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Adoption Knowledge Affiliates: A review of the 2009 conference

December 19, 2009

The annual Adoption Knowledge Affiliates Conference was held November 13 and 14, 2009 in Austin, TX. “Adoption: Opposition to Connection to Inspiration” featured local adoption experts, Dr. Stephen Terrell and Dr. Rowena Fong. Saturday morning featured an inspiring lecture by Dr. Jaiya John. Additionally, conference participants heard from a panel on “Ethics on Openness in Foster Adoptions.” They also had to opportunity to choose from six different workshops on Saturday afternoon.

As always, the AKA conference was inspirational. It is truly amazing to have a conference of such high caliber held annually right here in Austin, TX. AKA is a one-of-a-kind non-profit organization that consistently exceeds the expectations of our community. An organization that welcomes ALL members of the adoption triad is truly setting the standard and creating the model by which other organizations throughout the nation strive to achieve.

The 2009 conference focused on an aspect of adoption that sometimes receives little attention- adoption through foster care and more specifically, adopting children who have been abused, neglected, or otherwise traumatized. The encouraging attendance made it clear that AKA recognized a need in the community- and the community responded!

A local legend and never a disappointment, Dr. Stephen Terrell speaks as an expert in the field of attachment as well as an expert in the field of adoptive parenting. He has come by the title “expert” the old fashioned way- by being an adoptive parent! Dr. Terrell’s lectures are engaging and thought provoking. His sense of humor and compassion for hurting children and families makes it clear why he is highly regarded in the field. In addition to giving a basic foundation about the impact of trauma, Dr. Terrell provided some concrete techniques on ways to build a connection with children who have been traumatized.

Friday afternoon tackled the sensitive topic regarding openness in foster adoptions. Dr. Rowena Fong led an intense discussion that was followed up by a panel of four adoption professionals. This emotional and difficult topic certainly challenged some of our preexisting ideas about what children “can handle” and what children deserve to know about their past. We all have a story. And that story deserves to be known.

Dr. Jaiya John flew into Austin to deliver a powerful presentation, inspired by his own experiences as the first Black child adopted by a White couple in New Mexico. A dynamic public speaker, Dr. John spoke from the heart about how his childhood has shaped who he is today. Dr. John offered this advice to adoptive parents and professionals who work with adoptive families:

Think of relationships that make you feel beautiful
and as though you belong. Write down the
qualities of that relationship that make you feel that
way. THIS is how we help our adopted children.

Dr. John graciously stayed at the conference throughout the afternoon and made time for any conference attendee who wished to have a personal conversation with him. Dr. John is the author of “Black Baby White Hands: A View from the Crib” and several books of poetry.

Saturday afternoon offered six different workshops for conference attendees. Topics included:
• Legal Nuts and Bolts of Adoption
• A Birthmother’s Story: They Told Me I’d Forget
• Benefits of Therapy for the Adoptive Family
• Bringing Play Therapy Home: How to Use Therapeutic Play with Your Adopted Child at Home
• Birthfathers Speak Out
• AAC and the State of Adoption Reform in Texas: How Can We Help?

The conference concluded with Patricia Axsom O’Brien leading a panel to discuss and common themes learned through the different conference presentations.

Local Austinites should be extremely grateful to have access to such an amazing organization committed to providing the community with accurate, timely, and compassionate information about adoption. If you haven’t been to an AKA meeting, check out for the next meeting topic. Don’t miss out on becoming a part of this progressive organization that is setting the standard for adoption organizations throughout the nation. See you at the 2010 conference!

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