Signature Programs

HeArt Talks™ - for elementary-age kids

The model was designed in 1995 by Mimi Farrelly-​Hansen, an experienced child art therapist, former preschool and elementary school teacher, and parent of a daughter adopted from India. Farrelly-Hansen created a sequence of age-appropriate art interventions that would facilitate conversation among children about their experiences of being adopted and raised by American families in the United States. These art activities, developed for each age group of children and youth, were designed with an understanding of the developmental stages of adoption awareness.

We also offer a HeART Talks for Parents sesison at each camp, to review the workshops the kids attended and conduct a similar project for parents. 

HeArt Talks™ is conducted by licensed art therapy counselors and volunteers with a focus on the following goals:

  • Provide a safe place for transculturally and transracially adopted children and siblings to talk and make art.
  • Reduce social isolation and promote empowerment via problem solving and art making.
  • Foster positive self-​esteem through affirming cultural roots and role models and through completing age appropriate art tasks. Click to see video description
Heritage camps for adoptive families special programs

Who I Am™ - for middle school kids

Who I Am™ is a strength-​based, positive, cultural discussion developed specifically for middle school students. Who I Am™ examines the social aspects of identity and bi-​cultural identity in group discussion and games. The skilled facilitators, Taryn Campbell and Annice Johnson, assist adolescents in further understanding their identity and answering the prevalent question of the age, “where do I fit in?”

Who I Am™ also addresses the group dynamics of middle school, including bullying. Who I Am™ teaches appropriate, healthy coping-​skills to utilize in order for pre-​teens to feel empowered, self-​confident, and authentic.

Each adolescent creates a self-​symbol, an artistic expression of identity, to remind them throughout the year of the skills learned, the positive supportive community of camp, and that they do indeed fit in.

Click to see how can you, as parent, can continue this important conversation at home.

Be familiar with various types of aggression — even if your pre-​teen is not bullied directly, are they facing relational aggression where “frenemies” make passive comments? Or where even good friends make ignorant statements? Know how to support your child in further developing good coping strategies. Modeling your own coping skills will also be monumental in their ability to apply their own.

In Who I Am™, they will be presented with the following information:

Coping Skills can be broken into six categories. Not all coping strategies are appropriate for all situations, which is why it is important to build a large repertoire.

  1. Distraction; i.e. texting friends, listening to music, playing games.
    Distractions give your heart and mind a temporary break. They can help provide immediate relief. Distractions do not resolve any issues and usually can’t be used for too long.
  2. Grounding: using your senses to become mindful and present-​moment focused.
    Grounding helps us slow down and reduces the physiological effects of high emotions, particularly anxiety. Grounding does not work if the present moment feels threatening.
  3. Emotional Release: i.e. crying, sublimating anger in a healthy way.
    Emotional release allows the pressure of overwhelming emotions to dissipate. However, it is not always appropriate in all situations.
  4. Self Care: i.e. relaxation, cook a special meal, giving yourself a small treat.
    Self Care is where we show ourselves love, support, and caring. It affirms that we are okay and we are worthy. Sometimes self care can feel difficult to do or feel superficial (but it’s not).
  5. Positive Thinking: replacing negative thoughts with positive alternatives.
    Positive Thinking is a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, where negative thoughts are challenged. This can help change long-​term negative thinking habits and increase logical processing of events.
  6. Altruism: accessing your higher self.
    Being kind to others reminds us that everyone has value, including ourselves.

Courageous Conversations™ - for high school kids (formerly titled This is Me)

Courageous Conversations™ was developed by Fran Campbell of the Filipino-​American community, specifically for Heritage Camps of Adoptive Families. Courageous Conversations™ is a unique set of activities for high school teens that seek to assist them in the development of a positive bicultural identity. The need to establish a bicultural identity emerges most strongly for adopted youth during adolescence and young adulthood.

This sense of self or “identity” is multi-​faceted and very personal for each adoptee. It is not simple, but beautifully complex, having pieces of their birth culture as well as the experience growing up in a community where their racial/cultural group is not widely represented.

Why is Courageous Conversations™ important?

In November of 2009, the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute published a groundbreaking study titled, “Beyond Culture Camp: Promoting Healthy Identity formation in Adoption.” Several recommendations from this report are worth noting by parents, counselors and educators, but we agree with that there is a need for not only strategies that promote cultural socialization, but experiences that give adoptees additional support on “racial and cultural identification, and comfort”.

Adoptees often share that they feel different: not like the people they have met from their birth country, and not like people they know who were born in the United States. We believe that the task of parents and educators is to help adoptees explore how they are uniquely from two cultures. This bicultural identity needs to be defined by each of them with support from other adoptees, parents, and other family members during their Heritage Camp experience.

At each camp, members of the appropriate cultural/racial community lead these workshops with Fran at the helm, to ask and answer culturally specific questions, find out what makes a culture what it is, talk about how and where our adoptees can fit in, and role play situations they may encounter as they leave the relative safety of home and community to go to college, or into the work environment, etc.

This is Me™ has been a valuable way for our cultural community members to interact with the high school campers that is honest and meaningful, sharing their own experiences growing up in another culture and trying to fit in. There are many similarities that have nothing to do with being adopted, but simply with being of another race or culture than the majority.

Check out Asian Avenue's feature story on Heritage Camps for Adoptive Families' This is Me™ program to learn more about impacts on adoptees!