International Group of Female Psychoanalysts to Address Issues of Children's Identity Formations in Cross-racial Adoptions

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Three-day Conference to explore race/identity in the familial setting.

Who is My Mother, Who is My Father, Who am I?

How do people who have been adopted by parents of another race shape their identity? And how does a child's own mixed heritage play out in his/her formation of identity?

As more and more children from around the world are adopted and raised by parents with racial and/or ethnic backgrounds differing from their own, parents, teachers and mental health professionals need to cultivate more understanding and sensitivity in regards to the role that race/ethnicity plays in identity formation for these children.

"Who is My Mother, Who is My Father, Who am I?", a weekend conference to be held at the New York Psychoanalytic Society, 247 East 82nd Street, New York from Friday afternoon, October 26 through Sunday, October 28 will address these very issues. The conference, sponsored by The Committee on Women in Psychoanalysis (COWAP) of the International Psychoanalytical Association, features a roster of renowned child and family experts from around the world.

Those who are uncertain about what do with regard to adoption, those who have already adopted such children, and the adopted children themselves often seek psychoanalytic treatment to further understand the intrapsychic consequences of these adoptions. When the child and parent are of the same race, the fact of adoption is private and, at one time, kept secret. Cross-racial adoptions, though, are public events and invite public scrutiny with a more than ordinary attention paid to both parent and child.

Psychoanalysts in the past did not deal with social conditions and social change such as those pertaining to cross-racial adoption. But this has changed as the problems potential analysands bring into the treatment room are so very different from what they were even ten years ago. It's not just people like Angelina Jolie and Madonna who are adopting cross-racially but so are a host of bright, well educated women and men who are either infertile(having perhaps chosen careers first and late marriages), gays and lesbians who want children, and single mothers who have not found an appropriate mate.

The conference gives attendees the opportunity to join a community of parents who have children of a race other than their own and parents who have children of mixed racial heritage and those considering such options a chance to hear from people who have been adopted by people of another race and those of mixed heritage about what their experience means to them. This is a unique opportunity to consider the effects of our thinking on how we raise our children and on how to counsel parents raising children in the new world that they live in now.

Presenters will also consider cultural influences involved in adoptions from Native Americans, Asian and other backgrounds. In the small group presentations, people who have grown up in these families, and adoption counselors and current and potential adoptive families will share their experiences, hopes, strategies, and fears.

The conference begins at 4:00 pm on Friday, October 26 with an opening session followed by a plenary address by African American psychoanalyst Sandra Walker, M.D. and a showing of the film Thunderheart. Dr. Walker is a faculty member of the Seattle Psychoanalytic Society and Institute and Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Washington. She is also past chair of the American Psychiatric Association Committee of Black Psychiatrists; and a member of the Committee on Racial and Ethnic Diversity of the American Psychoanalytic Association.

The conference continues on Saturday with a presentation by on racial adoption Ravinder Barn, Professor at the University of London and author of six textbooks on interracial parenting including Black Children in the Public Care System and Parenting in Multiracial Britain. Professor Barn is currently researching the health and social welfare needs of Bangladeshi women in London. Another presentation will focus on a psychoanalyst's perspective "The Cross Racial Biological Child and the Cross Racial Adopted Child" to be given by Rosalba Bueno-Osawa, former chair of the Psychology Department at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City. She is also Director of Research and International Relations at the Institute of Postgraduate Studies in Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy. Other sessions will follow.

The conference has been organized by Arlene Kramer Richards, Ph.D., a Training and Supervising Analyst at the New York Freudian Society and a Fellow of IPTAR. On Sunday, Dr. Richards will lead a discussion of the previous day's clinical workshops.

Dr. Richards' own clinical experiences in treating adoptees and parents inspired her to find a way for parents, teachers, and mental health professionals to become more adept at understanding the issues at stake for children adopted in cross racial families.

For a full list of sessions and conference faculty, visit the Conference description.

Press wishing to attend the conference should contact Dottie Jeffries, djeffries2(at)nyc.rr.com, for press credentials.

The Committee on Women in Psychoanalysis of the International Psychoanalytical Association has sponsored meetings in Portugal, Italy, Spain, England, Mexico, Brazil, Scandinavia and Argentina as well as France and Germany. "Who is My Mother, Who is My Father, Who am I?" is the second meeting held in the United States, the first having been held in Atlanta. The aims of the Committee are to give modern feminist thinking a place in psychoanalysis-- and to give psychoanalytic thinking a place in the feminist world.

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