The Beacon
November 2008  

Confirmed keynote speakers for the 2009 national conference:

* State Senator Paula Benoit of Maine

* Screenwriter and birth father Joe Eszterhas and his birth daughter Suzanne Perryman

* Recording artist Darryl McDaniels of Run DMC

* Dr. Dorothy Roberts, law professor at Northwestern University

* Filmmaker Jean Strauss

Please see their brief biographies at the end of this page.


"Transforming Families, Connecting Lives"

     Next year's national conference in Cleveland offers an extra day of activities, five days instead of the usual four days. Each of the five days will feature a separate keynote speaker.

     In all, nearly 70 workshops will be presented during the conference. For 2009, twelve workshops, in two tracks of six sessions per track, are planned for Sunday morning, April 26, 2009.

     Entitled Transforming Families, Connecting Lives, this conference is being jointly sponsored by the American Adoption Congress and Adoption Network Cleveland. It will be held at the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown, and the Gateway Conference Center, Cleveland.

     An adoption film festival will be held each evening, and will screen a different film every night. Among the films will be: Roots Unknown, by Zara Phillips; Adopted, by Barb Lee; and, You'll Be in My Heart: Adoption in the Movies, the Sequel, by Cynthia Roe.

     The full conference registration fee includes:

*   A professional program on Wednesday afternoon, April 22nd

*   An awards luncheon by the AAC on Friday, April 24th

*   A dinner and reception by the ANC on Saturday, April 25th

     Among the workshop presenters will be past keynote speakers Betty Jean Lifton, Ron Nydam, Adam Pertman, Sharon Kaplan Roszia, and Nancy Verrier. At the 2009 conference, the perennially popular Male Adoptee program will be joined by a Female Adoptee program.

     For additional information, please visit the web sites for the AAC and ANC.



A Web Site Worth the Visit

     This month's featured web site is for the Canadian Council of Natural Mothers. Its web address is:

     According to the web site, the Council's mission is "providing a united voice for mothers who have lost their children to adoption."

     The Council is a fully recognized affiliate of Parent Finders Canada. The web site is bi-lingual French and English. It offers a library of recommended reading, as well as a Mothers Bill of Rights.

     Other resources available on the web site are: provincial search information; an articles archive; a discussion forum; position papers; plus, numerous links to external web sites.

     Membership is open to anyone who supports the Council's principles. There is no membership fee, but the Council does accept donations.


Around the AAC

AAC State Rep Appeared

on National Public Radio

     Roberta MacDonald, the AAC's state rep for North Carolina, was a guest speaker on "The State of Things, on Oct. 9, 2008.

     She was joined by Ruth Amerson, Executive Director of Another Choice Adoptions in Charlotte, N.C.; Marianne Novy, a professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh; and, Dr. Richard P. Barth, Dean of the School of Social Work at the University of Maryland-Baltimore.

AAC's New Jersey State Rep

Chosen As an "Angel in Adoption"

     Judy Foster was honored by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute as an "Angel in Adoption."

     She was nominated by Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen for her work on behalf of adoption reform. In addition to the AAC, she is a member of the New Jersey Coalition for Adoption Reform and Education.

Request for Address Updates

     Members who move, or change email address, are asked to report these changes to Carolyn Hoard, the AAC's Membership Chairperson. A correct address ensures that members will continue to receive their copies of The Decree and The Beacon.

     Changes in postal or email addresses can be sent to


Please send your comments and news items to Joan Schumack, content editor, at




Keynote speakers include a state senator, screenwriter, author, filmmaker, and Emmy-award winning producer

     In alphabetical order, these are the five keynote speakers scheduled for the national conference in Cleveland, on Wednesday through Sunday, April 22-26, 2009.


SENATOR PAULA BENOIT – Turning the Legislative Wheels

     Senator Paula Benoit, of Phippsburg, Maine, led the charge in the Maine State Senate to pass a bill to open records previously unavailable to adult adoptees. The Senator was a co-sponsor of LD 1084: “An Act To Provide Adult Adoptees Access to Their Original Birth Certificates,” which permits adoptees, upon turning 18, to access birth certificates and medical forms that may have been completed by birth parents.

     Sen. Benoit, who was blessed with loving and supportive adoptive parents herself, allowed her personal experiences and emotions to motivate her throughout her efforts to garner support for the bill.

     “I know this issue well. I live this issue every day,” the Senator said. “The right to know who you are and where you come from is something so many people take for granted, but when you are denied that right, you understand how important that information is, and how it has shaped you as a person. I fought for this bill on behalf of all adoptees who want the rights, the knowledge and the closure we have been denied.”



      Joe Eszterhas and his biological daughter, Suzanne Perryman, will describe – from separate points of view – their reunion after 30 years and their road to a loving relationship.

      Joe Eszterhas has written the screenplays for sixteen films that have made more than a billion dollars at the box office.  Among them are Basic Instinct, Jagged Edge, Flashdance and Showgirls.  A former senior editor at Rolling Stone, he is the author of five previous books—the second, Charlie Simpson’s Apocalypse, was nominated for the National Book Award. His latest book, Crossbearer: A Memoir of Faith, was published in September, 2008.

     The father of seven children, Eszterhas lives with his wife Naomi and their four sons in Bainbridge Township, Ohio. Suzanne Perryman is Joe’s relinquished then adopted daughter. They were reunited in 1996.


DARRYL MCDANIELS : My Story and My Mission

      Darryl McDaniels discovered he was adopted at the age of 35. He is also a cofounder of legendary hip hop group and recording artists Run DMC, an Emmy award winning producer of the documentary DMC: My Adoption Journey and a 2009 Rock and Roll hall of fame nominee.


DR. DOROTHY ROBERTS : Why Ending Racial Disproportionality Will Transform Child Welfare

     Dr. Roberts is the Kirkland & Ellis Professor at Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago, Illinois. Dr. Roberts is an expert in the interplay of gender, race, and class in legal issues concerning reproduction, bioethics, and child welfare.

     Dr. Roberts will argue that racial disproportionality stems from fundamental flaws in the child welfare system and racism has helped to prevent fundamental change. Efforts to eliminate racial disparities can expose those flaws and help to transform child welfare to benefit all children and families. She will illustrate her points with findings from her recent study of child welfare agency involvement in an African American neighborhood in Chicago.

     Her works include Shattered Bonds: the Color of Child Welfare, and Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty.


JEAN STRAUSS - For the Life of Me….

     Join us for a special premiere screening of Jean Strauss’s feature documentary, For the Life of Me. Four years in the making, this film explores the lifelong impact of secrecy in closed adoptions. Weaving the stories of a dozen adoptees with the conflicting messages of a culture that purports to value heritage and civil rights, the film aims an arrow straight at the heart of anyone whose life has been touched by adoption.

     Jean Strauss is an award-winning filmmaker and a New York Times best selling author. She has been documenting adoption issues for two decades. Her work includes the films The Triumvirate, Holding Hands, and Vital Records, as well as several books, including Birthright and Beneath a Tall Tree.