7 Things I Learned From Our Recent Adoption Conference

Author of 5 books, podcaster, parent trainer, husband and father.

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Last year, Kristin and I attended a 2-day adoption/foster care conference on ERH (Emotional Regulatory Healing) Intensive Training in Indianapolis. The event was sponsored by The Children's Bureau of Indianapolis and presented by Juli Alvarado from Coaching For Life, out of Denver, Colorado. The event was refreshing, insightful, and revitalizing, but not what we expected when we walked in to the first session on Saturday morning.

Truthfully, we really had no idea what to expect. All we were told was that we were invited to attend a conference with no kids, accommodations covered, and lots of free time. “Sign us up!” we thought. We aren’t really sure what “kid-free” means anymore so anything containing those words together, or even in the same sentence, is worth our time :-).

We quickly discovered this was not a typical conference on adoption or foster care. It wasn’t focused on techniques or types of adoption. We did not get into issues surrounding the foster care system or how to maintain healthy relationships with birth families. We didn’t even spend time talking about our kids individually. Juli began, simply, by looking around the room at all of us and saying- “This weekend is about you!”

Say what? This was a relief! Everything began with peace. Parenting children with special needs, especially through foster care and adoption, is a lot of work. In fact, you don’t realize how exhausted you are until you stop and take time to be alone and take an introspective look at your life. We were able to do that. This is what we discovered in the 48-hour period we were there:

1. There is hope.

Sitting in this group and listening to Juli, and her partner Cara, reminded me of the group I attended a few years back that inspired this blog. There is hope. We heard that over and over again. There is hope when you’re so exhausted you can’t see straight. There is hope when you want to give up. There is hope when your child pushes, and pushes, and pushes you away. There is hope!

2. It’s not our fault.

Our child’s impulsive, out of control behavior, is not our fault. It’s the result of trauma that happened before we even brought him home and became his parents. It’s the result of a very dark and difficult background that we had no control over. We cannot take it personally when he screams “You motherf***ker, stupid b**ch, I’m gonna kill you,” because we insisted he get his homework done, or take a shower properly, or eat all of this vegetables. He experienced severe trauma that affected his brain permanently. That is not our fault!

3. We need to take care of us.

We spend all of our time pouring into our children. And, that’s a good thing. But, we need time to get away and breath. We need time to sleep. We need time to be. We cannot pour out from an empty pitcher. We have to take time to fill up.

4. We can do this.

During the course of the weekend, when things were solemn and quiet in our group, Cara looked at all of us and simply said, “You guys can do this!” It was motivating and encouraging. Sometimes, as an adoptive or foster parent (or parent in general) you just need to hear those words!

5. Children can experience trauma while in the womb.

I had always heard this but had it reinforced during the course of the conference. It’s amazing how powerful the human mind is. One of the greatest take-aways for me, personally, was that children remember things they experienced in the womb. It is etched in their brains forever. They may not be able to articulate it, or remember it in detail, but they will behave from experiences that they do not even understand or remember happening to them.

That’s why things like consuming alcohol during pregnancy, or being victimized by an abusive spouse or boyfriend while pregnant, is so devastating.

6. Our kids know how to leave, they do not know how to stay.

Children who were adopted from difficult places have conditioned themselves to flee when things get tense or stressful. It is a defense mechanism. When your child runs from difficult situations they are enacting a safety plan that was etched in their brains long ago when they faced neglect or abuse. One of the most powerful things we were challenged with was to stay with our children and keep telling them, “I’m not going anywhere!”

7. Our kids are worth it!

They are! They really are! I already knew this but had it confirmed for me a million times over after the weekend was over. I was so excited to get home and hug my kids. I found myself not caring whether or not they had some attitude, or pushed me away. I am their daddy, and my wife is their mommy, and nothing is going to change that. Our kids are worth it more than anything!

What are some experiences you’ve had lately with your own children?

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Mike and Kristin Berry are the Co-Founders of The Honestly Adoption Company and have been parents for nearly two decades. They are the authors of six books, and the host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is the executive assistant to Mike and Kristin Berry. And she is the best in the land. In addition to providing a warm and friendly response to the many emails our company receives on a weekly basis, she also manages Mike and Kristin’s speaking and meeting schedules, and makes sure that team events go off without a hitch.

Nicole Goerges

Nicole Goerges is a Content Contributor & Special Consultant for The Honestly Adoption Company. She works with Mike and Kristin as a recurring co-host for the Honestly Adoption Podcast, and co-host of Kitchen Table Talks, exclusive video content for Oasis Community, along with Kristin. She is a fellow adoptive mom, and former foster parent.

Matt McCarrick

Matt McCarrick is the Content Production Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. If you’ve loved listening to our podcast, or enjoyed any of the videos trainings we’ve published, you have Matt to thank. He oversees all of our content production, from video edits, to making sure the tags are correct on YouTube, to uploading new videos to Oasis, to hitting publish on a podcast episode, he’s a content wonder!

Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is the Community Engagement Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends the bulk of her time interacting with, and helping, people through our various social media channels, as well as providing support for Oasis Community members through chat support or Zoom calls. In the same spirit as Beaver, Karen is also passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and supported. Karen is also an FASD trainer and travels often, equipping and encouraging parents.

Beaver Trumble

Beaver Trumble is the Customer Care Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. Chances are, if you have been in need of technical support, or forgotten your password to one of our courses, you have interacted with Beaver. He is an absolute pro at customer care. In fact, he single-handedly revolutionized our customer care department last year. Beaver is passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and encouraged.

Kristin Berry

Kristin Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Content Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends most of her time researching and connecting with guests for our podcast, as well as direction, designing and publishing a lot of the content for our social media channels, blog and podcast. She loves to connect with fellow parents around the world, and share the message of hope with them.

Mike Berry

Mike Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Marketing Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. He spends the bulk of his time and energy designing and building many of the resources you see within our company, as well as social media and email campaigns. His goal is to use media as a means to encourage and equip parents around the world. He is also the co-host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.