Session I Featured Speakers

Kathryn (Kate) E. Fort, JD, is the Director of the Indian Law Clinic and the Staff Attorney for the Indigenous Law and Policy Center at Michigan State University College of Law. She joined the Center in 2005 as the Indigenous Law Fellow. In 2015, she started the Indian Child Welfare Act Appellate Project, which assists tribes in ICWA cases across the country. In her role with the Center she teaches the Indian Law Clinic class and traditional classes in federal Indian law, researches and writes on behalf of Center clients, and manages administrative aspects of the Center. Ms. Fort has written articles on laches and land claims, and has researched and written extensively on the Indian Child Welfare Act. Her publications include articles in the Harvard Public Health Review, George Mason Law Review, Saint Louis University Law Journal, and American Indian Law Review and the forthcoming American Indian Children and the Law published by Carolina Academic Press. She co-edited Facing the Future: The Indian Child Welfare Act at 30 with Wenona T. Singel and Matthew L.M. Fletcher (Michigan State University Press 2009). She co-edits the popular and influential Indian law blog, TurtleTalk with Matthew Fletcher.Ms. Fort graduated magna cum laude in from Michigan State University College of Law with the Certificate in Indigenous Law, and is licensed to practice law in Michigan. She received her B.A. in History with honors from Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia.

Join Kate for her Featured Speaker Presentation: “The Indian Child Welfare Act at 40”; Thursday, January 10th, 8:30 a.m and her Workshop: “ICWA Case Law Update”; Thursday, January 10th, 1:30 p.m.


Rhonda M. Roorda, author and international speaker,  was adopted at the age of two into a white American family with Dutch heritage. She was raised with her two non-adopted siblings in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Rhonda is an Author & International Speaker on Transracial Adoption. Rhonda’s latest book, In Their Voices: Black Americans on Transracial Adoption was named by Choice Magazine as a 2016 Outstanding Academic Title. With the late Dr. Rita J. Simon, she coauthored a landmark trilogy of books on Transracial Adoption (In Their Own Voices, In Their Parents’ Voices, and In Their Siblings’ Voices). Rhonda is the recipient of the 2010 Judge John P. Steketee Adoption Hero Award from the Adoptive Family Support Network (MI).  In 2017, Rhonda was awarded the Friend of Children and Youth Award from the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC). Rhonda earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Telecommunications from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI; and a Master of Arts Degree in Communication-Urban Studies at Michigan State University in East Lansing, MI.  From 2013-2016, Rhonda served on the Calvin College Alumni Board.  In 2017, Rhonda became a Member of the Calvin College Board of Trustees.  Rhonda works as a fund administrator at an educational advocacy organization in Lansing, Michigan

Join Rhonda for her Featured Speaker Presentation: Moving Beyond The ‘Color-Blind’ Policy of Transracial Adoption: Raising Physically and Emotionally Secure Children”; Thursday, January 10th, 8:30 a.m and her Workshop: “Developing Strategies to Strengthen Transracial Adoptees & Foster/Adoptive Families”; Thursday, January 10th, 3:30 p.m.



In 2006, Lisa Newman-Polk, Esq. LCSW, joined the Public Defender Division of the Committee for Public Counsel Services as a staff attorney where she represented hundreds of individuals in district and superior courts on misdemeanor and felony charges. Dismayed by the overwhelming number of individuals prosecuted in the criminal justice system who suffer from traumatic childhoods and mental health disorders, such as substance use disorder, Lisa decided to pursue a career in clinical social work, earning a masters from Boston College. As a clinician, Lisa worked as an outpatient therapist providing addiction treatment to men and women on probation and parole, and then as a mental health clinician at Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center, the men’s maximum security prison in Massachusetts. In 2014, Lisa returned to the practice of law with the public defender office, working in the district courts and drug courts. Currently, her law practice primarily focuses on representing juvenile lifers at parole hearings and special litigation in criminal cases involving drug addiction. Lisa is an outspoken advocate for criminal justice reform as it relates to the “war on drugs” and prison conditions. She is on the Board of Directors for Prisoners’ Legal Services and is the founder of EPIC (Ex-Prisoner Integration Center), a residence (in development) that will be dedicated to healing, wellness, and successful integration of former prisoners into the community. Lisa earned a B.A. from Columbia University, a J.D. from the University of Montana School of Law, and an M.S.W. from Boston College.

Join Lisa for her Featured Speaker Presentation: “Rethinking the Criminalization of Addiction”; Thursday, January 10th, 8:30 a.m and/or attend her Workshop: “Challenging the Drug-Free Probation Condition”; Thursday, January 10th, 1:30 p.m.