Explore. Connect. Go Deeper at AFAH Conference.

  • If you want to care for the foster & adoptive community, explore how you are called to serve at AFAH.
  • If you want community with others, connect to people with similar passions at AFAH.
  • If you want healing for your foster or adoptive child, go deeper in understanding trauma-informed care at AFAH.

Date, Time & Location

February 24, 2018
Hill Country Bible Church, Lakeline

Childcare is now closed.


9:00-11:30 General Session with Marshall Lyles or Jason Johnson

11:30-12:15 Lunch

12:25-1:25 Breakout 1

1:40-2:40 Breakout 2

2:45-3:30 Kyle Hutton, Musician and Foster Dad

Who Is This Conference For?

  • People who want to support the adoptive/foster care community
  • People who are exploring foster care and adoption
  • Post-placement families who want to learn more and connect with other families
  • Professionals: we have a special day for caseworkers and other child welfare professionals. CEUs are available.


At registration, you will be asked several questions. We want to tailor this conference to YOU so please answer these so we can be sure to address what you need.

We have two general sessions this year. One for people who are exploring foster and adoption and one general session for people who are foster or adoptive parents or who have had direct care for children. When you register, please indicate if you will attend the general session with Marshall or Jason.

Main Speakers

Jason Johnson

Exploring Ways to Serve – For people who want to explore foster care, adoption and supporting roles

Jason Johnson is a writer and speaker who encourages families and equips churches in their foster care and adoption journeys so they can find the hope and support they need along the way. He is the author of ALL IN Orphan Care and The Beauty and Brokenness of Foster Care, and blogs regularly at Jason Johnson | Blog. He has a passion to encourage and inspire families no matter where they are in their foster care and adoption journey, and his hope is to see the gospel catalyze a movement of orphan care within the Church across the country around the world. His current role is the Director of Church Ministry Initiatives with Christian Alliance for Orphans. Jason lives in College Station along with his wife Emily and 4 daughters.

Marshall Lyles

Go Deeper in Understanding Trauma – For families with children from hard places

Marshall Lyles, LPC-S, LMFT-S, RPT-S, EMDRIA Approved Consultant, has 15 years of practice in family and play therapy. He has extensive speaking and training experience and has worked in a variety of mental health settings. Most of Marshall’s clinical practice has focused on attachment trauma and its effect on family relationships. Marshall conducts supervision and consultation sessions with counseling professionals and leads training in both parenting and professional settings; much of his consultation and training focuses on the use of sandtray therapy within a trauma-informed context. He is EMDR-certified and TBRI-trained and uses these with foster and adoptive families. As Marshall is nearing the completion of his Ph.D. in Marriage and Family Therapy, more writing opportunities are emerging and this has become a passionate point of interest for him.

Special Guest Musician: Kyle Hutton

Texas-based singer/songwriter and founder of Real Life Real Music, was adopted at 6 weeks old after a brief stint in foster care through Depelchin Children’s Center in Houston. Kyle, along with his wife Tara, have navigated the Texas Foster Care system over the last two years and have fostered 7 children during that time. Kyle has recorded five albums and “The Foster EP”, a collection of songs written with Radney Foster exploring the emotions and realities of Foster Care. His Real Life Real Music syndicated radio program is heard by thousands weekly across the state and beyond.

Breakout Session Information

There are two breakout session tracks:

Track 1 — Explore

If you are not sure where you want to serve or if you are just learning about an area of service, we recommend our Explore Sessions. Most of the sessions in the Explore Track are repeated, and we have broken down the areas of service in the foster and adoption community into 5 areas of need. If we all serve in some capacity in these various service areas, we will dramatically improve the lives of children in care!

Family Preservation in the Courtroom

What is the role of the biological family in the life of a foster child? Come learn how the court makes decisions to keep the child in their family of origin and opportunities for you to get involved with programs that support biological families.
Presenter:  Judge Aurora Martinez-Jones

Session Block 2

Family Preservation When Fostering

When exploring the option of foster care, a person should consider that fostering is also saying yes to family preservation. Foster families have a unique opportunity to support a child and that child’s family. Learn how a foster family is part of that restoration process.

Presenters: Sarah and Brian Miller

Foster Care Expectations

Fostering or fostering to adopt comes with many challenging questions to ask and consider. This session will look beyond the process to foster and dive into motivations, expectations and the emotional challenges of foster care.
Panel Facilitators: Brandon and Janice Reyes

Session Block 2

This session will be repeated.

Options in Adoption

What adoption option is right for your family? What countries are even open for adoption now and what does open adoption really look like? This session will compare and contrast domestic and international and provide an overview of each process.
Presenter: Heather McAnear

Session Block 2

Adoption and Infertility

Infertility causes a whirlwind of emotions and questions.  It can be very hard to check our motivations and expectations as a person tries to determine how God would want them to grow their family.  Find encouragement and clarity at the session if your are struggling with infertility and the possibility of adoption.
Presenter: Julie Kouri

Wrap-Around Support

If you don’t feel ready to welcome a child into your home just yet, come learn about the many other roles you can fill to impact the life of a child or family.
Presenter: Tara Hutton

Session Block 2

Supporting with Compassion

You can be a tremendous support to someone fostering or adopting if you have have compassion and some understanding for how a child heals from trauma. Receive an introduction to TBRI and become more compassionate toward children from hard places when you understand how brains are affected by trauma and more importantly, how children (and adults!) can heal from traumatizing experiences.
Presenter:  Anna Valdez

Aging-Out Teens in Foster Care

Forty percent of youth who age out of foster care are homeless and  60% end up in jail within the first year. These staggering results allow for many opportunities to get involved and change the path these teens are on.  Learn how even one consistent adult in the life of a teen can change a life.
Presenter:  Andrew Fike and Julie Baker

Session Block 2

This session will be repeated.

Track 2 — Go Deeper

We have narrowed down the most common challenges for post-placement families and brought in expert speakers so that you can go deeper into hope and healing for your children. These 4 sessions will be repeated for sessions 1 and 2.

Growing Compassion for Biological Families

We love the child that is under our care, but when we have to interact with their family of origin, we might experience negative feelings. Come to grow in your understanding and compassion for your child’s family of origin.

Presenters: Danny and Rachel Cook

Advocating for Children in Schools

Our kids need a team of support around them, especially at school. In this session you’ll learn how to communicate the needs of your child to teachers, counselors and the school system and how IEPs can help.

Presenter:  Nancy Preston

Caring for Yourself and Your Soul

Many times we can forget to care for ourselves while we are caring for our own children. This session will provide valuable insight on the importance of self-care AND soul care, and practical tips you can begin implementing today.

Presenter: Jason Kovacs

What Therapy Will Be Best for My Child?

Choosing a therapist for your child can be stressful. How do you know what will work? How do you know what therapist you can trust? Come explore and learn more of the different therapy options that have been proven to work with kids from hard places.
Presenter:  Alison Eckelkamp

About Our Breakout Speakers

Honorable Aurora Martinez Jones

Judge Martinez Jones is part of the new court in Travis County, the 459th.  As a County Associate Judge, she has led local reform efforts to provide a more compassionate, trauma-informed and efficient process towards child welfare cases. She also worked as a sole practitioner, representing families that needed a voice, with hands-on experience in the diverse legal issues that have come before the court.

Heather McAnear

Heather McAnear, LBSW, is the Inquiry Specialist and Post Adoption Center Coordinator for Generations Adoptions, a division of Nightlight Christian Adoptions. Heather has worked with domestic and international adoptive families and children for 12 years and is passionate about finding the right family for a child in need. During her time with Generations/Nightlight, Heather has developed international programs in Mexico, Uganda, Ghana, and Cameroon and served many families as they have brought adopted children into their home.

Allison Eckelkamp

Allison Eckelkamp LPC-S, RPT-S, is a Licensed Professional Counselor and Supervisor in private practice in the Austin area. She supervises interns, and works with parents, families, children, and individuals, with a focus on attachment trauma. As a parent who struggled herself, Allison has a passion for helping parents and children who have experienced trauma and loss. She has pursued advanced training in EMDR, TBRI, Theraplay, Positive Discipline, and Interpersonal Neurobiology. She has led adoptive moms groups, presents parenting workshops, and trainings for professionals on parenting children from hard places. She has previously worked in the fields of Deaf Education and Children and Family Ministry. Allison and her husband Keith have been married for 31 years and have two amazing grown children and daughter-in-law. They are active in serving and supporting overseas workers in the field.

Danny and Rachel Cook

Danny and Rachel Cook live in Hutto, Texas and have been married for 18 years. They have six children currently ranging in age from fourteen to three. Three biological daughters, one adopted son, and two foster sons. Rachel’s full-time job is being a mom and Danny is the Pastor of Legacy Church in Round Rock, Texas. Together, Rachel and Danny have fostered seventeen children over the span of seven years as a therapeutic foster home. A little more than three years ago they began a foster and adopt support network called, Unshaken. These families predominantly live in Central Texas, but Unshaken’s online support has expanded across North America over the past few years.

Tara Hutton

Tara Hutton is a seeker. Seeker of God. Seeker of understanding. Seeker of healing and restoration. She is fearlessly transparent and invites others to explore the truth of their story by revealing her own. Tara’s journey, often shared against the backdrop of marriage and motherhood, is a beautiful combination of struggle and faith. Tara lives outside Houston, TX with husband Kyle, their 3 sons, and 2 foster children.

Brandon and Janice Reyes

Janice and Brandon Reyes are foster and adoptive parents with ten years of marriage and three kids, ages 9, 9, and 8. They met as teachers of inner city youth in Bronx, NY, where they fell in love and discovered a shared joy in caring for kids from hard places. After having two biological boys nearly one year apart, in 2015 they adopted their daughter after a nine-month foster care placement. Janice is a TBRI Practitioner and Family Mentor with Fostering Hope Austin. Brandon is a Fire Protection and Plumbing Engineer and enjoys writing and performing spoken word. Brandon and Janice are active in their church and enjoy supporting and advocating for the vulnerable whenever they can.

Andrew Fike

Andrew Fike is a native of the DFW area but spent the past 10 years in Los Angeles where he received his Masters of Divinity from Fuller Seminary and spent 6 years working with families experiencing homelessness. Having moved to Austin this past year, Andrew now works as the Program Director of Foster Care Transitional Services (FCTS) with LifeWorks. The FCTS programs both work to equip youth preparing to age out for adulthood through life skill classes as well as provide ongoing clinical case management for young adults between the ages of 18 and 21 after they age out of care.

Anna Valdez

A native Texan, Anna Valdez lived in Monterrey, Mexico for the past 5 years as a Program Coordinator for the international organization, Back2Back Ministries. She is a TBRI practitioner and mentor. Along with being a Program Coordinator, Anna worked as a caregiver in an orphanage in Monterrey. There she was the primary caregiver for 17 teenage girls in a span of 5 years with whom she successfully applied the TBRI principles. Under the direction of nationally known social worker and author, Jayne Schooler, she trained families, other caregivers and professional staff in the Trauma Competent Caregiver curriculum. Anna managed 9 other trainers and was on the ground floor of developing and translating the curriculum. Her experience includes developing group specific training for volunteers, support groups for foster parents and caregivers, and helping institutions move through the continuum of trauma informed care. Anna is fluent in Spanish and taught high school English before moving to Mexico.

Julie Kouri

Julie Kouri is the founder and Executive Director of Fostering Hope Austin. She and her husband have 3 children through adoption. Julie has been leading and supporting foster and adoption ministries across Central Texas for more than a decade. Julie is an approved Educator in Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI). Her experiences include working directly with Dr. Purvis and her TCU team to develop trauma-informed church ministries in Central Texas. Julie has mentored and trained hundreds of foster and adoptive families.

Brian and Sarah Miller

Brian and Sarah Miller are Family Mentor for Fostering Hope Austin. She and her husband have fostered 20 children and have 4 children through adoption and 2 biological children. They are Empowered to Connect Trainers.  Sarah is a TBRI practitioner and is also a registered nurse with experience working in both emergency rooms and public schools.

Nancy Preston

Nancy C. Preston, MEd, LPC-S, LMFT, TBRI® Practitioner/Educator has 40 years of professional experience working with children, youth, adults and families in at-risk and crisis situations.   Nancy has served as a general education classroom teacher, a SPED self-contained classroom teacher of students from hard places, a child, adolescent and family therapist and the Director of Therapy of an inpatient psychiatric hospital, a Professional School Counselor in a large urban high school and a disciplinary alternative education program, and a Principal of an alternative high school of choice. She recently retired after serving for over five years as the Director of Counseling Services for Temple Independent School District in Temple, TX.  Nancy currently serves as the state Heart of Texas CISM (HSR 7) Team Coordinator for responses to assist First Responders following critical incidents involving extreme stress, multiple fatalities, or line-of-duty deaths.

Julie Baker

Julie Baker has been working with LifeWorks for 25 years and spent the past 15 years serving on the After Care Transition Services (ACTS) program both as a case manager and also a program services coordinator. Through her years of direct care service, Julie has become an expert on youth aging out and the resources in our community. Outside of work Julie is passionate about photography, art and delicious Texas BBQ.

Jason Kovacs

Jason has been serving churches and non-profit organizations in the areas of pastoral care, counseling, and orphan advocacy for over 15 years. Along with his role in the counseling center Jason also serves as the Pastor of Care & Counseling at the Austin Stone Community Church. Jason also serves as the Co-Founder of Together for Adoption, an organization that provides theological and practical resources to mobilize the church for adoption, foster care, and global orphan care rooted in the gospel.  Jason has been married for over 14 years to Shawnda and they have and 5 incredible children and lives in East Austin. In his spare time Jason enjoys going for bike rides, swimming, good coffee, and reading.