Keynote Speakers

KEYNOTE SPEAKER


Raven Sinclair, PhD (she/her)


Raven Sinclair is Cree/Assinniboine/Saulteaux/Métis and a member of George Gordon First Nation of the Treaty #4 area of southern Saskatchewan. She is a direct descendent of two signatories to Treaty 4. Raven has been with the faculty since July 2005 and was previously on faculty with the First Nations University of Canada. She has taught at Masckwacis Cultural College, and the access division of Calgary's Faculty of Social Work, and lectured for Laurentian, USask, and Wilfred Laurier in their Centre for Indigegogy. Raven is an editorial board member for Genealogy: An open access journal of MDPI, and Memorial University journal Intersectionalities: A global journal of social work analysis, research, polity, and practice.


Raven's academic interests include Indigenous knowledge and research methodologies, intergenerational trauma and recovery, communication theory and training, and racism and lateral violence intervention. Raven balances her academic work with public speaking and consulting in the areas of research, child welfare legal cases, and film/tv/theatre. She is the Director of "There is a Truth to be Told: The Sixties Scoop in Splatsin (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4utptWtp4I&t=987s), and an Executive Producer on "Trouble in the Garden" - a feature film by Antiamnesiac Productions starring Cara Gee, Frank Moore, and Fiona Reed. She is currently working on a six-part TV series for a popular TV network and a theatrical production out of Toronto.


Raven is mother to an amazing teen and in her spare time, she renovates houses and plays chess. She is the owner of Raven Sinclair Consulting in Saskatoon.



KEYNOTE PANELISTS


Panel A: Adoptees As Immigrants




Grace Newton, MSW (she/her)



Grace Newton is a public adoptions social worker in Wisconsin and a recent graduate of the Brown School at Washington University in Saint Louis, where she served as a research fellow in the Center for Innovation in Child Maltreatment Policy, Research and Training. Her status as a Chinese transracial adoptee drives her passion and authenticity in her personal, professional, and academic work related to adoption. She has authored the critical adoption blog, Red Thread Broken, for the past 9 years, has facilitated numerous teen and young adult adoptee support groups, and is currently an advisory council member for the Korean American Adoptee Adoptive Family Network (KAAN) Conference. For more information please visit: http://redthreadbroken.wordpress.com 



Daniel Drennan ElAwar, MPS (he/his)


Daniel Drennan ElAwar was adopted via Lebanon to the USA at the age of two months. In 2004 he returned sight unseen, and taught graphic design and illustration at various Beirut universities. He works as a special advisor to the Beirut-based children's rights organization Badael/Alternatives. From January to June, 2016, he was a research fellow at the Asfari Institute of Civil Society and Citizenship, focusing on citizenship as a function of displacement, dispossession, and disinheritance. As of June 2016, he is in reunion with his family. He currently is an associate professor of Illustration at Emily Carr University, Vancouver.


Anissa Druedow (she/her)



Anissa Druesedow is a deported adoptee born in Jamaica, adopted in Panama living without citizenship, a mother, an activist fighting for the Adoptee Citizenship Act, and founder of Adoptee Advocacy.



Chaitra Wirta-Leiker, PhD (she/her) 

(Moderator)



Dr. Chaitra Wirta-Leiker is a licensed psychologist, international/transracial adoptee of color, and an adoptive parent. She specializes in providing mental health support focused on adoption, trauma, and racial identity work through her private practice based in Denver, Colorado. She is a frequent speaker and trainer at adoption agencies, camps, and conferences throughout the U.S., and the creator of the National Adoptee-Therapist Directory. She authored "The Adoptee Self-Reflection Journal," "The Adoptive Parent Self-Reflection Journal," and will be releasing a children's book series entitled "Adoptees Like Me" for elementary-age adoptees in 2022.



Panel B: Adoption as Privilege and Oppression


Blake Gibbins, MA (he/his)



Blake Gibbins is a Queer, domestic Adoptee who has spent the past four years investigating the historical connections between adoption and foster care, eugenics, and colonialism. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Peace Studies, and a Master of Individualized Arts focused in 19th & 20th Century U.S. Child Welfare History. Blake operates a learning platform called "Not Your Orphan," but is taking a hiatus to focus on his second master's degree in theology and becoming an end of life care doula.  



Susan Devan Harness, MA (she/her)



Susan Devan Harness is a member of the Salish and Kootenai Tribes, a cultural anthropologist, an adoptee, and author of multiple award-winning book Bitterroot: A Salish Memoir of Transracial Adoption.  She has written and presented extensively about American Indian assimilation policies, including child placement, both nationally and internationally.  Bitterroot won both Creative Nonfiction and Indigenous Writers categories in the 2019 High Plains Book Awards, and more recently was awarded the Barbara Sudler Award for the best work of nonfiction or fiction on a western American subject by a female author.  Bitterroot has sold several thousand copies worldwide since its release in October, 2018.  Ms. Harness holds M.A.s in Cultural Anthropology as well as Creative Nonfiction, both from Colorado State University, where she is also an affiliate of the Department of Anthropology and Geography. 


Susan Dusza Guerra Leksander, LMFT (she/her)


Susan Dusza Guerra Leksander (she/her), LMFT, is a Latina transracial domestic adoptee, first/birth mother, licensed psychotherapist, and Agency and Clinical Director at Pact, an Adoption Alliance, a non-profit whose mission is to serve adopted BIPOC youth and their families. She is on the ongoing complex journey of reunion with her own first families as well as the daughter she placed for adoption. Susan envisions a world where all expectant parents and first/birth parents are fully empowered, accurately informed, and emotionally supported, in order to make the best decisions for their children and themselves.

 

Adam Y. Kim, PhD (he/his)

(Moderator)


Adam Kim is an adopted Korean American. Adam believes in using research, teaching, and community work to advance nuanced conversations and critical perspectives on adoption that can improve the lived experiences of adopted individuals. Adam is a visiting assistant professor at Wesleyan University. His teaching and research focus on identity, politicization, and solidarity in the contexts of adoption and racial marginalization. Recently, he has published work related to adoption in Journal of Family Psychology and The Routledge Handbook of Adoption.




Panel C: What IS the Best Interest of the Child? 


Shanyce H. (she/her)


Shanyce H. is a Chicago Native HR professional who has recently moved to Washington State. She is also an Assistant Caseworker for On Your Feet Foundation. Shanyce is a carefree, nerdy, creative, goofy, and kind person in a large box. She is a birth mother to fraternal twins in a very open interracial adoption. She currently has a blog with her twins' adoptive mom. Please visit ouramazingforeverfamily.com to know more about her story and her adoption story.



Tara Linh Leaman, JD (she/her)


Tara Linh Leaman currently serves as Program Director of Westchester County Department of Social Services' (WCDSS) Westchester Building Futures. Westchester Building Futures seeks to eliminate youth homelessness among at-risk youth/young adults with child welfare/foster care histories. Westchester was one of six jurisdictions nationally to receive both the Phase I Planning and Phase II Implementation Youth At-Risk of Homelessness awards from the Department of Health and Human Services' Administration on Children, Youth and Families'- Children's Bureau. In addition, Tara also helps to lead a team of experienced child/youth welfare leaders & change agents in achieving its Family First Prevention Services Act implementation goals, laser-focused on decreasing the number of children/youth in congregate care and increasing the number of children/young people in kinship care through the lens of advancing equity.


As an alumnus of international foster care and experienced transracial adoptee, Tara knows well the challenges and rewards of transforming adversity to resilience. She is also the Co-Founder of AmerAsians Building Bridges, Inc., which serves Vietnamese Amerasians in central Vietnam and in the Greater Washington, DC metropolitan area, as well as provides training and resources that enrich the lives of members of adoptive and foster care families, and their allies. She has worked internationally and nationally advancing social justice, including as a teacher in Johannesburg, South Africa, a law clerk to the Honorable Judith Bartnoff of the District of Columbia Superior Court and as a deputy director of a DC-based nonprofit serving formerly and currently incarcerated women and their families. Tara has served on Family Equality Council's National Board of Advisers, and is a former board member of Holt International Children's Services, which is the adoption agency that Tara's parents adopted her from in 1974. She is a graduate of Cornell University and Georgetown Law.


Zeina Allouche (she/her)



An oral history/autoethnography storyteller, Zeina has worked for more than 20 years in the field of child protection especially with children forced to separate from their families. She has contributed to international initiatives to promote family strengthening aiming at preventing separation, participated in the drafting of the Guidelines for the Alternative Care for Children (2009), and co-established an NGO based in Lebanon to advocate for the rights to origins for the survivors who were illegally adopted out during the wartime. She is a public scholar (2019-2020) and holds an Individualized PhD from Concordia University researching the life stories of individuals who have experienced transracial or intercountry adoption through a collaborative research-creation informed by Indigenous methodologies.

 

JaeRan Kim, PhD (she/her) 

(Moderator)



JaeRan Kim, PhD, MSW, is Associate Professor at University of Washington, Tacoma in the School of Social Work and Criminal Justice. Dr. Kim's research is focused on the intersection of adoption and disabilities, particularly exploring disability, race, and transnational experiences on post-adoption stability. JaeRan has over 15 years of experience working with foster and adopted children and families and has developed numerous training curricula for child welfare professionals. She is also the author of the blog Harlow's Monkey, which focuses on the transracial/transnational adoptee experience.



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