On March 31, 2012, a diverse group of adoption professionals, researchers, students, and people with personal connections to adoption gathered at UMass Amherst for the fourth annual conference of the Rudd Adoption Research Program, this year entitled, “New Worlds of Adoption: Navigating the Teen Years.”
The day-long program began with a keynote address by Dr. Megan Gunnar, Regents Professor and Director of the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Gunnar’s talk, “Post-Institutionalized Children Become Teenagers: Early Deprivation and the Developing Teen Brain,” outlined the new insights emerging from developmental neuroscience that are helping us better understand the short- and long-term consequences of deprivation or trauma that an increasing number of adopted children have experienced before placement.
Her talk was followed by a panel of researchers and clinicians who responded to her paper and added insights from their own research or practice experience. The panel, chaired by Dr. Sally Powers of UMass Amherst, included Dr. David Scherer (UMass Amherst), Susan Livingston Smith (Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute), John Sobraske (private practice clinician), and Dr. Ellen Pinderhughes (Tufts University).
Twenty-one posters based on original adoption research or programs were highlighted following lunch. Topics included adoption by lesbian and gay parents, parenting of transracially adopted children, openness and birth family contact in adoption, and early self-regulation among internationally adopted infants, among others.
Concurrent sessions in the afternoon focused on issues of attachment, identity, and medical perspectives in adoption. The rapidly expanding role of the internet in the adoption field evoked great interest and speculation about the future. A special session addressed the needs of students and new professionals who are seeking information about graduate programs, mentors, financial support, and grants.
Personal perspectives complemented the research-based findings highlighted during the day. A panel of youth who had experienced foster care and adoption shared their views and experiences, and a panel of birth parents who had placed children for adoption shared stories about their life-changing experiences.
The conference was hosted and sponsored by the Rudd Adoption Research Program at UMass Amherst, in collaboration with the multidisciplinary Center for Research on Families. The conference was co-presented with the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, whose Senior Staff and Senior Research Fellows spoke in a number of the sessions. The Boston College Graduate School of Social Work also co-sponsored the event.