It's that time of year! My schedule is full again this conference season, and the learning-fun began in San Francisco earlier this month at the 35th annual American Adoption Congress International Conference.
Since adoption-related conferences influence me on personal and professional levels, I feel particularly "full" when they're over. My experience with AAC was no exception, and I left this conference with many new friends and colleagues in the national adoption community. I was moved by the profound sense of community present at this conference--it was evident the majority of conference attendees (predominately first/original/birth mothers and adopted people) have long-term affiliation with the organization.
It is impossible for me to sufficiently summarize the depth of content within this packed 4-day event, but I will share a few highlights and include some relevant resources worth exploring. Among the greatest take-aways from this weekend was the wisdom shared by first/original/birth mothers. The AAC has a strong history of supporting and being led in their advocacy efforts by first/original/birth mothers. Typically marginalized and often excluded from our conversations in adoption, it was powerful to participate alongside and learn from this incredible, large gathering of first/original/birth parents. I had the privilege of meeting a few folks who have deeply impacted my own adoption-related journey: Jean Strauss, filmmaker and author of the first book I read about adoption (Birthright); Michael Grand, who wrote The Adoption Constellation; and Leslie Pate Mackinnon, whose heartrending experience as a birth mother I read about years ago in The Girls Who Went Away. In addition, I was blown away by keynote speakers Dr. John Raible and Lisa Marie Rollins. They are among the leaders in the transracial/transcultural adoptee community and I am incredibly grateful for their groundbreaking work and powerful influence at AAC this year. On a final summary note, the rapidly growing fields of third party reproduction and assisted reproductive technology (ART) had a strong presence at the conference. Between workshops led by adults conceived by anonymous sperm donation and many conversations exploring the intersectionality of adoption and ARTs, it is evident our collective efforts toward policy reform and community building are aligned.
I left the AAC conference motivated to continue this important work focused on shifting the dominant paradigm of adoption and improving the experiences of those of us who are affected by adoption. Surrounded at AAC by hundreds of people in the adoption constellation working in solidarity toward these goals, I was inspired and left with a renewed sense of hope and peace; and I'm looking forward to next year.