WORKING WITH ADOPTIVE AND FOSTER FAMILIES: Assessing and treating the 7 Core Issues of Adoption through play and expressive therapies

Jennifer Hannett, LCSW, RPT

Program Goals

Families built through adoption, foster-care, and kindship care experience unique needs, challenges, and complexities that differ from biological families. Research findings indicate adopted children and children in foster care exhibit greater emotional, behavioral, and social struggles than non-adopted children. There is an increasing need for mental health services to address the complex issues experienced by adopted and fostered children and their families. Additionally, there is a parallel need for enhanced training and competency among mental health professionals who work with adopted and foster children and their families. This workshop will provide participants with fundamental knowledge of the 7 Core Issues in Adoption and Permanency in addition to integration of trauma informed and adoption specific play and expressive activities and interventions that can be used in assessment and treatment with families built through adoption, foster-care, and kinship care.

Program Schedule

This three-hour workshop will consist of didactic presentations, experiential work, and processing clinical case material.

Day 1 

1:00- 1:45 PM Introduction, didactic presentation of adoption and permanency specific considerations and the 7 Core Issues in adoption and permanency
1:45 -2:00 PM Group experiential activity related to grief and loss experienced by adopted and foster children
2:O0 -3:00 PM Didactic presentation of trauma-focused and adoption specific play-based assessment and treatment strategies and techniques with adoptive and foster children
3:00 -3:15 PM Break
3:15 -3:45 PM Expressive activity demonstration on assessment of identity formation of adopted and foster children
3:45 -4:00 PM Clinical considerations when working with adoptive and foster families
4:00 -4:15 PM Summary, Closing exercise, questions, and answers

 Course Objectives

By the end of the course participants will be able to:

  • Define the three members of the adoption triad play therapists interface.
  • List the 7 core issues in adoption and permanency that show up in the playroom.
  • Identify at least 3 directive or nondirective play therapy activities used to assess or treat the core issue of grief and loss experienced by adopted or foster children.
  • List at least two directive play therapy activities to assess or treat the core issue of identity experienced by adopted or foster children.
  • Describe a rationale for incorporating the narrative play therapy technique of creating a LifeBook with adopted or foster families.


  • Kaiser, D. 1996. Indications of attachment security in a drawing task.  The Arts in Psychotherapy, 23(4), 333-340.
  • Lovett, J. (1999). Small Wonders: Healing Childhood Trauma with EMDR. New York, NY: Free Press/Simon & Schuster
  • Lyles, M. & Homeyer, L.E. (2015). The Use of Sandtray Therapy With Adoptive Families. Adoption Quarterly, 18(1): 67-81.
  • Ncube, N. (2006). The Tree of Life Project: Using narrative ideas in work with vulnerable children in Southern Africa.  The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work, 1, 3-16.
  • O’Malley, Beth. (2011). Lifebooks: Creating a Treasure for the Adopted Child (2nd ed). Winthrop, MA: Adoption-Works.
  • Roszia, S.K., & Davis Maxon, A.D. (2019). Seven Core Issues in Adoption and Permanency: A Comprehensive Guide to Promoting Understanding and Healing In Adoption, Foster Care, Kinship Families and Third Party Reproduction. Philadelphia, PA: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
  • Verrier, N. (1993). The primal wound: understanding the adopted child.Lafayette, CA: Nancy Verrier.

General Course Information

This course is limited to 15 participants and is designed to facilitate experiential work, group discussion, and processing of clinical material.  Participants will have ample opportunity to discuss their specific needs and clinical questions.  Participant feedback will be sought out throughout the workshop.

Clinical case discussions will adhere to HIPPA regulations regarding client confidentiality.

Target audience is Mental Health Professionals: Social Workers, Psychologists, Licensed Professional Counselors and Licensed marriage and Family Therapists.

The program is Beginner Level

This event is sponsored by Starbright Training Institute.  Starbright Training Institute is approved by the Association for Play Therapy to offer continuing education specific to play therapy (APT Approved Provider No. 96-029).

Myriam Goldin, LCSW; RPT-S, is Director of Starbright Training Institute.  Phone:  703-980-2886.  Email:   Web Page:

Grievance Policy

Starbright Training Institute seeks to ensure equitable treatment of every person and to make every attempt to resolve grievances in a fair manner. Please submit a written grievance to: Myriam Goldin, LCSW; RPT-S, Director of Starbright Training Institute.  Phone:  703-980-2886.  Email:   Web Page:

Grievances would receive, to the best of our ability, corrective action in order to prevent further problems.

Accommodations for the Differently Abled

Starbright Training Institute’s training facilities are handicap accessible. Individuals needing special accommodations please contact the Director of Starbright Training Institute. See contact information above.

Course Instructor Contact Information

Name: Jennifer Hannett



Phone: 703-980-2738