I recently attended the KAAN conference in Pittsburg. It’s a conference designed to educate, empower and connect people touched by adoption. Overall, the conference was extremely powerful as I was able to meet new friends, reconnect with and meet IRL (In Real Life) several virtual friends, and be challenged by new concepts and ways of looking at adoption-related issues.
One of the workshops I attended was a fishbowl discussion on mental health and the Adoptee experience. This workshop’s discussion was exclusively for Adoptees, but anyone was welcome to sit in the audience and observe. The facilitator was Katie Naftzger, an adult Adoptee and licensed therapist from Massachusetts. The conversation touched on everything from birth family and abandonment to identity and suicidality. It was a heavy discussion with a wide range of emotional responses. Each contributor to the conversation was recognized and affirmed by Katie as the intensity of the workshop ratcheted up with each new question and/or revelation. It would have been easy for the discussion to have devolved into an incoherent mess of emotion and tears, but Katie skillfully held the group together as it moved with the process. I walked away drained by the conversation and impressed by Katie’s skill.
When I learned of her book, Parenting in the Eye of the Storm: The Adoptive Parent’s Guide to Navigating the Teen Years, I read it as soon as I could. It uses powerful examples from both her clinical experience and her personal life story to create an accessible guide to approaching complicated issues. While the target audience is adoptive parents, the short, easily digestible vignettes within the book could serve as jumping-off points to foster discussions about adoption, race and identity WITH your teen. It’s a wonderful tool that we recommend to adoptive families.