Family Stories: How to talk to Children about Adoption and Donor Origins




Workshop Series

Family Stories: How to talk to Children about Adoption and Donor Origins

Date:  Saturday May 1, 2010

Time:  9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Lunch will be served

Place: Montclair, NJ

This workshop is for parents, parents-to-be and professionals who would like to learn how to talk to children at the different ages and stages they go through in understanding adoption and donor origins.  Three separate tracks will be offered: one covering adoption, another discussing donor origin issues and a third track for kids to touch on these issues as well.  You can follow one track or mix and match.  This program is approved by the National Association of Social Workers (provider #886509641) for 5 continuing education contact hours. Professionals working with these issues can get CEU credits for attendance.

This workshop program has been developed by Joni S. Mantell, LCSW Director of IAC Center, a psychotherapist specializing in adoption, and a recognized expert on integrating adoption and child developmental issues and Judith Kottick, LCSW, Director of Fertility Counseling and Consulting Services, a psychotherapist and recognized expert in the field of reproductive counseling with a particular emphasis on egg donation and gestational carrier arrangements.

Time Room 1 Room 2 Room 3 & 4
9:00 – 9:30 Welcome Keynote: The Parenting Story: Understanding Your Child and Being Yourself Children may participate in family stories activities or spend time in a babysitting room
9:30 – 10:30 Talking to kids about Adoption from Infancy to Age 6 Disclosure- Conversations about Donor Conception Kids Room: Social Games
10:30 – 11:30 Talking to kids about Adoption from Ages 7 to 12 The New Blended Family: Mixed Cultures and Genetics Kids Room: Art Projects

11:30 – 12:15

12:15 – 1:15 Adoption Triad Panel Donor Parents’ Panel Kids Room: WISE Up Tools
1:15 – 2:15 Communication about Adoption Toolkit Donor Kids Panel Kids room: Books and Art
2:15 – 3:00 Concluding Remarks, Questions and Discussion

Welcome Keynote

Time: Promptly at 9:00 to 9:30 a.m.

The Parenting Story:  Understanding Your Child and Being Yourself 

Speakers: Joni S. Mantell, LCSW and Judith Kottick, LCSW

The speakers will discuss some of the simultaneous issues that parents and children experience in relation to the ages and stages that children go through in understanding of their family stories.

For Kids:  Throughout the day we offer a choice of a kid’s activity room and a baby sitting room


Session 1: Time:  9:30 to 10:30 a.m.

Adoption Track:  Talking to Kids about Adoption from Infancy to Age Six

Speaker: Joni S. Mantell, LCSW

This workshop is for both adoptive parents of young children and pre-adoptive parents who would like to learn how to begin talking about adoption, what your child can understand at these early ages, how to answer your child’s earliest questions about adoption and how to create a safe, open family atmosphere in which adoption can be discussed.

Donor Track:  Disclosure—Conversations about Donor Conception

Speaker: Judith Kottick, LCSW

This workshop will provide parents and prospective parents with the tools to create a tailor-made plan to tell your children about their donor origins.  We will address the pros and cons of disclosure at different ages, how to develop language to explain the donor and what and when to tell friends and family.  The goal is to set the stage for your child to form a positive identity and sense of family connection.

For Kids:  Social games or a baby sitting play room. Kids will meet and greet and get comfortable with each other.


Session 2: Time:  10:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Adoption Track:  Talking to Kids about Adoption from Ages 7 – 12

Speakers:  Lauren Scheiner, MSW and a panel of adoptive parents.

This workshop is for adoptive parents and for any professionals who work with children in this age group.  Learn about the 4 Key issues children these ages find difficult to put into words; how to explore these issues with a child; and how to help a child answer questions about adoption, and to deal with peer or school issues.

Adoption and Donor Track:  The New Blended Family: Mixed Cultures and Genetics

Speakers: Judith Kottick, LCSW and Joni S. Mantell, LCSW

Families today are often a mix of origins, whether through domestic or international adoption, adoptions from different countries; biological or donor origin children, or gestational carrier births.  Join us for a discussion of the issues involved in decision making while family planning and in communicating with children about the varying ways they entered the family.

For Kids:  Art Projects or a babysitting play room.  Family Story projects will be introduced in a way that offers children the chance to express themselves, but there will be no expectation that they do.  The goal is to give them the opportunity and to address questions or concerns that may not be acknowledged in other settings.


LUNCH:  11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.


Session 3: Time:  12:15 to 1:15 p.m.

Adoption Track:  Adoption Triad Panel

Moderator:  Lauren Scheiner, MSW and a panel of adoptive parents, birth parents and adults who were adopted.

The panel members will share their personal experiences and perspectives on adoption as they have lived it over the course of the life cycle.

Donor Track:  Donor Parents Panel

Moderator: Judith Kottick, LCSW

The real experts on telling and talking, parents of donor conceived children, will describe personal disclosure stories and will talk about their children’s reactions to finding out about their genetic origins.

For Kids:  WISE Up tools for general purposes or a babysitting play room.

Moderator:   Jane Cramer, MSW

Kids will have a chance to role play responses to any questions, comments or teasing examples that they bring up.  The WISE Up tools (Walk away; say It’s private; Share something personal; Educate or use Humor) will be applied to any situations the children in the group want to bring up.  This is a good model for any teasing or bullying a child encounters.


Session 4: Time:  1:15 to 2:15 p.m.

Adoption Track:  Communicating about Adoption Toolkit

Moderator:  Joni Mantell, LCSW and A Panel of Professionals

Talking is only one of the ways to communicate with children about their family stories and identities.  At the IAC Center we have found it helps to have a variety of strategies and a full tool kit.  In this workshop we will discuss books, life books, play techniques, models for dealing with the schools and with peers; and how to understand the benefits and timing of support groups for both children and parents.

Donor Track:  Donor Kids Panel

Moderator: Judith Kottick, LCSW

Through personal appearances and videotape, we will hear from thechildren themselves, what they think and feel about their genetic origins.

For Kids:  Book reading and art or a babysitting play room.


Concluding Remarks, Questions and Discussion

Time:  2:15 to 3:00 p.m

Moderators: Joni S. Mantell, LCSW and Judith Kottick, LCSW

This final session gives participants a chance to address the issues raised throughout the day and to leave with information and resources pertinent to their own lives.

The IAC Center offers counseling and education. We do not do adoptions and are not affiliated with any agency or attorney. We offer a safe and professionally guided environment where you can talk and learn about infertility and adoption issues that occur over the course of the life cycle.

additional information:

Phone 609-737-8750, or E-mail:

Seating is limited. Pre-registration is required and should be completed at least one week prior to the event. Payment must be received in order to confirm your registration. Cancellations must be received at least three days prior to the event.


Based in Pennington, NJ