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Conference 2009

New Worlds of Adoption Conference: Growing up in Complex Families

February 20, 2009

An increasing number of American children grow up in "complex families" -- families in which adults other than or in addition to the child's biological parents are strongly involved in the child's life. This is becoming more and more frequent in adoption, as evidenced in the rise in open adoptions, kinship adoptions, adoptions by same-sex couples, and so on.

In order to explore these issues, the University of Massachusetts Amherst's Rudd Adoption Research Program hosted a one-day conference on "New Worlds of Adoption: Growing Up in Complex Families" on Friday, February 20th, 2009. The conference highlighted new perspectives on adoption and was provided for professionals and students in the human services fields, social science researchers, and community members.

The program included four main events:
A symposium featuring research updates on domestic adoptions from the child welfare system, domestic infant adoptions, and international adoptions, all considering the issues of complex families.

Ruth G. McRoy, Ph.D.,University of Texas at Austin
"Adoptions from the Child Welfare System"

Gretchen Miller Wrobel, Ph.D., Bethel University, St. Paul, MN
"Domestic Infant Adoption: Family Communication about Adoption and Adopted Child Curiosity"

Amanda L. Baden, Ph.D., Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ
"Complex Family Relationships in International Adoption: Search, Reunion, and Contact"

Plenary address "Family Matters - Supporting Adoptive Families with an Attachment-Based Intervention"

Femmie Juffer, Ph.D., Chair of Adoption Studies, Leiden University, Netherlands
Adopted children need the support of dedicated and nurturing parents, not only to facilitate their normal development but also to help them catch up from early adversities and delays. An attachment-based intervention has been developed in order to support adoptive parents to attune to their children's needs in a sensitive way.

Dialogue between researchers and practitioners
Adoption researchers and practitioners (educators, therapists, case workers, policy makers) have much to learn from each other and much to share with each other, yet the opportunities for true dialogue are rare. This session featured 3 researchers and 3 practitioners who share a common interest in complex adoptive families. They discussed what they need to learn from one another, what they can contribute to one another, and how their pooled knowledge can be used to improve the lives of the members of adoptive kinship networks.

  • Chair: Barbara H. Fiese, Ph.D., University of Illinois
  • Amanda Baden, Ph.D., Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ
  • Abbie Goldberg, Ph.D., Clark University, Worcester, MA
  • Martha Henry, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA
  • Elsbeth Neil, Ph.D., University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK
  • Christopher Overtree, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • Lynn Von Korff, Ph.D., University of Minnesota

Poster Session
Nine adoption researchers and educators presented posters displaying their current research and/or programs.


  • The Rudd Adoption Research Program
  •  Center for Research on Families
  • Department of Psychology
  • College of Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • University of Massachusetts Amherst