A Future and A Hope Conference Takeaways

Matt and Julie Kouri have led an annual foster care and adoption conference in the Austin area for eight years. Matt and Julie have three internationally adopted children, lead an active adoption ministry at Grace Covenant Church, and are leaders in the Austin area for orphan care.


Over 400 attended the conference on February 15 at Austin Ridge Church. (Great job Austin Ridge staff and volunteers!)

This was my first year to attend this conference. We are relatively new to the orphan care scene. If you have read my book, Adopting the Father’s Heart, you know that four years ago we were set on returning overseas as long-term missionaries when God changed our course, at least for a time.

Over the past four years, we became licensed as foster parents and fostered a child for 15 months before adopting him in September 2012.

Since then we have become more involved in the orphan care world both here in Austin and across the region.

We were honored to help with the planning of this year’s A Future and A Hope conference. Our motive was two-fold: We wanted to help with the conference because of its focus on people looking for information about foster care and adoption. We also wanted to learn. This year the conference had a new track for post-adoption that we sat in on.

Even though we were helping out a lot at the conference, I was able to glean some takeaways and observations from the conference and it’s attendees.

Here are a few:

Foster care and/or adoption is becoming more of a calling.

No doubt there were many in attendance looking for information because they have not been able to have children of their own. We understand this desire because of our own struggles with infertility.

However, I am noticing more families responding to orphan care out of a sense of calling. I attribute this to the good job of many church and ministry leaders bringing attention to God’s heart for the fatherless.

The number of young couples/single in attendance.

Granted I met a few couples about my age (I am 52). But my observation was that most of the attendees were in their 20s and 30s. Some had biological children already; others had not begun their families yet.

This encouraged me because this generation is hearing and responding to God’s call to care for orphans.

Adoption and foster care is hard on your marriage.

Parenting any child is hard on a marriage. Adoption and foster care amplifies the challenges. Jon and Shelly Bergeron along with Jason and Shawnda Kovacs led a breakout session that we attended. I appreciated the vulnerable, authentic sharing from these two couples.

Bottom line—work on any big marital issues before committing to fostering or adopting a child.

An adopted child needs to know his or her life story.

The keynote speaker, Carissa Woodwyk, is an adoptee from Korea. I love hearing from adoptees and birth parents. It helps me understand both in our adoption story.

This wasn’t new for me, but it reinforced the need for our son to know his story. Danielle and I had months to prepare for our son to join our family—classes, interviews, books, prayer, encouragement, support, more prayer.

Our son had no time to prepare. He lost everything he knew in an instant. He lost those who were supposed to love him.

As unsettling it can be for us as adopted parents, our son needs to know who he is and where he came from. Yes, it forms a tension that can be difficult for an adoptee to hold.

Sit in the tension of all the stories to see if their is a gift there waiting for us. We can’t protect our son from his story. We can’t resolve the tension, heal the pain. But we can and need to walk through the journey right beside him. Carissa Woodwyk

Brokenness not behavior is the problem.

It is difficult in the presence of tantrums, rebellion or destructive behavior to respond in a relational way instead of only behavior modification. What we see in a child’s behavior is only what is on the surface. So much exists underneath that causes much of the behavior.

You can’t have relationship with someone you condemn. Relationship happens only through forgiveness.  You have to do the right thing for a long time in order for a child from a hard place to feel safe. Jon Bergeron, Ph.D

I learned so much more…

But here is what I hope you join me in—Will you let God touch your heart for the children who need a place to belong?

I am working on a resource page for this site that will point you to organizations, articles, books and teachers that can help you understand where you fit into the picture.

What kind of resources will you find helpful?

If you attended the AFAH conference, what other takeaways did you have?


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I am a longtime Austinite. Married my beautiful wife over 25 years ago. Adopted our son September 2012. Currently a writer and loving it. Previous jobs and careers include project management, missionary, and pastor. I enjoy sports (both watching and playing), traveling, reading, digging in dirt and hanging with my friends and family.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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One thought on “A Future and A Hope Conference Takeaways

  1. I loved the analogy Jon Bergeron, Ph.D, gave about bringing home biological children verses bringing home children from hard places. “Bringing home the biological child is like bringing home a Chihuahua. Bringing home a child from a hard place is like bringing home a Great Dane.” Now I get it!! That 3 year old screaming at me is a Great Dane. No wonder life is so crazy! 🙂

    The session with the Kovacs and Bergerons was good too. Thanks to them for keeping it real!! Helped me realize our struggles in marriage (with a child from a hard place) are normal.

    Listening to Carrisa Woodwyk was…oh my…hand me the tissues please. Insightful and necessary to hear. God give me the grace to hold the story well for my son’s sake.