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North American Council on Adoptable Children 2000 Report

by Jean-Marie Wilson

I always wanted to go to a NACAC (North American Council on Adoptable Children) conference. The conference is held at different places throughout the U.S. and Canada each year, and when it came to Baltimore, MD this year (only an hour from where I live), I had to go.

The workshops at this year's conference were varied. There were 13 different workshops offered each of three times on the second and third days, and no workshop was repeated. The first and fourth days were devoted to NACAC business meetings and keynote addresses. Workshops were on subjects as varied as promoting self esteem in adopted children and living in a transracial adoptive family to the nuts and bolts of starting a parent support group and training adoptive parents. I attended six workshops.

Two workshops I went to were on preparing families to adopt children from the foster care system. Both presenters use a training program based on the one developed by Tressler Lutheran services in 1972, and still used by them now. It has been adapted for use by many states in preparing adoptive parents and is an 18 to 27 hour course that covers topics such as attachment disorder, abuse, neglect, and other situations children in foster care have encountered. I have taken this training twice. Both times the agencies I worked with did an excellent job. These presenters were both from California, and they tended to "skate over" the difficult issues (i.e. attachment and the long-term effects of prenatal drug exposure). Of course, I had to say something, and of course, they denied the children they place have these problems.

I attended a workshop on starting a parent support group where the presenters were very informative. They run a large pre-adoptive support group in Charlotte, NC (SPAFA). They explained everything from applying for 503C non-profit status to advertising and funding activities. They explained how they conduct their monthly meetings and try to provide one-on-one support for waiting parents.

A child and adolescent therapist based in Colorado presented another workshop. He works with children who have violent tendencies. He told the story of a patient who has been known to act quite violently. This young man lives with his father, and spends time with his mother. His mother bought him a rifle. When the therapist called her about this purchase, she said, "It's only a 22."

The most impressive workshop was at 9:00 AM on Saturday, June 29. An adoptive father and the child’s birthmother presented it. The adoptive mother and the 22-month-old child were there as well. They obviously have a very open adoption, but they stated several times what they have might not work for everyone.

The impressive part was that the birthmother was 14 when she had the baby. She talked about being the only one in 8th grade who was pregnant. She talked about her mother (who she does not live with) pressuring her to have an abortion and her father (who she does live with) asking her to have the baby. Her father was with her when she met with the adoptive parents. He also now sees the child regularly.

I asked this birthmother how she dealt with pressure from her peers to keep her baby. She said she tells them she was in no way ready to parent, and that she admires the parenting skills of the adoptive parents (she actually said that when she has children, she wants to be a mother just like the adoptive mother). This birthmother stated she is pro-life, and speaks to church youth groups about her decision. She also counsels other pregnant teens to have the baby and place it for adoption, rather than having an abortion. As she tells them, "Even if it is a closed adoption, at least your baby is alive."

Truthfully, I can't remember the subject of one workshop. It was so boring, I left! Instead I spent the time talking with Pat Johnston (of Perspectives Press) and Holly Von Gulden. There were many exhibits set up, but the most popular ones sold adoption books for parents and children. Many of the authors of those books were "hanging around." The friend I attended the conference with bought a book from the author and had her sign it!

The 2001 NACAC conference will be in Charlotte, NC. Although I do not have the dates as yet, the conference is usually held in late July. You can check NACAC's website: for more information.

© Jean-Marie Wilson

Real Moms is a newsletter by and for adoptive mothers. Support, information, encouragement, and networking for domestic adoption are offered to adoptive and prospective adoptive mothers.

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NACAC 2000 Report
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To Tell or Not to Tell The School About Adoption)

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