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by Kirstin Nelson

After two years of cancellations due to the pandemic, it was great to be back at Pact Family Camp East in Pine Mountain, Georgia. This was the second time camp East was held at this location (the last time being 2019) but things felt different this time. The lodge, pool, lake and beautiful amenities were still there, but campers needed to be masked at all times while indoors. Nevertheless, camp staff worked to ensure the health and safety of attendees, including providing outside options for meals, meetings and social gatherings.

One thing I deeply appreciate is that Pact recognizes the need for spaces reserved for families led by parents of color. The first day started with a dinner and welcome for families headed by BIPOC parents. It was wonderful to see familiar faces and so many first-time families. Throughout the week, there were many options for BIPOC adults to network in affinity spaces, including daily moderated afternoon discussion groups and an evening social gathering.

Other affinity groups also had reserved tables or rooms at lunch, including BIPOC adults, non-adopted siblings, LGBTQ-led families, first-time attendees, and parents navigating divorce. There were also tables based on geography so families could connect and plan meet-ups throughout the year. Pact does a great job of bringing adoptive families together while understanding the nuances that exist among our families.

One keynote stood out as an issue often discussed in same-race adoptive families. Two speakers, Dr. Samantha Coleman and Sandria Washington are both late discovery adoptees. They have a wonderful podcast and you can find them on Facebook under Black to the Beginning. They shared their stories of discovering they were adopted as adults and how this impacted their identities and family relationships. This led to rich discussions in the BIPOC afternoon discussing group about how and when to tell same-race adoptees they are adopted.

We also discussed how to share difficult adoption-related information with children that acknowledges we are temporary keepers of their information, but details of their adoption belong to them. Many parents shared advice and examples for safely presenting information age-appropriately.

The final morning of Camp was the closing ceremony. Campers practiced dances all week and then performed for the parents. There was so much joy – for kids and parents. Each time we attend Camp, I am most impacted by how much my daughter gains in such a short time. She loves Camp. She wishes Camp was longer than five days. She wishes she could live at Camp year round. (I wish Camp lasted all year, too.)

Kirstin Nelson is a transracial adoptee and an adoptive parent. She grew up in racial isolation in rural Nebraska and has spent her adult years forming her cultural and racial identity. She has been in reunion with her first mother for over 20 years. Kirstin is a law librarian for the federal government and adjunct law professor.