Virginia’s Former Adoption Champion & Connecting Hearts Founder
Debbie Johnston has been recognized as the Entrepreneur of Richmond, Philanthropist of the Year, and Woman on the Move. As founder of Care Advantage, Nurse Advantage, and All About Care; she has created a dynamic, compassionate care company that is devoted to giving back to the community.
Today, Debbie is the Founder and Vice Chairwoman of Care Advantage, Inc., which has become a leading company for personal and companion home healthcare, with 15 offices and affiliates throughout Virginia. Debbie’s companies, Care Advantage, Inc., Nurse Advantage, and All About Care, together employ approximately 3,000 health care professionals in Central Virginia and surrounding areas.
In August of 2014, Debbie Johnston was appointed by Governor McAuliffe as Virginia’s Adoption Champion. As an adoptee herself, Debbie is thrilled to give children without a home a voice in Virginia. She formed Connecting Hearts to help with her awareness, advocacy, and educational efforts. Debbie was also appointed to the Governors Health Workforce Development Authority to help in the mission of the Commonwealth to ensure a quality health workforce for all Virginians.
J. Will Pitzer, MSW
Program Director, FAM-17-042 Project Director
Will is a graduate of Auburn University and Virginia Commonwealth University with bachelor’s degrees in theatrical design and production and social work, respectively, as well as a master’s degree in social work administration, planning, and policy practice. Will also earned a certificate in non-profit management from the Wilder School at Virginia Commonwealth University. Will has over nine years of experience working with organizations such as L’arche London, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, United Virginia, Housing Opportunities Made Equal, Target Inc., Dominion Waiver Services, Extra Special Parents of Virginia, ECPI University, and Virginia Commonwealth University.
Will has traveled the country and lived in multiple states, including Virginia and Alabama, and traveled the world to include living in England for several years and visiting 11 different countries. He is newly married and he and his wife are expecting their first child, a son, in the fall of this year. He still enjoys traveling as well as bicycling, tending to his yard and garden, playing video games, tabletop games, and board games, spending time with his very large family.
As the program director for Connecting Hearts, Will aims to focus on helping communities and families engage in foster care and foster2adopt. Will believes that healing requires collaboration, connection, and cooperation. Together, we can support our youth and families to ensure every child has a home and a family.
Jessica Carty, LCSW,MSW
Jessica Carty has worked in the Foster and Adoptive field for almost two decades. In addition to Connecting Hearts, she also works part time for Jewish Family Services in their adoption program. She received her clinical license in 2005, which allowed her to counsel individuals, families, and children. Jessica comes with a great understanding of grief and loss as well as experience working with families of origin. She looks forward to helping expand and enhance the already thriving Connecting Hearts program in order to further accomplish their mission to find each and every child a permanent, loving home.
Community Outreach Specialist
Barry Farmer is a Native of Richmond, Virginia. He grew up in Kinship Care with his grandmother from ages 5-18. For the last 15 years he’s been devoted to working inside and outside the classroom with youth and their families. At age 20, Barry became a foster father with a local therapeutic agency to further help youth within his community. At age 22 he adopted his oldest son. Three years later, Barry’s two younger sons were placed in his home, making him a proud father of three amazing young men. Barry is a Spokesman for Adopt Us Kids, Foster Care Adoption Advocate, Motivational Speaker to Foster and Adoptive Families, Mentor, Host of FosterCare & Adoption Life Talk BarryFarmer.com, as well as the Creator/Administrator of the online support group for Foster Care and Adoptive families. To learn more about Barry visit www.barryfarmer.com
Board of Directors
Barry Moore, Board President
General Manager of Haley Buick GMC
Barry Moore relocated to Virginia from New Jersey in 1999. Barry attended Seton Hall University obtaining a degree in Political Science and attended the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership at UVA. Barry has been in the automobile business since 1983 and serves as General Manager at Haley Buick GMC. In 2015 he ran for the State Senate seat in District 11 and was defeated in the primary.
Along with being on the Board of Directors for Connecting Hearts, Barry serves on the Board of Directors for the Better Business Bureau and The Virginia War Memorial Educational Foundation. Barry has also collaborated on programs with The American Cancer, Kidney Foundation, ALS, Caritas, The Healing Place, The Richmond City Jail Fathers program, Bridging RVA and attended the Drug Enforcement Agency Community program.
Barry has been married for 26 years to his wife Mary Lou and they have a daughter who graduated William and Mary College in December 2015.
Christine A. Cestaro
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney, City of Richmond
A Bronx native, Christine graduated from the College of William & Mary. She first worked as a newspaper reporter, covering the Fairfax County courts and police. Her experience covering crime and the “street lawyers” she admired led her to become a public-interest criminal attorney. She earned her law degree from George Mason University and in 1999 moved to Richmond to join the Public Defender’s Office. In 2006, she switched sides to become a prosecutor with the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney. Having worked with children for many years in the City of Richmond Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court, Christine now specializes in cold case and vehicular homicides. Outside of court, she is often found kickboxing, cooking, baking, or visiting with her niece and nephew.