Think Tank

On January 16, 2016, Adoption Museum Project convened a remarkable group of people in Oakland, California to reflect on the systemic issues in adoption.

“This system is not inevitable.” – Joe Lambert


The Think Tank was designed to inform two questions at the heart of Adoption Museum Project’s 2016 strategic planning: What change in adoption do we seek? How can a museum contribute to that change?

We hoped that these conversations would deepen our understanding of the complexity of adoption and help us better define how a museum can contribute to positive change. They did. We also wanted to do this thinking with others because there is unique wisdom in diverse experiences and face-to-face, group conversation. Community is also necessary when doing the often difficult work of change.


Eleven people participated in the Think Tank:

Tatiana Beller
Laura Callen
Susan Dusza Guerra Leksander
Chad Goller-Sojourner
Beth Hall
Rachel Herndon

Gail Johnson Vaughn
Joe Lambert
Maureen McCauley Evans
Yong Chan Miller
Kit Myers

Zak Sinclair brilliantly facilitated the day.

The participants brought professional experience in adoption from different realms: academia, practice, mental health, activism and art. They brought their personal experience of adoption: adoptees, first parents, adoptive parents and professionals. And they represented diversity of race, gender and sexual identity. Holding all of this difference, the group also shared common ground: actively and critically looking at adoption; sharing a belief that while adoption can serve people, it also harms people; and changes need to be made at the systemic level.

We recognized the limits of representation and knowledge that was present in the room. In particular, we acknowledged how the group was likeminded about many values and ideas. We imagined that the conversation would have been even more fruitful if more diverse points of view had been present.

Meeting Premises

While adoption can and does help people, it also harms people. On this day, to have a focus and go deep, we will discuss the harms. We will also create time and space for conversations about what works.

We are only beginning a vast and complex conversation. We will not be fully covering any one point or coming to any conclusions.

Difference can be a source of wisdom and strength. Our differences may show up in many ways, including our perspectives, our language, and how we engage with the material and with each other throughout the day.


We are deeply grateful to all the participants for their support of the Adoption Museum Project, their honesty, and their generosity of time, expertise, and spirit.

To Learn More

If you’d like to know more about the Think Tank, please get in touch:

« Back To All Work