Let It Be Us Staff

Everyone who works at Let It Be Us has a passion for helping the children in foster care and for finding solutions to problems.

With a diverse set of professional backgrounds and expertise, Let It Be Us is rethinking child welfare.

Susan McConnell

Executive Director and Founder of Let It Be Us

Susan McConnell founded Let It Be Us to direct her experience toward the child welfare sector designing innovative solutions through technology. She is a Doctoral candidate from the University of Southern California’s Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work and has an MBA and BS in Management, Human Resources, and Recruitment from DePaul University. She is also a graduate of Cornell University’s Women in Leadership Program and Northwestern University’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program.


Susan is the Vice-Chair of the Illinois Statewide Foster Care Advisory Council where she was appointed by the Illinois Director of the Department of Children and Family Services in 2017. Susan was on the team that established the Heart Gallery of Illinois, the State’s photo listing of children awaiting adoption, which is a child-specific recruitment tool that gives a child a significantly increased chance of adoption. In turn, Susan and her team have designed the Illinois Waiting Children’s Gallery, a gallery of children in need of foster care and adoptive placements. Susan also designed the Let It Be Us Placement Support Program, which places children who are in emergent need and those who are challenging to place in the safest homes, keeping them out of shelters, and their Foster and Adoptive Parent Recruitment Program, which annually recruits hundreds of potential foster and adoptive parents for children in Illinois foster care. Susan and her husband are the parents of four children, three of whom came to their family through adoption.  Susan has 30 years of experience in open adoption.  You can reach Susan here.

Alex Montgomery

Deputy Director

Alex Montgomery has a wealth of experience in nonprofit management and nonprofit legal strategy and operations. As a nonprofit professional with 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, she has experience leading fundraising and operations teams, expanding and managing back-office functions, and overseeing multi-million dollar facility renovations.  Alex earned a bachelor’s degree, cum laude, from Williams College and a J.D. from the University of Chicago.  Alex has been instrumental in the development of the Let It Be Us Parent Recruitment Events. She also has extensive experience with private and state contracts. She is also a mother through adoption with a passion for reimagining how we define family and ensuring all children are in safe, healthy, happy homes. You can reach Alex here.

Lisa Hanson-Braun

Director of Development

Lisa has BA in Political Science from Iowa State University.  Over the last 25 years, Lisa has worked for agencies in the northwest suburbs of Chicago that care for children and families through a variety of programs to improve overall well-being. She has extensive experience in Development, Grants, Special Events, Fundraisers, and Volunteer Management.  You can reach Lisa here.

Vanessa Baie

Director of Foster Care Licensing & Placement Support

Vanessa comes with seven years of child welfare experience. She began working initially in foster care as a Permanency Case Worker, and then moved into other positions in the field including; foster parent licensing, administration, quality assurance and risk management, and most recently in clinical social work as a Therapist and Parenting Educator for birth parents and children involved with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. Vanessa earned a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Jane Addams College of Social Work at UIC, and is a Licensed Social Worker with the state of Illinois. She is also a Licensed Direct Service Child Welfare Employee and is Rule 402 and Child Care Act certified. She will begin her PhD in Clinical Social Work with the Institute of Clinical Social Work in Chicago in the fall of 2020. Vanessa is deeply passionate about child welfare and committed to improving outcomes for the safety and well-being of all children in Illinois. You can reach Vanessa here.

Jodi Carlson

Foster Care Licensing Support Coach

Jodi is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and earned a Bachelor’s degree from Northern Illinois University. She has spent her career working with children and families in foster care and adoption. Jodi has experience as a Statewide Permanency Specialist, Child Endangerment Risk Assessment Protocol Manager, and a Statewide Permanency Specialist. She has a Child Welfare Employee License (CWEL) and is Child  Adolescent Needs and Strengths Certified (CANS). She is Leads certified, has a Child Endangerment Risk Assessment Protocol Certification (CERAP), and is Rule 402 and Child Care Act certified. Jodi has extensive experience with DCFS guardianship subsidy documentation and has experience facilitating adoptions. Jodi’s experience also includes providing guidance and support to foster parents during the permanency process. . You can reach Jodi here.

Michelle Prickett

Foster Care Licensing Support Coach

Michelle’s personal life experiences fuel her passion to make a difference in the lives of children and their families. She entered foster care at the age of 11 along with her siblings and aged out of the system at the age of 21. After earning her Bachelor’s in Business from Roosevelt University, she decided to use her degree in the nonprofit world. She and her husband, a principal of a local school, decided to become foster parents after raising their own children. They went on to adopt 4 children. She not only continues to serve her own children, she founded a nonprofit which serves kids in need and with a partner, opened the first family visitation home for foster youth to visit their biological family in McHenry County. She has been married for almost 29 years and has 8 children. You can reach Michelle here.

Alicia Wehby

Foster Care Licensing Support Coach

Alicia has spent the greater part of her adult life being committed to serving the needs of children and families in the Illinois foster care system.  She started as a foster parent and was actively involved in the foster care system for the past 15 years.  In 2019, seeing a need for additional support to foster families, she founded Second Bridge Inc., where their mission is to provide support from the community to foster families so the children in their care can thrive. In two short years, she has been able to lead this not-for-profit and make it a vital service for foster children and families in northern Illinois. Alicia has been recognized and awarded for her work advocating for children at the local, state, and national levels.  Alicia approaches her work with Let it Be Us with a strong dedication to the mission and a desire to provide a service that improves the quality of life for all foster children and their families. You can reach Alicia here.

Rebecca Thomas

Foster Care Placement Support Specialist

Rebecca is a Foster Parent Support Specialist with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Resource Management and a Master’s Degree in Education. While her professional career has been primarily in education, she has worked for non-profit organizations such as Head Start, Inc. She has managed several grant programs including a federal grant for single parents.  She also has an extensive background in advocating for children with special needs.  Rebecca has a love for children and when her youngest child left for college, she and her husband embarked on a foster care journey where they have provided a safe and loving home to children who need one for as long as they may need one.  She has now broadened that journey to include finding safe, healthy and loving homes for children across the state of IL. You can reach Rebecca here.

Annika Wisse

Program Manager, Springboard to Adulthood

Annika brings 10 years of child welfare experience to her role, spending much of her career working with at-risk teenagers.  Her passion is to provide guidance to young people aging out of care. She wants to ensure they have the best opportunities, surrounded by a strong support system, in order to become successful young adults.   She is a certified Therapeutic Crisis Intervention Trainer who helps adults understand the impact trauma has on a young person and how to utilize co-regulation to navigate a young person through a stressful situation.  Annika has a bachelors from UW-Parkside where she majored in Psychology. You can reach Annika here

Bryana Hopkins

Data and Quality Control Specialist

Bryana holds a Bachelor’s degree in Social Policy, with a minor in Business from Northwestern. She also recently graduated from Northwestern with a Master’s in Public Policy and Administration. During college, she worked for and interned with various nonprofit, for-profit and public organizations. She loves being part of a team, has experience working with numbers and enjoys using data to tell stories and help people. Bryana has also worked closely with kids and wants to help advocate for all children in the foster care system. You can reach Bryana here.

Jeri Bark

Administrative Coordinator 

Jeri brings many years of administrative and accounting experience to Let It Be Us. She is an expert in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and database management. She is also an expert in organization, list-making, list keeping, and everything important to keeping us functional in all of our operations. You can reach Jeri here.