About Us

Introducing Beginnings

Want to Learn About Beginnings Family Services?  Beginnings is a non-profit, faith-based agency providing pregnancy counselling and adoption services as well as embryo donation services to clients of all ethnic backgrounds, religious affiliations and walks of life.

Beginnings Family Services

What We Offer

Free pregnancy counselling

Open adoption services

Interim foster care

Education, prenatal and parenting programs

Reunion counselling

Open embryo donation services

Community referrals

Post adoption counselling


In the conviction that life is a gift from God, Beginnings mission is to provide services related to pregnancy and adoption.


Beginnings approach is child centred dedicated to building and supporting healthy family relationships. Beginnings  offers quality, non judgmental services to everyone, does not participate in political action, and is committed to the concept of openness.

Head Office

Organizational Makeup

Beginnings is composed of a central Head Office and four Local Offices in Northumberland, Guelph, Hamilton, and Woodstock in Ontario.

Beginnings Head office is exclusively responsible for:

  • Service provision oversight
  • Branding and communication
  • Government relations and License holder
  • Financial administration, regulation, and oversight

Beginnings Hamilton Local Office is exclusively responsible for:

  • Education
  • Family support
  • Pregnancy counselling
  • Adoption services
  • Embryo Donation services
  • Infertility counselling services

Beginnings Northumberland, Guelph, Hamilton and Woodstock Local Offices are commonly responsible for:

  • Pregnancy testing and counselling
  • Parenting and family support programs
  • Care cupboard
  • Local governance, management, communication, administration

For more information about Beginnings Local Offices click here.

Local Office

Advisory Committee

Each Beginnings Local Office is supported by an elected Advisory Committee whose members serve 3 year terms and are responsible for:

  • Service provision and reporting
  • Brand communication, implementation and reporting
  • Policy implementation and reporting
  • Financial administration and reporting  – business practices & local fundraising


Local Office

Management Teams

Beginnings’ Local Offices are managed by HQ-appointed Directors who report to the Beginnings Executive Director.

  • Angela Vanderwoude, Director, Beginnings Guelph, Pregnancy Care Centre
  • Tineke DeJong, Director, Beginnings Northumberland, Pregnancy Care Centre
  • Joyce Schultz, Director, Beginnings Woodstock, Pregnancy Care Centre

For more information about Beginnings Local Offices click here.

Meet Beginnings

Management Team

Board of Directors

Beginnings is governed by an elected Board whose members serve 3 year terms and are responsible for:

  • Herman Praamsma, BA, BD
    Herman Praamsma, BA, BD M.Div - Chair

    Herman attended Calvin College and Seminary.  He holds ordination in the Christian Reformed Church and served churches across Canada – in Waterdown, Toronto, Edmonton, Toronto, Brampton and Holland Christian Homes prior to retiring in 2010.   Herman has served as Campus Chaplain at York, as a Prison Chaplain at Ontario Correctional Institute, an internship at Sunnybrook Hospital, and was approved/certified by the Ontario Interfaith Committee for Chaplaincy, and held Advanced Standing with Canadian Association for Pastoral Education.  Herman was Editor of the M2M newsletter, and a contributor to the Christian Courier. He has also worked for both Classis and CRC Denomination in a variety of capacities throughout his career. Herman is the father of 4 adopted children and eight grandchildren and brings his wealth of pastoral experience to Beginnings board.

    • Reverend Arie Gideon Van Eek, B.A.
      Reverend Arie Gideon Van Eek, B.A. M. Div - Founder/Past Chair/Board Member Emeritus

      Arie is a founding member of Beginnings and active volunteer in the organization since its inception in 1985. He received his Master of Divinity from Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids Michigan in 1957. As an ordained minister of the Christian Reformed Church of North America (CRCNA), he has served the denomination in both pastoral and administrative leadership roles. He retired from the CRCNA in 1999 as Executive Secretary of the Council of Christian Reformed Churches. Since then has dedicated his time to many worthy causes, including World Wide Christian Schools, Shalem Mental Health Network, and his home church of Bethel CRC, Waterdown.   He currently holds the position of President of the Beginnings Board of Directors.

      • Lisa Gonnering
        Lisa Gonnering

        Lisa has over 25 years fundraising experience in the not-for-profit sector in Hamilton.  She has worked in Gift Planning for 10 years; most recently at Hamilton Health Sciences Foundation and currently in her role as Manager of Estate & Gift Planning at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Foundation.  Lisa has served on the Executive of the Niagara Golden Horeshoe’s Canadian Association of Gift Planners (CAGP) since 2005 and is currently serving as Past Chair.   Lisa is a long-standing member of West Highland Baptist Church and has served in many capacities including junior high teacher, worship arts and various small group ministries.

        • Hendrik (Hank) Bylstra
          Hendrik (Hank) Bylstra

          Hank was born in the Netherlands in 1952 and emigrated to Canada that same year.  His family settled in Hamilton where hegrew up and was part of the Paradise Road Reformed Church.  He attended Hamilton District Christian High School and later lived for three years In the Netherlands for study purposes.  Hank attended McMaster University in Hamilton for his Bachelors degree in History.  He attended Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky for his Masters Degree in Divinity.  Hank is married to Connie and they have two adopted Children and now three grandchildren.  He spent ten years as a Pastor in the Free Methodist Church in Southern Ontario before going to Mississauga in 1996 to serve for seven years with two small Reformed Churches in the GTA.  Hank took a 2 year course of studies in Conflict Management at Conrad Grebel College at the University of Waterloo and has served since 2003 as Pastor/Chaplain at Holland Christian Homes in Brampton.  Hank enjoys reading, photography, travel and family times.

          • Ann Stocker
            Ann Stocker

            Ann has been an associate of the Institute of Family Living for several years working with families, couples and individuals. Ann holds a Bachelor in Religious Education and a Master of Divinity with a major in counselling.  Her background includes over 20 years of work in marginalized communities and 6 years in tourism.  She has been facilitating a support group for young teenage mothers for the past 8 years, and a family group in her local church for the past 12 years.  She has also been active in facilitating workshops in the areas of mental health, parenting, relationships, grief and contemplative spirituality, as well as organizing seminars and conferences.  When she has the time, Ann enjoys exploring the city, spending time with family and friends, playing with her two cats, sailing, photography, knitting, watching films and reading, as well as some current writing projects.

            • Heather Kuipers 
              Heather Kuipers  BA Hons, MSW

              Heather is the creator and owner of Ella Minnow children’s bookstore in Toronto. Founded 9 years ago, Ella Minnow recently moved into a larger space, noteworthy in today’s bookstore climate of closures and industry challenge. Heather earned a Masters of Social Work from Wilfrid Laurier university, where her focused area of study was adoptive families. Heather lives in Toronto with her husband and three teenage kids. Heather is an active volunteer: teaching parenting to street involved youth through Yonge Street Mission’s Evergreen program; participating in both the Children's Ministry and Refugee Sponsorship and Support Steering Committees at Little Trinity Church; serving as a jury member for the Canadian Children&’s Book Centre Norma Fleck non-fiction prize; and fostering feral kittens.  Heather is interested in a wide range of handcrafts and always has many projects on the go.

              Head Office

              Beginnings is professionally managed by the following team:

              • Mary Howlett Nero
                Mary Howlett Nero MSW, RSW, Embryo Donation Program Coordinator

                Mary has been working as an Approved Adoption Practitioner with the Ministry of Children and Youth Services since 1997. Previously, she worked as a Family Service Worker at the Toronto Children’s Aid Society. While there, she assisted in the development of the Cocaine Impact Reduction Program to assist parents with drug addictions. She has also done vocational counselling with individuals with physical, emotional and psychiatric disabilities, done group work with individuals with drug and alcohol addictions, and been a Board Member for Wyndham House, an organization supporting homeless youth. Since 1997, Mary has maintained a private practice in which she has assisted over 230 families with private domestic, international, and public adoptions. She has personal adoption experience as an older sibling to two adopted children. In 2009, Mary joined Beginnings Family Services as their Adoption Practitioner. Since then she has taken on the role of managing the Embryo Donation Program and assists clients interested in donating or receiving embryos. Mary is a registered member of the Ontario College of Social Workers & Social Service Workers (OCSWSSW) and belongs to the Ontario Association of Social Work (OASW) in addition to being on the Advisory Committee for AdoptOntario.

                • Jean Haase
                  Jean Haase MSW, RSW, Infertility Counselling & Embryo Donation Consultant

                  Jean has 23 years experience of working as a social worker in the fields of reproductive health, infertility and adoption.  During this time she has specialized in third party conception, such as egg and sperm donation, infertility counselling, and the policy issues related to assisted human reproduction.  Her clinical interests also include domestic and international adoption, and she maintains a private practice in this area.  Jean founded and facilitates a support network for families created from donor insemination and egg donation. At a national level, Jean is an active member of both the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society (CFAS) and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM).  She was a founding member and past chair of the Canadian Special Interest Group for Counsellors. In 2009, Jean completed a secondment to Assisted Human Reproduction Canada, the Federal agency responsible for overseeing the legislation pertaining to fertility treatment in Canada.  Jean is the author and co-author of several articles and book chapters on issues related to assisted human reproduction.  She has been an invited speaker at conferences in Canada, USA, United Kingdom, Hong Kong and Australia. Jean is registered member of the Ontario College of Social Workers & Social Service Workers (OCSWSSW) and belongs to the Ontario Association of Social Work (OASW).

                  • Kerry Vandergrift
                    Kerry Vandergrift MSW, RSW, Executive Director

                    Kerry is a social worker with 25 years experience working in the field of women’s health, infertility and adoption. She has worked in maternal care and fertility clinics in the hospital and community health centre settings providing individual counseling, group work, and education programs. As an Approved Adoption Practitioner with the Ministry of Child and Youth Services, Kerry conducts home studies for domestic and international adoption, supervises adoption placements, and provides post-adoption counselling services for child welfare agencies. Her private practice includes infertility counseling and assisted reproductive technology (ART) third party assessment services.  Since 2005, Kerry has been the Executive Director at Beginnings Family Services located in Hamilton, Ontario.  She also oversees Beginnings Pregnancy Care Centres in Cobourg, Guelph and Woodstock.  She is a parent of 4 children, 2 of whom are in open adoption relationships with their birth families. She obtained Open Adoption certification from the Open Adoption Institute in Anaheim,California and has been practicing open adoption since 2001.  Kerry is member of the Ontario College of Social Workers & Social Service Workers (OCSWSSW), the Ontario Association of Social Workers, and a member of the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society (CFAS) Counsellors Special Interest Group (SIG).

                    • Carol Lavell
                      Carol Lavell M.A., Clinical Director, Adoption Services

                      Carol has a Masters in Counselling Psychology.  From 1975-1984 Carol worked in the child welfare system at Halton Children’s Aid Society.  Carol worked as a volunteer coordinator and adoption worker, doing homestudies, placements and follow-up support; specializing in special needs placements. While there, Carol also developed and facilitated a training program for applicants adopting older special needs children as well as one for infant adoptions.  She also helped develop a unique program in which experienced adoptive parents helped assess and mentor new adoptive parents.   In 1984 she became Supervisor of Adoption, Foster Care and Halton Homecare for the Handicapped.  In 1990 Carol became the Director of Adoption Agency and Counselling Service (Ontario), a private adoption agency where she completed domestic placements as well as inter-provincial and international adoptions.  Throughout much of her career, Carol has maintained a private practice as an Approved Adoption Practitioner conducting homestudies and supervising adoption placements. Carol joined Beginnings in 2003 as Acting Director and now serves in her current role, as Clinical Director of Adoption Services. Carol was a member of the Private/Public Adoption Committee from 1996-1999 and Chairperson for the Association of Private Practitioners in Adoption from 1996-1997.  Carol was also the co-founder and co-director of Austin School, a non-profit, private school for children with special needs.

                      • Aideen Hennessy
                        Aideen Hennessy CGA, Director of Administration & Finance

                        Aideen is a professional accountant with many years of finance and management experience working in a variety of different industries including corporate, small business and non-profit.  Aideen is working concurrently as the Director of Finance at United Way Oakville.   Aideen is a fellow member of the Chartered Certified Accountants UK.  She currently oversees and manages all finance functions at Beginnings.

                        • Tonya Noble
                          Tonya Noble M.A., Director of Education

                          Tonya Noble has a Master’s Degree in Counselling Psychology.  She has spent many years working with families, couples, individuals, adolescents, and children, addressing issues related to grief and loss, parenting, special needs, adoption, addiction, anger and conflict, anxiety, depression, self-esteem, trauma and attachment. Tonya has particular expertise in bereavement work and has facilitated groups for adolescents and children through Bereaved Families of Ontario. She has a National Community Crisis Response certificate from NOVA (National Organization for Victim Assistance). Tonya has been working in the field of adoption for over 15 years and is an approved Trainer for Parent Resources for Information, Development, and Education (P.R.I.D.E.) with the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies. Tonya has counselled birth parents and adoptive families throughout the adoption process, providing ongoing support and education for families pre and post-placement.  As the Director of Education for Beginnings Family Services, Tonya supervises and facilitates education and training programs for all the Beginnings locations.  She has recently initiated a Beginnings Healthy Choices and Decision Making Program for youth in high school settings.

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