Just a couple of short weeks ago, the combined forces of Adoption Knowledge Affiliates and Adoption Network Cleveland presented "Journeys of Discovery: Navigating the Intersections of Adoption," a virtual conference on Friday & Saturday, October 23 & 24, 2020. We were admittedly nervous about hosting a virtual conference, but holding to "necessity is the mother of invention," we forged forward together to make something extraordinary happen. Both Adoption Network Cleveland and Adoption Knowledge Affiliates had in-person spring 2020 conferences that we were forced to postpone due to safety concerns. The virtual conference celebrated the flexibility and resourcefulness of nonprofits to try something they have never done before to make sure they are meeting their constituents' needs and demonstrated the perseverance of both of our organizations.
And extraordinary and memorable it was. Betsie Norris, our founder, and executive director, noted that it still had that "conference magic" for her as past Adoption Network Cleveland and national conferences have had, even in the virtual format. Many of the 160+ conference attendees would agree! The conference brought together both organizations' expertise to offer presentations by national and state experts on adoption, providing opportunities for members of the adoption and foster care community as well as adoption professionals to receive support and skills, gain knowledge, and network with others. While all of the content was superb, presentations by our keynote speakers, Torrey and Nikki Carroll, who spoke on race, ethics, and navigating the intersections of transracial adoption; the "Behind Me/Before Me" panel on generational trauma; and Erin Spalding's presentation on unresolved grief, mental and behavioral health, and adoption rose to the top for many.
During the evening performance, we all had the opportunity to laugh, cry, and share in Maggie Gallant's adoption journey, as she presented her solo show, "Hot Dogs at the Eiffel Tower." The show, which ran at the Hyde Park Theatre in Austin, Texas, for five weeks, shared the true story of her life-long search for her birthfather, "French Papa."
On Saturday evening, Adoption Network Cleveland also took the opportunity to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the culmination of our ROAR (Restoring Ohio Adoptee's Rights) campaign and the implementation of Ohio's access to original birth records legislation. More than 14,000 adoptees have accessed their original birth certificate since 2015. Ohio Senator Nickie Antonio joined the celebration and marked the occasion with a proclamation.
Last but certainly not least, we used the occasion as the perfect opportunity to celebrate and honor Holly Spencer-Trueman as our 2020 Triad Advocate of the Year honoree. Professionally Holly is a Foster Parent Recruiter and Trainer at Ohio Guidestone, and she is also a certified trainer for the state. Holly worked for ten years as an Adoption Navigator and Manager here at Adoption Network Cleveland. Personally, Holly and her husband are adoptive parents of three children and an informal foster parent of a foster care alumni who is now deceased. She is the consummate spokesperson and advocate for the needs of children and youth in and adopted from foster care, and she brings a joyful energy to her work. She truly has a heart of gold, and the adoption community is so lucky to have her.
At the conclusion of our jammed-packed two-day virtual conference, everyone at Adoption Network Cleveland and Adoption Knowledge Affiliates were pleased with the outcome. The only bad part about a virtual conference? There are no pictures!
We are all mentally planning our next gathering – it won't matter if it is in-person or virtual, because we've got this! Make plans to be there!
Thank you to our partner Adoption Knowledge Affiliates in Austin Texas, our virtual conference platform host Adoptive and Foster Family Coalition of New York, and the many volunteers of our conference committee who made this conference come to life!