ARFO Summit 2019

A trip to Bucuresti is always daunting. I tried to find every good excuse not to go to #ARFO2019… to no avail. So I went.

I didn’t know anybody there per se. I had talked on the phone with the organizers of the ARFO conference… so I had to meet them in person too. I was drawn to this summit with inexplicable force. 

Last year this conference took place in Cluj. It was the first time I had heard about it as I watched it streamed live, but I didn’t attend in person. Jackie was with us for two years by then. We just retuned from a trip to France. And the novelty of adoption was worn off. I had just gone through the recertification to adopt a sibling, and I felt pretty good about my resources and support system. We had found a rhythm and it was good.

Watching the summit live, I was surprised to find myself so inspired, connected and so emotionally engaged in the plenary sessions streamed online.

A year later I was in such a different place. Still waiting to adopt. Meanwhile I had published a book. I connected further more with families in Cluj who have adopted in the recent years, after our post-adoption support ended, support provided by the state professionals. I realized more acutely how hungry we are for community and mutual support.

So this year I showed up in Bucuresti, with a backpack full of books and a heart full of hope. I flew there and it was smooth and fast. I was welcomed with warmth and kindness. And thus the journey began.

I have listened to stories from people who overcame the worst circumstances of life, growing up in the orphanage of the 80s, people who now serve as professionals, the adolescents with trauma. I have been encouraged and inspired by many-many adoptive families who shared their stories, and an incredible number of Americans from all over, who came to Romania two decades ago, built relationships, learned the language, and served and loved the orphans throughout this whole time, in different capacities. What a testimony of love!

Before I share a few nuggets of wisdom I gathered from the workshops I attended, I must state loud and clear the one trait everyone had in common: humility. Such kindness, approachability, ease… all embedded with professionalism and sharp intelligence. I often reference the ARFO website for the best documented articles and research, based on the current laws, especially since the child protection and adoption laws are amended and improved every year.

ARFO has a dream: for every child to benefit from the love, support and the assurance of belonging to a family. 

If we feel that we start to like being appreciated by people, this image of good people: Stop! Reset. Search within the motivation with which we work and align it to God’s vision and His heart. 

This year I read this extraordinary book “The connected child” and one workshop I attended reviewed and reinforced what I had already learned by reading the book. The I.D.E.A.L. response in healthy & wise disciplining.

Alina from Rise Together helped us practice this.

Prior to the summit, there was a pre-conference focused on trauma. Just last week though, I had a good long conversation with two adults (my brother in law and his sister) who have been adopted as babies, and have gone through years of good therapy. The professionals at the summit only confirmed what my dear friends shared. Trauma lives in the body, not in the mental memory. Traumatic experiences are not recalled in the way most people access information; they are triggered. And instead of asking in exasperation “What were you thinking?!” we as parents, have to keep an open mind and an open heart towards our kids. It will help us and them to overcome hardship though compassion.

We learned to focus on becoming (Thanks Nathan!), and as I sat there in this workshop I realized it it exactly what I did unknowingly, through the book I wrote for Jackie. 

  • We feel with the heart of God
  • We look with eyes of faith
  • We envision what can be
  • We speak the positive into existence 
  • We never give up

Purposefully so, we can help our kids built healthy self-esteem.

Great things are coming up… we’ve connected with likeminded people. We are willing and available, and God will lead the way, however He sees fit. 

On the last day, I had the privilege to share my heart with quite the audience! Feeling honored and humbled by this opportunity. See minute 59. In my talk I mention that when we decided to adopt 6 years ago, three years before we met Jackie (we decided to adopt around the time she was being born), we started praying for three things: that God would prepare our mind to be ready to parent, that He would prepare our heart to welcome a child into our lives, to love her well, and that He would protect her. Oh… praying for God’s hand over her, that her caregivers would keep her safe until we meet her. We pray the same for little sister.