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Legal Symposium on “Permanency Solutions”

posted by George Graham on Monday, October 17, 2011

 I attended the two-day “Permanency Solutions” legal symposium in September as a staffperson from Adoption Network Cleveland, but I also found it profoundly moving as an adoptive parent. Over 250 people who work and live foster care and adoption issues every day attended, including social workers, attorneys, court personnel, youth in foster care and foster and adoptive families. While most of those of us attending deal with foster care and adoption issues on a daily basis, having the opportunity to discuss these issues across disciplines and with youth and families who are directly impacted made the event extraordinary. 

Dr. Gerald P. Mallon offered the opening keynote on “Unpacking the ‘No’ of Permanency for Older Adolescents” and told the story of his adoption of his daughter when she was 38 (!) after he had known her for several decades. Dr. Mallon is a professor and executive director of the National Resource Center for Permanency and Family Connections at the Hunter College of Social Work in New York City.  His presentation made me think about how adoption really is a lifelong journey, as we say around the Network. 

Another moving part of the symposium was a panel on “Portraits of Permanency,” which showed some of the families that had been formed through Partners for Forever Families (Adoption Network Cleveland is a partner on this initiative, which is led by the Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services and funded by a federal Adoption Opportunities grant). 

The thing that moved me most, however, was a new dramatic piece entitled Sometimes Hope Is Enough, which was commissioned for the conference and presented by Karamu Theater.  The piece told the story of siblings that had been separated by the foster care system and the dynamics that arose when they were reunited at a funeral. It reminded me of some of the dynamics that I feel when our kids have visits with their birthfamilies (both our kids’ adoptions are open.) The piece was well-received by the audience and will be presented in the community several times in the coming months. 

On the second day the conference, there were workshops and breakout groups that allowed participants to work across disciplines on case scenarios and learn from others’ perspectives. For me the symposium reminded me of my early involvement in the Network, and how much I learned as an adoptive parent from hearing an adult adoptee talk about what it was like to grow up in an adoptive family . . . what was good and what could have been better . . . or listening to a birthmother talk about her experience of placing her child for adoption and then now knowing for years how the child was doing.

I learned a lot at the Symposium from listening to the experiences of youth on the verge of aging out of foster care. Some of the stories haunt me.  All of them make me want to recommit myself to doing my best to finding permanent connections for these youth.  

2 Comment(s)


Sue Kenney-Pfalzer said: 

Nice blog, George! I agree with your sentiments wholeheartedly. It was a wonderful symposium. I would like to take my kids to see the Karamu piece when it's performed again.
October 25, 2011 at 2:23 AM

Superior tihnking demonstrated above. Thanks! said: 

Superior tihnking demonstrated above. Thanks!
November 07, 2011 at 10:14 AM
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