A Day for Open Discussion About Adoption
The 14th Annual Kids' Adoption Network Conference focused on attachment and identity.
Adoptive families turned out for the 14th Annual Kids' Adoption Network Conference (K.A.N.) at the National 4-H Center Saturday. The daylong event by the Center for Adoption Support and Education (C.A.S.E.) brought together adopted families from the Washington, D.C. area for information and fun. The conference offered programs for youth and adults.
Debbie Riley, CEO of C.A.S.E., encouraged parents to "look beyond age 7, 15, and 17 and open your heart to what's ahead. To what adoption means for your children if they decide to become parents," and to what it will mean for their spouses or significant others.
Poet Penny Callan Partridge, an adoptee and an adoptive parent, presented a psychodrama of her poem, "Portrait in Five Parts of a Daughter of Four Parents." There were portraits of her birth father, adoptive father, adoptive mother, birth mother, and Partridge's two adopted children. Partridge stood beside each as she read the portion of the poem that related to her relationship with that individual.
The final line, read aloud as she stood near the portraits of her adopted children, brought home her conclusion, "I will leave on earth two adopted children. And I will be part of them."
After the reading, Partridge spoke of her experience of adoption. "When I met my birth mother," she said, "the feeling was that suddenly I had ground under my feet I'd never had before." She had a similarly transforming experience in relation to her birth father. "I saw this picture... in my brother's studio," Partridge said, "and it helped me see my face for the very first time."
Partridge also said that meeting her birth mother was about "so much more than what you look like. It's getting in at the beginning of your own story. How you came to be in this life."
Keynote speaker, author and singer Zara H. Phillips, spoke about her experience as an adopted daughter. "I'm one of those adoptees who was a born searcher," she said. Adopted into a family where adoption was not talked about, led to acting out by her adopted brother and unexpressed anger that led to drug and alcohol use of her own.
Phillips spoke about the work that needed to be done on the part of both the adoptive parent and the adopted child, to grieve the loss of the idealized child and life with a birth parent, respectively. The feelings about identity and attachment are universal. "This stuff is primal," she said. "No matter what age, it does come up."
Attendess watched Phillips' film, "Roots Unknown," and participated in a panel discussion with adult adoptees from a variety of backgrounds. The day concluded with a family carnival.
Correction: In an earlier version of this story the person who's flim was played at the event was incorrectly identified. Patch regrets the error.