DAI’s Let’s Adopt Reform National Tour Panelists Share Their Adoption Experiences
Since last November, The Donaldson Adoption Institute (DAI) has traveled around the U.S. to educate and raise awareness about vital issues that impact the adoption and foster care adoption experiences. Through these critical conversations at our Town Hall meetings in New York, Dallas, San Francisco and Chicago, we have heard from many voices and learned so much.
Our panel of experts and community members participated in each Town Hall to provide overview and commentary on many of the pressing issues that have impacted our community for years. They also sought to provide guidance and insight surrounding what has worked well, what needs to be changed and where we all go from here. In sharing both their personal and professional expertise, our panelists ignited a powerful conversation and created an environment in which many voices could participate to become a part of the solution.
We heard from:
Nathan Ross, a former foster youth adopted at 13 years old, began using his own personal experiences as young adult to help resource parents and child welfare professionals better engage and support young people who have suffered from trauma. Nathan shares here how he knew much about his biological family as he entered the foster care system at age ten, yet when he requested his records at age 21, much was redacted. Nathan insightfully shares that he “would like to see more of a connection between birth/first families and adoptive families. I think there is still this tug….but I think whatever you do, we as your family, adoptive or first family, are going to be there for you.”
Gabriel Blau, adoptive parent and nationally acclaimed advocate for LGBTQ families and their communities, considers himself “a dad fighting for all dads.” He has sought with other advocates to reframe the notion of family values through policy, community engagement and public education. Gabriel poignantly shares that “marriage equality has made it possible for many more couples to adopt as couples and as a family unit; we need to eliminate discrimination in the adoption system across the board; we need to put the best interest of children first not the religious beliefs of adults who are working the system.”
Steve Kalb is an adopted person and adoption professional with more than a decade of experience providing training for adoption professionals and adoptive parents on the value and importance of the adoptee voice. He is a strong advocate for a more balanced adoption discourse. Steve thoughtfully shares that he “would like to see the adoptee community become more politically active; I think as adoptees are coming of age right now and beginning to gain a little bit of political traction, we are starting to see the benefits of what concerted effort can do around a number of causes.”
Dr. Joyce Maguire Pavao is an adopted person and internationally recognized clinician and thought leader on extensive areas of the adoption experience. She is the founder and CEO of the Center for Family Connections and has worked closely with individuals and families created by adoption, foster care and other complex blended family constructions. Dr. Pavao is a lecturer in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and has consulted for many of the systems interconnected in the adoption and foster care adoption experiences. Joyce powerfully observes that “Adoption should be about finding families for children, not about finding children for families; I think slowly that’s happening because people are understanding that many children who are available for adoption would not be available if people took the time to really find their extended families and people who could care for them within their own community.”
Leslie Pate Mackinnon is a birth mother who has extensive clinical experience providing services to individuals, families and groups who are connected to the adoption experience in different ways. Leslie quips that her passion is to educate as many therapists and professionals about the adoption experience “before she drops” and she has been involved in adoption education and reform for many years. She is an international speaker on many of the complex issues that impact today’s modern family. Leslie shares of the pain involved in her own adoption experience and advocates for systemic changes. “What many people don’t understand when talking to birth parents is when you place a child, you’ve lost a child; one of the reasons I believe in national standards are trying to change the counseling expectant parents get because they really do experience a lot of coercion; it’s very subtle and it’s changed over the years but I think that anybody that is coerced to do something, that just ups the regret level they are going to feel for their entire life; if they are making the choice themselves, that gives them a different outcome.”