listens. educates. challenges. equips.
I've presented on numerous topics to various groups and organizations. Most often I educate current adoptive parents, though I also educate and prepare prospective adoptive parents as well as adoption professionals and others. Additionally, I've shared my personal experiences on panels and have presented to groups of non-adoptive parents about how to talk with their children about race. It is also a privilege to connect with other adopted persons and to exchange stories, thoughts, and ideas in moving the adoption narrative forward. I appreciate knowing about each group, conference, or organization in order to understand its specific learning objectives so that I can craft a session that will be most beneficial for attendees.
Sessions are sometimes an hour and sometimes four hours or all day. They range from teaching/lecturing, facilitating small-group activities, and delivering keynotes.
Additionally, I consult with families on a one-on-one and small group basis to provide resources and education about adoption parenting and understanding the complexities of adoption. These consultations should not be confused as clinical therapy.
Understanding and Embracing the Inherent Loss and Grief in Adoption
While adoption is wildly celebrated and brings joy to many, the truth is that adoption is a response to a tragedy or breakdown in a family's life and/or community and culture. With tragedy comes loss, and as an adopted child develops, he or she is faced with making sense of the loss that must have occurred in order for adoption to be necessary. It is imperative that parents understand, acknowledge, and give voice to the various losses, allowing their children to express grief and to feel understood, known, and supported. VanderWoude names the losses and explains how parents should not be surprised when children experience grief and confusion in various ways and to various extents as they age. Additionally, time will be spent defining ambiguous loss and identifying the lifelong triggers for loss. VanderWoude will also share how to talk with children about loss and will suggest activities that may be helpful in supporting children in integrating their complex feelings about adoption.
How to Talk with Your Children (& Curious Others) about Adoption
Adopted children must be able to inquire and talk with their parents about their adoption, birth parents, ethnicity, and race at any time. Creating this lifelong comfortable and safe atmosphere is a paramount adoption parenting task -- yet one that leaves most parents feeling nervous or unequipped. Throw in curious questions and comments from well-meaning (and not-so-well-meaning) friends, family members, teachers, and strangers alike, and the conversations about adoption twist and turn into surprising and often uncomfortable territory. Learn about why it's vital you talk with your children about adoption while they're still young and on a regular basis, how to share all of a child's information with him, how to handle curious questions and assumptions from others, and how to prepare your children for the inevitable questions from their peers, teachers, and others.
Examining Motivations to Adopt & the Realities of Adoption Parenting
Churches, organizations, and individuals alike are discussing the need for orphan care and subsequently the need for adoption, leaving more and more people wondering if adoption is "for them". Participate in an honest and realistic conversation regarding what adoption is, what adoption isn't, and the complexities and ethical considerations therein. Consider also the lifelong aspects of adoptive parenting and the tools needed to parent and understand an adopted child.
What Transracially Adopted Children Need From Their Parents
Over the years adult adoptees have shared with us that love is not enough when parenting a child of another race. Through learning research on adult adoptee racial and adoption identity; hearing perspectives of adult adoptees, adoptive parents, and adoption professionals; and hearing VanderWoude's own experiences as a racial minority in a Caucasian family and community, attendees will quickly learn what transracially adopted children need from their parents. Additionally, this session will prepare parents for experiences and conversations their children will encounter, provide practical tools and concepts to support a child’s racial identity, and leave attendees more knowledgeable and acutely aware of their important role as parents and allies of transracially-adopted children.
Complexities of Growing up Adopted
Assumptions, Myths, and Truths about Adoptees
ABCs (Adoption Basics for the Classroom): A Professional Development for School Educators and Administrators
Educators are faced with understanding so much more than academics, and with adopted students enrolled in schools across the nation, it is beneficial for teachers to have a knowledge base that includes adoption and its implications in the classroom setting. This session for educators and school administrators defines adoption and its various types, debunks myths about adoptees and their families, shares some of the lifelong complexities for adoptees, gives a basic developmental overview of an adoptee's understanding of adoption, and discusses appropriate adoption language. Additionally, the session will explore common school assignments that are impossible or challenging for a student who was adopted, and suggestions for other assignments that meet the same learning goals will be presented. Attendees will leave acutely aware of the realities for an adopted child and will be better equipped to ensure that school is a place where adoptees and their parents feel safe and understood.