Adjusting Our Focus: A Conference Presentation Summary

Adoption STAR staff member Meg Montgomery shares insight regarding their presentation at the 8th Biennial Adoption Initiative Conference in New York City. This is part one of a three part blog series.

AIRecently Wendy Lane, MSW and myself had the wonderful opportunity to present at the 8th Biennial Adoption Initiative Conference. After processing all of emotions and information, we realized that we wanted to share our presentation in summary with our blog readers and give them a taste of this thought-provoking conference.

Since this is a weighty topic, we have broken up this post into a multi-part series to make it more readable.

This conference is particularly special because of the diverse community that attends, including birth parents, adoption professionals, adoptees and researchers. The theme this year was “Sleeping Giants in Adoption: Power, Privilege, Politics, and Class.” Our presentation (that was selected by the conference committee) was entitled, “Adjusting our Focus: Redefining Education and Challenging Motivations in Adoption.”

Our intention was to discuss what motivates international adoption specifically; how to challenge our motivations and why it is important to be honest about our motivations in order to always put the child (the adoptee) first. We hoped to explain that while altruism (the desire to do something for the good of another) is beneficial in society, altruistic motivators in adoption could cause a person to take on a challenge that they are not truly prepared for.

We feel that when adoption is pursued as a humanitarian urge – then topped with the lifetime commitment of raising a child, especially one with a difficult/traumatic history – this altruistic desire will likely not be enough to carry a family through. We also feel that the adoption professional has a large responsibility for their own altruistic motivation to work in the adoption field and that they must be able to separate this from the work they are doing to help create families through adoption.

To get the ball rolling, we utilized a values clarification activity to get people thinking and help the group to get a clearer idea in their head of what their personal values are and whether or not they are practicing those same values. We felt this would help every participant to realize that while we often have good intentions, our established ideals are influenced by a variety of real life factors that alter what we put into practice in our life.

If you are not sure what a values clarification activity is, here is a link to the one we provided (which was adapted from multiple sources): BASIC VALUES CLARIFICATION EXERCISE – WHAT REALLY IS IMPORTANT TO YOU?