Meet the S.I.B.S. Leadership team (listed in alphabetical order by last name):
Christine Becker: Board Member
Christine Becker, MA., LPC, has a master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and has worked as a Transition Counselor for over 15 years. She enjoys speaking about her experiences growing up with her older sister who has developmental disability. Christine has presented at several area conferences about the importance of support for siblings. She has also taught college and graduate level courses, and lectured on a variety of topics related to transition, the culture of disability, adult services, self-determination, person-centered planning and self-directed IEPs. Christine is dedicated to counseling families about long term planning and connecting them to services once their child ages out of the special education system. Christine joined the SIBS board because she enjoys connecting and collaborating with other siblings who share a similar experience.
Tara Conley: Vice President, Founding Member
Tara Conley is an Individual Service Coordinator (ISC) with Service of Will, Grundy, and Kankakee Counties. Motivated by her brother with developmental disabilities, Tara dedicates her time enhancing services for people with disabilities in Illinois and their families. Tara has been a certified Sibshop Facilitator since 1996 and has helped others create their own sibshop programs. Tara created the listserv AdultSibsNet, and co-founded Family Sibday. She serves on the Sibling Support Project’s Advisory Committee, UIC’s Consumer Advisory/LEND committee, and is a member of the Arc of IL board. Tara received the Arc of IL Outstanding Family Advocate Award in 2005. She is an advocate not only for families in IL but her brother Nick as well; she shares her family’s experience in the published work, Thicker than Water: Essays by Adult Siblings of People with Disabilities.
Nora Fox Handler: Treasurer, Founding Member
Nora Fox Handler is a committed sister to her three brothers with intellectual disabilities. She is a passionate advocate for people with disabilities and their families and shares her family’s experience in the published work, Thicker than Water: Essays by Adult Siblings of People with Disabilities. Handler serves on multiple governing boards including the National Sibling Leadership Network and the Arc of Illinois. Handler is on the Advisory Committee of the Sibling Support Project and is an advocate advisor of the Rehabilitation Research & Training Center on Aging with Developmental Disabilities (RRTCADD) and the Institute on Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Katherine Hamann grew up not knowing one of her sibs. Margaret Doering had lived in state institutions since she was two years old. Their unfolding story made Katherine an advocate for people with I/DD and their families. Margaret has lived successfully in a CILA for over 9 years. Katherine has worked for most of that time for The Arc of Illinois, directing their Family Transition Project.
Shirley Jimenez is inspired by her younger sister with Down syndrome. This led to her being passionate about helping people with disabilities. She has done numerous volunteering activities throughout her life for children with disabilities, including teaching children in Africa. Shirley’s passion led to her studying and graduating from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a Bachelor’s in Special Education. She is also currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Special Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Shirley is now a special education teacher in Chicago Public Schools teaching kindergarten to second graders with low incidence disabilities. Shirley is looking forward to being an advocate for families and being a proud member of SIBS.
Benji Rubin: President, Board of Directors
Benji is a Special Needs Planning Attorney and Partner at Rubin Law with offices in Buffalo Grove, Chicago, and Old Orchard. Benji’s older brother Mitchell has Autism and lives in a Clearbrook CILA. Benji graduated from the University of Illinois College of Law, Magna Cum Laude, received his undergraduate degree from Northwestern University, and currently is pursuing his Graduate Law Degree, an LLM (Tax), at Northwestern University. Benji is a member of the Academy of Special Needs Planners, a member of the Special Needs Alliance, is Vice Chairman of the American Bar Association Special Needs Planning Committee, serves as the President of SIBS (Supporting Illinois Brothers and Sisters), the Illinois chapter of the national Sibling Leadership Network, is a member of the Board of Directors of The Arc of Illinois, serves on the Board of Directors of DayOne Pact, the Independent Service Coordination Agent for individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities living in DuPage, Kane and Kendall Counties Illinois, as well as serves as Trustee of Special Needs Trusts, and serves as Guardian, is a member of the Clearbrook Associate Board, serves on the Advisory Council of Encompass (Encompass in partnership with Jewish Child & Family Services, Jewish United Fund, JVS Chicago, JCC Chicago, Keshet, and The Center for Enriched Living and Center for Independent Futures, seeks to provide adults with I/DD a full array of financially sustainable, community-based services and supports), and is a member of the Board of Directors of the SEDOL (Special Education District of Lake County) Foundation. Benji is also a Faculty Member for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education (IICLE). Having Mitchell as a brother profoundly shaped who Benji is today, and thus the type of law he chose to practice. His personal experiences as a sibling offer a unique perspective into the responsibilities that come with caring for a sibling with special needs. Now, as an adult, those sometimes present and future responsibilities he will have regarding his brother’s care are a concern that he shares with all brothers and sisters of individuals with special needs.
Kaitlin Stober is a research specialist at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s institute on disability and human development. There, she supports the creation and implementation of disability-related research and evaluation projects. She earned her M.Sc. in Disability Studies from Trinity College Dublin in 2017 upon completion of her dissertation on the experiences of professional performing and visual artists with intellectual disabilities (ID). Kaitlin also worked as a summer research assistant for the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities in Geneva to support the development of their report on legal capacity and supported decision-making for the 37th Human Rights Council session.
Kaitlin’s professional interest in disability and disability rights is influenced by her personal experiences and relationship with her younger brother who has Down syndrome. She is passionate about the celebration of disability as a valuable facet of diversity in our communities.