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S24-203 Lifespan Implications of Adoption: Becoming an Adoption-Competent Clinician

Total Credits: 3 including 3 Category I CE

200 Adults, Couples & Families
Katy Perkins Coveney, LCSW-S
Course Levels:
3 Hours 15 Minutes
Target Audience:
Social Workers, LCPCs, and Psychologists



What exactly does “adoption competent” mean, and how can therapists attain this status? Though the descriptor is somewhat nebulous, we can move closer to a basic working definition. Providing therapeutic care to people with adoption and family separation experiences is a specialization, wherein lived experience, comfort with the topic, or idealized notions of adoption are not adequate to provide quality care. A functional knowledge of intersecting issues, such as race, culture, international and transracial adoption, immigration status, search and reunion, self-harm, disordered eating, suicidality, personality disorders, enmeshed family systems, family secrets, complex post-traumatic stress—and more—is necessary to specialize. Without this knowledge clinicians risk inadvertently harming clients. Therapists who attend this training will come away with a better understanding of what qualifies as “adoption competent” and will be able to create a plan for ways to move forward.  


Katy Perkins Coveney, LCSW-S Related Seminars and Products

Katy is the founder, CEO, and Clinical Director of FindSelf Counseling, which provides professional training, supervision, therapy, case consultation, and policy analysis. FindSelf Counseling employs emerging social work professionals who wish to specialize in family separation trauma, disordered eating, intimate partner violence, and oppression & discrimination. Katy is a TSBSWE Board-approved clinical supervisor through the State of Texas, is EMDR-trained, and holds clinical social work licenses in CO, FL, NC, TX, and VA. Her experience includes community, state, and national advocacy as a leader and volunteer.   

Agenda & Learning Objectives


1:05 pm – 1:15 pm Log on  


1:15 pm – 2:45 pm  

  • Introduction, housekeeping 

  • What clients say: searching for adoption competent professionals, and how they’ve been treated by professionals and the world around them 

  • Why are these issues frequently missed? 

  • Helpful and hurtful terminology 

  • Common reasons for family separation 

  • Historical Context: family separation in the U.S. 

  • Adoption as developmental trauma and how it may manifest in adulthood 

  • Ambiguous loss 

  • Overlapping issue areas for clients 

  • Lifespan impacts for client 

  • Clinical themes in individuals and extended family 


2:45 pm – 3:00 pm Break 


3:00 pm – 4:30 pm  

  • Overview: Intersectionality in international/transracial adoption 

  • Shattered identity: Splitting of the original self to survive 

  • Impacts of Secrecy on individuals and family systems 

  • Practice impacts- assessing for family separation impacts during intake and ongoing, and impacts on practice systems 

  • Documentation concerns- special needs for clients 

  • Navigating registries, DNA, and “Late Discovery Adoptees” 

  • Concept of “Coming out of the fog” 

  • Overview: Search, reunion, and relationships with adoptive and biological (“first”) families 

  • Ethical challenges when personal issues arise (transference and countertransference) 

  • Impact of therapist’s power and privilege on this unique therapeutic relationship 


4:30 pm Questions and adjournment  



Upon the completion of this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Describe at least 3 common clinical themes that emerge in work with adopted people.  

  • Identify 3 key elements of adoption competence.  

  • Demonstrate increased confidence in their ability to assess and support clients who may experience adoption- or foster care-related distress.  

  • Summarize the meaning of the phrase “coming out of the fog.”  

  • Examine ways in which transracial adoption affects racial identity development. 

Bibliography & References



References Used in This Training 


Cruz, D., Lichten, M., Berg, K., & George, P. (2022). Developmental trauma: Conceptual framework, associated risks and comorbidities, and evaluation and treatment. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 13. 


Abrams, Z. (2021). Improved Treatment for Developmental Trauma. 

is adoption trauma? 2022 


Brodzinsky, D., Gunnar, M., & Palacios, J. (2021). Adoption and trauma: Risks, recovery, and the lived experience of adoption. Child Abuse & Neglect, 105309. 


Brodzinsky, D., Schechter, M. D., & Robin Marantz Henig. (1993). Being adopted: the lifelong search for self. Doubleday. 


Branco, S., Kim, J., Newton, G., Cooper-Lewter, S., & O’Loughlin, P. (2022). Out of the Fog and into Consciousness: A Model of Adoptee Awareness. 

Fisher, J. (2017). Healing the Fragmented Selves of Trauma Survivors. Routledge. 


Holtz, M. N. (2022, July 23). The Unrecognized Developmental Trauma of Early Relinquishment in Adoption. VISIBLE Magazine. 


Hartinger-Saunders, R. M., Jones, A. S., & Rittner, B. (2016). Improving Access to Trauma-Informed Adoption Services: Applying a Developmental Trauma Framework. Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma, 12(1), 119–130. 


McCarthy, C. (2019, September 14). How racism harms children - Harvard Health Blog. Harvard Health Blog. 


Hollingsworth, L. D. (1998). Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, 15(4), 303–319. 


Dandridge, K. (2017). ScholarWorks The Effects of Transracial Adoption on Adjustment and Identity Development. 


Racial Identity and Transcultural Adoption | OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. (n.d.). 


Valby, K. (2015). The Realities of Raising a Kid of a Different Race.; TIME. 


Branco, S. F. (2021). Relational–Cultural Theory: A Supportive Framework for Transracial Adoptive Families. The Family Journal, 106648072110289. 


Presseau, C., DeBlaere, C., & Luu, L. P. (2019). Discrimination and mental health in adult transracial adoptees: Can parents foster preparedness? American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 89(2), 192–200.   


Joyce, K. (2013). The child catchers : rescue, trafficking, and the new gospel of adoption. PublicAffairs. 


Lifton, Betty Jean. (2009). Lost & found : the adoption experience. University Of Michigan Press. 


Lifton, Betty Jean. (1995). Journey of the adopted self : a quest for wholeness. Basicbooks. 


Groza, V., & Rosenberg, K. F. (2001). Clinical and practice issues in adoption : bridging the gap between adoptees placed as infants and as older children. Bergin & Garvey. 


Sidhu, R. (2018). A Post-Colonial Autoethnography of Transnational Adoption. British Journal of Social Work, 48(8), 2176–2194. 


Seven Core Issues in Adoption and Permanency. (August, 2023). The North American Council on Adoptable Children. 


Suggested Related Reading 


Asgarian, R. (2023). We Were Once a Family. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. 


Chung, N. (2020). All you can ever know. One, An Imprint Of Pushkin Press. 


Dalia, K. (2022). Decolonizing Wellness. Dreamscape Media, LLC. 


DiAngelo, R. J. (2018). White fragility: Why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism. Beacon Press. 


Heffron, A. (2016). You Don’t Look Adopted. 


Rita James Simon, & Roorda, R. M. (2000). In their own voices: transracial adoptees tell their stories. Columbia University Press. 


Nadal, K. L. (2018). Microaggressions and traumatic stress : theory, research, and clinical treatment. American Psychological Association. 


Nydam, R. J. (1999). Adoptees Come of Age. Westminster John Knox Press. 


Susan Harris O'connor, Diane René Christian, & Mei-Mei Akwai Ellerman. (2016). Black anthology : adult adoptees claim their space : a diverse exploration of the black adoptee journey. Createspace. 


Randolph, B. (2016). It’s Not about You: Understanding Adoptee Search, Reunion, and Open Adoption. 


Betsy Keefer Smalley, & Schooler, J. E. (2000). Telling the truth to your adopted or foster child : making sense of the past. Bergin & Garvey. 


Transue-Woolston, A. H. L., & Diane René Christian. (2013). Perpetual child : adult adoptee anthology : dismantling the stereotype. 


Jane Jeong Trenka, Julia Chinyere Oparah, & Sun Yung Shin. (2020). Outsiders within : writing on transracial adoption. University Of Minnesota Press. 


Tucker, A. (2023). “You Should Be Grateful.” Beacon Press. 


Van Der Kolk, B. (2014). The body keeps the score: Brain, mind, and body in the healing of trauma. Penguin Books. 

Course Completion & CE Information

Category I Maryland BSWE Requirement

The Office of Continuing Professional Education at the University Of Maryland School Of Social Work is authorized by the Board of Social Work Examiners in Maryland to sponsor social work continuing education programs. This workshop qualifies for {3} Category I Continuing Education Units. The Office of Continuing Professional Education is also authorized by the Maryland Board of Psychologists and the Maryland Board of Professional Counselors to sponsor Category A continuing professional education.

Please refer to the tab "Live Interactive Webinar Policies & FAQs" for UMSSW Office of CPE policies regarding all live interactive webinar related matters.

Target Audience

Social Workers, LCPCs, and Psychologists

We welcome anyone interested in the topic!


Late Fees and Refunds

The base price is $70 and includes CE credit. A non-refundable late fee of $20 is added on 03/07/24

Cancellations** must be received 24 hours in advance prior to the workshop to receive a refund or an account credit.

Late fees cannot be refunded or applied to  account credit. 

**ALL cancellations will be subjected to a $35.00 administration fee.**

Live Interactive Webinar Platforms


The Office of Continuing Professional Education hosts Live Interactive Webinars through two platforms: Zoom and WebEx.

Both platforms offer high quality and user-friendly webinar platforms for our registrants.


System Requirements:

  • Operating Systems: Windows XP or higher; MacOS 9 or higher; Android 4.0 or higher.
  • Internet Browser: Google Chrome; Firefox 10.0 or higher.

Our system is not compatible with the Safari web browser.

  • Broadband Internet Connection: Cable, High-speed DSL and any other medium that is internet accessible.

**Please have your device charging at all times to ensure that your device does not lose power during the webinar.


Course Interaction Requirements:

To participate in Live Interactive Webinars, you MUST have a device that allows you to view the presentation on screen and hear the instructor at all times. We do not allow participants to call-in from their phones or mobile devices and solely listen to the presentation. Participation in Live Interactive Webinars is mandatory.

Webinar Policies & FAQs

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ADA Accommodations

If you are requesting ADA accommodations, please contact our office via email at least two weeks prior to the workshop date. Requests after that date may not be fulfilled.  

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