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Better Than We Could Have Hoped

When we decided to take the 2020 National Adoption Conference online, we were faced with the daunting task of choosing a limited number of sessions that would be timely and have widespread relevance and significant application for the adoption community of professionals, parents, adoptees and advocates. After much consideration, we felt confident in the chosen speakers and sessions and eagerly anticipated two days of excellent training.

Day One was a great success as evidenced by the Q&A interaction, chat comments and other feedback our team received. Looking ahead to Day Two we were excited about the lineup of sessions and indeed - it did not disappoint!

We kicked things off with a session on preparing children already in the home for becoming a foster or adoptive sibling. Drawing on her work at KidsPeace and years of behavioral health and child welfare experience, A.J. Zehner presented tangible activities and practical frameworks for professionals to develop and implement programs that better prepare children and support families in the pre-placement process. Working from general principles, attendees could adapt the activities and programming to their context. The chat was full of comments from attendees sharing how helpful the information was, and during Q&A we identified the opportunity for more research to assess this type of work in relation to better long-term outcomes for adoptive families.

In the second session of the day, Megan Montgomery focused on the impact of past trauma on parental attachment style, and how that applies to adoptive parents specifically. She presented key concepts, resources and general practices resulting in a robust Q&A time and multiples comments from attendees seeking to incorporate the concepts into their assessments and casework going forward.

Megan’s presentation fed nicely into our third session of the day which centered on ethically and honestly recruiting families for children. A key component of ethical recruitment is education, including training in trauma and attachment. VP of Communications & Education for the Gladney Center for Adoption, Jennifer Lanter discussed the core components of Gladney’s family education programs and the role they play in recruiting families for all types of adoption. The other component of recruitment involves advocating for specific children and adoption programs. Jennifer talked about Gladney’s guidelines, best practices and perspective on child advocacy, emphasizing transparency and safeguarding child privacy. Attendees had great questions at the end including discussion of how to best utilize social media for advocacy.

We concluded Day Two of training sessions with an excellent presentation by Debbie Riley on Search and Reunion - a topic that has most frequently been connected to domestic infant adoptions, or as only being relevant for adult adoptees. But with the opportunities afforded through social media, global messaging apps, DNA technology and other online forums, it is increasingly salient for international adoptions as well. Debbie explained how important it is for parents and professionals to be ready for conversations about birth family search well before an adoptee becomes an adult because they are thinking about their family of origin and searching long before that. Debbie’s approach to such a delicate and meaningful topic was especially helpful for our attendees. One adult adoptee who attended and has gone through search and reunion wrote us to say, “Thank you so much for that session! It was incredibly meaningful to see a framework that describes what I was going through.” Wow! That's what we love to hear! There were also multiple requests for further trainings and resources on this topic and NCFA looks forward to offering more opportunities to engage with experts like Debbie on a full range of issues within Search & Reunion.

For most of us, it can feel like nothing is happening in 2020 the way we thought it would, and that can be discouraging at times. But we take great inspiration from this community that dedicated time to learn together and in turn, extended great encouragement to our team as we worked to deliver a truly equipping and impactful Conference to better the field of adoption. Thank you to everyone who attended, to our speakers and to our sponsors - we look forward to seeing you in 2021!