Event Description

Connected Lives: A Complex Privilege for the Family of Adoption
  • Keynote Address: Alison Larkin, Comedienne, Author, Barker Adoptee
  • Special Guest Presenter: Rhonda M. Roorda, Author and nationally known speaker on transracial adoption       
  • The Robin B. Allen Memorial Fund Closing Address: Sarah Saffian, Therapist, The Modern Family Center, Spence-Chapin, NY City

…and many other distinguished adoption experts.  

Read about the Barker Adoption & Foster Care Conference Guest speakers.

Read more about the Conference theme and breakout sessions.

Click here to download the Conference Brochure 

The adoption landscape today is in a state of flux. We find striking permutations on the theme of adoptive parenting and on the role of birth parents. Yet no matter how many variations or rearrangements exist, one principle grows ever clearer through the lens of rigorous clinical research and the rich findings of clinical practice: connected lives usually redound to the health of the child of adoption. 

Those in what Pavao calls “the family of adoption,” namely, birth parents, adoptive parents, and the child of adoption, have connected lives, whether only in their hearts and minds and souls, or whether through real interaction. All members have unique privileges and responsibilities. The abiding tasks of parents are to love unconditionally and to prepare their children for a world in which they can flourish. As increasingly more birth parents and adoptive parents work together on behalf of a child and embrace their connected lives, they learn what adoption teaches so powerfully: that what makes a family is not only genetic ties, not racial and ethnic similarity, but a shared history of love, caring, and permanency. 

The adoption ensemble that makes earnest attempts to connect and blend birth parent, child, and adoptive parent is more compelling than the lone voice. A song harder and more complex to learn, to be sure, but infinitely more beautiful and authentic in the end.

Join us Saturday, March 19, for the opportunity to:

  • Hear the stories of domestic and international adoptees and the birth and adoptive parents who love them;
  • Listen as birth parents share stories of integration – or attempts at integration -- into adoptive families;
  • Understand why race does matter in adoption and learn strategies that support healthy development in families formed through transracial adoption;
  • Understand the challenges inherent in transitioning from multiple foster homes to permanency in an adoptive home, and the strategies that increase success;
  • Learn ways to strengthen attachment even as the contemporary adoptive family becomes increasingly complex;
  • Exchange ideas on how all members of the adoption constellation can respond to each other’s needs with empathy and respect, and view the connections as a privilege to be embraced.

The Conference is made possible through the generosity of our wonderful sponsors.  We express our deepest gratitude to Chesapeake Management Group, CohnReznick, Gary D. Rappaport, Neighborhood  Development Company, RBC Wealth Management, and a sponsor who wishes to remain anonymous.

Breakout Session I:

A. The Undeniable Power of Family

Youth adopted from foster care may reject or portray indifference towards their adoptive families. This can leave adoptive parents feeling inadequate and ineffective as they seek to provide love and support to their child. As adults, however, many of these youth note that while they may not have always felt grateful for their adoptive families, the love and acceptance they received had an immeasurable impact on their success.  Participants will gain a deeper understanding of the importance of permanency for a child, the power of adoptive and biological connections, and a renewed hope for the long-term impact they can have on their children.  Panel of Adoptees including Chauncey Strong. Moderated by Beverly Clarke

B.  It’s Not Just About the Cuisine

You purchased the artwork, displayed the pottery, attend cultural festivals, and frequently go out to eat at restaurants that serve food from your child’s culture. But is that enough?   A panel of adoptive parents will share the efforts they continue to make to authentically celebrate the multi-cultural family they have created through adoption. Moderator: Sue Hollar

C. Embracing the Privilege of Parenting, Whether by Birth or by Adoption

Birth parents and the children they place for adoption may never meet -- or may only infrequently interact -- or may have open and enduring contact.  Birth mothers, birth fathers, adoptive parents, and adoptees reflect on the powerful healing and normalizing that may occur when real relationships, rather than fantasized interactions, characterize their lives. This presents a unique set of parenting challenges, but ones that will be presented as privileges to be embraced rather than feared. Moderated by Marilyn Regier

Breakout Session II:

A.  She’s Finally Home, Now What? 

The build-up to placement of a child who has experienced trauma and loss, can sometimes be more exciting than the realities of becoming a family.  This workshop, led by an adoption professional and mother of eight (seven of whom were adopted from foster care), will explore what families may experience after their children come home.  Participants will gain tools and ideas about services that may make adjustment from a “waiting” parent, to “parenting” parent, much easier.  The session is recommended for those considering and/or already parenting children adopted at an older age. Presenter: Debbie Schugg

B. Post Adoption Contact: I Thought it Was Going to be…….and This is What It Really Is!

Before placement, prospective adoptive parents learn about the importance and explore their openness to their child’s ongoing relationship with birth family.  Despite careful consideration, planning, and creation of post-adoption contracts, these relationships are typically different from how they are envisioned.  This difference is rarely “worse” than planned and is more typically much better or richer than anticipated. Three families will share their experiences in post adoption relationships, reflecting on how the relationships have evolved over time. Moderator: Ann Morrison

C. 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’ll 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 an opportunity to explore these issues with other members of the constellation, and learn from one another’s varying experiences, perspectives, and wisdom. Presenter: Sarah Saffian

Breakout Session III:

A. 3-5-7 Model:  How Foster and Adoptive Parents Create a Sense of Safety

Children who in the foster care system or were adopted at an older age often express their losses through behaviors. Using concepts of the 3-5-7 Model©, the author will explore skills participants can use to help children and youth grieve their losses. Participants will take a “journey” through the experience of a grieving child to learn more about the impact of loss from the child’s perspective.  Most of all, participants will hear that grief is not a pathology and that survival behaviors can change when children and youth in grief are comforted.  Presenter: Darla L. Henry

B. In Their Voices: Black Americans on Transracial Adoption

This presentation focuses on a subject too-seldom explored: what black Americans think about transracial adoption. Rhonda Roorda, adopted into a white family, will discuss findings from her recently published book: In Their Voices: Black Americans on Transracial Adoption. She will explore topics including: how adoptive parents who have never been part of a minority culture can best help their transracially adopted child to recognize, reject, and deal with racism, and the types of support networks white parents need to have in place when they adopt black and biracial children. Presenter: Rhonda M. Roorda

C. After the Reunion – What happens next?

Reuniting with birth family is a unique, uncharted process. Many who search and are able to reunite discover that the initial meeting is often the easiest part. Navigating and developing these new relationships, and trying to determine where and how they “fit” into the context of one’s life is more challenging.  Adoptees who have reconnected with birth family will share their perspectives on their birth and adoptive family relationships and the impact that the reunion has had. Panel includes Haley Butler of acclaimed documentary Somewhere Between who as a teen reunited with her birth father on a return trip to China with her adoptive family and who since has met her birth mother and three siblings. Moderator:  Varda Makovsky

Event Type: 
Annual Conference

Date and Location

Event Date: 
Saturday, March 19, 2016 - 9:00am to 4:30pm
Time Zone: 
The Universities at Shady Grove Conference Center
Address 1: 
9630 Gudelsky Drive
Postal Code: 

Event Contact

Kathleen Porter

Registration Information

Registration is required?: 
Registration is Open?: 
Early Bird Fee until 2/26/16: $90/Individual, $155/couple