Workshop and Event Schedule


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

Schedule at a Glance


Thursday, May 11, 2017


Friday, May 12, 2017


Saturday, May 13, 2017

2 pm Parent Leadership Gathering 8 am Registration/Exhibits 7:45 am Breakfast Keynote
5:15 pm Advisory Committee Meeting 9:45 am  Opening Session and Welcome 9:05 am Workshop Period 4
7 pm Coalition Annual Meeting 10:45 am Workshop Period 1 10:40 am Workshop Period 5
8 pm The Good Adoptee 12:15 pm Lunch and Keynote 12:15 pm Workshop Period 6
    1:50 pm Workshop Period 2 1:45 pm “This is Us” Panel and Wrap Party
    3:05 pm Beverage Break   (includes box lunch)
    3:30 pm Workshop Period 3    
    5:15 pm Yoga    
    6 pm Conference Reception    
    8 pm “A Fireside Chat” with Andrew Solomon    

Download the printable version here.

Thursday, May 11th Pre-Conference Events

Parent Leadership Gathering

2 pm – The power of our Coalition is in our parents and families. Join Coalition Executive Director Richard Heyl de Ortiz and others for an open discussion about legislative and public education priorities for the year ahead and how parents, families and parent group leaders throughout the state can work together to create change, educate the public about foster care, adoption and kinship care and improve services for families.

Open to all foster, adoptive and kinship parents.  Refreshments provided.

Advisory Committee Meeting

5:30 pm – Members of the Coalition Advisory Committee from around the state hold in-person meeting.

Annual Meeting

7 pm – Meet Coalition staff and board members. Hear reports from the Executive Director and President. Time for informal questions, answers and discussion will follow reports and the election of Advisory Committee members.

The Good Adoptee

 8 pm – Can you imagine not knowing your own identity? The Good Adoptee is award-winning playwright Suzanne Bachner’s true story of her intrepid and relentless search for her birth parents in the face of New York State’s sealed records. Suzanne must overcome both external and internal challenges: an officious social worker, her loyalty to her beloved Mom and Dad, the temptation to become her own Identity Thief and an outrageous Jersey reality show genealogist. Once she opens Pandora’s Box, can she find a way to integrate her dual identities and still remain the Good Adoptee? 

Reserve your seats now! 

Friday, May 12th

8:00 am Registration and Exhibit Viewing

Opening Session and Welcome 

9:45 am  – 10:30 am

Join the Coalition’s Executive Director, Richard Heyl de Ortiz,  and  New York State Legislative Chair of the Assembly Committee on Children and Families, Assemblywoman Ellen C. Jaffee for Opening Remarks.

Workshop Period 1

10:45 am – 12 pm

1.      Treading Water is Harder Than It Seems

Whenever we hear about an adoption story gone wrong, the blame is usually placed on inadequate training. But learning about something is not the same as doing it. Treading water for three minutes in warm swimming pool is not the same as struggling to keep your head above water amidst ocean waves awaiting rescue. This course will discuss the need for a different kind of pre and post-adoption support that allows new adoptive parents to feel more of the reality before it hits them in the head. Attendees will understand and learn how to deliver the truth to new families so that it inspires, and hurts a little, and helps families be better prepared for what’s coming after the legal papers are signed. Lisa D. Maynard, LMSW

All are welcome to attend. Social Workers who attend BOTH this session and Stressed Families & Family Systems and pay the CEU fee will receive three CEU credits.

2.      Presenting Options to Relative Caregivers Part 1

The child welfare system has increasingly come to value the role kinship caregivers have in helping children achieve the goals of safety, permanency, and well-being. Caring for one’s family members can be challenging. Additionally, the type of placement selected by relatives at the onset can have a significant impact on the level of support they will have during the placement and on their permanency options if reunification is not possible in a timely manner. Kin caregivers need to understand these options in order to reach informed decisions about the best choice for their kin and their family. Through the use of information and case scenarios, participants will gain a better understanding of these options.  This is a two-part workshop. Attendees are welcome to attend both sessions or may opt to attend just one.  Heather Dominguez

3.      Shifting Our Mindset to Parent Therapeutically

In this workshop you will gain a solid understanding of how to shift your thinking and expectations in ways that help your child heal and your family thrive. We’ll discuss the nature of therapeutic parenting, how/why it differs from typical parenting, the impact of trauma, how to care for yourself while caring for your family and where to look for help. Stephanie Garde and Sheilah Davidson

4.     Writing Your Way to Self  

It’s often a challenge for adoptees to write their story if they don’t even know the details of how they were created, who created them, and where they were for the first hours, days, weeks, months or even years of their lives. A practical and easy way to support identity formation is to get an adoptee to put who she or he is on paper. This process can be life-changing—writing your story becomes a way to come home to yourself and thrive. Anne Heffron

5.      Post-Adoption/Guardianship Support and the Transition of the Family’s Identity

When a child is incorporated into the family, any issues or difficulties that erupt cannot be contributed just to the child, but rather the whole family has to undergo change and reshape their roles as a new family to meet all their needs.  The new AGAPE post-adoption/guardianship support program is vital for the healing of the family as a whole whether through foster care, kinship, international, or infant adoption. Pat O’Brien and Tomasine Oliphant 

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

Presentation of the Family Is the Most Important Thing Awards to the Parent Support Groups

12:15 pm – 1:30 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.                                                      

Workshop Period 2

1:50 pm – 3:05 pm

6.      Stressed Families and Family Systems 

This workshop will explore the variety of situations that lead to stress in families, along with the accompanying stress physiology and dynamics that play out between family members and professionals. A primary focus will be on learning techniques of preventing escalation and recovering from escalation, and avoiding chronic tension. The family systems portion will continue this discussion and add elements of how families structure themselves to cope with stress, but many times, inadvertently, intensify rather than resolve the problems at hand. John Sobraske, MA, Clinical Psychology, LMHC, LMFT.

All are welcome to attend. Social Workers who attend BOTH this session and Treading Water is Harder Than It Seems and pay the CEU fee will receive three CEU credits.

7.      Presenting Options to Relative Caregivers Part 2

The child welfare system has increasingly come to value the role kinship caregivers have in helping children achieve the goals of safety, permanency, and well-being. Caring for one’s family members can be challenging. Additionally, the type of placement selected by relatives at the onset can have a significant impact on the level of support they will have during the placement and on their permanency options if reunification is not possible in a timely manner. Kin caregivers need to understand these options in order to reach informed decisions about the best choice for their kin and their family. Through the use of information and case scenarios, participants will gain a better understanding of these options.  This is a two-part workshop. Attendees are welcome to attend both sessions or may opt to attend just one. Heather Dominguez

8.      Openness in Adoption

Research tells us that 95% of all adoptions in the country have some degree of openness. Gain an understanding on the history surrounding openness in adoption and review the facts and existing research.  Re-conceptualize openness within family relationship terms, explore strengths and challenges in building relationships between first/birth and adoptive families, and develop skills to live openness in adoption in a healthy and fulfilling way. April Dinwoodie and Kim Paglino

9.     Identity Development  for Adoption Triad Members

This workshop will discuss how identity formation is more complex for adoption triad members due to relinquishment, lack of information, the merging of family backgrounds and society’s negative portrayal of adoption and triad members. Presentation will include information on the developmental stages of identity formation for adopted individuals. Marie Dolfi

10.  Discovering Beliefs and Values

Who is allowed to decide on identity? Or race or culture? How do we keep it adoptee-centric or child driven? Our beliefs and values are so much a part of who we are, that we barely give them any thought or introspection, but they are the basis of our critical decisions and choices made. Before we can make strides on critical issues in child welfare, build bridges of understanding between youth and families, or mediate differences between family members, we need an understanding of the beliefs and values that motivate the shareholders.  Melanie Woodley

Workshop Period 3 

3:30 pm – 4:45 pm

11.  The Reasonable and Prudent Parenting Standard:  Promoting Healthy Identity for Children in Foster Care

Connection to community and the ability to participate in the rites of childhood help build a strong, healthy identity.  The Reasonable and Prudent Parenting Standard, a key part of 2014 federal legislation, promotes “normalcy” for children in care and empowers foster parents to make those small but key decisions that can mean the world to a child.  We will discuss in practical terms what this legislation means for foster parents and children. All questions welcomed. Richard Heyl de Ortiz

12.  Openness in Adoptions from Foster Care:  Implications for Children and Families

Although the practice of openness in adoptions has significantly increased over the last three decades, there is still a need for more research on outcomes of openness in adoptions from foster care.  This session will provide an overview of existing research and present findings from a recent nationwide study of families who adopted older children from the child welfare system and have post finalization contact with birth families.  Findings from the study will be useful for researchers, front line staff and supervisors, program administrators, and allied professionals as they seek to incorporate more research evidence into their service delivery for children and families, and for program and policy development. Dr. Ruth McRoy

13.  Kinship Navigator Service Model in New York State

Kinship caregivers often experience hardships that can impact the well-being of their families and affect the safety, well-being and potential permanency of children in their care.  The New York State Kinship Navigator provides support for families, including legal assistance, access to financial assistance, local services and supports. The workshop will focus on the unique challenges and issues that confront kinship children and caregivers and how local resources can support them.  Gerard Wallace

14. Working with Adopted Teens in a Group Setting

Support and therapy groups are a powerful way to help teens with relinquishment, loss, adoption, and identity issues. Workshop will review the basics of running a group and group exercises. Marie Dolfi

15.  Adoption and Addiction

Identity is a theme adopted people struggle with all their lives. Active addiction is a way of trying to find oneself and that healing is possible. Zara will discuss her journey with addiction and recovery connecting it to adoption including statistics and the tools that can help an adopted person maintain sobriety throughout their lives. Zara Phillips

Friday  Evening

Yoga with Lisa Maynard

5:15 pm For all skill levels.  Mats provided.

Conference Reception

6:00 pm – Finger food and casual conversation on the patio.

“A Fireside Chat” with Andrew Solomon

Far from the Tree: How Our Differences Unite Us

8 pm – 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.  Andrew Solomon

Saturday, May 13th

Breakfast and Keynote Address with Jelani Freeman

7:45 am – 9 am

Adopting a Better Approach for Youth in Foster Care

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. 

Workshop Period 4 

9:05 am – 10:20 am

16.  Conditional Surrenders and “Open Adoptions”

What terms should be included in the surrender of a child in foster care? What about the enforceability of terms?  New York State Law incorporates  enforceability standards that affect conditional surrenders and open adoptions. Requirements will be discussed in detail, along with other considerations associated with conditional surrenders. Participants will learn the specifics about the role of foster parents in instances involving conditional surrenders, including considerations such as whether foster parents need legal counsel and how the conditions stipulated may be enforced after adoption. Margaret Burt

17.  Racial Identity at the Intersection of Artist, Academic and Advocate      

During this session, Susan, a former foster child and a Jewish, tri-racial transracial adoptee will begin the session performing her groundbreaking racial identity autobiographical narrative followed by Dr. Ruth McRoy sharing her research findings, as well as educating on the development of racial identity in transracial adoption. Kim will engage the audience in exploring their own beliefs and values related to race, identity, family membership and privilege. Dr. Ruth McRoy, Kim Stevens and Susan Harris O’Connor

18.  Q-TIP (Quit Taking It Personal)

Created for parents, prospective parents and child welfare professionals this workshop focuses on giving participants key skills and tools to help rationalize the behaviors of the youth and teaches them to not take them personally. Desiree Moore and You Gotta Believe

19.  It’s Not About You: Understanding Adoptee Search, Reunion and Open Adoption

An Adoptee’s desire for information has nothing to do with parenting or personality, but an innate drive. Sometimes fear and misplaced judgement will cause others to think more about themselves, missing the opportunity to support and connect with the adoptee who needs this information. Join us to discuss and explore the depth of what adoptee search, reunion, and open adoption really is about – why it is so important psychologically – even if it is not about you. Brooke Randolph LMHC

20.  Foster Child is Not a Defining Title

Less than 2%. Those are the odds Michael had to overcome in addition to life experiences with homelessness, poverty, child abuse, foster care placement, parental drug and alcohol addiction, as well as near alcoholism himself.  This workshop will share Michael’s story of his overcoming adversity and help others see past the “foster child” label that seeks to define others. Michael Olivieri  and Anitra Olivieri

Workshop Period 5 

10:40 am – 11:55 pm

21.  The TPR Has Been Filed – Now What?

What to expect after the legal termination of parental rights? A discussion of the six legal grounds for termination of parental rights, including how the court proceedings work, potential suspended judgments, and appeals. It will also include an overview of the rights of foster parents and relatives.  Margaret Burt

22.  Race, Class and Culture

 While there is an abundance of research and commentary about the importance of healthy identity formation and the development of children and young people, there is generally a lack of research and conversation about the importance of the healthy identity of parents. How can we help children or young people with healthy identity development surrounding differences of race, class and culture without digging into and understanding the healthy identity of the adults that play a significant role in their lives? April Dinwoodie

23.  Defining Motherhood When You’re Not Parenting: a Birth Mother in an Open Adoption

The idea of openness is one many in the world of adoption have embraced – it gives the adoptee the space to know their whole identity. There is also a real impact on birth parents to experience openness – it requires confronting our parenthood while simultaneously watching someone else parent our child. This workshop will look at specifics of an “ideal open adoption” experiences, important moments that defined relationships and the impact these relationships can have for birth parents. Annie Jacobs

24.  Life Books Help Children and Youth Know Who They Are 

Children and youth need to know their history. When they have holes in their life experience they lose a part of themselves. Life Books help fill the potential holes so that the children and youth know about their life when they were young. This helps with their self-concept and with question their identity so they have a better understanding of who they are. The workshop will define what is a Life Book, how to start one, what goes into one, what materials can be used, and what resources are available. Participants will leave having worked on a Life Book page with possible materials to use with a foster or adoptive child. Barb Benedict MSW

25.  How I Discovered Who I Really Am; Searching for Roots

This workshop will take the audience through the adoptee’s journeys beginning with the struggles faced based on the circumstances of different adoption placements. Subsequent search and reunification through different methods of adoptee search; original birth certificate access (or lack of), DNA testing, Social media and pure tenacity will be explored. Attendees will learn about the quest for personal identity, the importance of family ties, both biological and created, and how we choose to identify family members. Tom Andriola and Rebecca Tillou

Workshop Period 6 

12:15 pm – 1:30 pm

26.  Advocacy at Permanency Hearings

Youth over the age of 14 now have a right to be present for all or part of the Permanency Hearing and the new legislation will require local departments of social service to notice all children over 10 in the same manner as everyone else.  This is not just the job of caseworkers to be advocates, as foster parents are also entitled to notice and opportunity to be heard. What can you can do differently to make permanency hearings more than just a drive-by to comply with the law? How can you effectively advocate for the children in your care? Margaret Burt

27.  How Working in Child Welfare and Adoption Changed Me

Those of us who work in the field of adoption and foster care often find that we must grow along with the families and children that we serve. This workshop will look into the minds and hearts of those in the field. We’ll examine the earlier expectation, what alter perceptions and the natural evolution of ever changing viewpoints in an ever changing field.  Zachary Fried and Kathleen Crissey

28.  Foster Care and Adoption and Its Impact on Learning, Identity, and Self-Image in Multiracial Families

With so many children being raised in families outside of their racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds, it is critical to address their needs for positive self-image and connectedness. Designed for social workers, youth and parents, this workshop offers insights on white privilege and racism; implicit biases in the school and community; the impact on children of being parented by member(s) of the dominant race; and strategies for assessing and preparing families for raising a multiracial family. Kim Stevens

29.   Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Parent

Foster & adoptive care must often change the identity of the parenting style to support the emotional safety and healthy identity of the adoptee.  This interactive, humorous, honest workshop will teach parents to help children by proper role modelling, use of non-corporal punishment, and help families understand the importance of overall child development and discipline. Jonathan C. Bush, CASAC

30. Fostering Positive Cultural and Ethnic Identity for Transracially Adopted Children

This workshop will explore ethnic and cultural identity development for trans-racially and/or trans-culturally adopted children. This workshop will provide attendees the opportunity to actively participate in the exploration of identity development and to the contribute to the development of strategies to support a child’s positive formation of an integrated personal, racial, and ethnic identityRenee Hettich LMSW

“This is Us” Panel and Wrap Party

1:45 pm – 3 pm

Does media attention to the issues of adoption change society’s perception of adoption? NBC’s breakout hit his year has an adoption theme right through the center and many in the adoption community are applauding what the show “get right.”  Our final event will look at some key moments in the show and use them as jumping off points for further discussion with our own panel of “characters.”

Boxed lunches will be handed out before the panel.

Conference Fees are as follows: Two-day Conference:  Coalition members $150 / Nonmembers $205. One-day Conference (either Friday or Saturday)  Coalition members $125 / Nonmembers $180. Late fee of $50 added after 4/22/17.

Registration fees include all instructional materials, refreshment breaks, Friday lunch, Saturday breakfast, Saturday boxed lunch, reception, and any other scheduled conference activities for the two-day conference. Please see Conference Policy page for more details.  

Accommodations: The conference will be held at the Albany Marriott Hotel, 189 Wolf Road, Albany. Please contact the hotel directly to make your reservation at the conference rate of $116 plus applicable taxes. (Reservation code AFC). Reservations for the Event will be made by individual attendees directly with Marriott reservations at 1 (800-443-8952). Hotel reservations must be received prior to Thursday, 4/25 to guarantee availability at the special rate. 

Disclaimer While every effort has been made to provide accurate and complete information, the Office of Children and Family Services, the State of New York and the Coalition assume no responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided herein and make no representations or warranties about the suitability of the information contained here for any purpose. All information and documents are provided “as is,” without a warranty of any kind.



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