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.