Session 4 – 2015 Conference Speakers

2:20 pm–3:20 pm

4A - Domestic Adoption: Know the Law, Not Scary Fiction (APro, BP, FP, PP, WP)
Kathleen Hogan Morrison, Attorney

This presentation is an overview of the legal aspects of domestic adoption with a special focus on protecting adoptive parents by limiting legal risk.  Attendees will learn about the different types of adoption, birth parent rights, the finality and irrevocability of birth parent consents to adoption, interstate adoption challenges, putative father registries, and designated consents and voluntary waivers of parental rights.  This workshop will also cover adoption terminology and financial considerations in adoption.

Kathleen Hogan Morrison ( is a Chicago attorney concentrating in adoption.  She is the past president of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, named as one of the Top 50 Women Lawyers in Illinois, and designated an Angel in Adoption by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

4B - Making a Medical and Developmental Plan for the New Adoptee (APro, PP, WP)
Linda Walsh, Family Nurse Practitioner, University Of Chicago Adoption Clinic & Shelly Roy, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, University of Chicago Adoption Clinic

This presentation will provide an overview of medical and developmental concerns common to international, domestic, and foster adoptees.  What information do individuals need to know to understand the complex needs of the adoptee during the adoption process so they can be prepared to parent after adoption? How can families be supported after adoption as they unpack their child’s complex medical and developmental history? Today’s adoption landscape is complex, and it is imperative that families secure a medical support system who understands the effect of pre- and post-natal trauma and substance exposure on health, learning, and behavior.  This workshop will include an explanation of the multi-modality medical assessment for the new adoptee.

Linda Walsh is a family nurse practitioner at the University of Chicago Adoption Clinic ( specializing in pediatric infectious disease.  Linda has extensive training in helping adoptive parents develop skills to parent children who have experienced pre- and post-natal trauma.  She has provided medical care to adoptees for nearly a decade.
Shelly Roy is a licensed clinical social worker at the University of Chicago Adoption Clinic ( and an adoptive parent.  Shelly has been working with adoptive families professionally for ten years, providing services such as counseling, group facilitation, and resource referral. Shelly’s professional focus is the impact of early-life adversity on child behavior, learning, and development.
4C - Putting the Pieces Together: Lifebook Work with Foster and Adopted Foster Children (AP to all ages, APro, FP)
Mallory Dowd, MSW, Lutheran Social Services of Illinois

Lifebooks are essential tools that aid children in healing from loss, trauma, and maltreatment and are catalysts to opening up conversations between children and adults about difficult pasts.  Through Lifebook work, children develop coherent life narratives – they express feelings, process traumatic experiences, record memories, keep important mementos and pictures, document milestones, and maintain connections with important people in their lives.  For children who have lived in several homes in the system, Lifebooks assist in organizing their history to prevent facts and memories from fading or blurring.  In this workshop you will learn about the importance and benefits of Lifebook work and how to assist children in making a meaningful one.

Mallory Dowd, MSW, Lifebook Specialist for Lutheran Social Services of Illinois ( in Cook County, has worked with survivors of sexual abuse and domestic violence, coordinated a sexual assault program, completed fieldwork at the Southwest Michigan Children’s Trauma Assessment Center, and served adolescent female state wards in transitional or independent living. 

4D - The Blue Sausage and Other Silly Games: Connecting Via Play (AP to elementary age and younger, APro, FP, PP, WP)
Kay Holler, Licensed Clinical Social Worker

This seminar is hands-on and interactive.  You will not fall asleep!  Come explore creative ways to use common household objects (such as newspapers, aluminum foil, and cotton balls) to increase joy, connection, and fun in your family.  Learn the importance of eye contact, touch, voice tone, laughter, and singing.  See how interactive play is as important as discipline in raising a healthy child.

Kay Holler ( provides therapy for individuals, couples, and families.  The parent of four young adult/teen children (two by birth and two by adoption), she specializes in working with adopted children and their families.  She has extensive experience with attachment issues and is passionate about building connections between people. 

4E - Healing Relationships in Adoptive Families (AP to all ages, APro, PP)
Linda Nguyen, LMFT, Children’s Home + Aid & Vanita KewalRamani, MSW, Family Therapist, Children’s Home + Aid

Attachments are emotional connections or bonds that promote secure feelings and maintain relationships.  Within all securely attached relationships are feelings of being supported.  Support from an individual is strong, but support from a group is stronger.  This workshop will show why support groups are an integral part of influencing adoptive families to have hope and the motivation to change. We will share our experience of maintaining successful support groups that aid adoptive families in their journey of healing and building lasting foundations of secure attachments.

Linda Nguyen graduated from the University of Illinois in Champaign/Urbana with a bachelor’s in psychology.  She attended Northern Illinois University for graduate school, specializing in marriage and family therapy.  She currently holds a license in marriage and family therapy and has supervised adoption and guardianship preservation (A&GP) at Children’s Home + Aid ( for five years.  A&GP is specialized in attachment approaches and trauma-informed care.  The program has been maintaining support groups since 1996.
Vanita KewalRamani has her MSW and has been working for Children’s Home + Aid ( in Illinois for 25 years.  She has 20+ years of working with adoptive families including starting, leading, and maintaining parent support groups.  Her main attachment-based therapy is Theraplay®, which she has been using with adoptive families since attending training at the start of her career.  She also has extensive experience working with families who have adopted internationally.

4F - Race and Adoption: A Comfortable Conversation (AP to all ages, APro, BP, FP, PP, WP)
Judy Stigger, LCSW, Clinical Director, & Becky Carter, LCPC, Therapist, Core Therapy Associates

Why does race matter if we love our child?  Transracial placement makes the adoption public, exposing the child to biases regarding both race and adoption.  Parents who are color aware are able to create safe environments where their children can both explore racial identity and have a sense of belonging within their family.  In this interactive workshop, participants will gain awareness of how transracial adoption impacts attachment and will leave with specific skills to help them deal with the issues and build secure multiracial families.  An adoptive mom in conversation with an adopted person (who is also an adoptive mom) will share their professional expertise as well as their personal experiences.

Judy Stigger, LCSW, is the clinical director for Adoption Learning Partners (  Judy also provides counseling and therapy for adopted kids and adults as well as adoptive and birth families in Evanston and Oak Park.  Judy is the adoptive mom of two grown special needs and cross-racially placed children.
Becky Carter, LCPC, is a transracial adoptee and parent of two transracially adopted children.  She provides therapy to adopted teens and adults and their families with a specialty in addressing issues of attachment, trauma, and loss.  Becky is also an adoption educator with The Cradle ( and a member of Chicago Area Families For Adoption (CAFFA).