MEET OUR STAFF

WE’RE HERE TO HELP
YOU

We have a devoted team to meet all your adoption needs.

Jeanne Tate Jeanne Tate

Jeanne Tate

Founder & Board President

(Tampa)

Meredith Shepard Meredith Shepard

Meredith Shepard

Executive Director

(Tampa)

Hayley Swyer Hayley Swyer

Hayley Swyer

Intake Coordinator & Older Child Caseworker

(Tampa)

Julia Mister Julia Mister

Julia Mister

Adoptive Parent Coordinator

(Tampa)

Gabriela Nuñez Gabriela Nuñez

Gabriela Nuñez

Program Supervisor

(Naples)

Shannon Howard-Lascari Shannon Howard-Lascari

Shannon Howard-Lascari

Child Study Specialist

(Tampa)

Elizabeth Unruh Elizabeth Unruh

Elizabeth Unruh

Caseworker Assistant

(Tampa)

Natalie Londono Natalie Londono

Natalie Londono

Senior Caseworker

(Orlando)

Amy Nickerson Amy Nickerson

Amy Nickerson

Adoption Caseworker

(Merritt Island)

Erin Emmons Erin Emmons

Erin Emmons

Subsidy Coordinator & Caseworker Assistant

(Orlando)

Amy Dean Amy Dean

Amy Dean

Caseworker Assistant

(Merritt Island)

Raquel Woods Raquel Woods

Raquel Woods

Caseworker Assistant

(Tampa)

Efriam Knight Efriam Knight

Efriam Knight

Marketing Director

(Tampa)

Kristin Petersen Kristin Petersen

Kristin Petersen

Accountant

(Tampa)

James Taylor James Taylor

James Taylor

IT Support Technician

(Tampa)

Stephany Norman Stephany Norman

Stephany Norman

Office Manager

(Tampa)

Janice Kane Janice Kane

Janice Kane

Casework Services

(Coconut Creek)

Mary Wheatley Mary Wheatley

Mary Wheatley

In Loving Memory of Mary Vanessa Antonio Wheatley
September 10, 1975- March 22, 2020

2258

CHILD PLACEMENTS COMPLETED

1527

HOME STUDIES COMPLETED

2655

BIRTHMOTHERS SERVED

Are you pregnant in and looking for info about adoption ?

I’m pregnant and would like to create an adoption plan.
Please text me now.

OUR OFFICE LOCATIONS

TAMPA

418 West Platt Street,
Suite A Tampa,
Florida 33606
Ph: 813-548-3499 | Contact

NAPLES

1000 Tamiami Trail N.,
Suite 501, Naples,
Florida 34102
Ph: 239-420-8222 | Contact

ORLANDO

1604 South Bumby Ave.,
Orlando,
Florida 32806
Ph: 407-305-8050 | Contact

COCONUT CREEK

4580 Briarcliff Lane,
Coconut Creek,
Florida 33066
Ph: 800-GO-ADOPT | Contact

MERRITT ISLAND

360 Tangerine Ave.
Merritt Island,
Florida 32953
Ph: 321-341-5747 | Contact

Heart of Adoptions, Inc. is a licensed, private adoption agency designed to help create families through adoption. We are committed to working with birth parents to find children a forever home.

TOLL FREE
Phone: (754) 253-5684
Text: 754-238-5537

 

Jeanne Tate Jeanne Tate

Jeanne Tate

Founder & Board President

(Tampa)

Jeanne has an extensive and exclusive practice in the area of adoptions and is a member of the prestigious Academy of Adoption and Reproductive Attorneys and the Florida Adoption Council. For many years in a row, Jeanne has been named in The Best Lawyers in America, Florida’s Legal Elite, and Florida Super Lawyer, including as one of the top 100 lawyers in the State of Florida. Over her career, Jeanne has won several prestigious awards including the U.S. Congressional Angel in Adoption Award, the Tampa Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Leader of the Year, the Florida Adoption Council’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the Hillsborough Association for Women Lawyers Achievement Award, the Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award and inclusion in the Martindale-Hubbell Bar Register of Preeminent Women Lawyers. Jeanne has been appointed to serve on the Adoption Law Certification Committee, the Judicial Nominating Procedures Committee, the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Court Nominating Committee and the Florida Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission. Additionally, Jeanne has been an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida College of Law where she taught Adoption Law and Procedure for six years. Jeanne is rated AV Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell, signifying that the legal community ranks her “at the highest level of professional excellence.”

Fun Facts

  • Ice cream: Bern’s Macadamia Nut Ice Cream
  • Hobby: Riding a unicycle
  • Dream car: 1959 Corvette
  • Junk food: Pepperidge Farm Chessmen
  • Food: Italian
Meredith Shepard Meredith Shepard

Meredith Shepard

Executive Director

(Tampa)

Meredith Shepard joined Heart of Adoptions in August 2013 as the Adoptive Parent Coordinator. She works closely with waiting adoptive families handling day-to-day needs and assisting with matching adoptive families to birth families. In July of 2020 Meredith became the Director of Programs for the agency.  As of April of 2022 Meredith is the Executive Director for Heart of Adoptions. She is responsible to coordinate and supervise agency staff, volunteers, and handle day-to-day operational duties. Meredith has worked in the area of social work for over 20 years and has experience working within the fields of child development, adoption, foster care, and developmental disabilities.

Meredith graduated with honors from Eckerd College with a Bachelor of Arts in Human Development and Walden University with a Master of Science in Non-Profit Management & Leadership. She was also a Licensed Massage Therapist prior to obtaining her degree. While born in Ohio, which will always be home, she is also a die-hard hot weather fan and loves nothing more than cruising in her Jeep with the top down and the music loud! She has a son in college and has recently added a new fur-baby “Voodoo” to her home. Meredith can typically be found at Disney on the weekend or enjoying a camping trip and a nice kayak trip down a river when the weather is nice.

Fun Facts

  • Movie: Mary Poppins (the Original)
  • Food: My mom’s homemade buttercream frosting
  • Quote: Everything happens for a reason
  • Favorite Song: Blister in the Sun or Brass Monkey
  • Personal hero: My mom- she raised me- she deserves every award possible as I know I was no easy child!!
Hayley Swyer Hayley Swyer

Hayley Swyer

Intake Coordinator & Older Child Caseworker

(Tampa)

After living in New York for 22 years, Hayley moved to Florida where she graduated from The University of Tampa in 2017 with a Bachelor’s in Psychology and a Minor in Communications. After working at a media agency straight out of college and realizing that wasn’t for her, she landed a job where she was able to fulfill her passion of working with children and helping others as a Case Manager in Hillsborough County.

After obtaining her Child Welfare Case Manager Certification and working in Hillsborough County for 2 years, she accepted a role in Pinellas County where she worked as a Case Manager Supervisor overseeing a team of 5 case managers and about 400 children in the Dependency System. Being able to be a part of a life-changing opportunity for adoptive parents and the joy of seeing children find their forever families led her to this position at Heart of Adoptions as an Intake Coordinator and Older Child Caseworker.

Fun Facts

  • Favorite Food: I love anything chocolate.
  • Pets: I have 2 rescue pups, Lily and Lila. Lila is a tripod!
  • Favorite place I’ve traveled: Greece
  • Bucket List Travel Destination: Maldives
Julia Mister Julia Mister

Julia Mister

Adoptive Parent Coordinator

(Tampa)

Julia joined Heart of Adoptions, Inc. in July 2019 as the Marketing and Community Outreach Coordinator. In July 2020, she took on Caseworker Assistant responsibilities with the Home Study and Adoptive Parent Departments. As of February 2022, Julia is now the Adoptive Parent Coordinator! Julia loves working directly with adoptive families, helping them complete their family!

Julia graduated with honors from Towson University with a bachelor’s degree in Family and Human Services.

Fun Facts

  • Personal hero: My parents
  • Guilty Pleasure: Taking a nap
  • Ice Cream: Coffee with toffee
  • Band/Musician: Thomas Rhett
  • TV Show: Anything reality tv
Gabriela Nuñez Gabriela Nuñez

Gabriela Nuñez

Program Supervisor

(Naples)

Gabriela Nuñez joined Heart of Adoptions, Inc. in June 2006 as an Adoption Caseworker Assistant.  Gabriela is now the Program Supervisor for the Naples satellite office.  She works closely with birth mothers handling their day-to-day needs, monitoring their medical care and overall well-being.  Additionally, she coordinates the interaction between adoptive parents and birth parents.  She has previous experience working with youth in a parenting program, as well as experience in both domestic and international adoptions, specifically working internationally with Guatemala.

Gabriela obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Florida Gulf Coast University in 2013.

Fun Facts

  • What brought me to adoption:  It runs in the family!  My mother was an adoption coordinator for international adoptions and my grandmother ran a domestic adoption agency.  I grew up surrounded by adoption, especially since I am adopted, along with my six sisters.  My aunt and uncle are also adopted.
  • TV show: Greys Anatomy
  • Restaurant: Cheesecake Factory
  • Candy: Skittles and Starbursts
  • Place: Disney World
Shannon Howard-Lascari Shannon Howard-Lascari

Shannon Howard-Lascari

Child Study Specialist

(Tampa)

Shannon graduated from University of South Florida in 2007 with a Bachelors Degree in Psychology. She started working in Child Welfare immediately after graduating college as a Case Manager, where she worked with children and families involved in the Dependency System. Shannon worked as a Case Manager for four years before transitioning into a Family Adoption Specialist, where she worked with adoptive families looking to adopt from foster care. Shannon eventually worked for the lead agency providing technical assistance, support, and oversight to the case management agencies in Pinellas and Pasco Counties. Wanting to gain management experience, Shannon then went to work for a Hillsborough community based care organization as an Assistant Program Director where she was responsible for three case management supervisors, 25 case managers, and provided direct oversight on cases involving approximately 600 children in the Dependency System.

Shannon’s passion for adoption and creating families through adoption led her to Heart of Adoptions where she joined the adoptions team in February 2018 as a Senior Case Worker and Intake Coordinator. In her role, she worked directly with birth mothers conducting intake interviews, screening birth parents, and matched adoption applicants. In August 2021, Shannon transitioned into a new role writing child studies for the Community Based Care agencies. Shannon’s knowledge and background in Child Welfare and continued desire for children to find permanency serve her well in this role. Shannon hopes to grow this position by securing more contracts throughout the state of Florida.

Fun Facts

  • Band/Musician: Bon Jovi
  • Bucket List Travel Destination: If I could make it through the plane ride, I would go to South Africa.
  • Sports Team: Auburn (War Eagle)
  • Quote: Early is on time, and on time is late.
  • Memory with spouse or child: One of my favorite memories, was our gender reveal party. It was so great to celebrate with friends and family and learning we were having a daughter and watching my husband’s reaction was just priceless. We obviously knew we were pregnant, but I feel like in that moment, it became real.
Elizabeth Unruh Elizabeth Unruh

Elizabeth Unruh

Caseworker Assistant

(Tampa)

Elizabeth originally joined Heart of Adoptions in 2008 as an Administrative Assistant. After the birth of her son, she took some time off to be a stay-at-home mom. She then returned in 2016 as an Adoptive Parent Casework Assistant, primarily assisting the Home Study Department; she now primarily assists the Adoptive Parent Department.

In her time off, Elizabeth stays busy watching her son play baseball and taking her daughter to swim practice. She and her family live in Brandon, Florida, and love trying out new restaurants, going to the beach, and having family movie nights on the couch.

Fun Facts

  • Favorite Movie: 90’s romcoms
  • Favorite Food: Pizza
  • Favorite Band: Kings of Leon
Natalie Londono Natalie Londono

Natalie Londono

Senior Caseworker

(Orlando)

Natalie Londono joined Heart of Adoptions, Inc. in December 2012 as an Adoption Casework Assistant. Natalie was later promoted to Adoption Caseworker and began working closely with birth mothers handling their day-to-day needs, monitoring their medical care and overall well-being. As of March 2022, Natalie has accepted the role of Senior Caseworker.  Additionally, Natalie conducts home studies and post-placement supervision in the Orlando area.

Natalie obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work at Florida Gulf Coast University in 2013.

Fun Facts

Why you picked to work in adoptions?
I don’t think I chose to work in adoption, I believe adoption chose me. From early on in life, adoption was something so common and natural. I have experienced so many great adoption stories; my maternal grandfather was adopted at a young age, my paternal grandparents provided foster care through the State of Florida, my family adopted my brother when I was 6, my husband was adopted, and we adopted our beautiful daughter. Without adoption, my life as I know it, would not exist. I feel honored to walk this path with the wonderful birth parents and adoptive families that come my way.

  • Childhood memory: Summers with my family on Anna Maria Island
  • Quote: “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”
Amy Nickerson Amy Nickerson

Amy Nickerson

Adoption Caseworker

(Merritt Island)

Amy Nickerson joined Heart of Adoptions in June 2018 as an Adoption Caseworker. She works closely with the birth mothers handling their day-to-day needs, monitoring medical care and overall well-being. She also conducts home studies and post placement supervision. Her prior experience is 10 years in the child welfare system as a child protective investigator, senior child protective investigator and dependency case manager in both Florida and Massachusetts. She has two children adopted internationally from Guatemala and is herself and adoptee.

Amy graduated from University of Massachusetts Boston in 1999 with a B.S. in Psychology and in 2000 with a M.A. Certification in Forensic Services. She is currently enrolled at University of Massachusetts Boston obtaining a master’s level Addiction Counselor Education Program (ACEP) certificate.

Fun Facts

  • Place: Boston
  • Hobby: acting and modeling
  • Why you picked to work in adoptions?: My dad is adopted. I am adopted. I have two children adopted from Guatemala.
  • Sports Team: New England Patriots
  • Childhood memory: camping on the beach on Cape Cod every summer
Erin Emmons Erin Emmons

Erin Emmons

Subsidy Coordinator & Caseworker Assistant

(Orlando)

Erin was born and raised in Michigan.  She obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology while attending Michigan State University. She also has a Master’s degree in Human Resources Development from Western Michigan University.

She and her husband love traveling and recently decided to make Orlando their new home.  In her spare time, she enjoys reading, baking, traveling, being out on the water, and hiking with pets.

Fun Facts

  • Personal Hero: RBG.
  • Favorite Candy: Swedish Fish.
  • Hidden Talent: I make unique & delicious cupcakes.
  • Favorite Movie:  Forest Gump or PS I Love You.  I could watch either one over and over.
  • Dream Vacation Location: I would love to visit space one day!
Amy Dean Amy Dean

Amy Dean

Caseworker Assistant

(Merritt Island)

Amy joined Heart of Adoptions Inc. in January 2016 in our Merritt Island office. Prior to this she was an Adoption Assistant for another Florida adoption agency and has worked in the industry for over 15 years. She works closely with birth mothers handling their day-to-day needs, monitoring their medical care and overall well-being. She graduated from Rockledge High School and has an AA degree from Brevard Community College. Amy has 3 children and uses her experiences as both an adoptee and an adoptive parents to serve and support our clients. She brings with her a wealth of knowledge

Fun Facts

  • Dream Car: Jaguar
  • Childhood memory: Turning our house into a movie theater for my birthday
  • Candy: Whoppers
  • Actress: Sandra Bullock
  • Movie: Pretty Woman
Raquel Woods Raquel Woods

Raquel Woods

Caseworker Assistant

(Tampa)

Raquel and her family moved to Tampa from Los Angeles during the pandemic. According to Raquel, “I am interested in working for Heart of Adoptions because my husband and I are adoptive parents.”

She and her husband Jeffry have two children.  As avid beachgoers her entire family is  excited to explore everything the Tampa Bay Area has to offer.  We’re happy to welcome Raquel and her family to the team!

Fun Facts

  • Personal Fact:  “A little fact about me is my passion for acting! I’ve been in a few movies and tv shows.”
  • Nickname:  Roxxy.
  • Hobbies:  Traveling, attending plays and reading.
  • Guilty Pleasure:  Amusement parks!
Efriam Knight Efriam Knight

Efriam Knight

Marketing Director

(Tampa)

As our Director of Marketing & Business Development, Efriam Knight is passionate about promoting purpose-driven, client-centered organizations.  At Heart of Adoptions, Inc., Efriam helps connect birth parents, adoptive parents, and the community to the Agency’s dedicated staff.

Fun Facts

  • Sports: Loves all things FSU. Go Noles!
  • Hobbies: Board games. Hiking. Cooking.
  • Food: Yes, please!
  • Random fact: Watches an episode of Star Trek every week.
  • Favorite Movie:  **Hint:  “It’s not who you are underneath.  It’s what you do that defines you.”
  • Dream Superpower: Teleportation.
Kristin Petersen Kristin Petersen

Kristin Petersen

Accountant

(Tampa)

Kristin joined Heart of Adoptions, Inc. in February 2020 as the Accounting and Executive Assistant. Kristin graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. She brings over ten years of administrative experience to our team. As an adoptive parent of two wonderful sons, Kristin is passionate about adoption and loves her role with Heart of Adoptions, Inc.

Fun Facts

  • Place to spend $100: Target
  • Favorite candy: Chocolate
  • Favorite Place: Beach
  • Favorite Color: Purple
James Taylor James Taylor

James Taylor

IT Support Technician

(Tampa)

James Taylor joined Heart of Adoptions, Inc. in June 2017 as the in house IT support technician. James primarily acts as the IT support technician between our adoption agency and our legal team. He is responsible for hardware and software related issues.James is also responsible for various IT related task.

Fun Facts

  • Magazine: MIT Technology Review
  • Personal hero: Elon Musk
  • Movie quote: I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.
  • Hobby: fishing
  • Band: Five Finger Death Punch
Stephany Norman Stephany Norman

Stephany Norman

Office Manager

(Tampa)

Stephany was born and raised in Colombia.  She moved to Boston at the age of 17 to pursue her education. She graduated From Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and a Minor in Healthcare Administration.

Stephany has years of experience working effectively in organizational management, strategic implementation, and company collaboration.  She is committed to helping others through team building.  Each day she contributes a wealth of knowledge and skills as part of the beautiful process of changing lives.

Fun Facts

  • avorite Quote:  “One of the burdens of leadership is that as we go, so go the people we lead. Reaching our potential sets an environment for others to reach theirs.” – John Maxwell
  • Food:  Seafood.  All-day long!
  • Hobbies:  Reading books, shopping, traveling
  • Guilty Pleasure:  Molten Chocolate Cake
Janice Kane Janice Kane

Janice Kane

Casework Services

(Coconut Creek)

Janice joined Heart of Adoptions in Feburary 2015, when our Broward County satellite office opened. Prior to that she did freelance work for our agency on an as-needed basis. She acts as an agency representative and handles consents, releases, discharges, notaries, general office and administrative tasks. She graduated from Broward College in 2003 with an AA degree. Janice was born in Broward County and has never lived elsewhere. She has four children and uses those experiences to relate to both birth and adoptive families. She has been on the school PTA board for 4 years, a Girl Scout Leader for 7 and a school volunteer for 30 years.

Mary Wheatley Mary Wheatley

Mary Wheatley

In Loving Memory of Mary Vanessa Antonio Wheatley
September 10, 1975- March 22, 2020

Mary Antonio Wheatley was the executive director of Heart of Adoptions, Inc. from June of 2012 until her untimely passing on March 22, 2020.  Mary  truly put the “heart” in Heart of Adoptions, Inc. Serving as the agency’s Executive Director was so much more than a job to her, it was her true calling and she was deeply passionate about her work. Mary dedicated her career to working tirelessly at all hours of the day and night to help form families through adoption, just as she and her husband lovingly created theirs. It was her personal experience of adopting her two daughters that made Mary vulnerable, approachable, and relatable, making her a true guardian angel for many of our clients. Not only was she treasured by the clients she served, but also by the agency and law firm staff with whom she worked. Mary was constantly checking in with everyone, in good times and bad, in sickness and in health, to support, counsel, encourage, rally and celebrate her staff. She shared the best advice, offered positive words of encouragement, and lead by example.  Mary was also highly coveted as the driving force behind the yearly Florida Adoption Council Conference. Boy oh boy, could she throw a great event! Whether she was planning a themed birthday party for one of her daughters, a birth mother luncheon at the office, or a statewide conference, Mary gave 150% of herself, assuring each detail was covered to a tee.

In addition to her profound professional contribution to the adoption community, Mary was personally committed to improving the lives of anyone with whom she came in contact. She was always interested in what others were going through and how she could help improve their situation. Anyone that had the privilege of having Mary as a friend most certainly had a friend for life. Mary was extremely loyal, abundantly generous, devoted and dedicated to her friends and family.  Anyone that knew Mary also knew how much she adored her family. Her already exuberant smile somehow doubled when Mary spoke fondly of her husband and daughters. She was also deeply devoted to her parents, who predeceased her. Mary attributed her stellar parenting skills from having learned from the very best and remained deeply grateful for her upbringing. Mary was well known for telling detailed stories and when she shared stories of her mom or dad, she did so with such adoration. Mostly her family stories centered around tradition. This common theme was passed down from her parents and Mary was dedicated to providing the same to her children. She thrived on holiday traditions, Greek traditions, and any tradition that honored her parents. While Mary loved nothing more than being a mother, the only solace we have is that Mary is now with her parents, watching over Joe and the girls and guiding them from afar.

Mary’s smile, laughter, and heart of gold will forever be missed, and she will never be forgotten. While the hearts at Heart of Adoptions, Inc. are completely shattered by this loss, we intend to keep Mary’s legacy alive by honoring her through the work we do, and the love we do it with and providing an annual adoption grant in her memory. We are all better humans for having known Mary and we will take the genuine love she offered us all and continue to pay it forward, so that her loving memory can continue to make the world a better place.