How COVID-19 Will Impact the Foster System

 

COVID 19 has quickly swept through the nation as an unparalleled crisis. There is hope that the preventative social distancing steps will continue to protect at-risk health communities. However, this comes at a cost for children who rely on protective adults to keep them safe.

Lengthy school shutdowns have been detrimental for many at-risk children. They rely on school as a haven, a place that provides meals and emotional resources. Having teachers, coaches and school counselors involved in a child’s life help provide touchpoints to identify abuse or neglect that may be going on in the home. School can also often be the safest place for children to be seen and distance themselves from abusive caregivers. With nationwide stay-at-home orders in effect, there are far fewer mandatory reporters who have access to children that may need assistance. This was proven by over the news that there has been over 50% drop in calls made to Child Protective Services (CPS) in Colorado since the beginning of school closures.

Most children coming into the foster system are coming from situations where their parents are struggling with extensive mental health histories, substance abuse or other crisis that are preventing them from having the necessary resources available to provide for their family. COVID-19 will bring an increased need for family support, as many are losing jobs and resources that normally help keep them afloat. When mental health issues and addiction are mixed with a crisis of this kind, it is reasonable to expect a larger than normal increase in the number of phone calls made to The Colorado hotline over the next year as children return to school.

Colorado was already facing a foster care crisis, with not enough foster parents available to provide safe homes and beds for children in need. Now more than ever we need families and individuals to consider foster care or support for those who are fostering. Here are four simple ways anyone can help children in need due to the COVID-19 crisis.

 

  • Adopt a foster family- Consider “adopting” a local foster family, Nightlight has over 50 families caring for children who would love the extra support! This can be as simple as mailing encouraging cards and making a meal once a month, to more involved options like helping with laundry or assisting with transportation for kids.

 

  • Support Homes for Home a local emergency foster care program- A local program designed to provide stability and a safe landing place for emergency foster placements could use your support. The biggest need is respite care, or childcare within the family’s home, as it provides them a much-deserved and needed break. Learn more about Homes for Hope and other ways to support the program here.

 

  • Consider becoming a certified foster home- Learn more about providing a safe space in your own home for children in the foster system. Children are needing families open to temporary, short and long-term foster homes, as well as families open to adopting children who cannot reunify with their families. Email [email protected] to learn more about your options or check out our website at https://nightlight.org/colorado-foster-care/

 

  • Donate your stimulus check towards helping foster children in need- COVID-19 has impacted families in different ways. If you have been fortunate enough to not need the stimulus check to meet your needs, consider donating it to support your local community’s children. Your donation will help provide resources to local foster families as they take on the increased needs of the foster system.

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Hope For A Birth Parent

With the Easter holiday passing by this month, we are reminded of a greater love. The love that would sacrifice everything to assure us eternity with our Lord. With this love, hope is given and restored that we will receive something beyond what we can hope for in this lifetime.

 

As I searched the definition of hope, I came across two meanings. The first definition was a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen, and the second one was a feeling of trust. I glanced at the first one for a minute and thought, of course birth parents have a certain desire for their children when they choose to make an adoption plan. They desire for their child to have more, do more, and be more than what they can provide at this moment in time. They have the hope that their child will understand the sacrifice they made by alternatively parenting with an adoptive couple. They are desiring for greater outcome for what they can even imagine at this moment in time.

 

But…

 

What really hit me after this thought process of desire, was that feeling of trust. From every aspect of a birth parents life they are having to trust their pregnancy counselor, their adoption agency, their hospitals, their family, their friends, and most of all themselves. They are hoping they are making the right decision. They are trusting that they are making the right decision. Trusting in a decision to place a delicate beautiful creation they carried for nine months into the care of two people they have known possibly their whole third trimester, or even just from looking at a family’s profile book 24 hours after giving birth. A sacrifice of hope, for more.

 

Esther 4:14 says, “Perhaps you were born for such a time as this.” A time of hope, a time of sacrifice, a time of healing.

 

written by Kandace Reed

Infertility Awareness Week

Infertility is a disease of the reproductive system. It’s often diagnosed after a couple has tried unsuccessfully to get pregnant for one year. The cause of a couple’s infertility has a wide range: 30% of the time it is a female factor, 30% male factor, and 30% of the time the issue is unknown. And many times, there are no signs or symptoms.

Anyone can suffer from infertility. It does not discriminate against race, religion, or economic status. National Infertility Awareness Week® unites millions of Americans who want to remove the stigmas and barriers which stand in the way of building and completing families.

There online resources and support groups out there to connect with individuals who are facing the same obstacles that you are.

If you are looking into adoption as a means to build your family, Nightlight Christian Adoptions offers domestic, international, foster-adoption, and the Snowflakes Embryo Adoption Program. You might also find these additional resources helpful, as well.

Infertility can feel absolutely isolating. But you are not alone.

Preparing Your Biological Children for Adoption

Bringing and adopted child into your home will be a huge transition for your children. There are some practical ways that you can make this easier for your children and at least help them to better understand adoption and the changes it may bring to your family.

Explain the process

You want to be honest and realistic with your children. Explain what this process will look like and be honest about what the timeline might be. You also should work on preparing your children for some of the issues that your adopted child may have after coming home. You can use your education to talk with your children about issues that come from trauma that your child may struggle with. It is important not to paint a rosy picture about what things will look like because there may be some really difficult times.

It is also important to use positive adoption language when talking with your kids. You shouldn’t use phrases like “giving up their baby for adoption.” Instead you should tell them that the expectant parent is considering “making an adoption plan for her baby.” You can check out one of our older blogs to see more examples of positive adoption language: https://nightlight.org/2017/12/positive-adoption-language/

Read books together

            There are several books that are specifically written to help children better understand adoption. You can find many recommendations from Creating a Family HERE.

Involve your child

            It is important that your child feels involved in this process and preparation. Perhaps they could help pick out some toys or decorations for the child’s room. Maybe they can help get the room together. It may help them to feel more excited if they get to play a small part in this. Depending on the age of your child, it is also important to talk with them about the adoption and get their input and opinions. This isn’t to say that if you child isn’t on board that you need to stop the whole process, but you can at least address some of their concerns and work through these issues to help them feel more comfortable about the situation.

Spend one on one time with your kids

Obviously bringing a new child into your home is going to change things greatly. It is important that during the preparation period you aren’t completely focused on the adoption all the time. There should be a degree of normalcy in your child’s life still and you should cherish that time with them before everyone’s world changes. Once you bring your adopted child home, it will be important to continue some of your same routines and to make sure that you are having some quality one on one time with each of your children so that everyone is taken care of emotionally and physically.

 

written by Rebecca Tolson

Embracing Autism

 

Autism can seem mysterious to people that have not experienced someone with the diagnosis in their family or know people that have the diagnosis. It can leave one feeling uncertain about how to respond to someone who does not make eye contact or respond with enthusiasm.  One might ask “how do I communicate with someone with the diagnosis?”

General Information

One thing we know for sure is that not all persons are the same regardless of the diagnosis. It can range from mild to severe in symptoms and functioning. Only a doctor or psychologist can diagnose it, and they do not use a blood test or medical test to detect it. They must look at behaviors and development stages of a person. There is not a known single cause other than differences in brain structure and function. Brain scans show that there is difference in the structure when compared to others without the symptoms. It is treated with behavioral therapy to learn skills to interact with others better and manage emotions. It can be assessed as early as two years of age and is four times more likely to be diagnosed in males. Forty percent of children do not speak.

Common Characteristics

Many persons start at a young age appearing distant from others and not responding to their name being called, and they lack eye contact. Their face and voice tone do not show emotion, and they may not join in with others to play or do activities. They have interest in certain objects they repetitively play with such as lining up cars and other repetitive behaviors. Difficulty transitioning from routines and activities is common and inability to process sensory inputs from the environment. They may cover their ears or eyes because the sounds and sights literally hurt or are too strong compared to the general populations experience.  Certain textures of food and fabrics or flashing lights can feel extremely strong to them. Their brain does work the same for them to pick up on the social cues that everyone else learns to express themselves, but they do love and care about others.

Reasons for Challenging Behavior

As mentioned above, persons with Autism have difficulty with unstructured time and are sensitive to their environment.  The overwhelming feeling, they experience with the sensory inputs can create stress and anxiety. The sensory overload makes it difficult for them to focus, and they may become irritable and resistant due to discomfort. They do have feelings, but they struggle with how to express them in way that others understand. A change in their routine, transitioning from activities, feeling hungry, tired or sick can make it difficult for them to express themselves, and they get angry or frustrated. Signs of stress can be pacing, rocking, or repeating the same question.

Tips for Interacting  

Speak clearly and precise in short sentences so that children feel less overwhelmed. Using pictures of items can help them communicate their needs. Activities that relax children are bubbles, music, and swimming, when talking with teens use their name and ask questions about their interest. Address adults as you would anyone and say what you mean directly. Take time to listen and wait for responses. They  need our respect and love.

 

written by Lisa Richardson

Basics for Surviving at Home With Trauma-Impacted Kids

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought stress, anxiety, and fear into our lives in unprecedented ways. As an agency, our hearts are burdened heavily for our adoptive families, knowing that many of you already live in a household full of stress, anxiety, and fear due to struggles and trauma in your adopted children’s lives. School can typically provide a respite from difficulties in the home for both you and your child so in its absence, we wanted to share some helpful behaviors and attitudes you must remember to focus on to help your family survive, and maybe even thrive, during this chaotic time. Our Nightlight offices and Post Adoption Connection Center (PACC) are here to support you, so please reach out for any help you need to any of our staff or Heather with the PACC at [email protected].

 

Keep your child regulated – We all know prevention is better than being forced to respond to a crisis. Stay on top of the simple things you can do every day to keep your child regulated and potentially prevent the tantrums, meltdowns, dysregulation, and outbursts.

  • Keep a regular schedule of healthy snacks and meals, drinking plenty of water, making sure they are getting good rest, and physical activity. As adults, we know how cranky we can get when we are “hangry” and we have the maturity to handle ourselves better. Perhaps your child’s meltdown or bad attitude is due to be hungry, thirsty, tired, or under stimulated. Before you blame their past trauma, ask yourself when the last time they had snack was. If it was more than 2 hours ago, grab and apple or granola bar for them.
  • Create a routine. Children thrive in routine and especially our children with trauma who live in a constant state of uncertainty and hyper-vigilance. If they cannot predict what is coming next, they will get fearful, and be triggered into flight/fight/freeze mode. Make a schedule, do regular activities at times they expect, and stick to it. Not only does this help save you brain power of thinking up how to spend time but also allows your child to rest in what is expected.

 

Self-care for Parents – You cannot give the additional care your child needs if you are not building up strength and patience in yourself, by caring for yourself. You are used to having space away from your child, so create some of that space at home. Take a break from your child every day.

  • If you are married, talk with your spouse about giving each other daily time alone, away from your children, to do activities that refresh you. You need to be intentional to balance the load and work out a schedule during this hectic time. If one parent needs to focus on homeschool during the day, the other parent should handle morning and evening routines with the child.
  • If you are a single parent, utilize “rest time” for yourself while your child does an activity they can be trusted to do alone in another space. Maybe this means is a little bit more screen time than you usually allow if that is an activity that will keep your child occupied for a little longer. Remember this time is not our normal lives and it is ok to do some things you would not normally allow if it will meet the ultimate goal of caring for yourself and your child better.
  • Identify your goals and expectations for each day, focused on your family and child. How do you survive, connect, and give grace to each other today? How will that be different tomorrow? Lower your expectations for yourself and family during this time if needed. It is ok if the laundry does not get done if it gives you some extra time to care for your soul or connect with your child.

 

Increased structure needs increased nurture – With everyone contained in the home, you may see an increase in difficult behaviors from your child. They are reacting to the change in their routine as much as you are, and we encourage you to see this as an opportunity to connect with your child. As Dr. Purvis once said, relationship based trauma needs healthy relationships to heal. Notice where your child’s behaviors push you away from them and develop strategies to overcome this in yourself. It is good if rules and structure need to increase but that must come along with increased connection in your relationship.

  • Only rules with no fun, connecting engagements between you and your child will not develop the much needed trust your child needs to follow those rules with a happy heart. If your child is resisting your rules, engage in conversation with them about your expectations and listen to their responses. You might be asking for more than they are able to give, especially if your child is developmentally delayed in any area.
  • Consider the rules you are setting for your child and what the ultimate goal is for those rules. Is it to teach your child to be a healthy, attached adult or are the rules just to get them to obey what you say? Do your rules and discipline reinforce an attached relationship with your child or do they push them away?

 

Read adoption books and resources – Instead of seeing this time as a limitation, see it as freedom. Our American lifestyles are so busy and we never have time to do the good things that allow us to grow and strengthen ourselves. Have a family reading time and pick up that adoption book you’ve always said you should read, but haven’t. We would recommend:

  • Books
    • The Connected Child by Dr. Karen Purvis
    • The Whole-Brain Child by Dr. Daniel Seigel
    • Wounded Children, Healing Homes by Jayne Schooler
    • Attaching in Adoption by Deborah Gray
    • Raising Adopted Children by Lois Ruskai Melina
  • Online resources from Harmony Family Center
    • This organization has provided wonderful resources for parents, children, and families. There are training resources for parents, giving you tips on how to handle challenging behaviors in your children and sensory resources for children with sensory processing disorders. They also provide activities for children and families at home. https://www.harmonyfamilycenter.org/harmony-at-home 

written by Heather Sloan

The Quality of Embryos Does Not Equal Pregnancy Success

 

It was a dark snowy Friday night when I was driving to meet my husband at a local fundraiser.  I typically drive in silence but I had stumbled across a radio program that caught my attention.  My husband and I been unsuccessfully trying to build our family for over three years.  The initial testing had left us without answers.  We were preparing to meet with a reproductive endocrinologist (RE) and were nervous about the ‘next steps’.  At the time we did not know embryo adoption existed. Should our next step be IVF? Could we do IVF and still honor our faith and honor life?  These discussions were weighing heavily on my heart. As I listened, the message focused on the sanctity of human life, even in its earliest stages, and my tears welled up.  A part of me was scared this was my answer: IVF was not part the right choice for us.  As I arrived at our destination, I saw my hubby, rolled down my window and said I would meet him inside. As he walked away, the message concluded and right there in front of me, fireworks started going off.  I couldn’t have planned the timing better, but there they were…. Fireworks.

A few weeks later our RE advised us that they would do a workup on me and then likely would recommend IVF if all came back ok.  We shared our beliefs with them about not creating more embryos than we would use. They hesitantly agreed to honor our wishes, warning us our chances of conceiving would be significantly reduced with these restrictions.  We left feeling a little defeated and more confused than ever.

We returned to our RE’s office ready to discuss the recent test results and next steps.  We were floored when our doctor said ‘premature ovarian failure’ and said our chances of conceiving even with IVF and without any of our ‘restrictions’ were less than 5%.  I was shocked!  I was angry.  I was confused.  I was every emotion under the sun.  I was devastated.  But now we knew for sure: the door to IVF was shut.

Somewhere in the fog of the next few months, I learned of embryo adoption and that night of fireworks started to have new meaning and new hope.  I had been heartbroken over the possibility of not being able to feel life grow inside me.  I wanted to experience the joy of childbirth.  Embryo adoption truly was and is the answer to our prayers.  We began our embryo adoption.

A year later, we had been through one failed FET and had been matched with a second family.  We were head over heels in love with this family. They had chosen life for their three embryos and had agreed to place them with us.  We felt such a strong connection to the family and were overjoyed with the match.

When our embryologist received the embryology report, she called to tell us we should consider sending the embryos back. We quickly said no, we were committed to our babies.  She went on to tell us the embryos were graded a B, BC, and C and there had been a power outage when they were being frozen.  The power blipped for just a second and then the generator kicked in, but with the fragility of embryos, she feared we wouldn’t even have viable embryos once they were thawed.  We were crushed but held onto hope that this was the plan for our family and we needed to stay the course.

Two months later we were pleasantly surprised to show up for our transfer with two viable embryos ready to transfer and one left safely in cryopreservation for a future attempt.  On September 15th we heard the words we had waited so long to hear: “You’re pregnant!” On June 2 we gave birth to our beautiful baby girl, Makenna Lee.

And let’s not forget about that little ‘C’ embryo that was waiting in the freezer for us.  Against all odds, he survived the thaw beautifully and we completed our family with the birth of the sweetest boy ever, Alexander Brooks.  While embryo adoption may not be the right choice for everyone, it blessed us beyond expectation and measure.

 

–Embryo Adoptive Family Testimony

Working from Home With Kids

 

With COVID 19 being the main focus of the world right now, schools have closed in an effort to slow the spread. This will give medical professionals a fighting chance to treat the growing number of patients coming in for testing and treatment. While this is a beautiful picture of our nation’s ability to work together to help support our immune-compromised communities, it comes with added stress for parents and teachers. Many parents are suddenly needing to figure out the world of homeschooling, all while potentially working from home. The challenge then becomes keeping kids busy, happy, and learning while schools are closed.

We have found that families that are already homeschooling have been more than ready to jump in and provide support. Thanks to their extensive help (extra special thanks to my sister Bethany) we were able to create a list of educational resources to occupy and keep your kids on track while you work from, home starting with the best overall programs and options and then filtering down to subject-specific options.

Best Overall Educational Resources: There is a large number of educational companies stepping in to offer solutions during this time, this blog provides an extensive list including links. There is also a website called amazingeducationalresources.com that has a comprehensive list of options available for those who have time to review it.

Scholastic Learn At Home: Scholastic has worked hard to keep kids busy and learning while school closures keep them home. They have courses designed for all age groups and a week full of educational content already available, with more coming.

Beanstalk: For parents with kids between 1.5 years old up to 6, Beanstalk is providing free memberships for the duration of the COVID 19 threat.

TurtleDiary: This website had easy to access games on a range of topics that will help your kids learn and have fun all at once.

 

Math:

Khan Academy– Math lessons and practice starting from preschool on up. Along with other subjects available both online and with an easy to use app. This came highly recommended by teachers and is often used in schools.

Prodigy.com– Let your kids play games and collect prizes while they do math. We have it on good authority that a lot of kids consider these video games, but it may be better suited to kids over 2nd grade due to the complexities of the games, depending on your student.

 

Science and Geography:

Mystery Science: K-5 science curriculum with mini-lessons that can be used throughout the week. There are free options, and subscriptions available.

Brain Pop or Brain Pop Jr: Another extensive learning platform that you can access thanks to COVID 19.

National Geographic Kids: Explore a lot of fun topics with NatGeoKids.

YouTube: There are a lot of options on this platform. Some supervision may be recommended to ensure your kids are staying on the right channels instead of exploring YouTube as a whole. We recommend checking out Sci-show, or Sci-show kids, along with crash course and crash-course kids. These four channels were created with the specific intent of making learning fun and have extensive video libraries available immediately. FreeSchool is also a popular channel for homeschooling.

 

Language Arts:

Hoopla: If you are feeling the loss of your local library closing down, try downloading Hoopla and get access to free audiobooks, and e-books using your library card.

FunBrain for Kids: This website covers many topics, but also has a lot of books that kids can read for free.

 

Art:

YouTube– Find “how-to” videos for drawing almost anything. Lunch Doodles with Mo Williams is a popular new choice for younger kids. Older kids may prefer to search for something specific they want to learn how to draw or paint. You can also find plenty of free printable coloring pages.

 

P.E:

GoNoodle.com– this has interactive videos to get the kids moving. I also have it on good authority from my own kids that this website is great.

 

Time for a Field Trip:

Ok, you might not be able to go on an actual field trip right now, but you may be surprised what you can explore through the internet and virtual field trips.

While this is not an exhaustive list of your options, it may narrow things down and help you along as you teach and work from home. For our foster and adoptive parents, we strongly recommend scheduling your day in a simple way to help your kids adjust to this new norm. It would not be surprising for them to face higher levels of stress than children without a trauma background. Let’s face it, we’re a little stressed right now! Most importantly, have some grace on yourself during this time and on the teachers who are trying to figure out how to teach from home too. We will figure this out together, day by day.

written by Deb Uber

Meeting the Needs of Birth Moms Facing Crisis

 

A crisis is defined as a time of intense difficulty or trouble, or a time when a difficult or important decision must be made. With expectant parents facing a difficult or important decision, we can see that many, if not all of our birthmoms can experience a time of crisis. A large portion of this crisis can be amplified by the addition of grief and loss. Grief can be a form of trauma and crisis as well. Therefore, as a professional working in this field, part of our jobs is to meet the needs of expectant parents in the midst of crisis. Not only professionals, but also other people can take on a supportive role in the birthmother’s life, during the adoption process and after.

 

Family and Friends

Family and friends can be extremely helpful in supporting a birthmother during and after the adoption process:

  • Be open-minded and ready to listen
  • Help with day-to-day tasks
  • Stay connected and available
  • Respect the birthmom’s way of grieving
  • Accept mood swings

 

It is a complex role of being a friend or family member of a birthmother who is making an adoption plan. However, by showing up and being there for a birthmom, you can make a large impact of letting this birthmom know that she will not have to face this time alone.

 

Professionals Working in Adoption

As professionals, expectant parents come to you during their time of crisis for guidance and understanding. To meet the needs for expectant mothers, you can do the following:

  • Be empathetic
  • Create a safe-place for the expectant mother to express her emotions
  • Listen to her wishes and work to meet and support these needs
  • Work together to identify healthy coping skills

 

Working professionals are in the midst of a very sensitive setting for most of our expectant mothers. Many of our birthmoms come to us to learn more about the adoption process, and how we can meet their needs that others may not be able to. Because of this, we want to respect the birthmom’s space for processing, and be able to show support in any way we can.

 

 

Adoptive Family

After placement, adoptive families have a very sensitive role in a birthmom’s life. In order to meet the needs of the birthmom facing crisis, they can be supportive in these ways:

  • Respecting the agreed upon openness agreement- whether closed or open adoption
  • Write her letters of encouragement
  • Practice clear communication
  • Treat her with respect and dignity

 

After placement, there is still a tremendous amount of grief and healing that can occur for birthmoms. This phase of the adoption process is a great place for adoptive parents to be appropriately open and willing to support their birthmom during these high’s and low’s along with the adoption agency.

 

Birthmoms facing crisis is inevitable throughout the adoption process. It is a part of the decision-making and grieving process. Therefore, it is important that professionals, friends, family, and adoptive families are aware of ways to meet their birthmom’s needs during this time. Support and open-mindedness are crucial tasks of people that are in a birthmother’s life to meet her needs in the midst of crisis. Just a few of these actions can open the gates of moving forward from a crisis into a place of healing.

 

Written by Mimi Jackson.

Mimi is currently our TX office’s MSW intern. She will graduate in May of 2020 with her master’s in social work from Baylor University.

The Honor of Being a Social Worker

I have had the privilege and the honor of serving as an adoption social worker for nine years, seven with Nightlight. I have been able to walk with some families through their most joyous of seasons and have climbed with some families over their highest of hurdles. As a social worker, I often joke with families at the beginning of their process that I will become a member of their family through their whole process of adoption. I often sit with families through their home study process and know all of the nitty-gritty details of their lives. As a social worker, I regularly have the honor to talk with families while they are waiting in the hospital when their profile has been chosen by an expectant parent and they are anxiously awaiting the arrival of a baby. I have sat beside a family when their adoption situation did not pan out in the way we all had hoped for. As a social worker, I have had the privilege of sitting with families when they review their  referral of a precious child that will be joining their family. When a family arrives home with their child, I have the incredible blessing to sit down with families and discuss how their family can best meet the needs of the child entering their home.

 

One of my greatest joys as a social worker is seeing adoptive families come together and creating relationships of their own. I am a firm believer in helping prospective adoptive families build their community. Families need other families to walk through the adoption process with. When families have an established adoption-centered community, it helps their children to grow stronger bonds with their parents and to have a firmer understanding and development of their own identity. I have the privilege to teach a class called, “Life Long Issues in Adoption” for our local office. One of the sections we cover is ‘identity.’ In the class, we do an activity that creates a visual of the prospective adoptive family’s community. I encourage the class members to look around the room and see if anyone else’s community looks like theirs. From this class and other in-person classes, we get to see families creating friendships with one another, taking steps to further build their adoption community. In our California office, we also host a Nurture Group for families with children ages five and under. Imagine a room full young children, tons of sensory play items, and lots of snacks. This is one of my favorite days of the month! The group is child-centered, but often a safe place for adoptive families from all of our programs to continue to share their adoption stories in a safe place and gain support. As a social worker, I not only get to walk families through their home study process, but I have the privilege, honor, and blessing to watch their family grow, bond, attach, and develop year after year.

 

written by Amanda Schaffert, MSW | Adoption Social Worker