Featured Keynote Speakers

2017 Adoption and foster care conference

Exploring the Impact of Foster Care, Adoption and Kinship Care on Identity

The Coalition’s 28th Annual New York State Foster Care and Adoption Conference will be held on Thursday, May 11 – Saturday, May 13, 2017  at the Albany Marriott in Albany, New York

Opening Remarks with Assemblywoman Ellen C. Jaffee 

Friday,  May 12th, 2017 9:45 am 

Assemblywoman Ellen C. Jaffee Assemblywoman Ellen C. Jaffee (D-Suffern) was first elected to the New York State Assembly in 2006. She represents the 97th Assembly District (Rockland County).

As Chair of the Assembly Committee on Children and Families, foster care and adoption are among her top priorities. She is also a member of the Assembly Committees on Education, Environmental Conservation, Health, and Mental Health.

As former Chair of the Assembly Oversight Committee, the Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition, and the Taskforce on Women’s Issues, Assemblywoman Jaffee hosted hearings on a variety of issues, and chaired round table discussions on several topics. An outspoken voice for the communities she represents, Assemblywoman Jaffee has stood up for middle-class and working families, fighting to increase the State’s minimum wage, ensure paid family leave, affordable healthcare, well water safety, environmental protection, sustainable communities, and social justice.

Assemblywoman Jaffee has a strong legislative record that reflects her priorities, including full equality for women, equal pay for equal work, reproductive health rights, high-quality, affordable child care for everyone who needs it, and ensuring all students, from early childhood through college, get a quality education. Her standout bills include New York’s landmark Breast Density Inform Law, the most comprehensive in the nation, helping to increase early detection standards in breast cancer screening and save lives.

Assemblywoman Jaffee earned her B.A. in Education from Brooklyn College and her M.S. in Special Education from Fordham University.   

Lunch and Keynote Address with Ruth G. McRoy, Susan Harris O’Connor & Kim Stevens

Friday,  May 12th, 2017 12:15 pm 

My Mind’s Blueprint Inclusive of an Oppressed Identity Construct: Reflections and Introspection of a Transracial Adoptee

Transracial adoption of Black and multi-racial children continues to occur in the United States and throughout the world in increasing numbers. Professionals are expected to have competencies in a host of areas including family preservation, best placement practices and pre and post adoption services for all  parties involved. In this keynote, Sue Harris-O’Connor explores her Identity Construct as it developed into adulthood while weaving an autobiographical narrative. Susan adds to the discussion by bringing the audience participants inside the healing journey of her complicated identity being a former foster child, and tri-racial transracial adoptee. With the knowledge of a world class scholar, Ruth shares research findings, historical and contemporary practice and policy issues in transracial adoptions. She educates on adoption issues, the development of racial identity in transracial adoptions, and strategies for meeting the needs of children and families. Kim engages the audience in exploring their own beliefs and values related to race, identity, family membership, and privilege. As an adoptive mother of transracially adopted children, she adds another perspective to our understanding of the issues and approaches to supporting healthy identity formation.         

AFFCNY keynote speaker Ruth McCoy 2017Ruth G. McRoy, MSW, Ph.D. In September 2009, Ruth G. McRoy became the first holder of the Donahue and DiFelice Endowed Professorship at Boston College Graduate School of Social Work. Prior to joining the Boston College faculty, McRoy was a member of the University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work faculty for 25 years and held the Ruby Lee Piester Centennial Professorship. McRoy has published over 100 articles and 12 books. Her latest book will be released in early 2016: Transracial and Intercountry Adoptions: Culturally Sensitive Guidance for Professionals.


AFFCNY keynote Susan Harris O'Connor 2017Susan Harris O’Connor, MSW is a national solo performance artist of her book The Harris Narratives: An Introspective Study of a Transracial Adoptee. Since 1996 her narratives have been featured over 100 times at places such as the Harvard Medical School conference series, Smith College Summer Lecture series, Yale Law, NAACP and Starbucks. She is published by the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, The An‑Ya Project and British Journal of Adoption and Fostering where her racial identity theory for transracially adopted persons is featured. In 2014, she received the Outstanding Practitioner in Adoption Award from St. John’s University.


AFFCNY keynote speaker Kim Stevens 2017Kim E. Stevens, M.Ed. is a program director at the North American Council on Adoptable Children. In this role, Kim oversees advocacy efforts on a federal and state policy agenda, capacity building for caregiver support/advocacy organizations and manages communications and messaging. With 26 years of experience, Kim has provided training and consultation on child welfare issues, foster care, adoption, youth permanency, trauma and recovery, and race and identity issues both nationally and internationally.


“Fireside Chat” with Andrew Solomon 

Friday, May 12th, 2017 at 7:30 pm 

Far from the Tree: How Our Differences Unite Us

Being exceptional is at the core of the human condition; difference is what unites us. Solomon will talk about families coping with deafness, dwarfism, Down syndrome, autism, schizophrenia, or multiple severe disabilities; with children who are prodigies, who are conceived in rape, who become criminals, who are transgender. While each of these characteristics is potentially isolating, the experience of difference within families is universal, and Solomon documents triumphs of love over prejudice.  He frames his conversation by examining his experience as the gay son of straight parents, and explaining how it felt to become a father himself. 

All parenting turns on a crucial question: to what extent should parents accept their children for who they are, and to what extent they should help them become their best selves. Drawing on ten years of research and interviews with more than three hundred families, Solomon mines the eloquence of ordinary people facing extreme challenges.

He explores how people who love one another must struggle to accept one another—a theme in every family’s life.

AFFCNY keynote speaker Andrew Solomon 2017 Andrew Solomon, Ph.D., is a writer and lecturer on politics, culture and psychology, a Professor of Clinical Psychology at Columbia University Medical Center, and President of PEN American Center. His best-selling book, Far From the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity tells the stories of families raising exceptional children who not only learn to deal with their challenges, but also find profound meaning in doing so.  Far from the Tree has received multiple awards and was chosen as one of the New York Times Ten Best Books of 2012.  Solomon lives with his husband, John Habich Solomon, and son, George Solomon, in New York and London.

Breakfast and Keynote Address with Jelani Freeman

Saturday, May 13th, 2017  7:45 am

Adopting a Better Approach for Foster Youth

Through his experiences of living through the foster care system as a child and advocating for foster care reform as an adult, Jelani Freeman speaks of lessons learned about nurturing the resilient spirit in youth.  Jelani also talks about the high cost our society pays for low expectations of our kids and about the importance of life long connections. Additionally, Jelani explains the important role identity plays for you transitioning into adulthood. 

AFFCNY keynote speaker Jelani Freeman 2017Jelani Freeman, Esq. grew up in a series of inner-city neighborhoods in Rochester. At age 8, he entered the foster care system in Washington, DC. after being abandoned by his mother. He had never met his incarcerated father and saw little of his three siblings. He experienced life as a foster care child, but he continued to rise through the challenges. After high school, Freeman attended SUNY Buffalo, earned a master’s in history from American University, graduated from Howard University School of Law. He has spent his career working in government, starting with a Senate internship for Hillary Clinton in 2003. Jelani is known for his moving speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Currently, he is appellate attorney for Department of Veterans Affairs and an advocate for kids at risk serving with CASA in D.C., on the Boards of the Barker Adoption Foundation, C.A.S.E, D.C. Child Fatality Review Committee and the CCAI.

Get to know the rest of the 2017 Conference Workshop Presenters; just click here.

click to share to: