Sessions in detail

Tuesday Sep 12: Day 1

8-9am Registration and breakfast (provided)
9-9:30am Welcome and state updates

“Hearing from Adult Adoptees”
Betty Qualheim, Matt Franson, Tonya Hughes

In the field of adoption, oftentimes the voice we hear from the least is that of the adult adoptee. Join us as we kick off our conference by listening to and learning from a panel of adult adoptees from the state of Wisconsin. They will share their stories and answer questions. The panel will be facilitated by Robert O’Connor.

10:45-11am Break
11am-12:15pm Breakout session 1

“Audrey and Gracie: Chinese Identical Twins Separated as Infants”
Jennifer Doering

10 years ago, we chose international adoption of a child with special needs. We were ready for anything thrown our way...or at least we thought. A week after touching down in the U.S. we realized that the "anything thrown our way" would include 2-3 open heart surgeries for our new daughter. Her smile and spirit carried us through those tough years. She soon became a pre-teen and her inquisitive nature prompted us to look for facts surrounding her adoption. A Chinese finding ad led to an accidental discovery of a never before seen picture of my daughter’s identical twin. That fateful day our lives changed forever. And the "anything thrown our way" phrase took on a whole new meaning. I hope to share the story of our discovery and what happened next within our family and the Chinese adoption community.


“Through the AGES”
Katie Sepnieski, Jonelle Brom

The workshop will begin with a brief overview of adoption and guardianship, reviewing the changing landscape of child welfare and post-permanency services in the United States and Wisconsin.  Much of the workshop will be dedicated to learning about post-permanency outcomes and challenges, along with the work of the National Quality Improvement Center for Adoption and Guardianship Support and Preservation (QIC-AG).  The presenters will provide an overview of the QIC-AG’s ongoing research with an emphasis on the Wisconsin intervention, Adoption and Guardianship Enhanced Support (AGES) project, which supports post-adoptive and guardianship families in the Northeastern region of Wisconsin.  This workshop is designed for anyone interested in learning more about adoption and guardianship, long-term outcomes for these families, and ongoing research to support families after adoption or guardianship.


“Assisting Families with Special Education”
Tim Borud

Sometimes special education is a brand-new world that foster and adoptive families are thrust into with very little notice. Many of these families have little to no experience in special education before a child with an IEP is placed in their home. This presentation will give you practical steps you can take to better prepare and support your foster and adoptive families in their care of children with special needs.


“Adoptee Voices”
Betty Qualheim, Matt Franson, Tonya Hughes

Join us to go in-depth with our adoptee panel. Workshop attendees will have the opportunity to ask their own questions and walk away with a wealth of knowledge to apply to their work in adoption. Come with questions or simply to listen to the valuable insights of adult adoptees.

12:15-1:15pm Lunch (provided)
1:15-2:30pm Breakout session 2

“Title TBA”
Robert O’Connor

More information coming soon!


“Trauma Informed Yoga”
Misty Hommerding

Children who have experienced trauma, often have a variety of challenging behaviors that can be difficult to understand and control. Yoga is one of many strategies that can be used as part of the overall plan to address these challenges.  Practicing yoga has been proven to help regulate the nervous system, allowing people to become less reactive and develop a more favorable stress response over time. Trauma Informed Yoga is yoga that is taught by teachers with specialized training in trauma and its effects on the individual.

Participants who attend will gain a deeper understanding of how yoga can help individuals cope with the symptoms of trauma and become more resilient to stress over time. Current research will be presented regarding the effects of trauma as well the positive impact yoga can have. Participants will leave with a few exercises they can use with their clients or on themselves in order to alleviate the stress response and feel more in control of their own bodies.


“Trauma-Informed Parents and the Agencies that Support Them: Exploring NCTSN’s Foster Parent Curriculum as a Resource to Build Foster Parent Capacity”
Samantha Wilson

In 2010, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) developed a 16-hour curriculum to support foster parents to understand the needs of children who experienced trauma and early adversity.  The curriculum includes an introduction to trauma and its effects on young children, building a safe place within the foster home, coping with big behaviors and feelings, advocacy, and foster parent self-care.  The curriculum is freely available via the web and designed to be used by agencies to promote trauma-informed, foster care parenting.  This workshop will incorporate experiential exercises and group discussion to consider ways the NCTSN curriculum could augment current foster parent support and education.  Material is intended for participants that are unfamiliar with this curriculum; however, those with experience facilitating the curriculum will be invited to share their experiences.  Together, we will support each other to consider ways that agencies can facilitate trauma-informed parenting throughout Wisconsin.


“Infant Mental Health: Establishing a Foundation of Strong Mental Health through Relationships”
Carrie Finkbiner

In this presentation participants will learn about the critical role relationships play in developing a strong foundation of mental health in infants and young children.  Participants will learn how to define Infant Mental Health (IMH), key concepts and why it is critical to brain development, and lifelong health and well-being.  Participants will learn about the importance of relationships in infant regulation, development and language acquisition as well as the role of attunement and attachment in helping babies grow and feel confident.  Finally, we'll discuss factors that can get in the way and strategies to support healthy social and emotional development. 

2:30-2:45pm Break
2:45-4pm Keynote

“Title TBA”
Robert O’Connor

More information coming soon!

Wednesday Sept 13: Day 2

8-9am Breakfast (provided)
9-10:15am Keynote

“The Journey In and Out of Trauma”
Marissa Ghavami

Properly treating trauma, in light of its impact on the brain, is the key to helping children with traumatic backgrounds thrive. Marissa will provide an overview of how to work with those impacted by trauma, with specific tools and suggestions for how best to support children and families. Recommended resources for continued learning for professionals will be shared and tools for engaging children in treatment will be given. As the Founder and CEO of Healing TREE (Trauma Resources, Education & Empowerment), Marissa will share her own journey in and out of trauma that led to this organization being founded. Additionally, she will share stories of others who have since been helped by Healing TREE and why properly treating trauma is vital to changing and saving lives.

10:15-10:30am Break
10:30-11:45am Breakout session 3

“Wisconsin’s Adoption Record Search Program”
Jacy Allen-Boldebuck

This session will include a brief history of the 34 year old Wisconsin Adoption Record Search Program, information on recent updates to Wisconsin law and how those impact program services along with some reunion stories and answers to your questions.


“Trauma Bonding Using Real Life Examples”
Marissa Ghavami

Children who have traumatic backgrounds are at risk for trauma bonds, which are dysfunctional attachments that can lead to suffering and trauma repetition in future unhealthy relationships. Additionally, these bonds can impede future healthy attachments if not properly treated. In this breakout session, Marissa will share her journey in and out of the often overlooked, but deeply significant, topic of trauma bonding. Participants will be better prepared to recognize the signs of trauma bonding, apply the do’s and don’ts of effective intervention, describe the science behind the symptoms to remove shame and identify and help connect those who are trauma bonded with resources necessary for healing. They will also learn about effective trauma treatment modalities and how they break these bonds.


“Policies and Practices for Addressing Sex Trafficking of Youth”
Joy Ippolito

This session will give an overview of recent federal and state legislation as it pertains to identifying and serving youth who are at risk of or have experienced sex trafficking. Dr. Ippolito will also cover Wisconsin's ongoing and upcoming efforts to address sex trafficking of youth in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems and explain how these efforts connect to the emerging literature on how to prevent, intervene, and treat suspected and confirmed cases of trafficking.


“Language Development: When it Doesn't Feel Easy”
Angela Schoenwald, Melanie Yang

Being able to communicate and understand what others are communicating with us is essential to our social interactions, learning, and behavior.  Early language development for most children happens naturally through play and interactions with others.  In situations of environmental neglect, which is often prominent for children entering foster care or following an international adoption, language development may be delayed.  We will touch upon typical stages of speech and language development, what language disorders may look like in children, and how environmental neglect in early childhood may influence language delays.  In addition, we will discuss how families can support language development in the post-placement context and how staff can begin this discussion with families.  Finally, we will discuss when to refer for additional support outside of the intervention inherent in a warm, caring foster/adoptive family.

11:45am-1:15pm Lunch (provided) and PARCS Presentation
1:15-2:30pm Closing panel

More information coming soon!