“Coming Home to Your Self”

*conference schedule subject to change

Friday, November 3rd

9:00 – 9:30am     Welcome

9:30am – 12pm     2.5 hours CEU    

Keynote: Self-Compassion: A Source of Strength and Support in Times of ChallengeKristin Neff, PhD

Self-compassion involves treating ourselves kindly, like we would a close friend we cared about. Rather than making global evaluations of ourselves as “good” or “bad,” self-compassion involves generating kindness toward ourselves as imperfect humans, and learning to be present with the inevitable struggles of life with greater ease. It motivates us to make needed changes in our lives not because we’re worthless or inadequate, but because we care about ourselves and want to lessen our suffering. This talk will present theory and research on self-compassion, which a burgeoning empirical literature has shown to be powerfully associated with psychological wellbeing. We will also discuss how self-compassion helps to prevent burnout among caregivers and mental health professionals, A brief self-compassion practice will be taught that can be used in daily life.

12-1:00pm     Lunch (on own)

1-1:15pm     Networking

1:15-2:45pm     1.5 hours CEU

(A)     THE NEXT PHASE; Rebalancing the Resources, Leslie Pate Mackinnon, LCSW

Focusing on the Gold Standard of counseling for the expectant mother making decisions for her expected infant.   This format for counseling is readily standardized and can be made applicable to all 50 states.  Let’s reassess what our next phase of adoption looks like and how rebalancing resources could change the institution, as we’ve known it.  We’ve learned a lot in the last 100 years, now it’s time to put those lessons into action as well as to assist the burgeoning field of 3rd Party Reproduction in avoiding all the mistakes made in the early days of adoption.  You are already working with lots of families formed in this manner and need to be prepared for even more.

(B)     How Open Should Your Open Adoption Be?, Traci Pirri, LCSW

Most people agree open adoption is best practice for adoption these days, but how much openness works best? What if one part wants more than another? Traci W. Pirri will help you take a closer look at these issues. She will identify key questions to ask and help you develop guidelines for sorting out your open adoption. Adoption is different for everyone, so the key is working out the best adoption experience for you and yours.

(C)     Creating Safe and Secure Spaces for Transracially Adopted Children and Families, Katy Perkins, LMSW-AP & Krista Woods, LCSW

Raising children of color in today’s society has become increasingly challenging since just before and after the election in November 2016.  This workshop will explore and discuss how parents can help support, advocate and be allies for their children (and others) and teach children how to advocate for themselves as they age.  Adoptees and children with traumatic backgrounds are at greater risk of being triggered, which can cause mood dysregulation. When living in a world that a child perceives to be unsafe, external factors such as community violence or even headlines can activate an emotional response. This highly interactive workshop will provide attendees with new insights and skills on how to support children that can be applied in schools, communities and faith-based settings.

(D)     Group Therapy and Adoption, Pam Greenstone, LPC

“I think group therapy is amazing and I want all members of the adoption triad to know that it is a great way to understand yourself, try new ways of relating to others, heal from old wounds related to adoption, and build a support system (inside and out)”. This workshop will give the history of Pam’s group therapy experiences and describe how it helped her navigate both a troubling birth family reunion and her more recent reunion with over 40 members of her birth family. It will cover the many special needs that all members of the adoption triad might have in a group therapy setting. It will cover the many ways to prepare yourself or your clients for a group therapy experience and examples of group agreements and formats.

2:45 – 3:15pm     Networking Break (visit exhibit booths and book store)

3:15 – 4:45pm     1.5 hours CEU

(A)     Suicide within the Adoptee Community: Breaking the Silence,  Melanie Chung-Sherman, LCSW-S

Within the last several years, the discussion related to suicide and adoptees have risen. In October 2013, the University of Minnesota’s Department of Psychology released their longitudinal findings about suicide behavior, adoption status, and non-adoption status–and the findings were significant. Based on reported suicidal attempts, the research revealed that adoptees were four times more likely to attempt suicide than their non-adopted peers. While adoption-status alone does not cause suicidal behavior or attempts, it is critical to examine the unique variables that may contribute to a higher risk of suicide within the adoption community. This workshop will explore some of the unique factors to consider related to suicide and adoption.

(B)     Transracial Adoptions: Building Self Esteem and Parental Tasks with Children in Transracial Adoptions and Foster Care, Torrey Carroll, MA, LPC-Intern and Nikki Carroll, MA, LPC-Intern

Discussions about race can be complex and challenging, especially so for adoptive and foster parents. No one can live in an environment “diverse enough,” “friendly enough” or “good enough” to insulate children of color from the touch of racism. Initiating open communication in a way that supports children in building a strong identity as a person of color is essential. Join us for a day to learn, engage, and compassionately support one another as we explore transracial adoption and foster care together. Questions like, “Why does race have to be so important? How can we break the racial sound barrier in our homes? What are the blind spots that can hinder us from becoming effective allies for our children? How do we provide cultural experiences that will help our children?” and many others will be discussed during this workshop. Hear from experienced professionals and TRIAD members about how to initiate essential conversations that support children in building a strong identity. This workshop will provide tools and perspectives shown to be beneficial in supporting transracial families.

(C)     “We Don’t Do That”: A Birthmom’s Experience, Joy Jones

How do you change a negative perception of adoption that is pervasive within a culture? This session will provide an in-depth look at the five adoption decisions impacting “the black triad”: 1) The decision by black families to adopt; 2) The decision by pregnant women to choose adoption; 3) The decision of birth parents to seek support/therapy; 4) The decision by adoptive families to have the “you’re adopted” talk; 5) The joint decisions made by the black family triad. We will also address the search and reunion process to help you develop guidelines for sorting out your open adoption. Adoption is different for everyone. The key is working out the best adoption experience for you and yours.

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Saturday,  November 4th

9-9:15am     Welcome

9:15 – 11:00 am      1.75 hour CEU

Keynote: DNA: Impacting the Ever Changing Landscape for Adoptees, Bennett Greenspan, President and CEO, Family Tree DNA

Mr. Greenspan will give a brief overview of the inception of Family Tree DNA and his personal story of discovery. He will update attendees on the state of today’s field of genetic genealogy, it’s latest technology, and what it can tell us about ourselves. He will also present his views on what he believes is the right of every human: access to their ethnicity and origin information. Finally, we will discuss the futility of legally barring a person from their own truth and the ethical implications of attempting to do so. There will be time for questions and answers, both preselected and from the audience in attendance.

11:00 – 12:30        1.5 hour CEU     The Good Adoptee: Suzanne Bachner, Anna Bridgforth, & Bob Brader

The Good Adoptee is the totally true story of award-winning playwright Suzanne Bachner’s search for the truth of her origins in the face of New York State’s sealed records. Once she opens Pandora’s Box, can she find a way to integrate her dual identities and still remain the Good Adoptee? Suzanne’s play won awards for Best Autobiographical Script and Best Actress for star Anna Bridgforth when it premiered in the United Solo Theatre Festival in New York City. The show has toured to the London Fringe Festival and all over the US, including a 7-week 9-city Connecticut tour to support the vital legislative efforts of Access Connecticut. A brief talk-back with Suzanne and Anna will follow the performance.

12:30-1:15     Lunch  (provided on property/networking)

1:15 – 2:45     1.5 hour CEU

(A)     Genetic Genealogy: Interpreting Your Results and Making Connections, Randy Whited

The presentation would 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 for ample Q&A during and after the session.

(B)     EMDR Therapy and Adoption: Transforming Trauma, Lesli Johnson, LMFT

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is an integrative therapy developed to alleviate distress associated with traumatic memories – including preverbal memories. When a traumatic event occurs memories become stored in the brain and nervous system in a maladaptive way – they are frozen rather than processed. People can become stuck in the trauma.
This workshop will explain the basics of EMDR and Attachment Focused EMDR and discuss the effectiveness of utilizing EMDR Therapy for symptom reduction in both adoptees and others connected by adoption. Lesli will provide case examples from her work with clients and walk the audience through what an EMDR session looks like. She’ll lead
an experiential “resourcing exercise” that can be helpful for anxiety and self-regulation and end the session with Q & A.

(C)     Art and Narrative, Ridghaus, JD-Law & Anne Heffron

Over the last few years (and actually the very reason we started 6WAM) we’ve been able to listen to individuals share their stories. Sometimes people say they’d like to share something, but they just don’t know what to say. So Derek and I put together a format to developing a narrative. But video isn’t the only way to tell stories, we’d like to offer insights, provide examples, and draw from workshop dialogue about how narrative and artful presentation in various media work collaboratively to really impact an audience.

2:45 – 3:00     Break & Networking

3:00 – 4:30     1.5 hour CEU

(A)     Building Your Child’s Capacity for Success: Setting Appropriate Expectations for Your Child with a History Of Trauma, Raya Shelashska

It is easy to get weary, tired and disappointed when our children constantly fail our, seemingly appropriate, expectations. Our disappointments and endless battles over homework, chores, and behavioral issues could cast a shadow on our relationship with our children. During this workshop, we will talk about how to form healthy expectations towards our adopted children taking in consideration the effects of trauma on child’s developmental trajectory. More importantly, we will cover how to empower our children and help them feel safe and capable of success in their daily tasks. We will learn how to practice mindfulness, set appropriate and realistic expectations for our children at a level where they can succeed, and how to raise this bar to help them grow.

(B)     Best Practices in Transracial Families, Amy Ford

As parents, we draw on our own personal life experiences to raise our children. However, in the case of transracial families, parents may be ill equipped to meet the physical and cultural needs of their kiddo simply because these skills have not been part of their life experience.  We can’t teach, or impart, what we don’t know!   How do Caucasian parents know how to comb African American hair, care for skin, respond to racism for the first time, develop racial identity in a child whose race is different from their own?  Best Practices will scratch the surface of these and many more topics essential in successful transracial parenting

(C)     Supporting Your Teen’s Search in the Age of Social Media, Patricia Dorner, MA, LPC

Adoptive parents, birthparents, adoption professionals, and therapists are often challenged by a teen’s desire to search for birthfamily. This workshop will examine the ingredients that maximize positive out-comes while considering social media.

4:30 – 5:00 Closing Comments / Wrap-Up     .5 hour CEU

Speakers

Kristin Neff, PhD, Associate Professor Human Development and Culture, Educational Psychology Department, University of Texas at Austin, studied communications as an undergraduate at the University of California at Los Angeles. She did her graduate work at University of California at Berkeley, studying moral development with Dr. Elliot Turiel. Her dissertation research was conducted in Mysore, India, where she examined children’s moral reasoning. She then spent two years of post-doctoral study with Dr. Susan Harter at Denver University, studying issues of authenticity and self-concept development. She is currently and Associate Professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

During Kristin’s last year of graduate school she became interested in Buddhism, and has been practicing meditation in the Insight Meditation tradition ever since. While doing her post-doctoral work she decided to conduct research on self-compassion – a central construct in Buddhist psychology and one that had not yet been examined empirically.

In addition to her pioneering research into self-compassion, she has developed an 8-week program to teach self-compassion skills. The program, co-created with her colleague Chris Germer, affiliated with Harvard Medical School, is called Mindful Self-Compassion. Her book, Self-Compassion, was published by William Morrow in April, 2011.

Bennett Greenspan, President & CEO, Family Tree DNA. An entrepreneur and life-long genealogy enthusiast, Mr. Greenspan founded Family Tree DNA in 1999, a Houston based company and one of the largest commercial DNA Testing companies in the country. Mr Greenspan was on the forefront of the now exploding field of genetic genealogy. He is also a known supporter of the fight for original birth certificate access for adult adoptees in Texas.  He believes, “It is the right of all human beings to know their origins, and while many are curious about their distant ancestors, adoptees’ quest for their immediate parentage is even more compelling and should not be legally denied.”

Suzanne Bachner (Playwright & Director, The Good Adoptee) is an award-winning playwright and director and adoptee.  Suzanne’s new play, The Good Adoptee, won awards for Best Autobiographical Script and Best Actress for star Anna Bridgforth, when it premiered in the United Solo Theatre Festival in New York City. Suzanne holds an MFA from the Actors Studio Drama School at the New School University. www.TheGoodAdoptee.com

Bob Brader (Dramaturg, The Good Adoptee) is an award-winning actor, writer and monologist. Spitting In The Face Of The Devil, Bob’s acclaimed solo show, toured all over the US and Canada and has won 7 Best of Fest Awards. He is a member of SAG-AFTRA, the Dramatists Guild and the United Solo Academywww.BobBrader.com

Anna Bridgforth (Performer, The Good Adoptee) is an award-winning actress of stage and screen and a Virginia native who has lived in NYC for over 10 years. In addition to film, television and theater, Anna works as a burlesque performer and MC in venues all over NYC. Anna starred in her first solo show, Suzanne Bachner’s The Good Adoptee, which premiered as one of 150 shows in the United Solo Theatre Festival and for which she won the Best Actress Award. www.AnnaBridgforth.com

Torrey Carroll, MA, LPC-Intern and Nikki Carroll, MA, LPC-Intern. Nikki and Torrey Carroll believe in the redemptive power of relationships. They have championed the cause for more than a decade by walking alongside marriages and families as they heal and grow.As adoptive parents and therapists, they understand and respect both the pressures involved in building a family, coupled with the unique gifts and learning experiences that the adoption dynamic brings.

The Carrolls have extensive experience collaborating with agencies, faith-based organizations and community ambassadors to develop programming and ministries that revitalize and enrich family systems. Their training and specialization include marriage and family therapy, crisis intervention, trauma, and adoption-sensitive therapy, including parenting skills within the adoption triad and transracial adoption issues. The Carrolls are passionate about bringing trauma-informed interventions into systems of care.

Nikki and Torrey serve on the Board of Relationships First™ and chair “CHARGE” (Citizen Helping Activate Relational Growth Everywhere) – an arm of Dallas community partners and stakeholders for the Relationships First™ organization. They are Safe Conversations® Master Trainers and believe that the most impactful way to shift to a relational culture is through meaningful, effective and safe engagement.

Nikki holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Baylor University, a Master of Arts degree in Professional Counseling and a Master of Arts Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Amberton University. Torrey holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance from The University of Texas at Dallas, a Master of Arts degree in Professional Counseling, and a Master of Arts Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from Amberton University. Nikki is a Level-One Theraplay® Practitioner. The Carrolls are currently pursuing certification in Trauma Therapy through the Trauma Care Institute™ (TCI).

As a husband, wife, and parents of two, they bring extensive life experience and a heart for supporting and servingfamilies in the adoption community.

Melanie Chung-Sherman, LCSW-S, PLLC, is a Texas Board-certified clinical social worker and supervisor through the State of Texas. Over the last 18 years, she has specialized in the field of child welfare ranging from foster care, adoption, mental health, trauma-informed care, attachment and administration. She has extensive experience working with individuals, couples and families who have adopted internationally, private/domestic, kinship and through the foster care system. Her passion includes education and training others within the community to help lift the voices of marginalized and oppressed groups. She teaches as an adjunct professor of Social Work at Collin College in North Texas. She is the founder and owner of a private practice in Allen, Texas that serves the therapeutic needs of the adoption constellation as well as all members of the community. She graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington with her Master of Science in Social Work.

Patricia Martinez Dorner, MA, LPC, is a pioneer in open adoption and search practices and has been a relentless advocate of adoption reform since the late 70’s. She has authored several books including How to Open an Adoption: a guide for parents and birthparents of minors. Her adoption focused practice includes: counseling, search assistance and support & the opening of adoptions involving minors. She is an adoptive mom of two adult daughters in open adoptions.

Amy Ford, is a mother, author, and adoption advocate living in Round Rock, Texas with her partner, Kim, and their 3 daughters, ages 14, 11 and 9.  Amy and Kim served as foster parents for 8 years with the Texas Department of  Family & Protective Services, having parented dozens of children.  From her experiences in loving and living with children of different races, Amy wrote the book Brown Babies Pink Parents in 2010.  She is frequently a paid speaker and trainer for foster and adoption agencies around the South, helping families navigate the challenges presented in transracial parenting.

Pam Greenstone, M.A., LPC, has been a counselor in private practice since 2002. She has worked for Waterloo Counseling Center and the University of Texas Counseling Center. Pam has extensive experience and training in Group Psychotherapy and served as the President of the Austin Group Psychotherapy Society.

Lesli Johnson, LMFT, EMDR Trained and Certified, CAMFT Supervisor, Adjunct Professor: Pepperdine University, is an adult adoptee, works as a licensed therapist and coach specializing in adoption. Lesli provides Adoptive Parent Coaching in office and virtually. She facilitates on-going adoption support groups and conducts adoption awareness and education workshops in schools, universities and mental health settings to help professionals better understand issues related to adoption. Lesli is a regular contributor to Huffington Post, Adoption Today, GoodTherapy and the podcast AdopteesOn. Read more at www.yourmindfulbrain.com and www.asktheadoptee.com

Joy Jones reunited with her adult son in 2016 after 30 years of denying the adoption took place. She combines her experience as a birthmom and her experience as a corporate trainer to co–found Black Adoption Story. Joy has a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and a Masters in Leadership and Management. She currently sits on the Board of Directors for Monarch Family Services in Houston, TX. She proudly calls herself a Chief Storyteller for Adoption in the Black Community.

Leslie Pate Mackinnon, LCSW, has maintained a private psychotherapy practice for over 40 years. She resides in Atlanta and presents both nationally and internationally on issues that impact families conceived through adoption and third-party reproduction. She’s been on GOOD MORNING AMERICA with Robin Roberts, and on CNN discussing the impact of the internet on adoption. She was featured in Dan Rather’s investigative report Adoption or Abduction and was also on the Katie Couric show along with her oldest son Pete. Leslie’s story is included in the book The Girls Who Went Away, and the documentary A Girl Like Her. Drawn to the field by placing her two firstborn sons for adoption when she was a teenager, her passion today is educating as many therapists as possible before she drops! She currently serves on the Donaldson Adoption Institute’s Board of Directors. For more information on Leslie, please visit: www.lesliepatemackinnon.com.

Katy Perkins, LMSW-AP,  is a founding board member with STAR (Support TX Adoptee Rights), and President of Kingsman Consulting, LLC, connecting people separated from their families of origin with community resources and support. Katy has provided training and educational sessions about adoption, cultural competency, and intimate partner violence for fifteen years.

Traci Pirri, LCSW, is a therapist and adoption specialist in Austin, TX. Her practice focuses on helping people live their best lives even when bad things have happened and relationships are complex. She has a special focus on making open adoptions work better and working with helping professionals, moms, and other do-gooders. She has also enjoyed presenting in a number of local and national settings on issues related to trauma, adoption, and parenting. You can find out more about her at www.HopeForTheJourney.org.

Raya Shelashska was born and raised in Kyiv, Ukraine. This summer she moved to Fort Worth to pursue her Master degree in Developmental Trauma at the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development at TCU. Raya and her husband, Oleg, started their journey as foster parents twelve years ago by welcoming into their family a dozen of children who spent most of their lives on the streets. Being a foster and adoptive parent led Raya to wonder about ways to help children with history of trauma, who struggle with behavioral, social, psychological issues, to heal and recover from trauma. In 2013, she discovered Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI), a practical and evidence-based intervention. She became TBRI Practitioner and Educator. Raya co-founded and directed national NGO focused on post-placement support, and for last three years she served as a Program Director for Eastern Europe for A Family for Every Orphan, NGO. Raya and Oleg are proud parents of four children and are passionate about making a difference in their country and providing support for foster and adoptive families..

Andrew Tash, JD – Law, is a birth father, father, and a Late-Discovery Adoptee. After completing a JD in jurisprudence and intellectual property, he completed an MA in English Rhetoric as well as an MA in Film. For several years, he split time between teaching college courses with working on cable TV shows for National Geographic, Food Network, and Bravo. Andrew now produces documentaries, including Six Word Adoption Memoirs (6WAM + 6WAM 2017) and teaches the next generation of filmmakers. He also serves on an advisory committee for the Donaldson Adoption Institute and builds community amongst those touched by adoption giving voice to authentic storytellers.

Randy Whited has been an avid genealogist for 30+ years. He’s an active member of several genealogical organizations, including serving as President of the Texas State Genealogical Society, and Federation of Genealogical Societies Board member.

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.