Women, Family and Adoption: Reclaiming Our Narrative

The Donaldson Adoption Institute (DAI) is excited to be hosting an important event about the experiences of expectant and birth parents in adoption. Join us on March 21st, 2017, for “Women, Family and Adoption: Reclaiming our Narrative,” a free event at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College.

The experiences of expectant parents and birth parents have long since been marginalized in the adoption conversation and their voices are often not included in essential dialogue about needed changes in policy and practice. In collaboration with the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, DAI will provide an overview of our recent comprehensive studies surrounding options counseling experiences followed by a robust panel discussion that includes birth mothers as well as an adoptive mother.

Our panelists come with a wide repertoire of experience in child welfare and adoption, both professionally and personally. Their first-hand experiences will undoubtedly offer critical insight into the nuances of the many diverse experiences of women and adoption:

Leslie Pate Mackinnon

Leslie Pate Mackinnon, L.C.S.W., has maintained a private psychotherapy practice for four decades. She is in private practice in Atlanta, GA, where she works with individuals, families and groups. Drawn to the field by placing her two firstborn sons for adoption when she was a teenager, her passion today is to educate as many therapists as possible before she drops! She has been involved in adoption education and reform for many years. Mackinnon, an expert on the complex issues encountered by these modern families, speaks nationally and internationally, and is especially committed to educating the psychotherapeutic community about adoption and donor issues.

She currently serves on DAI’s Board of Directors. She has been on “Good Morning America” with Robin Roberts, and on CNN discussing the impact of the Internet on adoption. She was featured in Dan Rather’s investigative report, “Adopted or Abducted?,” and was most recently on the Katie Couric show along with her oldest son Pete. Leslie’s story is included in the book, The Girls Who Went Away, and the documentary “A Girl Like Her.”

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Brina Collins

Brina is a first mother in an open domestic infant adoption. She contributes to the blog, Reflections of a Birth Mother, and writes as a guest blogger for a variety of other sources. She currently focuses much of her adoption activism on bringing light to the issues in current domestic infant adoptions, as well as consulting with adoptive parents on building and maintaining open adoptions with their child’s first family. She also runs an online support group for other birth parents seeking community.

Sheila Anderson

Sheila Anderson has 50 years of experience as a champion of children and families. With an early life organized around her father’s work as a newspaper publisher and a secretary to California’s governor, she developed a passion for supporting equity and opportunity for all children.  Professionally, she enjoyed 30+ years highlighted by management positions in not-for-profit agencies in Southern California. This work involved serving children and their families who were encumbered by poverty, drug addiction, domestic violence, AIDS and other complex challenges. She frequently writes and speaks about the amazing strengths she witnessed in these families.

Following her work in Southern California, she taught early childhood development and managed a laboratory childcare center in Santa Cruz serving disadvantaged college students and their children. She continues to be a national advocate for children and families. Anderson graduated from the University of California at Davis and earned a master’s degree from the University of California at Santa Cruz. In addition to a lifelong professional commitment to child and family advocacy, Anderson is the proud mother of 12. Three children joined their family by birth and nine joined through adoption, foster care, guardianship and informal arrangements. Each of her children has a huge and important story. She is now the doting grandmother to 15 grandchildren plus five other little ones who claim her as “Nana Sheila.” With children and grandchildren from France to Hawaii, she has always actively sought and maintained relationships with her children’s other families. Anderson is often called upon to share the many stories of her heroic children and the sometimes-hilarious tales of a household with nine teenagers.

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The adoption experience is a critical aspect of women’s history yet has been largely absent from the wider discourse on experiences that impact women. In large part, the lack of formal study into the narratives of women who relinquish their parental rights, the children that become adoptees, and the mothers who ultimately raise them has led this to be an experience that is often misunderstood. It is equally as important to join together as a community of women who, although our roles in the adoption experience may be diverse, many of us have been negatively impacted by policies, practices and procedures that do not always have the best interest of mothers as the focus. For this reason, we must work to build solidarity and engage in developing a strength-based, empowerment solution that ensure all women in the extended family of adoption are treated ethically and with the dignity and respect they deserve.

Register today to join us on March 21st for “Women, Family and Adoption: Reclaiming our Narrative.” The program will run from 6:30 PM until 8:30 PM and light refreshments will be served. We look forward to seeing you at this critical event!

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