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The Cradle Announces New President and CEO

December 3, 2021—The Cradle’s Board of Directors is excited to announce the organization has a new president and CEO, Jason Friedman, effective January 10, 2022. The Cradle is a nonprofit, licensed child welfare agency providing adoption services, counseling and educational support. Since opening in 1923, The Cradle has facilitated over 16,000 domestic and international adoptions and has been at the forefront of open adoption, African American infant adoption and LGBTQ+ placements.

Jason Friedman & family sitting on the red couch at The Cradle

“When we began our search for a new CEO, we set a high bar of finding a candidate who had served in a variety of leadership roles in the child/family welfare arena, broad ties into the Chicago business community, experience outside the not-for-profit world, and a lived experience that aligns to the diverse constituency groups we serve,” says John Luce, chair of The Cradle Board of Directors.

Friedman has most recently served as executive director of iMentor Chicago, a nonprofit connecting high school students in low-income communities with volunteer mentors. Prior to that, he 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 and is a member of the Illinois Collaboration on Youth (ICOY) Board of Directors.

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.

“Having the honor of serving as the CEO of The Cradle is so much more than the culmination of my nonprofit leadership journey; it is a true full-circle moment for me and my family,” Friedman says. “At The Cradle, I experienced firsthand the deep care and commitment the staff brings to the life-changing work of building and supporting families through adoption, an experience that for my family came with its share of challenges and joys. By far the biggest joy The Cradle introduced us to is our two-year-old son Miles, who spent his first weeks in the Cradle Nursery. I am so excited to be returning to The Cradle to work with our staff, board, and partners to ready this incredible organization for its second century, with even greater impact for children and families.”

An innovator in keeping families healthy and connected, The Cradle is now expanding its therapeutic and educational services to include all families, regardless of how they were formed.

“As child and family specialists, we believe we are uniquely qualified to support all children and families through today’s challenges,” says Board Chair John Luce. “We believe he is the right leader to lay the foundation for our next 100 years. I personally look forward to working with Jason during his transition as well as throughout my tenure as Board Chair.”

  • Jackie Gibson Bio Photo

    Jackie Gibson

    Vice President of Marketing, Brand, and Communications

    Jackie Gibson is a marketing executive, editor, and reporter with proven experience in both for-profit and nonprofit content marketing and brand strategy. She has built marcomm and media relations campaigns from the ground up, for nationwide companies and nonprofits such as UnitedHealthcare, Optum, and Human Good senior living. Prior to working at The Cradle, Jackie built the marketing department at Pillars Community Health, where she was also responsible for branding the organization when it underwent a merger in 2018.

    Jackie holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism with a second major in Religious Studies from Indiana University as well as a Certificate in Nonprofit Leadership from Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. A journalist and kindness-seeker at heart, Jackie has a deep desire to drive positive change through communications. Jackie lives with her husband, young family, and cat Oliver in the western suburbs of Chicago. As a family they love to make art and spend time in nature.

  • 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. Davidson

    LCSW, Co-Director of Adoption and Family Support

    Dana 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.

  • Pamela C. Tancredi, LCSW

    Pam Tancredi

    LCSW, Co-Director of Adoption and Family Support

    Pam 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.  

The Cradle Board of Directors


The Cradle Society

John S. Luce, Chair
Kimberly A. Simonton, Vice Chair
Sarah Van Steenburg, Secretary
Jeffrey Brown, Treasurer

The Cradle Foundation

Joel Solomon, Chair & Treasurer
Phyllis S. Thomas, Secretary

Board Members

Jerry H. Biederman
Penelope Boardman
J’ai Brown
Corry M. Connelly
James G. Connelly III
Jane Cummins
Jeanne E. Enright
Therese Fauerbach
Jessica A. Garascia
Margarita E. Kellen
Julia Paster
Heather A. Kelley
Lawrence H. Rubly
Stephen M. Whisdosh
Ryan Whitacre
​George S. Wilkins