University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Conference 2014

Helping Adoptive Families Overcome Early Adversities

April 11, 2015


Innovations and Best Practices: Helping Adoptive Families Overcome Early Adversities"
Dr. Philip Fisher, Professor of Psychology, University of Oregon

Children who have experienced foster care and adoption often have early adverse experiences that impact their development and complicate effective parenting. Dr. Fisher discussed the effects of early stressful experiences on children's neurobiological and psychological development, and highlighted the brain's plasticity over the course of development in order to maximize the effectiveness of interventions. Perhaps nowhere is this more important than in the area of adoption, where there are still very few evidence-based interventions, where many adoptive parents struggle to find appropriate services that can meet the needs of their children and families, and where there is very little state or national legislation to guide the allocation of resources, or the type of support to be provided. This presentation described activities of our research group to address these issues, within the context of basic science, intervention, and public policy.  


Facilitated discussion groups focused on:

Adoptive & Foster Parents | Child Welfare/DCF Workers | Clinicians | Researchers | Educators  

These discussions were co-facilitated by persons familiar with Dr. Fisher's work and with the needs of adoptive parents and adopted children. The goal of the sessions were to continue the discussion of the implications of Dr. Fisher's work in very practical terms, and relating the discussion to the audience for that breakout. The goal of the afternoon groups was to identify action items. How can people in the group take that knowledge back to their settings and use it? What concrete things could they do with the information?  

Presenters Included:

●  Dana Johnson  ●  Ruth McRoy  ●  Mary Jo Spencer  ●  David Scherer  ●  Leo Farley  

●  Michael McManus  ●  Adele Raade  ●  Jennifer Martin McDermott  ●  Martha Henry  ●  Rachel Farr

Panel discussions, and posters displaying research and programs. 

By the end of this conference participants understood the

  • Psychological risk of children who have experienced early adversity prior to adoption

  • Response of the neuro-endocrine system to early adversity and trauma

  • New interventions and approaches for working with adoptive and foster children who have experienced early adversity