Every year, Chosen for Life Ministries holds our Choosing to Care Conference - an Adoption, Foster, and Orphan Care Conference - in the Athens-Clarke/Oconee County area. Its purpose is to provide information to potential and current adoptive or foster families, as well as be a resource for local orphan care information. The conference includes:
- small group breakout sessions led by experts in their fields
- a discussion panel led by adult adoptees and adults from foster care
- time to network with other families with similar interests
- continuing education credits for foster parents
- free childcare for attendees
- a special message from a keynote speaker
We hope to see you at our next Choosing to Care Conference!
Breakout sessions will include:
Adoption 101 (International and Domestic): This breakout will provide an overview of domestic and international adoptions and will touch on foster care, private, and embryo adoptions, the home-study process, the federal adoption tax credit, and other things to consider when adopting.
Chelsea McElveen, LMSW | Executive Director, Nightlight Christian Adoptions
Chelsea works with birth parents who want to make an adoption plan for their child and oversees Georgia’s Domestic Adoption Program. She also completes home studies and provides post-adoption services for domestic, international, and embryo adoption.
Ashley Cruise, LGSW | Domestic Program and Home Study Coordinator, Nightlight Christian Adoptions
Ashley coordinates and completes home studies and post-adoption services for Nightlight’s international, domestic, and embryo adoption programs. She also assists domestic adoptive families throughout the process of their adoption through Nightlight.
Adoption: A Birthparent's View: Whether you are an adoptive parent, potential adoptive parent, or work in adoption ministries, come learn about adoption from the unique perspective of the birthmother. Caseworkers Jennifer and Callie will share how to navigate a relationship with your child's birth family. Devyn, a birthmother, will share her testimony of placing her infant daughter for adoption, followed by a Q&A.
Callie Chartrau | Northeast GA Birthmother Caseworker, Covenant Care Services
Callie has been a Birthmother Caseworker for Covenant Care Services for 5+ years. With her background in counseling, she is passionate about supporting women in crisis, and helping birthmoms to grieve well after making an adoption plan. She resides here in Athens with her husband, Ryan.
Jennifer Adams | Middle Georgia/West Central GA Birthmother Caseworker
Jennifer has been serving and advocating for birthmothers at Covenant Care Services for two and a half years. Walking with women through the emotional process of considering adoption and, for many, ultimately making an adoption plan has been more rewarding than she ever imagined.
Devyn Huffman | Birthmom
Devyn has been a birth parent in an open adoption since the year of 2012. She lived in Oregon most of her life, but after high school graduation, moved here to Georgia. She is well-traveled, and is happily married to her husband, teaming up to raise their two beautiful daughters.
Breaking the Mold - Adoptees & Identity Layers: There are a number of influences that impact and mold the development of identity. Everyone is constantly evaluating which influences will break down or build up their identity. Now consider being adopted. Come and discover the many layers that an adoptee must walk through in American Culture to find identity.
Nemili Johnson | Adoptee, Advocate, & Speaker
Nemili Johnson is an Indian transracial adoptee and newly adoptive parent herself. She received her Bachelors from Johns Hopkins and a Masters from Northwestern University. In her free time, Nemili loves to engage and educate adoptive families struggling to understand ways to interact with their own adoptees.
Creating Lifebooks for Adopted Children: Keeping Children Connected to their Stories: A lifebook is the story of a child's life, told through words, pictures, and documents. These personalized books provide children with a sense of continuity from family of origin to adoptive family, and contain important information about their histories. This session will offer practical advice to help you create one for your adoptive/foster child.
Angela Elder | Founding Member of CFLM, Adoptive Mother
Angela and her husband are celebrating their recent match with a daughter in Taiwan! Their two sons, also internationally adopted, couldn't be more excited about a new little sister. But all these changes have brought up questions about their own pasts -- thank goodness for lifebooks. Originally from Georgia, Angela now teaches in South Carolina.
Discipline for Children from Trauma: Responding to Challenging Behaviors: There are a wide array of parenting tactics that seem to work for a child with typical, healthy beginnings but for an at-risk child who has experienced compromised beginnings the bar is raised for parents. This presentation includes practical ideas for disciplining children while still maintaining feelings of safety and security and focusing on attachment.
Whitney White, MEd, APC, NCC, DCC | International Education Counselor, Lifeline Children Services
In Whitney’s role at Lifeline, she has developed training and curriculum for the ministry, counseled adoptive families, and trained caregivers around the world in international children's home settings. As a counselor and educator, Whitney is honored to play a small role in what God is doing to equip His people to care for His children.
Foster Care 101: This breakout will provide an overview of foster care, including the process from the initial report of abuse/neglect, to the foster care placement, and to permanency (reunification, guardianship, or adoption).
Tom Covington | Executive Director, Uniting Hope 4 Children
Tom Covington is the Executive Director of Uniting Hope 4 Children – a Christian foster care agency whose mission is to see the church solve the foster care crisis in Georgia. Tom spent 15 years at DFCS as well as many years serving as a pastor.
Lexie Cape | Case Manager Supervisor, Uniting Hope 4 Children
Lexie Cape is a Case Manager Supervisor with Uniting Hope 4 Children, lives in the Athens area, and is a graduate of the University of Georgia with a degree in Human Development and Family Science. Lexie is passionate about educating people about the goal of reunification, rebuilding biological families and seeing the Lord's heart for reconciliation through foster care and partnership parenting.
Navigating the Courtroom: Let’s make the courtroom not scary and the legal process crystal clear! That’s the goal of this session. We will walk through the journey of adoption - whether through foster care, agency (domestic and international), private or relative – with the legal/court process as our foundation. This discussion will include an overview of the relevant state policies and laws that govern court and agency oversight of adoption and the responsibilities of the attorneys or agencies involved in various types of adoption. Come armed with questions, and we will try to answer them all!
Juli Wilkes Wisotsky | CFLM Board Member, Adoption Attorney at Wisotsky Law
Juli Wisotsky has practiced law locally since 1996. A graduate of UGA, she began focusing her practice solely on adoption in 2010. Juli has handled hundreds of adoption and is a Fellow of the Georgia Council of Adoption Lawyers.
Opting out of the Drama Cycle: We all dream of a drama free home, but a lot of days feel full of drama! So what is the solution? Come learn about the Drama Triangle – a relational science tool that models dysfunctional social interactions. Pam will teach us how to opt out of this cycle be redefining our roles in it!
Pam Parish | Author, Speaker, Founder of Connections Homes
Pam is a follower of Jesus Christ, and a wife for 24 years and counting. She is a mom of seven incredibly beautiful and amazing young women, and Nana to four spunky grandchildren. Pam is a Foster Care and Adoption Advocate, author of the Ready or Not devotional series for foster and adoptive families, and the Founder and President of Connections Homes, an Atlanta-based organization working with young adults who've aged out of foster care, are homeless, or otherwise without family.
Orphan Care and the Mission of the Church: The gospel compels all Christians to engage in orphan care. Let's talk through a theologically-driven approach to orphan care to build a sustainable movement.
Blake Rogers | Georgia State Director, Lifeline Children's Services
By God's grace, Blake's parents decided to adopt from China when he was 14 years old. Now, he spends his days working to equip local churches and families to engage in the mission of orphan care.
Partnership Parenting with Compassion: Understanding the Families Foster Children Come From: Lindsey and Melanie will provide a look into the challenges facing families involved with DFCS. Additionally, they will provide resources to better understand these families and serve them where they are.
Melanie Villalta, LCSW | Therapist
Melanie Villalta, LCSW is a bilingual therapist at Athens Center for Counseling and Play Therapy and Project Family, LLC. She has worked with families in Athens for nine years, both in education and mental health.
Lindsey Caven | Foster Mother
Lindsey received her Master's Degree in Social Work and served as a School Social Worker and Family Engagement Specialist at Clarke Middle School for six years. She and her husband Aaron have two biological children and have served as foster parents since 2013.
Plot Twists: Redeeming Infertility and Delayed Dreams: Experience an interactive and educational workshop that unpacks the effects of either current or past frustrated attempts to build your family. There will be opportunity to share your story in small groups. You will leave with new tools for responding to disappointments and unhelpful advice/comments of others. You will have the chance to create your personalized posture of hope in relation to your family.
Beth Dean, LCSW | Therapist, Stonegate Counseling
Beth is a therapist at Stonegate Counseling who offers both calm and focus for teens, adults, and couples. Beth graduated with her Masters from UGA and has been a grief counselor since 2007. Beth specializes in Grief and Loss, Infertility, Life Transition, Caregiver Stress, Mom issues, Attachment Theory, and Spiritual Issues.
Protecting Your Family from and Preparing for Abuse Allegations: The Aches and Pains of Following the Call to Foster: It can be shocking to hear words like "investigation", or to think your foster home could be under such intense scrutiny. The goal of this course is to help prevent the stress of investigation and policy violations, and to offer perspective on the fellowship between joy and troubles for those who are called to foster.
Lee Adams | Placement Utilization Lead, Region 5 DFCS/Resource Development
Lee Adams has served with the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services for 8 years and as a professional social worker since graduating from UGa in 1994. He pastors Carlton Baptist Church, and considers his two careers as intertwined callings. He and his wife, Brittony, are the proud parents of Addison and Reagan Adams.
Secrets to Sustainability, Loving for the Long Haul: There is nothing like the benefit of perspective! Through personal stories and scripture, Beth and Stephen share some of the life-giving keys they have learned over the past 17 years of adoptive parenting--keys that continue to strengthen them through the challenges that come with parenting children who have experienced profound loss and trauma that is inherent in adoption and foster care.
Stephen and Beth Templeton | Hope at Home
Stephen and Beth have been married for 31 years and have raised 7 children, 3 from birth and 4 through older child international adoption. With all of their children in their 20's now, they are honored to share the lessons of wisdom and the testimonies of hope with other adoptive foster parents. Beth heads up Hope at Home.
Special Needs Adoption & the Gospel: Every child who is adopted has experienced some level of brokenness and loss. But some children come from harder places than others, and many children in need of families suffer from physical or mental disabilities. How does the Gospel uniquely equip Christians for the journey of special needs adoption?
Stephen Story | Executive Director, Covenant Care Adoption Services
Stephen Story is the Executive Director of Covenant Care Adoption Services, a Georgia-based adoption agency offering adoption as an alternative to abortion. He and his wife are parents of three children through adoption, including one with special needs.
Transracial Adoption-It's a big deal (but not really!): Perhaps the biggest challenge in our journey of fostering and eventually adopting children of a different race is trying to find the balance of not making a big issue of differences, but also not ignoring these differences and honoring their uniqueness. During this session we will share a little of what we have experienced these past 2 1/2 years, and also have an open time of discussion to share experiences, concerns, and questions from attendees where we can learn from and support each other.
Jordan and Ashley Downs | Foster to Adopt Parents
Jordan and Ashley are Oconee County natives who have a passion for raising awareness for adoption and foster care in their local community. Jordan is on the Board of Directors for CFLM and is a Vice President for a lawn and garden company. Ashley is the Foster Care Advocate for their church, Briarwood Baptist, and a special education teacher. They have one biological daughter and recently adopted a sibling group from foster care.
Working with DFCS: The Journey Through Foster Care: This workshop will offer attendees insight into the work and mission of the Division of Family and Children Services in Georgia. Special attention will be given to a child’s journey through foster care, from initial entry into the system to permanency through reunification, guardianship, or adoption.
Danny Stevens | CFLM Board Member, Coordinator of the Athens-Clarke County Juvenile Court's Family Treatment Court Program
Danny is a retired Program Manager with the DFCS Permanency Unit and a retired instructor with the College of Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Georgia.
Julia Baine | Foster Care Supervisor, Clarke County DFCS
Julia Baine is currently a Foster Care Supervisor at Clarke County DFCS where she has worked for two and a half years. Julia holds a Masters in Social Work from the University of Georgia and is known at her office for her love for children and for her ability to reach children in traumatic situations.
Breakout sessions included:
- Adoption 101 (International and Domestic)
- Foster Care 101
- Man to Man: Understanding Our Call to Lead
- One Family's Perspectives on Multi-Generational Adoption
- Refreshed: Finding Strength to Carry On
- Caring Well for Adoptive and Foster Families in Your Community
- Life-Giving Speech
- Four Relational Germs: Risk Factors that Lead to Marital Distress
- Trust-Based Relational Intervention Therapy (TBRI)
- General Orphan Care
2016 CHOOSING TO CARE CONFERENCE
Our 5th Annual Adoption and Orphan Care Conference was held on Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016 at Watkinsville First Baptist Church.
Dr. Susan Hillis
Hope at Home
Breakout sessions included:
- Trust Based Relational Intervention / Parent Training
- Practical Discussion with an Adult Adoptee
- Man to Man
- International and Domestic Adoption
- Foster Care Partnership Parenting with Birth Parents
- Foster Care from a Courtroom Perspective
- Parenting with Biblical Insight
- Stories of Redemption, International Orphan Care, and the Impact of the Church
- Creating Life Books for Adopted Children
2015 CHOOSING TO CARE CONFERENCEOur 4th Annual Adoption and Orphan Care Conference was held on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Watkinsville First Baptist Church.
Georgia State Director, Lifeline Children’s Services
- Post Adoption Counseling
- Orphan Care / Foster Care
- Bringing Understanding and New Hope to Adoptive Parents
- Man to Man
- International Adoption
- Domestic Adoption
- Financially Supporting Adoption
- Entering into Suffering
2013 CHOOSING TO CARE CONFERENCE
Our 3rd Annual Adoption and Orphan Care Conference was held on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013 at Watkinsville First Baptist Church.
Pastor, Author of Gospel Shaped Living, Board Member of The Gospel Coalition
General Adoption Questions
- Post Adoption: I’ve adopted, now what?
- Man-to-Man: Discussion with Fathers
- Financially Supporting Adoption
- Orphan Care
- Domestic Adoption
- International Adoption
- Foster Care
- New Hope: Teaching Your Child about their True “Inheritance”
- Panel Discussion: Tough Issues About Adoption