8/2022 Ally: Adoptive Parents Navigating Reunion


**This is a recording of our We the Experts Ally event on August 20, 2022.**

On this panel you will hear from four adoptive parents who acknowledge that adoptees are the experts of their lived experiences. Each of these panelists have been and continue to be in community with adoptees and have made a lifelong commitment to on-going education and learning.

Each of the panelists will share experiences, feelings, and thoughts of their children’s reunion with birth families. We will discuss various topics, including:

  • Navigating international and/or transcultural reunion and relationships
  • When your child’s reunion leads to additional trauma
  • The decision to search for birth family on behalf of their minor child
  • What, if any, is the adoption agencies role in this

Kate Deane is an adoptive parent from Portland, Oregon. Her daughter was adopted 15 years ago from Seattle, Washington. Reunion with her daughter’s family occurred four years ago. Kate is excited to share her family’s journey to reunion and to discuss many of the lessons she has learned as an adoptive parent with an adoptee who is in reunion with their birth family.

Jessica O’Dwyer is author of Mother Mother (National Indie Excellence Award finalist) and Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir (San Diego Book Award winner). Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, SF Chronicle, Scary Mommy and MUTHA. Jessica has worked in the press offices of SFMOMA, the LA County Museum of Art, and Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. An alum of the Squaw Valley and Bread Loaf writing conferences, she earned an MFA from Antioch Los Angeles. Jessica’s an adoptive mother to two young adults and lives in Marin County, California. Jessica is excited to be on this ally panel because reunion and connection to birth country are two of her family’s core values and she welcomes every opportunity to talk about why.

Debbie Kaufman adopted her daughter as a single parent 25 years ago from the foster care system, when her daughter was 4. She is a senior instructor with the OHSU-PSU School of Public Health, and a Master Gardener focusing on native plants. Some of their best family memories come from traveling together to other countries and gatherings with extended family. Debbie maintained some written contact with her daughter’s family of origin when she was young, and now as an adult, her daughter has regular direct contact with them. Debbie has also met some members of the family. She looks forward to hearing about other parents’ experiences with reunion!

Mark Vastaas and his wife, Bethel, had four biological kids when they adopted two kids from foster care, and discovered how woefully unprepared they were to meet their needs. This began a journey to understand that continues to this day. Formerly an old-school, reward and punishment parent, Mark is now an advocate for parenting that centers connection and trust and avoids coercion and control. When not doing cyber security engineering for the travel industry, Mark coaches parents looking to build connected relationships with their kids. Mark is excited to be on this panel because he believes everyone needs a voice that gets heard, permission to ask questions, and to receive acceptance and curiosity instead of judgment and shame.


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