Friday, November 4th

9:45 – 10am     Welcome

10am – 12pm     2 hours CEU    

Keynote: Finding Each Other Right Where We Are, Robyn Gobbel, LCSW 

At the heart of adoption is relationship. Relationship is the cornerstone of the human condition.  When we are brave enough to honor our stories and acknowledge each of our unique paths, then our human drive for connection allows relationships to flourish- the relationships between us and the relationship within us.  I’m honored to share with my AKA family how I’ve come to see, through my experiences within AKA, my work as a therapist, and my journey as a person, how together we can hold space for connection and relationship only when we also hold a connected space together for the grief and loss that weaves a common thread in our adoption journeys.

12-1:15pm     Lunch (on own)

1:15-2:45pm     1.5 hours CEU

(A)     Judges Panel: Hot Topics in Adoption Cases and Legislation, Moderated by Jennifer Cochran, Adoption and Family Attorney

A panel discussion with judges who preside over adoption and termination cases in Texas; some are triad members.  Topics included: post adoption contact, birth fathers/ paternity registry, best interest of the child factors, sibling access, allowing adoptees access to records, open v. closed adoptions, and more.

(B)     Adoptee Narrative, Identity and the Autonomic Nervous System: How to Develop A Sense of Identity No Matter How Much (Or How Little) You Know About Your History, Karen Caffrey, LPC, JD

Having a coherent personal narrative – the “story of your life” – is a positive indicator of mental health, yet many adoptees are missing information about their history. We will explore how our sense of self has its deepest foundation in our bodies, particularly in a resilient and regulated autonomic nervous system (ANS). A life story told from a regulated nervous system feels coherent and like “home” even if our life feels like it “started in chapter two.” Brief, optional exercises will be offered for those who wish to become acquainted with their ANS.

2:45 – 3:00pm     Networking Break (visit exhibit booths and book store)

3:00 – 4:30pm     1.5 hours CEU
(A)     Rehoming in Adoption: Exploring the Darker Side of Adoption,  Melanie Chung-Sherman, LCSW-S & Amy L. Curtis, LSW, LPC-S

With over 12,290 international adoptions in Texas, rehoming remains in practice across our state, despite the fact that legal, ethical, and clinical oversight are not implemented. Rehoming opens vulnerable children to exploitation, abuse, attachment compromise, and trafficking. Thorough assessment regarding family dynamics, legal standing, and an adoptee’s current well-being, both mentally and physically within their family are all important factors to assess when concerned about possible rehoming.  We will explore the clinical implications, as well as applications to consider when working with adoptees and families impacted by rehoming.

(B)     Open Adoption: Redefining Family without Fear, Traci W. Pirri, LCSW

Open adoption challenges the traditional definition of family and forces those within the triad to restructure the family system.  Fears and misconceptions often cause adoptive and birth parents to react proactively, causing misunderstandings. This impacts the adoptee’s ability to develop a stable sense of self and can threaten the family’s stability.  Overcoming these fears and building healthy family roles, fosters an adoption bond that extends beyond the adoptee-adoptive parent relationship, into both extended families.  This presentation will incorporate examples from my own family’s experience with open adoption.

(C)     Child Centered Placement and Lifetime Considerations, Patricia Dorner, MA, LPC

Adoption embodies lifetime complexities.  Building a foundation of understanding is critical to long term outcomes.  Central to this is the educational process over time for all adults and the learning of the issues that manifest for all involved.  Child centered placement and lifetime considerations requires responsive adults, healthily meeting the needs of children at all developmental stages, including adulthood.  This often requires challenging existing beliefs and fears.


Saturday,  November 5th

9-9:15am     Welcome

9:15 – 11:00 am      1.75 hour CEU

Keynote: From Secrecy to the Statehouse; Ohio’s long road to restoring adoptees access to their Original Birth Certificates , Betsie Norris

As Texas continues the campaign to restore OBC access next legislative session, this keynote presentation will highlight how Ohio successfully restored OBC access. As a result, triad members have greater access to information in Ohio than they otherwise would, and 400,000 adoptees now have access to their original birth certificates. The challenges and victories of the decades’ long journey will be discussed and practical questions answered.  Betsie has worked tirelessly on legislation to reform Ohio’s adoption laws since founding Adoption Network Cleveland.

11:00 – 12:00        1.5 hour CEU     The Ice Cream Gene – Susan Ito’s One Woman Show About Adoption

As a young adult, Susan follows an obstacle-filled trail to her birth mother.  When she finally meets her, she discovers that some things simply just are genetic.  Susan’s one-woman show, with no set and no props, brings to life her compelling search for the details of her origins and her emotional roller coaster ride in defining love, family, and belonging.  A short Q&A with Susan Ito will follow.

12-1:15     Lunch (on own)

1:15 – 2:45     1.5 hour CEU
(A)     Advocacy: A Pathway for Healing, Kathryn Shelley and Penny Partridge

Finding your own voice in spite of a silent or unjust system can serve as a vehicle for self-realization and empowerment. Kathryn and Penny will provide brief individual histories of “finding their own voices” as founders of adoption services that were revolutionary for their time. They will discuss their ease (or dis-ease) with advocacy then to the long view now, both within their own family systems, community of friends, and larger society. Their personal stories will serve as an example of the risks and rewards of living within a time of social and cultural changes in adoption practice and law.

(B)     In Search of Openness: Stories of Reconnection, Anne Bingham & Victoria DeJacomo (& Panel)

Anne gave birth to Victoria when she was 15 years old at the Edna Gladney Center in Fort Worth.  Victoria was adopted four days later.  The two reconnected after 25 years in January, 2015.  Anne has been a professional writer for nearly two decades and is currently at work on a memoir focused on her experience as a birth mother.  Victoria recently completed her M.S. in Applied Psychology and currently works in the legal field.  For much of Victoria’s life, the two unknowingly resided within 30 minutes of each other. Anne & Victoria have created a panel to discuss stories of birth parent/birth child reconnection across several decades, highlighting the way adoption has evolved over the years.  This panel will explore the history of “openness” in closed and open adoption through personal experiences; present an array of experiences of reconnection between birth parents and adopted persons; and discuss topics related to identity and disclosure and the ramifications of how these are handled in adoption.

(C)     Liberation Among Landmines: Race and Culture in Adoption & Foster Care, Katy Perkins, LMSW-AP

Participants will learn how race and culture are crucial to human development and emotional well-being, especially in foster care and adoption systems. Discrimination, institutionalized racism, and white privilege will be discussed, along with ways that professionals can help promote, advocate, and celebrate racial diversity while supporting clients and families in the healing process, due to trauma.

2:45 – 3:00     Break & Networking

3:00 – 4:30     1.5 hour CEU
(A)     DNA and Genetic Genealogy: Testing & Interpreting the Data, Randy Whited

This presentation will highlight the types of DNA tests available, how to select which test or tests to address specific genealogical questions, and how to interpret the results.  The presentation allows ample Q&A during and after the session.

(B)     One Person, Two Birth Certificates; The History of Adoption in Texas, Connie Lynn Gray

An historical overview of adoption practices and amended birth certificates in Texas.  Attendees will learn about the historical movement and rationale to alter birth certificates, discover the problems adult adoptees have with “government sanctioned falsified documents”, learn why national organizations support equal access to original birth certificates, and hear the facts about restoring access to original birth certificates for those who were adopted as minors.  Of particular interest will be how to search the Texas birth books and code names for adoptees. Also included, a discussion of why, with the advent of DNA testing, the OBC still remains a coveted document for adoptees.

(C)     Thinking Differently About Foster Care, Julie Kouri

This session will discuss the emerging trends and new approaches around trauma informed care that are helping to reshape policies, practices, and collaborations in the foster care system.


Robyn Gobbel, LCSW, has a private practice in Austin, TX specializing in adoption, attachment, and trauma.  She is the founder of Central Texas Attachment and Trauma Center.  Robyn is certified in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and the EMDR Integrative Team Treatment for Attachment Trauma in Children Protocol.  She is a Trust Based Relational Intervention® (TBRI®) Educator, Circle of Security® Parent Educator, and trained in The Alert Program for Sensory Regulation, Dynamic Enriched Experiential Psychotherapy (DEEP), and Somatic Experiencing.  Robyn holds a postgraduate certificate in Therapy with Foster and Adoptive Children and Families, and continues to study the field of Interpersonal Neurobiology (IPNB).  She integrates all of these modalities into an attachment based, neuroscience supported, and sensory sensitive healing environment. Robyn has had the fortune to train with some of the country’s  greatest clinicians, and in her words, “trained by some of the country’s leading experts in adoption- everyone at AKA.”  Robyn became involved with, and has served AKA for 10 years, in many capacities- all while AKA’s members have shared with her their stories, journeys, struggles, and joys.

Betsie Norris is an adoptee in a successful reunion since 1986. in 1988 she founded Adoption Network Cleveland to provide support to, and advocacy for others touched by adoption.  Betsy became the organization’s first executive director in 1995. In her role, Betsie is a frequent spokesperson for adoption reform, and has assisted in over 2,000 adoptee-birthparent reunions.  She has worked tirelessly on legislative reform. As a result, all triad members in Ohio have greater access to information about one another. 400,000 adoptees adopted in Ohio’s formerly “closed” period 1964-1996 now have access to their original birth certificates. Her work is highlighted in the documentary, An Adoptee ROARed in Ohio: The Betsie Norris Story by Jean Strauss, Betsie co-authored, Journeys After Adoption: Understanding the Lifelong Process (Bergin & Garvey, 2002).  She currently serves on the board of The Donaldson Adoption Institute.  Trained as an RN with a specialty in child psychiatry, Betsie holds a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Case Western Reserve University  She is also a member of the Leadership Cleveland Class of 2012.

Anne Bingham is a birth mother and a professional writer.  She gave birth when she was fifteen years old at the Edna Gladney Center in Fort Worth and her daughter was adopted four days later.  After a closed adoption 25 years ago she reconnected with her birth daughter.  Anne has been a professional writer for nearly two decades and is currently at work on a memoir focused on her experience as a birth mother.

Karen Caffrey, LPC, JD, is a Licensed Professional Counselor and certified Somatic Experiencing® Practitioner.   She has extensive post-graduate training in body-centered psychotherapies, and has also taught these techniques in workshops and training programs.  For almost twenty years she has been a counselor for individuals, couples and groups in my psychotherapy practice.  She helps people recover from anxiety and depression, problems in their relationships, work and life stress, emotional, physical and sexual abuse, PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), trauma, addictions, women’s issues, and achieve mental health and wellness.  For ten years prior to her career as a counselor, she was a practicing attorney.  She practiced law in a Fortune 100 corporation as well as in a private law firm.  She found that her experiences as a lawyer makes her uniquely able to understand and empathize with her clients who work in the legal and corporate worlds.  She also has a specialty in working with adult adoptees, and does this work individually and in groups.  She has presented extensively on issues faced by adult adoptees including loss, rejection, anger and identity.

Melanie Chung-Sherman, LCSW-S, CTS, LCPAA, is the Clinical Director of Post Adoption Services, specializing in adoption-sensitive therapy and assessment at Christian Works for Children in Dallas. She is a TSBSWE Board-certified clinical supervisor and licensed clinical social worker as well as a licensed child placing administrator through the State of Texas.  She trained at the University of California at Berkeley for the Adult Attachment Interview Institute and is currently seeking her AAI Certification.  She is a Level-One Theraplay® Practitioner and practicum student.  She is trained under EMDRIA as an EMDR trained practitioner. She is a Certified Trauma Specialist through The National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children™ (TLC), as well as an adjunct professor of Social Work at Collin College in Plano. She is trained in TBRI® and the Empowered to Connect Parent Training.  Featured in the Washington Post, Reuters, Dallas Child, Land of Gazillion Adoptees, and Dan Rather’s documentary on rehoming, “Unwanted in America,” and a contributing columnist for Adoption Today.  She graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington with her Master of Science in Social Work. She was adopted from South Korea and raised in the United States.  Her greatest joy is life with her hubby and their two rambunctious boys.

Jennifer Cochran, Juris Doctor of Law, Adoptive Parent, is a family and adoption attorney practicing in central Texas.  She has extensive trial and litigation experience in representing adoption agencies, adoptive parents, birth parents and surrogates in terminations and adoptions (foreign, domestic, interstate, second parent, step-parent, relative, foster) as well as contractual agreements (surrogates, intended parents).  She is also an adoptive parent and has an open adoption.  She has written a children’s book about adoption, entitled “Who Will Be My Family?

Amy L. Curtis, LSW, LPC-S, is an adoptee and is currently serving as Director of Post Adoption and Counseling with Buckner Adoption and Maternity Services in Dallas, Texas.  She has worked in the field of adoption and foster care for over 30 years as a Licensed Social Worker and a Licensed Professional Counselor.  Amy is also working on a Ph.D. in Family Therapy, with a focus on attachment and trauma healing of those most vulnerable around the world. Amy believes adoptees and foster youth are the experts on child placement, yet sees their voice lacking in global conversations, research and policy.  Amy has two children who have become quite amazing young adults.

Victoria DeJacomo is an adoptee.  When her birth mother was fifteen years old she gave birth to her at the Edna Gladney Center in Fort Worth.  She was adopted four days later.  After a closed adoption 25 years ago she reconnected with her birth mother.  Victoria recently completed her M.S. in Applied Psychology and currently works in the legal field.

Patricia Martinez Dorner, MA, LPC, LMFT, is a pioneer in adoption reform. She has authored several books including Talking to Your Child About Adoption, and co-author of, Children of Open Adoption. Her adoption and foster care focused practice includes counseling, search assistance, preparation and support, and the opening of adoptions involving minors. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from McGill University in Montreal & her Master’s degree in Counseling from San Francisco State University.

Connie Lynn Gray is an adoptee, 2013 Spokeo Search Angel, Past AKA Board Member, Past Texas State Representative for AAC, Founder of Texas Adoptee Rights.  Connie has been researching birth certificates and adoption records since she had her own adoption file opened in 1976.  For the past 40 years, she has helped others access their adoption records, discover their genetic relationships and reconnect with biological families.  Recognized with a national award in 2013 by Spokeo for her work as a Search Angel, she was the Texas State Representative for the American Adoption Congress from 2013 to 2015 and a past board member of Adoption Knowledge Affiliates.  Connie is a current board member of the Adoption Rights Coalition and in 2013 founded the political action group, Texas Adoptee Rights.  The organization championed for access legislation in 2015 and will continue to work until the laws are equitable.  Further information and email sign up may be found at

Susan Ito is the author of The Mouse Room.  She co-edited the literary anthology A Ghost At Heart’s Edge: Shories & Poems of Adoption (North Atlantic Books).  She is a creative non-fiction editor at Literary Mama, and her work has appeared in Growing Up Asian American, Choice, Hip Mama, The Bellevue Literary Review, Making More Waves and elsewhere.  She has performed her solo show, The Ice Cream Gene, around the US.  She teaches in the Creative Non-fiction MFA Program at Bay Path University, and is working on a theatrical adaption of Untold, stories of reproductive stigma.  Her website is

Julie Kouri is the founder and Executive Director of Fostering Hope Austin. She mentors families through the foster care and adoption process, and post placement. She and her husband have 3 children through adoption.

Penny Callan Partridge, “Poet Laureate of Adoption,” is an adopted person and a parent by adoption.  In 1972, she co-founded Adoption Forum, similar to AKA, in Philadelphia.  Penny served as founding and first Board President of the American Adoption Congress (1978), has delivered numerous keynotes, and published multiple books of adoption-themed poetry, and one essay book, The People They Brought Me: Poems in the Adoption Community.  Penny’s adoption story appears in Sacred Connections: Stories of Adoption.  Born and raised in California, she now lives in Massachusetts.

Katy Perkins, LMSW-AP,  is a founding member of Support Texas Adoptee Rights, and has provided training and educational sessions about adoption for fifteen years. In private practice at Kingsman Consulting, LLC, Katy connects people separated from their families of origin with community resources and provides support to individuals considering adopting.

Traci Pirri, LCSW, is an adoptive mother of two, psychotherapist, and adoption coach.  After 18 years in Raleigh, NC, she recently moved back home to Texas.  Adoption has been a huge part of her life even before adopting her two children, ages 8 and 6.  She started out her career in the child welfare system, working with families suffering from mental health and/or sexual abuse issues.  She moved into psychotherapy treating victims of sexual abuse, as well as adolescent sex offenders.  She continued with this while also contracting with community agencies to provide in-home therapy, as well as leading several clinical supervision groups focused on treating trauma.  Eventually, she moved into private practice, continuing to focus on trauma and adoption issues, clinical supervision, and training both locally and nationally.  She is excited to be in Austin now and focusing her coaching services on helping people maneuver better open adoption experiences.

Kathryn Shelley is an adopted person, reunited with her birthfamily.  In 1990, she co-founded Adoption Knowledge Affiliates.  She served in multiple leadership roles over the organization’s first decade.  Kathryn has delivered adoption-related presentations and served on numerous panels over the past 20 years.  Kathryn’s adoption story appears in Sacred Connections: Stories of Adoption.  After her adoptive father’s stroke, she co-founded the Aphasia Center of West Texas, the second independent aphasia center in the U.S., and now Aphasia Access, the first-ever national organization uniting aphasia researchers, educators and clinicians intent on growing a revolutionary model of service that is positively changing what life can be for people with aphasia and their families.  She now lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Randy Whited is the President of the Texas State Genealogical Society. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Federation of Genealogical Societies.  An avid genealogist for 30 years, his current passion is the burgeoning role of genetic genealogy.  Randy has over 20 years of experience in information technology and business intelligence and is a data visualization analyst at a major computer hardware and service company.  He earned his BA in Natural Science from the University of Austin with a major in Astronomy.

Krista Woods, LCSW, is the founder and President of Integrity Clinical Consulting & Training; which provides therapy and clinical services in Illinois, and case consultation and training across the country. She has been providing training on topics such as adoption, cultural competency chronic mental illness and crisis intervention since 1993.