CHILDREN, ADOLESCENTS, AND FAMILIES
What Does "Typical" Look Like?
Appreciating the many phases of child and adolescent development is critical to recognizing indicators of traumatic experiences and their effects. Participants in this session explore typical human development and the powerful impact of loss, abuse, and neglect on areas of development and behavior. We will discuss differentiation between expected child behavior and behavior that poses a risk or may indicate experiences with abuse and neglect.
Building Essential Life Skills
In order to be successful adults, children and adolescents need to develop skills to communicate effectively, think critically, problem solve socially, be a self-directed learner, and take on challenges. Often people learn these essential skills while embedded in family and community systems from parents, caregivers, or other adults with whom they interact. People who age out of the foster care system or find permanency later in adolescence may do so without having participated in these kinds of supportive relationships, thus missing the opportunity to develop such skills. This session will explore experiences and support needed for skills that enhance communication and enrich relationships, and offers strategies that professionals can use to help people develop these essential skills.
Sibling Relationships: Advocating and Supporting Their Significance
Sibling relationships are often the longest, most constant relationships in a person’s life, and significantly contribute to the development of identity, self-esteem, and overall well-being. Losing this bond through deliberate separation can have serious lifelong consequences. This session highlights the key features of sibling relationships, how they change over the lifespan, and the benefits that siblings provide one another. Laws and policies regarding sibling visitation and placement, as well as strategies for advocating for and supporting sibling connections are also discussed.
The Meaning of Birth Families for Children and Youth
Maintaining a positive attitude toward and developing a partnership with birth families is crucial when working with or parenting a child in care. Birth families are a principal contributor to a child’s identity and are typically the child’s primary caregivers. As a result, it is difficult for children and youth in care to hear their families criticized; however, it is vital for children and youth to have a balanced perspective of the needs and strengths of their families. This session explains the importance of birth families in the lives of youth as participants learn how to maintain this connection, when appropriate, while helping children to cope with the loss issues that are associated with being placed in care.
ADOPTION AND FOSTER CARE
Talking to Children and Others about Adoption
Children and families joined through adoption are often confronted with questions or assumptions made by others about adoption and family connections. Talking to children openly and honestly about adoption is critical to their overall development, and a skill needed by adults who care for them. Self-reflection, openness, and ample knowledge facilitate and support children’s understanding and exploration of adoption and related issues. In this session, participants will learn practical strategies for discussing adoption and related issues so that they will be able to offer children and youth a variety of opportunities to voice their concerns or questions.
Adoption as an Option: Talking about Adoption with Patients
Medical students and other health professionals typically do not receive any information about adoption as an option to share with patients before they begin to practice in the field. Nevertheless, they must be able to discuss the facts and possibilities of adoption with patients who are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy or a prenatal/postnatal diagnosis. This session will prepare health professionals by providing them with general adoption information and an overview of the skills necessary to adequately offer the possibility of adoption to patients in such situations.
Adoption: Considerations for Genetic Counselors
A recent graduate study found that fewer than half of all genetic counseling graduate programs feel that their students are adequately prepared upon graduation to discuss adoption with patients. This session aims to fill this educational gap by exposing genetic counselors and health professionals to adoption-specific information, resources, and skills in order to prepare them for a variety of counseling situations in which adoption may be relevant. In particular, genetic counselors will gain the knowledge necessary to equally offer adoption as an option when counseling patients about a suspected or identified fetal anomaly.
Adoption and Foster Care in the Classroom: A Workshop for Parents and Educators
An interactive session between experts (e.g., parents, educators, and adoption professionals) who want to learn more about adoption and foster care experiences and their relevance in school. Participants will learn curriculum ‘hot spots’, communication recommendations, policy considerations, and how to collaborate in creating practical resources that promote family diversity through an anti-bias approach to education and support all children in the classroom and school community.
Adoption and Foster Care: Core Clinical Considerations
People who have been adopted or who are living in foster care bring to a family their unique histories, connections to birth families, genetic backgrounds, and strengths and challenges. Similarly, birth parents and foster and adoptive parents have their own experiences, perspectives, and beliefs. Participants will learn and consider how the core clinical issues of the human experience (e.g., grief, loss, and belonging) are illuminated and intensified in adoption and foster care across the lifespan.
Birth Parents with Psychiatric Illness: A Strength-Based Approach
Birth parents are significant members of a child welfare team, and some birth parents involved in the child welfare system struggle with serious psychiatric illnesses. Regardless of the severity of their mental health condition, it is critical to respect and engage birth parents as team members. Working effectively with birth parents requires specialized training. Treating birth parents with dignity and respect and demonstrating understanding of their psychiatric disorders will not only empower birth parents, but will also enhance child welfare professionals’ efforts to promote safety, permanency, and well-being for children and youth in care. This session will discuss commonly identified psychiatric diagnoses, how to effectively work with birth parents who have these diagnoses, and the importance of self-care for professionals working with people affected by psychiatric illness.