First/Birth Parents at Pact Family Camp
Are you a parent who has placed a child for adoption? Or an adoptive parent who is planning to attend Pact Family Camp and would like to invite your child’s first/birth parent to attend as well? Pact welcomes birth/first parents—traditionally the most marginalized members of the adoption triad—not just as guest speakers but as full participants in our entire Family Camp program. First/birth parents provide ground-breaking opportunities for connections between first families, adoptive/foster parents, adopted/fostered youth, and adoption professionals.
Pact Family Camp has included first/birth parents as guest speakers and participants since 2010, and a growing number are attending each year. Some come with their children and their children’s adoptive families, others come on their own. At Pact Family Camp, first/birth parents are invited to participate in all of the adult programming (keynote presentations, panel discussions, workshops, etc.)
Pact knows that topics of adoption and family, as well as oppression, race and culture, are often sensitive, volatile subjects; we want to make sure that you are not being asked to educate adoptive parents or share your experience with adoptees if that is not your desire. Of course, we invite people to reach across triad and racial lines as they choose, but we acknowledge the power dynamics when first/birth parents are in a very small minority.
Pact is committed to Camp being not only a “brave space”, but also a safe space for first/birth parents; we acknowledge that the environment can be emotionally triggering. There are also daily opportunities for first/birth parents to meet as a community to support and build connections with each other. Our Birth/First Parent Specialist is on hand to provide support and facilitation.
Many of the first/birth parents who attend choose to speak about their experiences to the adoptive parents and older adopted youth in attendance. For those who are interested in acting as educators, we believe that first/birth parents play an important role for Pact campers of all ages because adopted children and parents get to see and know them firsthand, thereby disrupting the stereotypes too often perpetrated about them. Pact is paving the way for these kinds of interactions because we believe that having all voices in the adoption constellation represented and heard serves children best. If you are interested in attending Pact Family Camp as a speaker or to share your experience, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
What Birth/First Parents Say About Their Pact Camp Experience“I am so grateful for the opportunity to attend Pact Camp as a first/birth parent educator. Being a part of a marginalized group in such a minority presence was humbling and allowed me to analyze aspects of power and privilege that I believe will help me understand her [the daughter I placed for adoption] experience more as a transracial adoptee of color. It’s healing to be able to use my experience in adoption to help others, especially adoptive parents, understand the experience of birth parents. Seeing all the kids in programming together and with their counselors was invaluable. I will definitely be back, and next time hopefully with my daughter and her adoptive family in tow”
“As both a first mother and an adopted person, I am excited about Pact’s Camp Within a Camp programming for first families. Some of the other adult adoptees at camp shared that they were nervous and excited about the opportunities to interact with first mothers, as there is a lot still unresolved in their own stories, and some of them had never been around that many first parents at one time. There is often very little in the way of ongoing education for first families after placement, and many are left to try to navigate complex situations with their children on their own. I look forward to working with Pact to offer meaningful, tailored programming for first families at Camp that draws on the wealth of knowledge from both adopted adults and seasoned adoptive parents.”
—Susan Dusza Guerra Leksander, First Family Program Coordinator
“I was overwhelmed with the appreciation expressed by the adoptive parents! It really helped me to move forward from a deep sense of invisibility that I have experienced over the past 28 years!”
—Karen, birth mother
What Adoptive Parents Whose Children’s First Parents Have Attended Pact Family Camp Say“Even though we see our daughter's birth mother fairly often, we never get to spend as much time with her as we do at Pact Camp. Her presence at camp, the conversations we’ve had, the experiences we’ve gone through together—even the difficult ones--have really deepened our relationship. From her, and from all the other amazing first mothers in attendance, we have learned so much about the first/birth parent perspective—and been challenged to keep expanding our own.”
—Michele & Michael
“Our boys' birthmother has come to camp for 3 years. Being together at camp is a powerful way for all 3 of us (mothers) to reaffirm our pact to love & support our sons in the complexity of their identities.”
-Kristina & Patty
“Having our eldest daughter's first mother--and sister--attend camp with us has been an incredibly meaningful experience for our whole family. The joy it brought to our daughter was unmistakable--as though we were affirming every part of her and her story. While our younger daughter struggled with the absence of her own first parents, we knew we were conveying to her our respect for her first family and our willingness to include them, even though they were unable to attend. Personally, the experience furthered my understanding of the loss involved in adoption, and the stigma faced by first parents even in settings where it is supposed to be 'safe.' I am forever grateful to Pact for the opportunity to bring our daughter's first family to Camp, and for Pact's insistence that first families' voices be included.”
-Andrea & Kerry