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Keynote Address:  Truth, Consequences and Reform: Rethinking Adoption in the 21st Century


Gerald P. Mallon, DSW, LCSW Julia Lathrop Professor of Child Welfare, Executive Director of the National Center for Child Welfare Excellence, Silberman School of Social Work, Hunter College

This keynote will provide a provocative beginning to this year’s conference. Provocative, not for the sake of being controversial, but to stimulate our thinking and to jump start a dialog among participants on the theme of the conference -- "The Future of Adoption: Moving Beyond Safety to Well-Being."


Rethinking adoption in the 21st century requires that all of us -  adopted people, birth parents, adoptive parents, researchers, practitioners and policy makers - consider all possibilities, even those which might make us feel uncomfortable.  The truth, the consequences of that “truth,” and the need for reform will all be explored during this presentation. The conversation will continue during the panel discussion with colleagues who are most affected by these experiences and also, hopefully, by the other workshop presenters and participants throughout the course of this conference.

 

 

Panel Discussion  

Panel Chair: April Dinwoodie, Creator, Adoptment and the Born in June, Raised in April podcast

Panel Members
Elliottte Harrington, Montclair State University
Dana Johnson, University of Minnesota
Amnoni Myers, Baruch College, CUNY
Ridghaus, Independent filmmaker
Kim Stevens, North American Council on Adoptable Children

 

 

AFTERNOON CONCURRENT SESSIONS, I:  1:30 -- 2:45 PM

How Adoptees are Shaping Post-Adoption Services 
Presenters: Steve Kalb and Angela Tucker
Campus Center Auditorium
Programs that enhance the well-being of Adoptees continue to evolve with our growing understanding of the Adoptee experience. Antiquated models of birth culture primacy and “Love conquers all” have given way to community building and open dialogue about the challenges of adoption. Through multimedia, lecture, and discussion, we'll explore the limitations of current support programming and examine the importance of Adoptee voice in the development of current and future programs.

Meeting the Complex Mental Health Needs of Children Moving to Permanency Through Adoption and Guardianship: A Review of the National Adoption Competency Mental Health Training Initiative for Child Welfare and Mental Health Professionals
Presenters: Debbie Riley and Dawn Wilson
Room 163C
Children and youth who are moving toward or have achieved adoption often have diverse unmet mental health needs. Adoptive parents and cite competent mental health services as one of their greatest unmet needs. Child welfare/adoption social workers and mental health therapists serving these children and their families often have limited understanding of the complex issues around adoption, including trauma, grief, loss, identity and many other issues that complicate or contribute to common mental health problems. This presentation will highlight the need for adoption mental health competency training for child welfare professionals and mental health practitioners, and present the state of the art training initiative: the newly developed web-based National Adoption Competency Mental Health Training Initiative (NTI), developed by the Center for Adoption Support and Education (C.A.S.E.) and funded through a Cooperative Agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services Administration of Children, Youth and Families Children’s Bureau # 90CO1121. This presentation will include discussion of the need for adoption competency, overview of the training initiative and pilot in 9 pilot sites, demonstration of the web-based trainings, discussion of implementation experiences in pilot sites, and a review of evaluation results from the pilot of the curriculum for Child Professionals and Supervisors.
 

 

Generational Shifts: Adult Adoptee Scholars' Perspective on Future Research and Practice
Presenters: Hollee McGinnis, Amanda Baden, Adam Kim, JaeRan Kim
Room 168C
Adult adoptees, largely adopted domestically as infants, began to organize and advocate about adoption issues in the 1970s and authored some of the first books by adoptees.  Over the past 25 years, transracial and internationally adopted adults have also mobilized, reflecting the coming of age of this cohort of adoptees. Many worked to establish national and international organizations focusing on services, community-building, and advocacy. This latter cohort of adult adoptees has also increasingly entered professional careers as scholars, researchers, and academics. As institutions of higher education face a growing generational shift, what are the implications for adult adoptee scholars conducting adoption research? This panel will provide a lively discussion on future research and practice from the perspective of emerging and established adult adoptee scholars


Well-Becoming: Well-being In the Context of Relationships for Adolescents
Presenter: Susan Badeau​
Room 174-76
Children and teens need families for a lifetime, skills for successful adulthood and resources to support their safety and well-being. Positive social, emotional and physical well-being is a core aspect of a young person’s development. To be healthy and well, young people need to be able to develop and maintain relationships and social networks , effectively recognize, understand, and express emotions and maintain their physical health by making constructive life choices. This workshop will present a framework for well-being for older youth transitioning from foster care and highlight recommended strategies for improving the social, emotional and physical well-being of older youth.
 

How To Choose An Adoption Therapist
Presenter: Joyce Maguire Pavao​
Room 162
There are many excellent therapists. Many of them think that, if they are adoptive parents, or adopted persons, or have worked with anyone in the adoption triad, that then makes them competent to see all clients within the world of adoption. This is not true. There is a certain scope of reading, training, supervision in the wider field of adoption and complex families, that makes someone competent and specialized in adoption therapy. 


Cultural Socialization and Preparation-for-Bias: Critical Tasks facing Adoptive Parents in Promoting the Well-Being of their Adopted Children
Presenter: Ellen Pinderhughes​
Room 165
Families raising adopted children-of-color, in same-race or transracial, domestic or intercountry placements, face the task of helping children develop a healthy adoptive and ethnic/racial identity and deal with adoption- or race-related stigma or bias. Research suggests that these are complex processes in which what parents do and don’t do matter for adoptees.  After discussing research on parents’ role in cultural socialization and preparation-for-bias, we will consider how parents can promote adoptees’ identity development and well-being and how professionals can prepare/support parents.


Adoption Contracts and Deals as Plan B Parenthood
Presenter: Martha Ertman​
Room 904
Officially, law bans adoption contracts as baby-selling.  But law professor Martha Ertman shows that people routinely enter entirely legal adoption contracts.  Moreover, those contracts, and the mini-contracts  that she calls “deals” help birth and adoptive families tailor the agreements to their situation. Blending memoir and law, Ertman integrates small group exercises with law and history of American adoption agreements, arguing that a contractual framework treats types of adoption as variations of family form, Plan B options when circumstances block the most common -- Plan A -- form of parenthood.
 

The Project on Genomic Family Health History for Adopted Persons: Challenges, Progress, and Where We’d Like to Go
Presenter: Thomas May
Room 903
This presentation will describe challenges faced in gaining support to study the potential utilization of genetic testing to fill gaps in Adoptees’ access to family health history (FHx) information.  In this context, I will describe how this collaborative project has addressed: 1. Skeptics who challenge the scientific ability to provide reliable FHx information through genetic testing; 2. Economic obstacles to the use of genetic testing to fill gaps in FHx for adopted persons; and 3. The importance of this information as much more than mere “curiosity” in the lives of many adopted persons.

 

AFTERNOON CONCURRENT SESSIONS, I:  3:00 -- 4:15 PM

Birth Family Contact When Children are Adopted From Care: Balancing the Well-being of Adopted Children with the Needs of Birth Family Members
Presenter: Elsbeth (Beth) Neil
Campus Center Auditorium
The adoption of children from care involves legally severing children’s birth family connections, often against the wishes of birth parents. When thinking about contact between children and their birth relatives, complex psychological and ethical issues must be considered. How can contact benefit children in situations where they have experienced abuse and neglect in their birth family? How can we address the issues of loss for adoptees and birth family members whilst holding the long-term well-being of the adopted person in mind? Is closed adoption without parental consent ever ethically defensible? This presentation aims to start conversations about these complex issues drawing on research carried out in the United Kingdom that has explored the issue of birth family contact for children adopted from care, contrasting these UK experiences with different approaches to adoption and postadoption contact in other legal jurisdictions.
 

The Future of Adoption as Seen by UMass College Students Who Are Adopted
Presenters: Ana Gremli​, Victoria Griswold, Peter McGinn, Jenny Muten, Emma Sander
Room 163C
This session includes a panel of UMass college students who are adopted internationally and have been adoption educators, mentors and advocates during their academic career at UMass. The panel of thoughtful young adults will share some of their joys and challenges as it relates to being adopted. The panel will then offer ideas about what the adoption community needs to know about adoption. Specifically the students will address how to ensure well-being across the life span of those who are adopted.  Recommendations for policies and practices that would facilitate well-being will be discussed.  The panel will leave time for Q&A and discussion.


The Future of Intercountry Adoption: Adoptees and Coping with the Beginning of the End
Presenter: Amanda Baden
Room 168C
As intercountry adoption has shifted from record high levels of adoptions from countries like China and Russia to the lowest numbers of adoptions in the past 35 years, the future of intercountry adoption has shifted dramatically. For adoptees, making connections to birth cultures and adoption histories take place within this context. This presentation will address identity and adjustment issues for intercountry adoptees and will offer therapeutic approaches to support development.


The Intergenerational Treehouse Community Model -Where Every Child is Rooted in Family & Community!
Presenters: Kerry Homstead and Beth Spong
Room 174-6
In 2006, the Treehouse Foundation launched the first intergenerational Treehouse Community in Easthampton, MA. Treehouse is a close knit neighborhood where families adopting children from foster care live next door to neighbors--ages 55+--and everyone invests in one another’s health and well-being. Today, Treehouse is collaborating with visionaries in MetroWest Boston and the San Francisco Bay Area to build more Treehouse Communities. Treehouse is also consulting with teams in Albany and Binghamton, New York to establish Treehouse-inspired communities. Join Us! Learn about the award winning Treehouse Community model, the stellar outcomes and lessons learned during the first 12 years of Life on Treehouse Circle. 


Family Relationship Processes and Youth Mental Health in the Contexts of Adoption and Foster-Care: Revisiting the Developmental Interface Between Nature and Nurture
Presenter: Gordon Harold
Room 162
The salience of family relationship influences (inter-parental/carer relationship quality, parent/carer-child relationship quality) for youth mental health and development is well recognised and has a long and established research and intervention-study history. However, understanding the relative role of genetic (nature) versus family relationship influences (nurture) on child and adolescent development has significant implications for the design of efficacious intervention and support programs aimed at vulnerable youth and families, including adoption and foster-care. This presentation will examine the role of family relationship processes (inter-parental/carer, parent/carer-child) and outcomes for youth (emotional, behavioural, academic) using an array of novel research designs that allow us to disentangle nature from nurture in examining the family process-youth development link. Examples of recent applications of this research to the development of evidence-based intervention programs specific to adoption and foster-care in the UK and internationally will also be presented.

A Need for Fundamental Change: The Role of Policy in Enabling Successful Families
Presenter: Adam Pertman
Room 165

The basis for adoption-related policy in the U.S. is encapsulated in the mantra that every child deserves a safe, permanent and loving family. While this “child placement” focus is clearly vital, it’s also the case that the population of children and families served by adoption (as well as by the child welfare system more generally) has changed dramatically over the last several decades. As a result, many thousands of safe, permanent and loving families are struggling every day. This presentation will examine current policies of governments at all levels, child placement agencies, service providers and others who offer support to families – and will suggest that they need major reforms in order to give children and their families the wherewithal to succeed.


Achieving Well-Being for African American Children Adopted From Foster Care: A Successful Rural Model
Presenters: Ruth McRoyKathleen Belanger, and Joe Haynes
Room 904
Although African American youth represent 14.5% of the U.S. child population, they represent 23% or 25,510 of the 111,820 children in foster care waiting to be adopted in 2015.   It is critical to study successful African American adoption models in an effort to potentially replicate them and increase positive adoption outcomes for African American children needing permanency.  This presentation will provide findings from research on African American families in rural communities who have successfully adopted multiple African American children from foster care.  Agency, community, religious, as well as child and familial factors that have led to the success of these adoptions, will be discussed.  
 

Psychotherapy with Young Adopted and Pre-adoptive Children with Histories of Early Deprivation, Abuse and Disrupted Caretaking
Presenter: Cynthia Monahon
Room 903
Young children with histories of serious early adversity placed in adoptive and pre-adoptive families are often referred for therapy based on behavioral challenges and parental worry. What in “therapy” can make a difference in the developmental trajectory of these children and their critical relationships with their adoptive and/or birth parent? What might be considered “best practices” from the perspective of professionals and parents reflecting on past treatments? This workshop will explore the complexity and diversity of therapeutic work with these vulnerable young children and their parents as well as factors associated with positive outcomes based on extensive clinical experience. The focus of this presentation will be on clinical practice but all are welcome.