Sunday, August 07, 2011

What is NACAC? The Resurgence of Hope

For the past several years I have written a blog post called “What is NACAC?” during or after the national conference. I am always inspired by the conference, some years more than others, but that has nothing to do with the quality of the conference and often more to do with the mental or emotional state I am in when I attend it. In 2010 from Hartford, Connecticut, I talked about NACAC providing perspective. In 2009, I used the word connection to talk about my experience in Columbus. In 2007, I wrote How's NACAC, year three, from Tampa. How's NACAC in 2006 came from Long Beach, CA. And my first blog post in 2005, from Pittsburg, in a post that actually was quoted in NACAC publications, I answered the question for in my blog "What's NACAC?"

So now, I offer you the 2011 version of How's NACAC from the city of Denver, Colorado:

This year I realized that NACAC is the resurgence of hope. Having shifted my primary role at the conference to an unknown part of the masses to a person who is up front for at least one seminar, I am now looking into the faces of many people who are at the conference for the first time, just as I was several years ago. And it is there that I see the dynamic at place - the hope that may have been long buried coming back to life.

I see hope being reborn in the eyes of parents who are tired and discouraged. They headed into the journey of foster care and adoption with the best of intentions, excited about making a difference in the life of a child. But somewhere along the way things have not gone as planned. The children aren’t changing, but the parents are. The children seem to be getting worse and not better, and the parents, in response to that, are losing their hope and their joy.

And then NACAC happens to them. They meet other adoptive parents and connect with them on a deeper level than they dreamed possible. They hear stories of those who have gone before them who are now raising grandchildren and find out that it is possible to live a fulfilling life amidst the stress and strains of raising children with mental illness, organic brain damage because of exposure to drugs and alcohol in utero, brain trauma issues, and attachment disorders. They hear a speaker who says one sentence and a light bulb goes on in their head and they internally exclaim, “She’s talking about my kid!”. They have demonstrates to them a new technique that they are sure will make a difference in their son or daughter. They buy a book by the keynote speaker and as they read through chapter one they are convinced that they will be able to apply the principles they are reading to their own live.s

I see hope being reborn in the eyes of professionals who have all but given up and started to look for an new career. They see the system around them and are afraid that they will never be able to change it. They have come to the conference wondering if they can make it another day in their jobs, completely discouraged.

And then NACAC happens to them. They connect with another person who has had the same job they have had for thirty years and they get solid helpful answers to the question, “How have you survived that long?” They sit in a session where a new approach to their job makes complete sense and they suddenly find themselves taking notes furiously, knowing that if they make a few changes here and there they will find themselves more fulfilled. They hear a passionate adult adoptee explain to the crowd how their life was changed because a social worker or a mental health professional finally understood them for the first time. And they rub shoulders with many others who remain committed to the task, though it is a difficult one, and come back convinced that they can hang in there.

I see hope being reborn in my own heart. I came to NACAC weary after a summer of unrest and frustration in regards to the negativity in the world of adoptive parenting. I was wondering about the usefulness of my blog, about what was happening to some of the people whose blogs I have read in the past, and scared at the trend of disruption, depression, disillusionment and destruction that has overtaken so many adoptive parents.

And then NACAC happened to me. I walked through the halls and grabbed quick hugs from some of the best and brightest in my field. I saw the smiling faces of fellow adoptive parents who have heard me speak at other conferences and who came up to tell me how much it made a difference in my own life. I connected with coworkers whose skill and passion always inspires me. And sitting amidst the camaraderie of those who daily fight the same battles I do -- the child welfare system in America and/or the battle to change myself, not my children, I recognize that we CAN remain positive and even victorious when living through difficult times. I know, deep within myself, that my passion can remain strong and that I will not only survive but thrive as an adoptive parent in the midst of it all. And I believe more than ever before, that my children are better of having been adopted and that some day they will arrive at a place where they are comfortable in their own skin and better versions of their former selves.

So what is NACAC? To me NACAC is the resurgence of hope. It is a place where parents and professionals alike can gather to once again remind ourselves of our purpose and passion: to help children heal by finding them permanency in a loving family. And so year after year we make the trek to the chosen city to have those brief few days when we can be hugged by, spoken to, listened to, encouraged by, and loved on by those whose hope is being renewed so that we can head back for another year of life in the trenches -- trenches in which we now are assured we can live in with strength, dignity, and most of all hope, regardless how difficult our situation.


Kim Stevens said...

Claudia, you have captured my thoughts and feelings completely - thank you!
Kim Stevens

Kim Stevens said...

Thank you Claudia for speaking my mind for me! I'm sending folks to your site to read this.

Unknown said...

I am an adoption professional that has been in field for 12 years and just attended my 4th NACAC Conference. This is the first time I've read your blog, but I totally agree that the most amazing part of the NACAC Conference is the HOPE that it instills within it's attendees. It's why I encourage workers, therapists, adotpive parents, and adult adoptees to save their pennies all year long and make the journey to replenish themselves so they can continue the good fight! Thanks Claudia for so eloquently sharing your observations and feeling with our adoption community.