DuPage County.

    Prior to her 6+ years at People’s Resource Center, Kim held several leadership positions at the social services agency Lifelink. Kim spent twelve years at Lifelink and served as their Vice President of Child and Family Services. In that role she directed all the operations for the division, including Foster Care, Intact Family Services, Head Start, Healthy Families, as well as the agency’s international adoption programs.

    Originally from Iowa, Kim has a Master’s degree in social work from Loyola University Chicago. She, her husband and son reside in the Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago.

  • Nijole Yutkowitz

    Nijole Yutkowitz

    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 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.

  • Simone Wheeler

    Vice President of Development

    Simone Wheeler brings over fifteen years of fund development and philanthropic innovation, primarily in human services and child welfare. Simone has served as the Director of Development for The Children’s Advocacy Center, where she led a Major Gifts Program to the agency, which resulted in the launch of a new Prevention Program in 2018 and a balanced budget for CAC’s Safe from The Start program after a significant state funding cut in late 2016.

    Simone holds the designation Certified Fundraising Executive (C.F.R.E.) qualification after completing professional practice and performance requirements and passing a comprehensive exam on fundraising best practice. The C.F.R.E. is the only accredited, globally recognized certification for fundraising professionals.
    Originally from England, Simone has a Bachelors Degree in German & Russian from Leeds University. She lives with her husband, young family, and rescue dog Molly in the northwest suburbs and is passionate about fitness. Together with her son, Simone started horse riding lessons last year. She quickly learnt riding requires patience, perserverance, focus and humor, not dissimilar to fundraising work.

  • Dana T. Mulhall

    LCSW, Clinical Supervisor of Expectant Parent Services

    Dana began at The Cradle in 2000, first as a birth parent counselor and then as an adoptive parent counselor. Dana now supervises the team of counselors who work with expectant parents considering adoption and birth parents. She enjoys supporting the work of the counselors as they support their clients. She is also a facilitator of adoptive parent educational workshops. Dana received her Bachelor of Arts in Social Work from Catholic University in 1998 and Master of Social Work degree in 2000 from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the State of Illinois.

  • Ashley Akiyama

    LCSW, Cradle Counselor

    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.

  • Arletta Barbel

    MA, Cradle Counselor

    Ever since her experience as a peer mentor in the Big Brother/Big Sister program, Arletta knew she enjoyed mentoring and offering support. Before coming to The Cradle, she worked as a Crisis Counselor at Chicago Youth Centers and as a respite worker at Metropolitan Family Services. Arletta received her Bachelor's Degree from Southern Illinois University and her master's degree from National Louis University.

  • Corinne Ferguson

    LCSW, Adoption Counselor

    Corinne received her Master’s degree in Social Work with a clinical concentration in Child and Family Therapy from Loyola University, where she also received her Bachelor’s in Social Work. She also has advanced training in group facilitation. Before coming to The Cradle, Corinne helped prepare families for adoption as a Case Manager. Her previous experience also includes youth advocacy in the Illinois court system.

    Prior to becoming a social worker, Corinne spent nine years working in the healthcare field in a hospital setting and a small private practice on the north shore.

  • Nina M. Friedman

    LCSW, Director of Post Adoption Support

    Nina has an in depth understanding of adoption issues. She 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.

  • Dori Fujii

    LCSW, Adoption Therapist

    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.

    To schedule an appointment with Dori please call 847-733-3225 or fill out our online form.

    Read more about Dori on Psychology Today.

  • Katie Gattone

    MSW, Adoption Counselor

    Katie 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.

  • Meg Hopps

    LCSW, Cradle Counselor

    Meg has been an expectant parent counselor at The Cradle since 2012.  Prior to coming to The Cradle she received her bachelor’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 in the State of Illinois. 

  • Carmen Knight

    MS MFT, Adoption Counselor

    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, Adoption Counselor

    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. 

  • Jennifer Rogers

    LCSW, Cradle Counselor

    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 Bachelors of Psychology and her Masters of Social Work from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

  • Kathy Santangelo

    Adoption Counselor

    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.  

  • Pam Tancredi

    LCSW, Cradle Counselor

    Pam has many years of social service work, from helping children build self esteem to counseling young adults to reach their community and educational goals. As a Cradle counselor, Pam uses her experience to work closely with clients as they explore adoption for their child. Pam received her bachelor's degree from Miami University and her master's degree from the University of Chicago.

The Cradle Board of Directors 

  • President & CEO
  • Kimberley C. Perez
  • Officers and Directors
  • Jerry H. Biederman, Chair
  • Talita R. Erickson, Secretary
  • Kimberly A. Simonton, Treasurer
  • Angela S. Ames
  • Jason D. Asper
  • Penelope Boardman
  • Jeff Brown
  • Eric L. Conley
  • James G. Connelly III
  • Jane Cummins
  • Jeanne E. Enright
  • Jessica A. Garascia
  • Anna Marie Hajek
  • Margarita E. Kellen
  • Heather A. Kelley
  • John S. Luce
  • Lawrence H. Rubly
  • Barbara S. Sereda
    • Cradle Foundation Board of Directors
    • Joel E. Solomon, Chair/Treasurer
    • Phyllis S. Thomas, Secretary
    • Therese K. Fauerbach