Session 5 – Conference Speakers

Session 5a: How Do I Begin My Adoption Journey?
Denise Patton, Adoption Attorney, Law Office of Denise Patton

This program is designed to give people interested in adopting both a general understanding of what is involved in the legal process of adopting as well as a direction on how to get started. This seminar will present an unbiased view of the many different types of adoptions available today and focus on adoption terminology, common legal issues, informational resources and financial benefits available to adoptive parents.

Denise J. Patton is an adoptive parent and attorney who devotes her law practice to adoption and infertility law issues. Denise is a member and Chair of the Chicago Bar Association’s Adoption Law Committee and she is also a fellow of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys and American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys. As an adoption attorney, Denise has successfully completed over a thousand adoptions. She has presented at several adoption conferences and conducted seminars educating prospective adoptive parents on the different types of adoptions, the adoption process, how to get started and the financial benefits available to adoptive parents to help make adoption more affordable. Prior to receiving her law degree from DePaul University, Denise was employed as an Adoption Specialist for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. In this capacity she monitored, assisted, trained and educated private agencies on the adoption process.

Session 5b: What’s So Special About Special Needs?
Todd Ochs, MD, Ravenswood Pediatrics

Special needs adoptions are becoming more common, but don’t all adoptees have special needs? Prenatal and postnatal malnutrition, toxin exposures, genetic problems, physical maladies, psychological problems, neglect, and abuse all factor in to our ability to parent our adopted children.

Dr. Ochs has been a general pediatrician in Chicago since 1984. After graduating from the University of New Orleans, he attended the Loyola Stritch School of Medicine, then did his pediatric residency at Cook County and UIC Hospitals. He lives, and works, in the Ravenswood neighborhood, along with his wife, five daughters, and dogs. He began working with adoptive families in 1997, during the adoption of his first (of four) Chinese daughters. Since then, he has seen over a thousand of internationally adopted children in his practice and adoption clinic, has done thousands more referral reviews, has spoken to thousands of adoptive parents, and has adopted three more special needs Chinese daughters. His office also is recognized as a “Center of Excellence” by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, to see foster children for their comprehensive examinations after placement, and he is the pediatrician for an adolescent group home, as well. He has written adoption medicine articles for several adoption publications, for the AAP Illinois Chapter Newsletter, and for the Child’s Doctor of Children’s Memorial Hospital. He has spoken on international adoption at the International Pediatric Association in Beijing, in 2001, since, at the CAFFA and Midwest Adoption conferences, At NACAC, Joint Council, The Child Welfare League of America, and to hundreds of adoptive parents, each year, at agency educational sessions. He is a founding member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Section on Adoption and Foster Care, and served on its executive committee for six years. He has advocated for adopted and fostered children with public and private schools, around adoption health and mental health issues, Including Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. He is an advisory board member of Illinois NOFAS, and has spoken at several conferences and hospital grand rounds on FASD. He is the treasurer for the Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He can be reached at his office, at 872-208-6257, via fax, 872-208-6979, or via email, at

Session 5c: STEPPING OUTSIDE OF YOUR SHOES: Multiple lens in an adoption roundtable
Michelle Hughes, Adoption Diversity Educator, Bridge Communications, Inc.
Robin Kim, Adoption educator, Korean Adoptees of Chicago (KAtCH)

Often adoption is presented to us through a limited lens, usually the adoptive parents lens. In recent years other members of the triad, birth parents and adoptees, especially adoptees, are becoming more vocal on their perspective. This will be a thought provoking roundtable discussion lead by an adoptee and an adoptive parent pointing out the multiple points of view in adoption. It is not a checklist for adoptive parents to do or not to do but an opportunity to hear and discuss adoption in a way to help adoptive parents do their best parenting and to advocate for their child. Adoptive parents will not have all the answers for their children but they can be there and serve as bumpers as their children embark on a lifetime roller coaster called adoption. Topics to look through multiple lens may include: 1. Open vs. closed 2. Reunion with families 3. Adoption dissolution and disruption 4. Primal wound as adoption trauma 5. Adoption trauma – age of placement 6. Guilt 7. Adoptees grow up to be adult adoptees (with adult adoptee experiences) 8. Savior mentality/motivation/mission 9. Racial experience (transracial adoption) 10. Accepting and embracing larger communities- birth family, adoptees community, racial community 11. Biological parenting vs. Adoptive parenting. Same? Different? When & how? 12. Naming 13. I feel pressured to only tell a positive or negative story. ( I saw this in a group yesterday by a birth mom who was tired of being berated by other birth parents because she had a positive open adoption story. Others chimed in too. ( open adoption forum) 14. Family creation should never be thought of as mix and match box of chocolates…. Adoptees are human individuals, just as birth parents and adoptive parents…..

Ms. Hughes in 1994, she co-founded Bridge Communications, Inc. specializing in diversity training, with an emphasis on transracial, international and general adoption education. Bridge Communications was featured in the film ” Outside looking In: Transracial Adoption in America”(2002); and magazine articles in Adoption Today and Chicago Magazine. She has been quoted regularly in the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times concerning issues of transracial adoption and biracial identity. In addition, she was in a chapter of Rhonda M. Roorda’s latest book regarding transracial adoption, “In Their Voices: Black Americans on Transracial Adoption” ( 2015). Ms. Hughes also established her own law firm, the Law Office of Michelle M. Hughes, P.C. in 1993, where her legal practice focuses primarily on adoption, (working with DCFS, private agency, independent adoption, international adoption, kin adoption, co-parent adoption and related adoption). She is a member of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys (AAAA); Member of the Chicago Bar Association Adoption Committee (Former chair-2012) ;Former co-chair of the Confidential Intermediate Advisory council of Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

Robin Hong Soon Kim was born in Seoul, South Korea and adopted at 18 months to a family in Iowa. She is the youngest of five children and the only adoptee. Through her forty years on the adoption roller coaster, she has learned a lot from her own experiences and from listening to fellow adoptees from around the world share their experiences. Robin tries to give back to her community by sitting on the board of the local adult Korean adoptee group Korean Adoptees of Chicago (KAtCH) and the board of a national transracial adoptee mentoring program call Connect-A-Kid. She also helps moderate and participates in a few Facebook pages that are related to transracial adoption.

Session 5d: Unique Tasks in Adoptive Parenting
Rebecca MacDougall, Executive Branch Director, Bethany Christian Services

Your child has or will come to you with all the needs of every child and they and you will have some additional work to do, as they develop, around their experience of relinquishment and loss. This presentation will explore the joys and unique tasks of adoptive parenting, equipping parents to help their child develop and grow to their potential.

REBECCA MACDOUGALL graduated from Bethel University and has an MSW from UICC. She has worked in the field of adoption over 30 years and has facilitated more than 400 adoptions, developing education and mediation in open adoption. She is a frequent speaker on issues of adoption including infertility, openness and transracial adoption She and her husband Wayne are the parents of four children, a step-daughter who “found them” at age 15, and three adult children, who joined their family through adoption. Rebecca served as the Director of Domestic Adoption at Sunny Ridge Family Center where she worked for 25 years. She has been the Director of Bethany Christian Services of Illinois since 2010. Rebecca is a contributing author of Thriving as an Adoptive Family, published by Focus on the Family. She is passionate about serving birth and adoptive families, in support of Bethany’s vision of a loving family for every child.

Sarah Goth, Adoption educator, The Ties Program

If you are raising a tween or teen, have raised one, or will raise one, chances are they are holding back on their thoughts. It’s what my daughter calls “restricted information.” “Why is it restricted?” I ask, holding on to her every word, listening for clues for what is on HER mind, despite the fact that via my professional work, I’ve got a pretty good clue. “Because I don’t want to hurt you, or make you feel bad about stuff,” she replies. “But what stuff?” I ask. “You know Mom, just stuff.” So what’s the stuff? What are tweens and teens pondering in the corners of their minds? The answer: questions and thoughts related to: 1. Fitting in 2. Their relationship with their adoptive family & adoptee loyalty 3. Feelings related to their birth family and birth country 4. And the double whammy—things that combine both birth and adoptive family 5. Understanding background, a.k.a. Life History 6. Poverty in birth country 7. Why? Why? Why? (to a million things) 8. Abandonment issues, insecurities, and control 9. Self-worth & guilt 10. Hope This workshop will take a look at concrete questions & thoughts that MAY be going through your child’s mind, or MAY be soon. In this very interactive workshop, you will hear and experience the thoughts of international adoptees….the “restricted information” shared openly and honestly by adoptees themselves. It will provide insight to help you create a strategy that will strengthen your relationship with your child.

As a Senior Program Manager for the Ties Program, Sarah has coordinated and traveled with many families on their homeland journeys, particularly to Russia, Cambodia & Vietnam. She also advises on birth family searches in Cambodia & Vietnam.

Session 5f: Secondary Trauma: Self Care for Those Parenting or Working with Attachment Insecurity, PTSD, or other Childhood Trauma
Elba Karim, Clinical Director, Roots and Wings Counseling Consultants, LLC

Manning the front lines, either parenting or working as a therapist with attachment insecure children and/or youth or other childhood trauma, is a journey of endurance. Helping children deal with trauma can itself be traumatizing to those who are in these vital supportive roles. Learn about the signs of increased stress and/or secondary trauma. Discuss ways in which to alleviate the impact, while still providing for the needs of the traumatized child(ren). Leave with concrete ideas to better care for parents, caregivers, and/or professionals for children struggling with childhood trauma, thereby better supporting the children themselves.

Elba J. Karim is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and a Certified Clinical Trauma Professional with over 25 years of experience. She is trained in the principles of Theraplay and Trust Based Relationship Intervention, Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Attachment Focused Family Therapy, and Attachment Focused Parenting, as well as being certified as an Extended Forensic Interviewer, and routinely serving as an Expert Witness. She believes in providing services that are evidence-based and trauma-informed. She uses a collaborative approach that attends to the family and systems of which her clients are a part. She provides consultation and training to educational systems, the judicial system, faith-based organizations, and other community partners. She has a special interest in supporting children with Reactive Attachment Disorder or attachment insecurity, foster and adoptive parents, LGBTQ individuals and families, as well as children and youth who are exploring sexual orientation and/or identity. She is the founder of Roots and Wings Counseling Consultants, LLC.