Friday, March 27, 2020 : Evening Discussion (Optional) : 7-8:00pm

Foster ABC’s

The state of the state is in a constant state of change and we want you to be aware of the changes that impact you.  Come join us to hear about these updates and provide us with your feedback.


Saturday, March 28, 2020 : Session 1 : 10:30-12:00pm

A. Exploring Adoption, Identity, and Family Throughout the Year! – April Dinwoodie, Keynote Speaker

Expanding on the concepts shared in the keynote, guests will be guided on a 12-month journey to explore how birthdays, holidays, life transitions, and milestones impact adopted persons.  Via a transformational small group exercises, we will work together to go deeper into the shared elements of identity and family culture in order to better understand adoption and foster care. 


B. In the Best Interest of the Child: Creating a Post Adoption Contact Agreement – Christina Shuma

Have you heard of post-adoption contact agreements (PACAs)? Participants in this workshop will learn what PACAs are, why they can be in the best interest of your child, why DCF often supports them, what kinds of contact are typical, and what supports DCF offers you for the creation of a PACA that is in your child’s best interest – and is constructed so that it will be applicable for the child’s entire childhood.


C. Turning Dreams into Plans – Jen Boardman with YDP Youth

Representatives from the Youth Develop Program (YDP) will provide a brief overview of the program and then facilitate a youth panel.  YDP serves over 500 youth (ages 14-23 years old) across the state each year. All youth served have some experience in the foster care system.  YDP offers youth-centered case management services, flexible funding, leadership and empowerment opportunities, and access to extended foster care agreements.  Through YDP, youth are supported to identify their own goals, establish their unique interests, and turn their dreams into plans! A panel of youth who have engaged with YDP and have lived experience in foster care will engage with workshop participants to share tips, strategies, and invaluable insight into helping youth in care thrive.  You won’t want to miss this workshop!


D. Self care 101 – Abby Skidmore

You can expect to make connections with those around you, discover resources in your area, practice different self care techniques and learn about healing your stress. At the end of the workshop you will have an opportunity to receive a Reiki placement which will allow you to start practicing Reiki right away. Using this warm, healing energy can transform negative, stagnant energy into powerful, peaceful vibrations for you, your family, friends, animals and more! You don’t want to miss this!


E. Dispelling the Myths: Sex Trafficking Does Happen in Vermont Trissie Casanova & Katie Newell

This workshop will give participants a better picture of what sex trafficking of minors looks like in Vermont. It will discuss why children and youth in DCF care are particularly vulnerable, who is responding to this growing problem, why Vermont is not immune to trafficking and what we can do about it.


F. Having the Difficult Conversations about Adoption/Guardianship/Foster Care – Janet Benoit Connor & Catherine Harris

Talking about adoption/guardianship with our children can be uncomfortable but what about the conversation when really tough things happened to your child before they joined your family.  In this workshop we will dig into the importance of children having all of their story, even the tough parts. How do you talk about these events, when do you start filling in these details, and how do you know your child is ready to hear what happened to them?  Develop your understanding of these and have a chance to practice having a difficult conversation.


G. Supporting a Foster/Adoption/Guardianship Sensitive Classroom  – Stacy Burnett

Schools experience unique challenges when working with children who have joined their families through adoption or guardianship.  The traumatic events that many of these children experienced create changes in their ability to access learning and to feel safe. During this workshop we will review why school can be difficult for children who were adopted or who are in guardianship and what approaches may be more effective when they are struggling.  We will also discuss some of the assignments that can get tricky and how to introduce alternatives in your child’s school.


Saturday, March 28, 2020 : Session 2 : 1:30-3:00pm

A. Openness in Adoption: Understanding, Embracing, and Engaging the Extended Family of Adoption  April Dinwoodie , Keynote Speaker

This workshop is a combination of research, changing social norms, and the advocacy by those who have been affected by a closed adoption system have led to a new openness in adoption. Openness is an opportunity for the extended family of adoption – families of origin, families of experience, and adopted persons – to honor all of these important connections and embrace them as a means of ensuring healthy identity for all family members (most especially the adopted person). 

  • Understand common feelings about openness in adoption and learn the history surrounding openness in adoption as well as definitions of the concept of openness.
  • Embrace openness within family relationships, explore strengths and challenges in building relationships, and develop skills.
  • Engage in practical dialog about openness as it pertains to different members of the extended family.

B. Don’t Obsess About the Mess:  And Other Tips for Doing Art Activities with Children With a Trauma History – Sharon O’Neill

Often adults don’t like the “mess” that can happen in the process of doing art with children, so they avoid expressive art opportunities because of their own discomfort.  Making and creating art is healthy and important developmentally for all children can come with some challenges for those who have a trauma history. Caregivers will learn tips on how to make a safe space for creative expression.  Participants will also have an opportunity to experiment with different art media. 


C. Digital Citizenship & How To Establish Healthy Internet Habits for Your Teens – Jamie Dansereau 

The workshop will focus on the importance of Digital Citizenship in are vastly expanding digital world. What teens are using and how to help them establish healthy habits. Materials would also be provided to help families make safe and achieve able digital agreements.


D. Understanding and Applying Trauma and Attachment Based Strategies in Foster Care – Tracy Richards

The basics of trauma and how it affects the developing brain. To include strategies for supporting healing and dealing with behavioral issues.


E. Managing Challenging Behaviors in Youth While Building the Bonds of Attachment – Rachel Totten

The focus of the workshop will be on gaining an understanding of how attachment is formed and maintained from birth through young adulthood. Practical interventions to managing challenging behaviors such as defiance, anger, and outbursts will be presented as well as discussing how a parent can use these opportunities to strengthen their relationship and bond with their child.


F. Mapping Dreams: The Transition to Adulthood – Karen Price & Janice Sabett

The transition your son or daughter will make from being a child to becoming an adult member of the community is an important journey, and one that requires a plan. In this presentation, we will explore what families and youth can do to help plan for the student’s transition from high school to adult employment, post-secondary education or training, and independent living. One of the “tools” you can use in paving the way to a successful future is the school transition process. We will also provide suggestions for your family to use at home and in the community and share real-life examples of what families have done during this critical time.


G. Responding to the Impact of Parental Incarceration: What to Say, Who to Say it to, and When to Say It – Heidi Wener

More than 5 million U.S. children have had a parent in jail or prison at some point in their lives. This challenge is very real for too many of Vermont’s children. Children with parents who are incarcerated need care and understanding that can be supportive to their specific needs. Parental incarceration can be associated with financial instability, social stigma, unstable housing situations, and problems in school or at home. This workshop will explain the benefits of contact between children and their incarcerated parent, and how caregivers can coordinate and manage that planning. We will also discuss age appropriate language to use when sharing information with children whose parents who are incarcerated, as well as formulate thoughtful, supportive messages for the other important people in the child’s life i.e., extended family, school-based staff, neighbors and community. 


Saturday, March 29, 2020: Extra Sessions : 3:15-4:30pm

A. Open Forum – Open to All

In town meeting style please join DCF Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner for Family Services Division, System of Care Director and  Foster/Kincare Manager to discuss current initiatives and dialogue about the issues that are on your minds. Bring your questions and ideas!


B. LGBTQ Foster Parenting & Adoption : Open Dialogue

Foster parenting or adopting as a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered person or couple and challenges that are not always discussed in the mainstream foster parent training, support groups, or general association meetings. How does our orientation affect our children? How do we navigate a system that doesn’t always understand or make room for differences? How can your experiences help others? Bring your joys, challenges and hopes and join us in honoring what we bring to the table.


C.  Downstream (Film) : The Effects of Parental Incarceration

An hour-long documentary film featuring the compelling stories of those left behind when a parent goes to prison. Vermont children and caregivers share their experiences, revealing the complex and emotional terrain they navigate.

Additional voices in the film offer insights from a variety of perspectives to increase understanding of this too often invisible social and public health issue.

Produced by Brad Salon, of Bear Notch Productions, in association with Resilience Beyond Incarceration, a program of the Lamoille Restorative Center.


Sunday, March 29, 2020 : Morning Discussion (Optional): 7:45-8:45am

Foster Care Support Group – Lisa Steckler

(This discussion will wrap up before the Sunday speaker starts at 9:00am)