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.

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 provides services related to pregnancy, parenting 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.


Organizational Makeup

Beginnings has an office in Hamilton and two Care Centres in Guelph and Woodstock in Ontario.

Beginnings Hamilton office is exclusively responsible for:

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

Beginnings Hamilton carries out the following services:

  • Family support & community referrals
  • Pregnancy counselling
  • Adoption services
  • Embryo Donation services
  • Education

Beginnings Guelph and Woodstock Care Centres are commonly responsible for:

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

Meet the

Beginnings Team

Board of Directors

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

  • Clarence Bick
    Clarence Bick CHAIR

    Clarence’s first contact with Beginnings was through the adoption of 2 children in 1987. He works as a financial planner and investment advisor. In the past, Clarence has been on his church council, Redeemer College Business Advisory Committee, OACS Financial Advisory Committee, the Kerncliffe Non-Profit Development Corporation Board for Shalem Mental Health Network, and the Board of Beginnings Family Services from 2006 – 2012.  He rejoined the Beginnings board in 2018.

  • 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.

  • Ann Stocker
    Ann Stocker

    Ann has been an associate of the Institute of Family Living for several years working with families, individuals/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.

  • 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.

  • 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 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 Horseshoe’s Canadian Association of Gift Planners (CAGP) for the past 10 years and most recently as Chair.  Lisa is a long-standing member of West Highland Church and her and her husband are adoptive parents to two growing boys, Josh and Jordan.

  • 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.

Hamilton Office

Beginnings is professionally managed by the following team:

  • Amanda Baigent

    Amanda has a Bachelor of Social Work Degree (1988), University of Windsor and a Masters of Social Work Degree (1996), Wilfrid Laurier University. Amanda is a Registered Social Worker with the Ontario College of Certified Social Workers. She has worked in the field of adoption for the past 18 years. In January 2018 Amanda joined the Beginnings team as the Clinical Director, and initially completed the intakes of many new waiting adoptive families, and welcomed them onto our active list. In July 2018 Amanda moved into the role of Executive Director, which also includes overseeing the Beginnings Pregnancy Care Centres in Northumberland, Guelph and Woodstock. Between the years of 2000-2017 as an Adoption Worker, Amanda completed over 350 public adoptions. During that time Amanda spearheaded the “Infant Consent Adoption Program” and was instrumental in the leadership of this program. She has completed extensive training in the area of Child Welfare and Adoption as well as Attachment Issues. Amanda embraces openness in adoption and has done so since the inception of her career. She is thrilled to bring her experience into the private adoption sector. She is a parent of 3 teenage boys and has the full support of her children and her husband, Raj as the Executive Director of Beginnings Family Services.

  • Megan Dunlop-Elms
    Megan Dunlop-Elms BA, Director of Administration

    Megan has been part of the Beginnings family for over 10 years. In her current role she is responsible for the management of corporate business including license and accreditation renewals, administration, personnel, human resources, budget management and donor development for both charities. Prior to this position Megan was the Manager of Administrative Services for Beginnings, and previous to that she served on the Beginnings Board of Directors. Megan has a wealth of adoption experience as she and her husband have adopted two children through Beginnings. Megan also has worked at a local Children’s Aid Society as a Foster Parent/Adoptive Parent Recruiter. In earlier years she worked in donor stewardship at a Hospital Foundation, where she was responsible for events, donor recognition, grants, awards, bursaries and scholarships. Megan holds an Honours Bachelor of Arts in Sociology.

  • 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, Community and Social Services since 1997 and has maintained a private practice in which she has assisted hundreds of families with private domestic, international and public adoptions. Previously, she worked as a Family Service Worker at the Toronto Children’s Aid Society. She has also done vocational counselling and drug and alcohol addiction counselling and was a board member for an organization supporting homeless youth. In 2009, Mary joined Beginnings Family Services as their Adoption Practitioner. In 2010, she took on the role of managing the agency’s Embryo Donation Program and assists clients interested in donating or receiving embryos. Mary is a registered member of the Ontario College of Social Workers (OCSWSSW), of the Ontario Association of Social Workers (OASW) and of the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society (CFAS).

  • 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, around issues related to
    grief and loss, trauma, attachment, adoption, parenting, and special needs. Tonya has been
    working in the field of adoption for over 20 years and was a P.R.I.D.E. Trainer (Parent
    Resources for Information, Development, and Education) with the Ontario Association of
    Children’s Aid Societies for 10 years. 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 Beginnings locations with a focus on
    growing strong and healthy families.

  • 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.

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

    Jean has 25 years experience 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. Jean founded a support network for families created from donor insemination and egg donation – the Donor Conception Network of Southwestern Ontario, which meets in London and Toronto. At a national level, Jean is an active member of the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society (CFAS). She was a founding member and past chair of the Canadian Special Interest Group for Counsellors. In 2009, Jean completed a 2 year Executive Interchange secondment with Assisted Human Reproduction Canada, the Federal agency formerly 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 a registered member of the Ontario College of Social Workers & Social Service Workers (OCSWSSW) and belongs to the Ontario Association of Social Work (OASW).

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Support the Beginnings family in a range of wonderful ways.