Our journey to restore access to original birth certificates for adopted people in Texas continues. During the 87th Texas legislature, we are in support of Representative Cody Harris' bill, HB1386, that gives adult adoptees in Texas the same civil and human right that all other Texans have to their vital birth record and information. STAR is a 501(c)4, a non-profit social welfare organization formed to engage in political advocacy.
MEET THE STAR BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Joellen Peters is a psychologist, mother of 2 teenage boys, and an adoptee rights advocate. She is past president on the Board of Directors for Adoption Knowledge Affiliates (AKA) and is a reunited adoptee who found her birth parents approximately 20 years ago.
Dr. Peters initially began working with families affected by adoption when she went through her own adoption reunion. She now works with adult adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive families in her private practice. She has presented papers on the development of adopted person’s sense of self at national and regional conferences. Dr. Peters has both personally experienced and professionally witnessed the profound effects that secrets can have in the lives adoptees, first parents, and adoptive parents. Joellen’s initial advocacy work started in 2015 when she began talking with legislators at the Capitol in Austin. In 2017 she became more involved with both testimony and more assistance to STAR.
Joellen lives in Austin with her husband, 2 boys, 2 dogs, and a cat. In her free time she enjoys hanging out with her family, being in nature, and learning piano.
Katy Perkins, LCSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in private practice providing therapy, professional training, case consultation and policy analysis in Texas, Illinois, Colorado and Florida. Katy specializes in post-adoption, sexual and domestic violence, cultural competence, LGBT populations, and childhood trauma. She is a founding board member of STAR (Support TX Adoptee Rights), a member of the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault, the Texas Council for Family Violence, the National Association of Social Workers, and Adoption Knowledge Affiliates. Her experience includes community, state, and national level advocacy as a leader and volunteer. Katy has been reunited with her first family for more than 20 years.
Marla Smith is an adoptee who has been reunited with her birth family since 2017. She became involved with STAR soon after her reunion testifying at the State Capitol in support of adoptee rights. She believes that equality for all adoptees means having the choice to access their history with respect, honesty, and dignity.
She is a registered Architect a Lecturer at the University of Texas School of Architecture, enjoys yoga and woodworking.
Sherry is an adoptee. She is in a happy reunion with her biological parents. She has provided testimony for adoptee rights during the 2015 and 2017 Texas legislative session. Prior to becoming a Mother she worked in the medical profession. She has been a Licensed Vocational Nurse since 1986.
As an adoptee she understands the difficulty involved in obtaining family health history and ancestry. She is a Volunteer Search Angel helping adoptees for over 20 years.
Her passion is genealogy. Her research connected her to New Orleans and her French Cajun Irish and Spanish roots. She is a proud Native Texan. Born in Houston. Her ancestors came to Texas in 1824 as one Stephen F Austin’s “Old 300” first families. She enjoys her children and hiking and swimming.
Sharon mostly grew up in Peru and New Orleans, coming of age in the Watergate era. She took her cue from Woodward and Bernstein to graduate from Baylor with a double major in journalism and political science. Subsequently, she edited an English-language newspaper in Norway for American and Canadian expatriates who worked in the North Sea oil industry; wrote for Baha’i publications in Wilmette, Illinois; was a journalist with the Austin American-Statesman; and worked in State Comptroller Bob Bullock’s public information office before a mid-life career switch.
True to the adage, Sharon’s life began at 40. That year, the single mother of three sons graduated from the UT School of Law and became engaged to her landlord Tom. He and Sharon celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in June 2020.
Sharon worked as an attorney for the Department of Public Safety from 1994 until 2000, then as an Administrative Law Judge with the State Office of Administrative Hearings until retiring in 2017.
She is currently a member of the local Sierra Club’s social media team, an aspiring novelist, a hopeful blues guitarist, and a beekeeper. She counts six grandchildren among her many blessings.
Maria Watson has been involved with STAR since 2016, having lobbied for adult adoptee rights in Austin during the 2017 and 2019 legislative sessions. She is a Texas adoptee who united with both sides of her biological families in 2018. After doing 23&Me DNA test she connected with 6 paternal siblings in March 2018, her father having passed in 1992. Then in August 2018, through a Facebook post from 2015, she was connected with her biological mother and 3 siblings in Iceland. She was able to go to Iceland twice to visit before her mother passed in August 2019. That experience underscored the need, particularly for adult adoptees, to have access to their OBCs and adoption information so they can have a chance to maybe connect with their biological parents and families.
Maria works in retail and lives in Abilene, TX.
Ferera Swan is a singer-songwriter, composer, and Grammy voting member of The Recording Academy, having actively working in the recording industry for the past 20 years. For the past 10 years, she has also worked as an official court reporter for Williamson County. Through her work as a musician and writer, she shares her personal journey, writing about the complexities of adoption, trauma, grief, family separation and reunion on social media platforms. Originally from Houston, Texas, Ferera is a fierce advocate for adoptee rights and adoption reform, joining the STAR board in December of 2019. She has been navigating reunion since 2008.
When she’s not working on music or writing, Ferera enjoys cooking, being outdoors in nature, and spending time with her husband and their two fur kids.
Noel Johnson is the Chief Deputy for Travis County Constable Pct. 5 team serving under Constable Carlos B. Lopez. Johnson has been a Texas peace officer for over 24 years and has a wide range of experience to include; criminal enforcement, criminal investigations, law enforcement training, peace officer advocacy, police labor relations, and government relations at the local, county, and state level. He most recently served as a legislative liaison/government affairs specialist at the State Capitol for the last three legislative sessions working on behalf of over 28,000 police officers in the State of Texas.
Noel is an adoptee passionate about the rights of adoptees to know their history through access to original birth certificates. He has worked with STAR over the last 6 years to get legislation in this area passed. In the past 6 months, Noel has met his biological father and identified his biological mother who passed away in 2015. This was an exhausting search in which he faced roadblocks time and time again at the state level. He wishes for all adoptees to not have to face the obstacles he faced in this search. Noel is proud to serve on the STAR board and resides in Austin with his wife of 20 years and two beautiful teenage children.
Precinct 5 Chief Deputy Noel Johnson
EDUCATION AND TRAINING
* Stephen F. Austin State University, BA 1997
* Master Peace Officer, TCOLE
* Special Investigator, TCOLE
* Instructor Proficiency, TCOLE
* TMPA (2001-2019)
* Lobbyist on law enforcement related issues. Political strategist.