Troy’s Woodside Bible Church, pictured, will host a program on Friday, April 28, and Saturday, April 29, to help parents through the process of adoption and raising a child in foster care.

Troy’s Woodside Bible Church, pictured, will host a program on Friday, April 28, and Saturday, April 29, to help parents through the process of adoption and raising a child in foster care.

Photo by Brendan Losinski

Troy church to host conference on adoption and foster care advice

‘It is a lot of knowledge you get for $10 that would usually cost hundreds of dollars for conferences and therapy and other resources’

By: Brendan Losinski | Troy Times | Published April 18, 2023


TROY — Navigating the process of adopting a child or welcoming one into the home out of foster care can be daunting, but a program coming to Troy’s Woodside Bible Church may assist parents and caregivers.

Called the Hope for the Journey Conference, the program will be hosted by the Christian Family Services organization. The conference will feature recorded sessions coupled with in-person advice, with the goal of equipping and encouraging parents and caregivers so they can meet the needs of children impacted by adoption or foster care.

“One of the goals of doing this is not only encouraging adoption but helping in the process that comes after adoption,” explained Sarah Harpootlian, the adoption counselor with Christian Family Services. “People can be so excited about adopting, but a lot of parents have no idea how to address concerns that come up as the child starts to grow up.”

The conference will take place over two days, with the first portion taking place 7-9 p.m. on Friday and the second portion taking place 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday. Woodside Bible Church is located at 6600 Rochester Road. Registration costs $10 per person, which includes training materials, lunch and refreshments, and registration may be completed by going to

“It provides a lot of practical information about parenting kids that have been adopted or are in foster care,” Harpootlian remarked. “It is a lot of knowledge you get for $10 that would usually cost hundreds of dollars for conferences and therapy and other resources.”

Leigh Ruffner and her husband have helped foster seven children, adopting two of them. She has attended the conference in other locations in the past and said it provided her with a lot of insight and camaraderie on the fostering and adoption experience.

“Maybe for the first time, they might feel they belong to a group that understands, as I did,” she said. “A lot of people don’t know why parents would put themselves through the process of fostering, since it can be such a difficult journey. Hearing the stories of other people who have been there can be huge. You might also get a new and different way to handle situations with children who come from hard places. Often, you can’t use the standard methods for handling children. I’ve worked with children for more than 30 years, and I can tell you a lot of these children need more attention, more unconditional love, and so forth. This program will teach people how to do that. They give you clear steps on how to work with these kids on a daily basis.”

Harpootlian also has attended the conference elsewhere in the past, and it was her experiences there that caused her to encourage Christian Family Services to host it in Troy.

“This is the first time Christian Family Services has hosted Hope for the Journey,” Harpootlian said. “I’m an adoptive mom of two. A friend invited me to the conference when my now-8-year-old son was only a few months old. I didn’t really know anything about it at first, but that friend told me it was a great resource for raising kids from adoption and foster care. I attended and learned a lot about the trauma that adoption can cause and how to help parents and walk kids through that trauma and learn their stories. The whole premise is to connect with your kids before you correct your kids.”

Ruffner said that the aid given to children is crucial. She stressed that it isn’t always permanent, since some children in foster care can eventually go back to their biological families. The importance of the process in such cases is ensuring they have a loving home in the meantime.

“Younger families who are coming up are connecting with the biological families, and we are excited to see how wonderful that is,” she said. “Sometimes it is about giving them a new home. Sometimes it is about giving them a safe place to live until they can be reunited with their biological families.”

The organizers hope this conference will provide extra resources and learning opportunities for families going through a situation where they may not always know how to best proceed.

“It can be meaningful to meet other families taking care of special needs children. … We took in some special needs children, and that can be more like taking care of three kids than taking care of one,” Ruffner said. “We adopted two biological sisters. One of them had already been adopted, but the adoptive couple who raised her couldn’t take care of her, so she was reunited with her sister in a single home. It’s all about making sure the child you are taking care of has a safe place to sleep at night.”

“I hope parents walk out of this conference with a better understanding of their kids,” Harpootlian added. “I hope they walk out with a better understanding of their role as a parent or caregiver. I also hope people know that there are others walking a similar path as they are, because it can often feel isolating.”

She said the conference “offers a lot of information, but it’s also very encouraging and positive.”