Beginnings Family Services has been providing support and care to Canadians since 1985.
Beginnings is a non-profit, faith-based agency providing pregnancy counselling and adoption services as well as infertility counselling and embryo donation services to clients of all ethnic backgrounds, religious affiliations and walks of life.
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.
Beginnings services include:
- Free pregnancy counselling
- Education, prenatal and parenting programs
- Infertility counselling
- Open adoption services
- Open embryo donation services
- Interim foster care
- Post abortion counselling
- Community referrals
- Post adoption counselling
- Reunion counselling
Beginnings is a non-profit agency, with registered charitable status (CCRA Charitable Reg. No. 11880 2388 RR0001).
Adoption Services License
Beginnings is licensed by the Ministry of Children and Youth Services to provide adoption services in Ontario. Beyond Ontario, we can provide adoption services on a case by case basis in provinces and territories that have provision for private adoption.
Beginnings is composed of a central Head Office and four Local Offices in Cobourg, 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:
- Family support
- Pregnancy counselling
- Adoption services
- Embryo Donation services
- Infertility counselling services
Beginnings Cobourg, 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.
Board Of Directors
Beginnings is governed by an elected Board whose members serve 3 year terms and are responsible for:
- Organizational definition
- Strategic plan setting
- Operational oversight
The Beginnings board is composed of the following members:
Clarence Bick, MBA, CFP - Chair
Clarence Bick is a financial planner and investment advisor and holds an MBA and CFP. He co-founded Bick Financial Security Corporation and is presently a Director of Burgeonvest Bick Corporation. In the past, Clarence has been on his church council, Redeemer College Business Advisory Committee, OACS Financial Advisory Committee, and is currently serving on the Kerncliffe No-Profit Development Corporation Board for Shalem Mental Health Network. He joined the Board of Beginnings Family Services in 2007 and brings a strong financial perspective to the oversight of the organization. As well, he is a founding member of the Beginnings Family Service Foundation.
Megan Dunlop-Elms, B.A.
Megan holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. Currently, Megan is the Foster Parent, Adoption and Volunteer Recruitment Coordinator with the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton. Her primary focus is the development and implementation of recruitment strategies for these programs. Previously, Megan held the position of Donor Relations Officer at the Hamilton Health Sciences Foundation. Her responsibilities revolved around the management of various annual donor relations programs. This included special events, donor recognition, grants, awards and bursaries. Megan and her husband have adopted two children through Beginnings Family Services.
Diana Fife, CA
Diana holds an Honours Bachelor of Commerce degree and is a Chartered Accountant. Diana is currently the Vice President Financial Reporting of a large public food service company. Prior to joining Beginnings' Board in 2010, Diana has served on the board of the Adoption Council of Ontario and the Red Cross in Hamilton. Diana is personally committed to increasing awareness about adoption and Diana’s Board interests include strategic planning and visioning.
Stephanie Hardman, B.Ed., MSc
Stephanie holds a Bachelor of Education from Queens University and a Master of Mathematics degree from the University of Waterloo. Stephanie is an Organizational Development and Learning professional with over 15 years of experience in the retail, food service and manufacturing sectors. She is currently the Director of Organizational Development of a large public food service company. Stephanie is delighted to be a new member of the Beginning's Board.
Paul Kroetsch, BA, B.Comm., CMA
Paul holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics, a Bachelor of Commerce in Finance and is a CMA. Currently he runs his own financial consulting practice. He has broad experience in senior financial roles, including CFO of a publicly traded Canadian company. His career has included corporate finance roles in the manufacturing, insurance and banking sectors.
Herman Praamsma, BA, BD, M.Div
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.
Henk Van Dooren, RSW, RMFT
Henk is a Registered Social Worker and Marriage Family Therapist. He is an elected member of the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers presently employed part-time at the Hamilton Family Health Team. He is the chair of “Community Studies” in the Clinical Behaviour Sciences Programme at McMaster University (Hamilton) and has been occasional lecturer at Redeemer University College over the years. Henk recently retired from Christian Counselling Centre after serving this organization for ten years. Prior to that he was Director of Child and Adolescent Services for 20 years. As one of the original founding members of Beginnings he brings a strong clinical perspective to the board and an understanding of the family values underpinning the agency. He is eager to contribute to exciting new directions. Henk and his wife Rita are blessed with five children and five grandchildren.
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.
Nancy Voorberg, RN, BScN, MEd
Nancy Voorberg is a retired registered nurse and part-time associate clinical professor, Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University. She has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Master of Education degree. She worked at Lakeshore Psychiatric and Hamilton Psychiatric Hospitals and McMaster Outpatient Psychiatry for a few years. She then worked for Hamilton Public Health Services for 27 years. She served as program manager for the School Program overseeing professional staff providing health protection, health promotion and prevention of illness services for children. She has served on her church council, on community boards providing community psychiatric and related services as well as the Community Child Abuse Council, and volunteers for the Neighbour to Neighbour Tutor Program. Nancy brings strong administrative skills to Beginnings board.
Local Office Advisory Committees
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
For more information about Beginnings Local Offices click here.
Head Office Management Team
Beginnings is professionally managed by the following team:
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, 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.
Natasha Ekema, CMA, BAS, Director of Administration & Finance
Natasha is a professional accountant with over 10 years of finance and management experience working in a variety of different industries including corporate, small business and non-profit. Included in the organizations that she has worked for are DuPont Canada, Kemira Chemicals, Young Women's Christian Association Botswana; and Vale. She currently oversees and manages all administration and finance functions at Beginnings.
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.
Tonya Noble, M.A., Education Coordinator
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 such as anger, addiction, anxiety, conflict, depression, self-esteem, trauma, parenting, and grief and loss. 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 Adoption Practitioner with the Ministry of Children and Youth Services. She is also 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 Education Coordinator 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.
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).
Local Office Management Teams
Beginnings’ Local Offices are managed by HQ-appointed Directors who report to the Beginnings Executive Director.
- Sarah Sytsma, Director, Beginnings Guelph, Pregnancy Care Centre
- Genna McCoy, Director, Beginnings Cobourg, Pregnancy Care Centre
- Joyce Schultz, Director, Beginnings Woodstock, Pregnancy Care Centre
For more information about Beginnings Local Offices click here.
Beginnings’ organizational performance is recorded in a comprehensive summary report including audited financial statements presented at the Annual General Meeting.
Beginnings strategic plans are recorded in a comprehensive summary report including budgetary projections presented at the Annual General Meeting.