I'm preparing for my final conference of the season, and my second presentation this spring. Last week (after an inspiring weekend in NYC with the Adoption Initiative at St. John's University) I had the honor of offering a presentation titled "Against the Grain: Critical Discourse and Grassroots Organizing in Adoption" at Portland State University's Community Social Work Conference. Next week, it's on to Postpartum Support International's annual conference to reconnect with this wonderful, kind, and insightful community of perinatal mental health providers; and this year adoption is on the agenda: my colleague Beth Bassett and I will present "The Impact of Adoption on Motherhood for Adoptees, Birth Mothers, and Adoptive Mothers." For post-conference learning purposes, I've been honing my list of adoption-related resources. I struggle to keep resource lists because there's so much out there, so, my disclaimer is: this list is not exhaustive. If you have additional suggestions, I'd love to hear them. These are many of my favorite progressive, thoughtful, and nuanced adoption-specific resources.
FAVORITE ADOPTEE BLOGS
· A Birth Project
· Ethnically Incorrect Daughter
· Harlow’s Monkey
· The Adopted Life
· John Raible Online
· May I Have a Word?
· Sunshine Girl on a Rainy Day
· The Declassified Adoptee
· Lost Daughters
· Coloring Out
FAVORITE BIRTH/FIRST PARENT BLOGS
· First Mother Forum
· Amstel Life
· Birth Mom Buds
· A Birth Mother Voice
· Musings of the Lame
OTHER FAVORITE BLOGS
· Anti-Racist Parent
· Paradigm Shift
· Foreigner in Buckeye Nation
· Gazillion Voices (online) Magazine
· The Adoption Constellation (print) Magazine
· Somewhere Between
· Approved for Adoption
· Struggle for Identity: Issues in Transracial Adoption & A Conversation 10 Years Later
· The Girls Who Went Away by Ann Fessler
· The Adoption Constellation by Michael Phillip Grand
· Birthright by Jean Strauss
· Outsiders Within: Writing on Transracial Adoption edited by Oparah, Shin, Trenka
· The Child Catchers: Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption by Kathryn Joyce
· The Language of Blood by Jane Jeong Trenka
· Parenting As Adoptees edited by Chau and Vollmers
· Inside Transracial Adoption by Beth Hall and Gail Steinberg
· Adoption Initiative, St. John’s University [adoptioninitiative.org]
· Adoption History Project, U of Oregon [pages.uoregon.edu/adoption/]
· Adoption Mosaic [adoptionmosaic.org]
· Adoption Policy and Reform Collaborative [adoptionpolicyandreform.com]
· American Adoption Congress [americanadoptioncongress.org]
· Child Welfare Information Gateway [childwelfare.gov]
· Concerned United Birthparents, Inc [cubirthparents.org]
· Donaldson Institute [adoptioninstitute.org]
· Global Overseas Adoptees’ Link [goal.or.kr/]
· Insight: Open Adoption Resources and Support [openadoptioninsight.org]
· Ko’Root [koroot.org]
· Land of Gazillion Adoptees [landofgazillionadoptees.com]
· North American Council on Adoptable Children [nacac.org]
· Training in Adoption Competence, C.A.S.E. [adoptionsupport.org]
· Pact [pactadopt.org]
· Pavao Consulting [pavaoconsulting.com]
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.
According to The Gottman Institute, 69% of couples experience conflict and disappointment during the transition to parenthood. This tender time of sleep deprivation and system-shock expectedly stresses even the most rock-solid relationship foundations and places couples on a startling learning curve. That's not to say new parenthood is never peppered with delirious joy, maybe even a few glowy-parenting-magazine moments, only that it's realistic to expect (and attempt to prepare to cope with) challenges along this complex journey. Thus, it's compelling to consider the possibility of reduced suffering and improved outcomes if we are able to invest resources in relationship care during parenthood transitions. Bringing Baby Home, a program for new parents out of The Gottman Institute, has found in couples who participate in the program: better coparenting capabilities, improved quality of father-baby interactions, reduced hostility, and positive impacts on infant development and temperament (look here for comprehensive research findings). They also report a reduction in maternal depression and the baby blues among program participants.
Bringing Baby Home is available to folks in a few states throughout the country--if a workshop isn't accessible to you, try the Gottmans' book And Baby Makes Three. In Portland, this innovative two-day program is offered quarterly (the next class is set for January 2014--here's the schedule and Bringing Baby Home Portland website). For couples expecting a child, who have recently had a child (their first, third, sixth...), or those who continue to struggle with adjustment issues in parenthood years after baby, Bringing Baby Home uses scientific research and public education to improve the quality of life for couples and their families. Skillfully and compassionately led by expert practitioners Beth Bassett, LPC and Karlaina Brooke, PsyD, couples will learn parenting and relationship skills that strengthen friendship, improve intimacy and reduce adjustment stress. Bringing Baby Home is a powerful tool that appropriately encourages us to focus on emotional wellness, relationship health and the impact these issues have on child, parent, and family development.
With a mental health practice primarily serving young families, I predictably face questions about parenting. I routinely bear witness to the distress that accompanies insecurity, fear and overwhelm in parenthood. This distress is often amplified by pregnancy/postpartum depression and anxiety (or the lingering symptoms and effects of PPD/A as children grow). Plus, we're all familiar with the plethora of expert (and novice) advice ranging dramatically in approach, adding to (causing?) the confusion and frustration.
This is why I have much gratitude for the groundbreaking work of the Walsh family: Erin, Dr. Dave, and Monica. Their business, Mind Positive Parenting, has become one of the "go-to" parenting resources I enthusiastically offer my clients and community--I highly recommend this to parents, professionals working with parents, and anyone (parent or not) who's part of a "village."
Erin Walsh is a friend from college, where we grew together in friendship and feminism while working at the university's Campus Women's Center. A skilled educator and a natural leader with unrivaled Midwestern warmth, Erin joined her parents' institute, its mission to "equip parents and communities to raise children and youth who can thrive, meeting the challenges of the 21stCentury." Using brain science to inform their work, these folks are leaders in the conversation about raising healthy, empathic children (read more about them here).
Mind Positive Parenting helps deepen our understanding of the intersections of child development, media and research, while empowering families to effectively translate and use this information. Perhaps most profoundly, they insist upon each family's uniqueness, a truth that challenges sweeping generalizations and rigid measurements of "success." They openly speak to the tricky balancing act that is parenthood with a smart, nonjudgmental and refreshing approach. Find them on Facebook and follow their blog to keep up with their useful, compassionate work.