Each year, Adoption Network Cleveland honors individuals who have influenced the wider community through advocacy and outreach efforts in child welfare, improved the lives of children and teens waiting for adoption, and enhanced the experiences of members of the adoption constellation. This award recognizes individuals who have made a significant contribution to the adoption and child welfare field in Ohio as demonstrated by specific accomplishments and milestones.
Adoption Network Cleveland is thrilled to announce our 2023 Advocates of the Year: Aaron Ockerman and Carrie Lauterbach.
Adoption Network Cleveland’s advocacy throughout the decades has been largely successful. We have not been without a guide, a friend, and an advocate. We have Aaron Ockerman, a skilled lobbyist who has expertly navigated us through the twists and turns of legislation since 2006. For the last two years, Aaron has been voted, by Cleveland.com’s Sloopy Awards, as Ohio’s “hardest working lobbyist,” and it shows.
This year, Aaron championed our cause in several ways.
First, Aaron found a way forward on our bill to criminalize fertility fraud. The bill, which the previous sponsor had reintroduced last year, was stuck in committee despite our best efforts. We had worked to fine-tune the provisions, win supporters, and give voice, yet for reasons beyond our control, the bill was at a standstill. Aaron brilliantly navigated the provisions into a larger bill poised to pass. He did, the provisions made a hit, and in short order, pass they did.
Second, Aaron loves Lobby Day! Throughout the pandemic, Lobby Day was planned and unplanned more than once. Times were hard, and budgets were tight. Always looking for an opening and providing resources to make it a success, Aaron encouraged and reinvigorated efforts to bring Lobby Day back – and at precisely the right moment, as, by chance, the Netflix film Our Father on fertility fraud happened to be released the same week as our planned Lobby Day.
Most of all, Aaron loves his work on our efforts, and it shows. Aaron relishes in the meaning and personal impact of our efforts and results. His enthusiasm for our success is a moral lift to our whole network. In short, Aaron is more than Adoption Network Cleveland’s Lobbyist; Aaron is our friend.
From his work leading to our success in creating access to records for 400,000 Ohio-born adoptees, to smaller wins such as coaching a first-time-advocate foster care alum to speak and educate, Aaron has made a sustained, immeasurable difference to hundreds of thousands of people. He cares, and it shows in everything Aaron does.
Almost a year ago, Ohio made fertility fraud a crime to protect donor conceived people and recipient parents. Carrie Lauterbach’s persistent, passionate, and nonstop advocacy on this issue merits our awe and this fitting accolade.
Carrie used her difficult personal discovery to make a difference for others. A few years ago as Adoption Network Cleveland was getting started advocating to criminalize fertility fraud in Ohio, Carrie was finding out, through a DNA test, that she was doctor-conceived, and all that entailed. For Carrie this included getting connected politically with other victims who were taking action to make this deceitful and unethical practice illegal.
Carrie found her voice and used it. As she uncovered the actions of her mother’s fertility specialist in Cincinnati, Ohio, she sought the truth of her story. Carrie organized, testified, and spoke out in TV news stories. She never declined an opportunity to be heard, even when speaking out came with a personal cost.
Carrie actively supported our Lobby Day, even making canvas bags for all our volunteers to aid our visibility and success.
Carrie is a huge part of why fertility fraud is now illegal in Ohio. Shortly after our Ohio law passed, Carrie was on a plane to D.C. to aid with the national effort to fight fertility fraud and regulate our country's largely unregulated fertility/reproductive technology industry.