Adoption conferences are a way for adoptive families and hopeful adoptive parents to get training, encouragement, support, and a much-needed break.
I mentioned these conferences for adoptive families in chapter 19 of my book, adoption: your questions answered. You may be wondering how to find these conferences. Well, you’re in luck! I have generated a list of conferences, just for you! Some of these conferences are faith-based, and some are not. Note that this list is not an endorsement, as I haven’t been to all of these conferences. Do your own research about the adoption conferences to determine if they are a good fit for you.
Why Attending Adoption Conferences is Important for Families Who Have Already Adopted
If you have adopted, these conferences are a must! The adoption conferences that we have attended have included stellar training, support, encouragement, worship, and fellowship. All of these are necessary for this ministry life of adoptive families. If you see the same walls (of your home) day in and day out and the same faces (with potentially glaring or rolling eyeballs) every day all day, it is easy to get stuck-in-a-rut in parenting and responses. These conferences for adoptive families offer an opportunity to step away from the daily routines and gain fresh ideas about how to handle the glares, the eye-rolls and the stomping up the stairs. I think you probably deserve a break, don’t you?
Maybe you feel like you’ve learned everything you can learn about trauma-informed parenting. Perhaps you’ve read all the books and you don’t feel like you need any more training. I understand! Still, I urge you to attend these conferences in order to be filled up, encouraged, and to gain strength to keep going. Just being in a room with hundreds or thousands of people who “get it” is validating!
Many of these conferences offer parent training hours for adoptive families who are certified foster parents. This is a great way to get several hours signed off in one shot, without having to take weekly classes!
Why Attending Adoption Conferences is Important for Families Who Hope to Adopt
First, you’ll need training in order to get a home study. The training offered at the conference may or may not be sufficient to meet your adoption requirements, but it is still worthwhile. Make sure to get the necessary paperwork to prove you attended and get it signed off at the conference if that is an option.
Second, you’ll need training to be an adoptive parent! There is so much good training at these conferences, it is difficult to choose which classes not to take. Write what you learn when you’re there and look back on these notes in the future, when you’re in the trenches of adoptive parenting. There more information you can soak up now, the better prepared you will be.
What if you don’t know for sure if you’re going to adopt? Attending a conference is one of the best ways to help you make that decision! I encourage you to sit in on a variety of classes: sessions about parenting through trauma-related behaviors, sessions about transracial parenting, etc.–learn as much as you can. When you’re at the conference, meet adoptive families who have adopted and ask questions. Weigh out the pros and cons. Listen to what God is telling you about the right type of adoption for you and your family–and if He is calling you to adopt at all.
Choosing Breakout Sessions
Most conferences for adoptive families have main sessions and breakout sessions. There may be different breakout session tracks, but you don’t have to participate in one track the entire time.
Sometimes Karry and I choose to attend two different breakout sessions and then we share what we learned as we sit down for lunch or dinner. Other times, we attend sessions together. I like being with him at sessions and being able to discuss what we heard together. And, I also like gleaning information from two different sessions all at once.
If I have time before the conference, I look up the speaker bios online, check out their website, social media pages and I try to hear them speak (via a podcast, videos, or whatever I can find). In this way, I make sure that I am attending the breakout sessions that are the very best fit for what I need to learn and my style of learning.
Food at the Conferences
Each conference is going to vary in what they offer for food, if they offer it at all. The conferences we have attended have had food trucks available. I haven’t been able to find anything that was suitable for my food allergies and celiac disease, so we typically bring food for lunches.
Look at the conference website to see if they offer food. If the conference you attend makes accommodations for food allergies, consider yourself lucky! Please comment below and tell me which conference does this–and I’ll be there!
Is there Childcare at the Conference?
Most conferences for adoptive families do not offer child care. We typically leave our children with grandparents or friends. You’re probably thinking–but if we leave the kids with anyone, their behaviors are going to escalate when we return! I hear you! Really, I do!
Let me be clear: attending these conferences for adoptive families is worth it. At least, when you return, and your children show you lots of fear responses that look more like anger, you will have brand new tools to try!
Be sure to check in with your kids! Call, send texts, send photos and even videos. Remind your children that you are still their Mommy and Daddy and you love them and you’re coming home ___ (tell them when). Help them count down the days. “One more sleep until Mommy can tuck you in at night!”
Leave your kids with people you trust. They don’t have to be perfect people. Even if they don’t understand your children like you do–it will be okay. They may not get it completely right for a couple of days, but that is alright!
Returning Home to Your Children
Remember, your kids aren’t against you–you just left them for a couple of days and they thought through all of the reasons you might never come back. Maybe, they thought, you would get in a fluke accident and die (their minds can think up all kinds of scenarios) or worse yet, maybe you’d give up on parenting them altogether and choose to move to Fiji without them. They will imagine all the scenarios–and then act out as if those scenarios could be reality. Guide them through this with patience and love!
Upon greeting your child(ren) again, make sure to give big hugs and do your best to relieve all of the fears. You’re home now–you still love them–you weren’t going to leave them forever–you always planned to come home. Make sure to express these thoughts and feelings. It’s a good idea to bring the child a tiny trinket, even if it is simply a free pen or water bottle from the conference.
Spend a little extra time snuggling and reading bed time stories that night. Your child needs you. As tired as you are from being around so many people and soaking up knowledge all weekend, how you respond to your child in this moment will set up your week. Do your best to give, just a little more to reassure your child that your leaving for two or three days was temporary and it is now over. If all you can do is a movie night with snuggles, that’s okay, too. Share a blanket on the couch and stroke your child’s hair. Mommy is here–Mommy will always come back.
In-Person Conferences for Adoptive Families with 2020 Dates
- Alabama, Birmingham, April 24-25, Rooted in Love
- Arkansas, Little Rock, February 28-29 Hope Conference
- California, Oakland, March 27-28, California Adoption Conference
- California, San Diego, April 15-18, American Adoption Conference
- Canada, Toronto, August 27-28, NACAC, North American Council on Adoptable Children
- Georgia, Watkinsville, February 1, Choosing to Care Conference
- Iowa, Dayton, April 18-19, Connect 2020, Beauty Amidst the Ashes
- Maryland, College Park, June 23-25 National Adoption Conference, Families for All
- Maryland, Rockville, March 14, Barker Adoption & Foster Care Annual Conference
- New York, Albany, May 28-30 New York Foster Care and Adoption Conference
- Ohio, Cleveland, March 20-21, Journeys of Discovery, Adoption Network Cleveland
- Oregon, Grant’s Pass, May 30, The Zeal Conference
- Oregon, Silverton, October 23-25, Called to Love (a retreat for moms)
- Texas, Dallas, January 25, Lake Point Church Adoption Conference
- Texas, Dallas, May 6-8 CAFO (Christian Alliance for Orphans)
- Texas, Austin, February 22, A Future & A Hope Conference
- Washington, Redmond, March 6-7, Refresh Conference
- Utah, Ogden, April 21, “It’s a Brain Thing: Living with FASD”
- Virginia, Roanoke, April 3-4, Empowered to Connect
- Virginia, Fredericksburg, April 4, Interwoven Conference
Online Conferences for Adoptive Families with 2020 Dates
Have you attended any of these conferences? I would love to hear your feedback in the comments! If you know of an adoption conference that I haven’t mentioned here, please share it with me!