Featured Sessions & Panel for Barker's 2021 Virtual Adoption & Foster Care Conference: Resilience + Heart

Each session is designed to meet the interests of everyone in the adoption circle. Sessions include panels and presentations by adoptees, birth parents, and adoptive parents.


Keynote Adress (8:30 - 9:30 AM ET)

Relinquishment hurts...Adoption has NOTHING to do with it. 

Dr. Lopez will uncover the invisible and sometimes complicated parts of “the adoption story” by leading us all through the neuroscience of how our human system works, and she will share parts of her own healing journey – what worked, what did not, and why. Speaker: Dr. Julie Lopez

Session 1 (9:30 to 11:00 AM ET)  

A.Transracial Adoption Through the Lens of a Global Pandemic – Developing a Deeper Understanding of Identity, Connections, Race & Trauma

With so many elements of our lives shifting and changing due to Covid-19, we have a unique opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of some of the ways that trauma, lack of power and control, loss, and family separation can impact adoptees, particularly those who are adopted transracially.  Through a rich and very personal lens, nationally recognized thought leader, and transracially adopted person, April will candidly explore how our current shared experiences can be a gateway to more empathy, enlightenment, and love. This session aims to be a safe and transformational space for all who attend.  Speaker: April Dinwoodie

B. You’ve Got Mail: The New Realities of Adoption Reunion

Historically, adoption reunions have been facilitated through official channels by third parties including social workers and state officials, and involved counseling both before and during the search process to assist all parties with the emotional complexities associated with reconnection. In recent years, many adoptees and birth family members have found each other directly using the internet and genetic testing services. This session will explore how these developments have changed the reunion process, and what steps all members of the adoption circle can take to ensure a healthy and beneficial reconnection process, regardless of how a reunion occurred, and will include insights from those who have been through the process.  Speaker: Cynthia Cubbage

Session 2 (11:00 to 12:30 PM ET)

A. Deep Dive into Implicit Memory

Children’s earliest life experiences bring with them an emotional intensity that can contribute to and shape their later beliefs, expecta­tions, behaviors, and feelings. This session will focus on helping adult adoptees, biological parents, adoptive parents, and prospective adoptive parents understand how the brain is shaped by early life events especially traumatic ones. Adoptees are brilliant in their adaptations including strong survival strategies like people-pleasing, contorting, silencing, and distancing.  Participants will learn about a range of implicit memory therapies: what their key components are, how they work, and why they do. They’ll also gain hands-on experience in understanding how implicit memory works and how codes have been laid in everybody’s system for better or for worse. Plus, how when using the right tool these codes can be changed. Speaker: Julie Lopez

B. Special Considerations in Adoptee Identify Formation

Identity formation is a complex and sometimes challenging process of developing a clear and unique view of oneself. Much of our identity is formed based on how we perceive ourselves among our peers and family members. Children who were adopted have the added wonder and need to understand why they were placed for adoption and what they may have lost and grieved as a result. This workshop will explore the common factors in adoptee identity formation, including the tendency to please others, to appear perfect and the sometimes-paralyzing fear of rejection, and the role that adoptive parents have in providing adoptees the freedom to safely explore their identity. Special attention will be given to the importance of race and cultural factors, particularly for transracial adoptees.  Speakers: Isaac Etter & Hannah Matthews

Lunch/Breakouts & Live Q&A Chat with Program Directors (12:30 - 1:30 PM ET) 

Session 3 (1:30 to 3:00 PM ET)

A. Openness in Adoption – Exploring the Importance of Birth Family Connections

Over time, we have come to understand better the long-lasting benefits that a spirit of openness can bring to adoption.  We now know that adoptees who can have open relationships with both their birth and adoptive families often have an easier time forming their identity and have fewer unanswered questions to struggle with throughout life.   During this session, you will hear from adult adoptees and a member of their birth family.  Together, these pairs will share with attendees some of their personal journey to openness and will share some of the challenges faced, and benefits received as a result of their decision to maintain these meaningful connections. Facilitator: Chauncey Strong

B. Longevity requires some Levity

When one thinks of Older Child adoption, one can immediately point to the challenges that are involved. We would be dismissing harsh realities to say that there are none. However, while it does require a great deal of commitment, flexibility, and stick-to-it-iveness, it also takes a large amount of levity. Families who do well and are most successful in adopting an older child are the ones who have developed the skill of not taking themselves too seriously. Releasing the power struggles and relinquishing arbitrary rules have saved many a family from impending disruption. Finding the light is important to maintaining your sanity and ultimately saving the relationship and securing those attachments. Hear from a panel of parents who have parented through their darkest moments not knowing what would be on the other side, only to find out that there is possibility and promise at the other end of their “yes.” Moderator: Saara McEachnie

Closing Session (3:00 to 4:00 PM ET) 

Therapeutic Writing for the Adoption Constellation

Being a member of the adoption constellation – adoptee, birth parent, adoptive parent – can sometimes be hard to wrap your head and heart around. Putting words to complex and amorphous thoughts and feelings can be challenging. In this integrated group, we will explore our internal experiences around adoption through short writing exercises – such as a letter to your child or your child’s birth parent, or an imagining of your reunion or visit to your host country – complemented by discussion and optional sharing (submitting your writing and reading aloud are not required). You will have the opportunity to explore these issues with other members of the constellation and learn from one another’s varying experiences, perspectives, and wisdom.  Speaker: Sarah Saffian

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