Redefining Family Conference - January 13th & 14th

The Redefining Family conference was an pleasantly interesting addition to the more meaty, intense ICAR conference. I gained some valuable insights into my research (see the previous post) as well as a new insight into surrogacy and donor conception. We met a sperm donor and a donor conceived child (or adult - now aged 28) who spoke openly about their experiences and feelings. Only now are we reaching the point when the sector will benefit from first hand testimonies.

The Redefining Family Conference Logo

The Redefining Family Conference Logo

In addition to adoption, the following options are available to those who want a family;

  • Kin-care
  • Surrogacy
  • Assistive Reproductive Technologies (IVF, for example)
  • Foster care
  • ‘Home 4 Life’ placements
  • Guardianship

It’s good that there are options; it means that there is a better chance of finding the right placement for every child. It also means that family dynamics and more and more complicated (remember our story from Ruth McRoy in post 6). With so many choices for caregivers, the importance of their training and resources is heightened. In my opinion, if a child is too young to understand, then well-training professionals need to be able to facilitate the placement. If a child is old enough to have an awareness of what is happening to them, they should be involved.

Ken Daniels, an ART researchers from Christchurch, believes that ‘children should never remember a time where they didn’t know’. I agree.

Other key themes and issues arose:

  • Empowering birth fathers in the event of infertility
  • Timing of loss and grief (parents diving into alternative family creation when they have not been able to process the grief of not being able to start a family for themselves)
  • As such, appropriate and tailored counselling for children and adults
  • Storytelling should be about a shared story (OUR story), rather than the story of the child (YOUR story). This prevents damaging feelings of being different, ‘special’ or marginalised

Reflecting on the role of technology (both in terms of ARTs and tech/innovation), we are likely to be in situations where the development of technology is outpacing the development of research.


A person I got to know well during these conferences was Su Park, a South Korean living in Australia. She works for Relationships Australia and oversees their mentorship programme for adopted children. I think there are opportunities for their model or approach to have a greater impact.

Through regular activities (movie nights, arts and crafts, rock climbing), they focus on the social emotional wellbeing, identity and culture. Their goals; target early intervention (which comes back to Michael T-S’s opening ICAR keynote) and to develop social practice.

Mentors are adults, which helps to normalise the fact that adoptees can be adults too! Children (and some adults) sometimes forget this. Mentees are internationally adopted and from a variety of backgrounds, usually 7-17 years old.

The group based programmes circles around the following principles:

  • Make children feel welcome
  • Respect for their needs and pasts
  • Accommodate the interests and passions of the children
  • Have fun
  • Have shared positive experiences

They also play with purpose, an approach which acknowledges the important of play in child development, something that has been echoed regularly during my time in Auckland.

Using social media, we are able to harness powerful emerging voices. Diaspora are able to (re)connect. Positive stories are being told (as are negative ones), Concerns for safety and wellbeing are being raised and eased. Creative outlets are more accessible. Advocacy is becoming easier.

Adoptee centred and driven research (coined at the conference as ‘coproduction of knowledge’) is now more relevant than ever.