Hands Across The Water (HATW) is proud to part of the Michigan Federation for Children and Families, the National Council for Adoption, and to be Hague-accredited through the Council on Accreditation. HATW has been annually recognized by the Human Rights Campaign as a Leader in Supporting and Serving LGBT Families since 2011.
HATW Staff, December 2019
Hands Across The Water, Inc. was founded in 1999 by Jim and Kathi Nelson initially as an adoption education resource organization.
As adoptive parents themselves, the beginning focus of the organization was to facilitate the pre-adoption and post-adoption support through education and information. The agency continues to provide supports to families long after their “cases” have been closed. Services and activities are provided to meet families’ ongoing and changing needs, such as behavioral health counseling, parent and teen support and recreational groups, specialized trainings and social events.
Between 1999 and 2008, the agency primarily focused on completing adoptions and supporting this population of children and families.
Today the agency has expanded its approach to provide more holistic services to strengthen families including parent education/prevention programs, foster care, adoption (international, infant and state ward), pregnancy counseling and behavioral health programs. Over the past 20 years, HATW has supported and empowered thousands of children and families in our community, state, country and across the globe through inclusive, strengths-based services.
The agency has experienced significant growth over the past 20 years, from 4 staff members to 47 employees, two locations and a $2.6 million budget.
In 2019 alone, Hands Across The Water served over 700 individuals.
Hands Across The Water supports and empowers children and families through inclusive, strength-based services.
We envision a community where every child is valued and has a safe home and loving family where they can thrive.
HATW follows a non-discrimination practice and does not establish our screening criteria for employment, or service provision, based on race, ethnicity, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, age, height, weight, familial/marital, status,disability, military service obligation, veteran status, or an y other basis protected by federal, state, or local laws.
HATW is committed to providing all youth and families served a safe, healthy, inclusive, and affirming environment.
Hands Across The Water is dedicated to the families we work with, even long after standard services are 'over'. Read some of our family stories here to learn more about Hands Across The Water's commitment to children and families.
Katie Page Sander, LMSW - EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Katie earned both her Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology (1995) and a Master of Social Work degree (1997) from the University of Michigan. She has twenty-two years of experience in the field of child welfare, including direct practice, supervision, training, community organization, program management, and policy development. Her work spans across the fields of foster care, adoption, youth development, parenting education, Wrap-around programs, prevention services, and family and youth advocacy.
In addition to adopting two children through Hands Across The Water (once internationally and once through the agency's Waiting Child program), Katie held numerous positions at HATW since 2002 before having the honor of becoming the agency's Executive Director in 2016.
our board of directors
Melissa Daneshyar, LMSW
Melissa Daneshyar was a social worker for seven years before she became a stay-at-home mom of two boys in 2005. During her social work career, Melissa worked as an Adoption Specialist and Post-Adoption Coordinator for Hands Across The Water and an Adoption Case Manager and Supervisor for HelpSource. Prior to becoming a social worker, Melissa worked as a Telephone Banking Representative for Michigan National Bank.
Melissa earned a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology from the Michigan State University in 1994. She earned a Master's Degree in Social Work from the University of Michigan in 1997.
Melissa joined the Board of Directors of Hands Across The Water in 2006. Like HATW's founders, she believes that "every child deserves a family. Children come first. Families need to be found for children, not children for families." Melissa was born in Korea and adopted when she was 13 months old. Melissa's life was touched by adoption again when her parents fostered a little girl born in Michigan, and then adopted her two years later.
Rick Modglin-Green, MA
Rev. Rick Modglin-Green is currently serving as the Associate Pastor at Central Woodward Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). He serves as the Director of Growth for the church and preaches at Central Woodward on occasion. Rick was ordained in November 2000, planting and pastoring Praise Fellowship until fall 2011. In December 2012 the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) accepted and affirmed his ordination.
Rick holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, majoring in Accounting from Western Kentucky University. He also holds a certificate in Religious Studies from Samaritan Institute and completed a Master’s degree in Theology from Trinity Theological Seminary.Rick has over ten years’ experience in accounting in the Credit Union industry. He resigned as the Accounting Supervisor of LOC Federal Credit Union in 2003 to dedicate himself to work in the church.
Rick joined the Board of Directors of Hands Across the Water in 2011, as a representative from the LGBT community. He says “My family has been blessed by adoption and I sought a way to give back to the community. It has been a privilege to serve on the board of Hands Across the Water.” Rick and his partner since 1995 were married in a private ceremony in New York in August 2013 by a Disciples of Christ colleague. Their young son served as ring bearer for Daddy & Papa’s wedding.
Craig Fry, BS
Craig is a graduate of the University of Michigan. He has worked in the manufacturing field for almost 40 years as an IT developer and financial analyst and has recently started Counter Reaction, a manufacturing business in Wixom.
He has worked with many non-profit organizations over the past 30 years, serving as the financial officer on their boards and developing & assisting with computer management at fundraising events.
Belinda Needham, PhD
Belinda is an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on health disparities, biosocial interactions, and aging and the life course. She teaches courses in social epidemiology and research methods.
Belinda earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Texas A&M University in 1999, a master’s degree in sociology from the University of Texas at Austin in 2001, and a doctoral degree in sociology from the University of Texas at Austin in 2006. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship in population health at the University of California, Berkeley/San Francisco in 2008. Prior to attending graduate school, Belinda worked as a social worker in Austin, Texas.
Belinda became a parent in 2005 when she and her husband adopted their son from Korea. She joined the Board of Directors of Hands Across the Water in 2017, after her son attended a teen adoptee group. Belinda values the commitment of HATW to providing lifelong education and support for children and families and is grateful to have the opportunity to serve on the Board.
Emily Rusnak, Ph.D., CCC-SLP
Emily and her husband are parents to a preteen girl adopted from the foster care system in 2010. Through the adoption of her daughter, Emily became interested in understanding the complexities of trauma and prenatal alcohol exposure, which has led to involvement in advocacy efforts for children in the foster care and international adoption worlds.
Emily is heavily involved with the FASD community in Michigan, as Vice President of the Michigan coalition for Fetal Alcohol Resources, Education and Support (MCFARES) Board of Directors, member of the Michigan FASD Task Force, and the administrator of the Facebook group MI FASD. Before taking leave to raise her daughter, Emily worked on faculty at BGSU in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. She is currently adjunct assistant professor at Bowling Green State University & part-time lecturer at Eastern Michigan University. She also owns a pediatric speech-language therapy practice.
Emily earned her bachelor's degree (B.M.) in Music Performance, second major in Russian Language & Studies from Vanderbilt University in 1995. She earned her master's degree (M.A.) in Speech-Language Pathology from Eastern Michigan University in 2001. Emily earned her doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in Communication Sciences and Disorders (cognate in Psychology, with emphasis on cognition, psycholinguistics and neuroscience) from BGSU in 2001. Emily holds SLP licensure in the state of Michigan and national certification from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).
Emily joined the HATW Board of Directors in 2017. She has a firm commitment to helping children find families who will provide the love and support needed to lead more stable, joyful and successful lives!
darlene helzerman, ba
Darlene Middleton is a CPA that has worked in the non-profit industry for more than 20 years. She worked in public accounting for 15 years, with a focus on non- profit clientele. Darlene previously worked at the University of Michigan Division of Public Safety and Security in internal auditing, hospital finance, and accounting. She currently serves as an Accounting Manager with Trinity Health. Darlene earned a Bachelor of Business Administration from the University of Michigan in 1993.
After assisting Hands Across The Water with a several accounting projects, Darlene was drawn to the organization's mission as well as the passion, professionalism and kindness of its dedicated staff. Upon completion of her assistance with the accounting projects, Darlene joined the HATW Board of Directors in 2018.