Why Do Foster Families Quit in the First Year?

With more than 430,000 kids in out of home care each year in the United States, we often hear about the need for more foster homes. You might be surprised to learn that the biggest challenge facing the government-run system is not recruitment, but retention of qualified families. Research shows that one- half to two-thirds of foster parents close their homes within a year of getting approved.  This can be attributed to several factors including lack of support, inadequate education, and a general feeling that very little value is placed on input from foster families. Nightlight is striving to rewrite the script. Part of our mission statement is to prepare and support families to be committed and effective parents. Our team understands that caring for kids from hard places is especially challenging and having a strong support system in place is crucial.

One of the best ways to ensure success as a foster home is to thoroughly research agency options at the beginning of the process. Look for an agency that provides adequate education as well as access to real, ongoing support services. With smaller caseloads and more focus on the family as a whole, a private agency like Nightlight is better equipped to provide high level post-placement support. Nightlight understands that easy access to a wide range of support services is essential. We view our foster families as partners. In addition to a high-quality initial education, we offer mentoring, round-the-clock support, community, counseling, relevant ongoing education, a lending library of resources, and much more. Foster parents report that they often feel isolated and alone in their struggles, so staying connected can make all the difference.

You will also want to look beyond your agency for those around you that are willing to help out when you need it because respite care on a regular basis is absolutely vital to success for a foster family. Research tells us that more than 1/3 of Americans have considered fostering or adopting. Although some may not be quite ready to take that step, we know that we are surrounded by people looking for opportunities to get involved in other ways. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Many churches have adoption and foster care ministries in place that provide a wide range of services from lawn care, to meal deliveries, to parents’ night out. The Nightlight team keeps a running list of these resources for families in the areas we serve. Take advantage of opportunities for respite and take time to recharge. Burnout happens fast and is one of the biggest reasons that so many foster families decide to close their homes. You can be proactive and do your best to prevent this by making a list of respite providers in your area so that you have options for quality childcare whenever it’s needed. If possible, ask a supportive family member or friend to attend trainings so that they can become educated on the specialized care that is required.

Being intentional about self-care and making it happen on a regular basis will go a long way toward avoiding becoming overwhelmed and ready to call it quits. Spend time each day doing something that makes you feel good. The reality is that some days there just isn’t time to read a book or go for a run. But something as simple as listening to relaxing music or drinking a warm cup of your favorite beverage can help you recharge. Sprinkle in your favorite sports, playing with pets, listening to a podcast, or journaling throughout your week. Spending time with your Heavenly Father each day is without a doubt the very best way to refocus and fill your heart with hope and joy. This doesn’t have to happen as soon as you open your eyes in the morning.  He is there on your commute to work, and when you’re washing your toddler’s hair, and while you’re heating up leftovers for the second time this week.

Just as important as selecting the right agency and making time for self-care is having realistic expectations. The world tells us to steer clear of hard things, but the Gospel tells us something different. Know that this is going to be hard, but don’t forget that it’s also going to be worth it. There are social worker visits, medical and therapy appointments, court hearings to attend, ongoing trainings, and meetings with the biological family. The reality is that these requirements are time consuming, but they are also necessary. It is important to be both prepared and flexible. Look for ways that you can make the most of these requirements and use them to your advantage. Doing your best to develop a positive relationship with a child’s biological family whenever possible will make a huge difference in your experience at visits. Your comfort level with the family will also serve to build trust with the child and nurture your relationship. The same is true with social worker visits. A good relationship with your social worker will make home visit days something you can actually look forward to. The Nightlight team is here to walk beside our families through it all, keeping our eyes fixed on goal of securing loving homes for waiting children and in doing so, bringing glory to God.

 

By: Leesa Del Rio

Gratitude in the Face of Struggle

November heralds our Thanksgiving celebrations and festivities! I know many people who love this celebration because they describe Thanksgiving as the least commercialized holiday. Just as many people approach this time with a bit of dread…because the “thanksgiving” and “gratitude” in people’s lives seems all too manufactured, inauthentic and painted on.

I see both sides. Especially during times of struggle and strife in our lives. Each of us individually are probably well acquainted with struggle. Our nation as a whole has also experienced a kind of collective struggle as we continue to grapple with the pandemic that never seems to end. It is during these times that I have to actively discipline myself to remember those stunningly bright spots in my life so that I can truly be authentic in my gratitude.

Here is my stunningly bright story that inspires my authentic gratitude –

My youngest child has a tweak in his DNA that puts him outside the spectrum of what we call healthy. We make at least four visits a year to Children’s Hospital where we are given our marching orders for the next three months. Sometimes these visits remind me that this is not what I imagined as a young pregnant mama. A friend told me that having a baby is like planning a trip. You think you know where you’re going…perhaps Ireland…and you pack accordingly, but somehow your plane lands in an equally beautiful place – New Zealand. But everything you packed is wrong for this trip. That is how I felt when I was adjusting to parenting a chronically ill child with a life-abbreviating disease. I had not packed for this trip, and I wasn’t even sure I wanted to pack for this trip. But here I was…in New Zealand.

I arrived at our next visit to Children’s with my 7-year-old in tow. I had a clipboard in hand with our daily schedule. My overflowing notebook with the last five years of medical visits and lab results was tucked under my arm. My little guy had his bag stuffed with his favorite “buddies” and games for when the day dragged on. I was laser-focused: Don’t get in my way; I am a mom on a mission. Before our first appointment, I made a quick pit stop to the ladies’ room. Then the question, “Mom do I have to go in there with you? I am 7…

“Okay, stay here, I’ll be quick”

I step back into the hall where my little one is waiting for me, and that is when I see the stunningly bright moments that can only happen in the struggle of the unexpected arrival in New Zealand. My fuzzy-headed guy is sitting on the floor with his new bald-headed friend. There isn’t really much more to see than their two heads bent close together. I cannot interrupt. I wait. After a little while my sweet treasure looks up at me and simply says, “Okay.” He stands up and I take his little hand in mine. “What was that about?” I ask. “Oh, we were just praying for his chemo treatments.” And we walked on.

Press into your authentic gratitude this season.

 

By: Dawn Canny

Value of Openness in Adoption

While openness has become a more common practice in the adoption community, it can still be a relatively new reality for some to have an open relationship with their child’s birth parents. The term “open adoption” typically is used to refer to adoptions in which all parties are known to each other and have some form of ongoing contact. Adoptions vary in their levels of openness, from confidential (closed), to mediated (semi-open), to fully disclosed with ongoing contact (open). The primary benefit of having some level of an open adoption is the access children will have to birth relatives and to their own histories. They can get a first-hand understanding of the reasons leading to their birthparents’ decisions about them, and have a direct way to find other answers, ranging from medical and genealogical information to personal questions as simple (and important) as “Who do I look like?” or “Do I have other brothers or sisters?” As adopted children grow up and form their identities, they typically confront many questions related to genetic background and birth family. When there is no way for them to find answers, they must manage ongoing uncertainty.

When adopted children seek information about their histories, or when they struggle with feelings related to their adoptions, it is paramount that they feel able to talk freely with their parents and that they feel heard and understood. Adopted children who experience more open adoption communication are reported to have higher self-esteem, and their parents rated them lower in behavioral problems. Among adopted adolescents, those who had greater openness in their families reported more trust for their parents, fewer feelings of alienation and better overall family functioning.

 

Benefits for the Child

  • Establish a sense of connection and belonging
  • Develop a deeper understanding of their identity and a greater sense of wholeness
  • Gain access to important genetic and medical information
  • Preserve connections not only to family but also to their cultural and ethnic heritage
  • Develop a better understanding for the reasons for placement, which can lessen feelings of abandonment and increase a sense of belonging
  • Increase the number of supportive adults in their lives

Benefits for Birth Parents

  • Gain peace of mind and comfort in knowing how their child is doing
  • Develop personal relationships with the adoptive parents and the child as he or she grows
  • Become more satisfied with the adoption process

Benefits for Adoptive Parents

  • Build a healthy relationship with their child’s birth family and provide lifelong connections for their child
  • Gain direct access to birth family members who can answer their child’s questions
  • Improve their understanding of their child’s history
  • Develop more positive attitudes about their child’s birth parents
  • Increase their confidence and sense of permanency in parenting

 

Openness in adoption can provide a child with valuable connections to his or her past. No single open arrangement, however, is right for everyone. As with any relationship, there may be bumps and challenges along the way in the relationships between birth and adoptive families. Likewise, these relationships are likely to evolve and change over time. Through careful consideration of options, a clear child-focused approach, and a strong commitment to making it work, you and the birth parent can decide what level of openness is right for your family and the adoption triad.

By: Caidon Glover

 

Resources for Encouraging a Good Night of Sleep

Sleep is essential. I think all of us can attest to the havoc that ensues when we are unable to get a good night’s rest. We find ourselves struggling to stay awake and alert. We may be a little more on edge than usual. We have trouble focusing and making decisions. For kids in foster care, problems with sleep are very common. Why is that you may ask? Simply put, kids who have experienced trauma have brains that are over-functioning and on high alert. Thus, they may have trouble falling or staying asleep. Their brains just don’t “shut off” as easily. When these kids are repeatedly unable to get enough sleep, problematic behaviors can arise, such as impulsivity, irritability, and inattentiveness. Thankfully, there are several ways foster parents can encourage good sleep for kids in their care. Dr. Kendra Krietsch, a pediatric psychologist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, presented on several helpful strategies, which are summarized below:

  1. Gather information about the child’s past sleep patterns.

Make contact with the child’s previous caregivers and ask about the child’s typical bedtime routine, whether they struggled with falling asleep or waking up at night, and any items that brought them comfort while sleeping. If you learn, for instance, that there was a really special teddy bear or a book they enjoyed reading before bed, this can be a good opportunity to provide consistency in an otherwise unpredictable situation.

  1. Create a sleep environment that promotes comfort, safety, and health.

Within reason, allow the child to have a voice in regards to how their room is set up so that they can help create a space that feels comfortable to them. As long as it is safe, provide access to stuffed animals, soft blankets, and pillows that the child can snuggle with at night. For children 2 years and younger, ensure that the ABCs of safe sleep are followed. They should sleep alone, on their backs, and in an empty crib.  Other suggestions include keeping the temperature in the home 70 degrees or cooler, turning on a white noise machine to eliminate some other noises in the home that may be disruptive, adjusting lighting based on the preferences of the child, keeping phones and tablets out of the bedroom, and incorporating, instead, things that the child finds relaxing, such as soft music or special blankets or keepsakes.

  1. Create a predictable daytime schedule to encourage good sleep.

Ensure the child eats three meals a day at predictable times. Have the child change from pajamas to daytime clothes after waking. Encourage the child to stay out of bed until bedtime, unless naps are appropriate. Provide opportunities for the child to get outside and increase their exposure to light during the day. Allow the child to spend an allotted amount of time on electronic devices during the day and set a curfew for when they are turned off at night. If the child in your home finds comfort from watching a show before bed and has not yet found alternative ways to calm down at night, provide opportunities for them to watch shows that are calm rather than overly stimulating and try increasing the physical distance between the child and the device (i.e. watching television rather than a tablet that is right in front of them).

  1. Establish a bedtime routine that is predictable and enjoyable.

Choose a specific time to start a bedtime routine and stick with it. Dim the lights, play some calming music, use quiet voices, and avoid conflict if possible. Find and incorporate a couple activities right before bed that the child really enjoys, such as taking a bath, playing a board game, or reading books. Consider utilizing a visual cue card so that the child can see what comes next. Be intentional about following the same routine each night. All of these tips promote predictability and help give the child a sense of control before bed.

  1. Model a healthy sleep culture within your home.

Consider your own sleep patterns and make adjustments when necessary. How do you talk about sleep in the home? Are you getting enough sleep? Have you created a bedtime routine for yourself that you feel good about modeling for a child placed into your care?

Here is a link to Dr. Krietsch’s full presentation, as well as some other resources with additional tips for recognizing problems with sleep and encouraging healthy sleep patterns for kids in your care:

Sleep Issues with Adopted Kids (Creating a Family)

Effective Ways to Deal with Sleep Issues (Karyn Purvis, Empowered to Connect)

Is it Disobedience or Lack of Sleep? (Honestly Adoption Podcast)

 

By: Kara Long

Six Adoption Misconceptions

As with many other topics, there are several misconceptions when it comes to adoption. Below are a few of these myths and truth about why these are inaccurate.

Myth: “I can adopt from any country internationally”.

Truth: This is not true as first, the country must still be open for adoption. Each country has their own specific eligibility requirements (i.e. age of parents, age of children in the home allowed, income requirements, previous mental health history preferences, etc.) that you must meet in order to be accepted as waiting adoptive parents by that country.

 

Myth: “If I adopt an older child, they are not really considered a child anymore”.

Truth: They are still children. Research from Health Encyclopedia states that  the teenager’s brain is not fully developed until around the age of 25.

 

Myth: “Older children do not want to be adopted.”

Truth: The majority of older adoptive children express the desire to be adopted. Although older children sometimes have more trust issues with adults due to their trauma history, this does not mean that they don’t wish to be adopted.

Older children that are eligible for international adoption have to consent to the adoption. Each country has their own requirements as to what the age of consent is and how that consent is either legally given or processes that have to be completed to be sure that the child wants to be adopted however, older children are to consent to being adopted and would not be placed for adoption if they did not wish to be.

 

Myth: “If I adopt an older child, they will not be able to experience healthy attachment.”

Truth: Healthy attachment is not connected to a child being “older”. Rather, attachment is determined at infancy. When adopting any age child internationally, prospective adoptive parents will be given as much background information that is available about the child’s early years. Your home study coordinator will provide you with education materials that will promote healthy attachment with your adopted child no matter what age they are at the point of their adoption.

Most older adoptive children are able to adapt well to their family’s culture when the family is committed to learning and incorporating their child’s culture into their home and lifestyle as well.

 

Myth: “Children do not need to know that they were adopted ”.

Truth: Keeping adoption a secret from your child creates the tone that adoption is shameful and negative.

Not discussing that the child has been adopted creates trust issues in the future between the parent and child as the parent(s) were not fully open and honest with them.

When a child grows up knowing that they were adopted, they have a stronger sense of identity. They have the opportunity to know all of who they are and not made to feel like they must hide it or that they have anything to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. Also, logistically, the child’s biological family could have a helpful medical history that the child should know about.

 

Myth: “Open adoption confuses children.”

Truth: Open adoption helps a child feel secure in their identity, gives them access to their heritage and creates a stronger sense of belonging, and allows them to navigate through the diversity of their family history.

 

These are just a few of the common misconception associated with international adoption and adoption in general. If you have concerns or questions regarding our adoption programs please do not hesitate to reach out with questions. Our Inquiry Specialist would be happy to answer any questions or address any concerns you may have about our adoption programs. Email us at [email protected]!

 

Written by Jordyn Georgi

A Birth Mother’s Story on Openness

A Nightlight birth mother’s perspective on open adoption –

 

“Open adoption has changed my life in more ways than I ever thought it would. I placed my son for adoption with my boyfriend because I had become pregnant unexpectedly. I was 18 at the time and still in school living at home with my parents, so it was hard to imagine raising a child as well because I wanted him to have the best life possible, and I felt like I couldn’t give that to him in my situation. When we had decided to go down the path of adoption, we didn’t know anything about it, and didn’t even know that open adoptions existed. Learning about open adoption at first was confusing, but at the same time gave us a little bit of relief. Knowing that we could still have a relationship with our child was comforting.

 

When we first matched with our child’s adoptive parents, it was another feeling of comfort. Talking to them for the first time made us a little nervous, and we wondered if they’d like us enough to form a unique relationship like this with us, but we bonded immediately and they even came down to meet us while I was still pregnant. They were there with us the whole time in the hospital, celebrated my birthday with me, and spent 2 weeks with us here after I gave birth. This made us closer than we had anticipated, and our relationship grew very strong. They live about 7 hours away, but we talk to them almost every day and they’re even planning another trip to visit soon.

 

Our bond with the adoptive parents is better than I could’ve hoped for. They really feel like family, and it just helps confirm that they were the perfect match for us. I feel that the unique relationship we formed with them will help with my child’s questions about adoption later on. We all love each other so deeply and being brought together through this unique experience has made our relationship strong. They both care so genuinely not only about my child, but also about us and how we’re doing, and having them as support is so important. Through open adoption, I feel that my child will have a bigger and stronger support system throughout his life, and having a relationship with him and his parents is something I’m grateful for beyond words.  I feel that although it was a long and hard process, as all adoptions are, it couldn’t have turned out any better.”

Should I Celebrate Halloween with my Adopted Child

All cultures worldwide celebrate different holidays and traditions.  Some holidays such as Christmas and Valentine’s Day are shared by many countries. Halloween is also celebrated in some form in other countries such as Mexico, Haiti, Ireland and Canada. Mexico as well as other Latin American countries celebrate the Day of the Dead, which honors deceased loved ones.  In Haiti, Fete Gede, or Feast of the Dead, is a cultural celebration. Dressed in costumes, people dance in communion with their ancestors and walk to the local graveyards to gift food, drink, and gifts to their deceased loved ones. Fete Gede involves centuries-old African traditions that have been incorporated into Haitian culture.  These celebrations usually revolve around the subject of death (typically a taboo subject for children) and may include dressing up in costumes, attending parties, touring haunted houses and trick-or-treating.

If your adopted child is not familiar with the traditional U.S. Halloween celebrations and traditions, it can be a scary time for them and adopted children may not understand the frights of Halloween and may view this with trepidation and anxiety.  Children trick or treating, out in the dark, bags full of sugar, are also not a good combination and may trigger a trauma response in your child.  Top this off with others out in the dark dressed as ghouls, monsters, ghosts and witches can be very scary experience for your child. Even having children arrive at your door, dressed in scary costumes can cause anxiety for your child.

Each child will interpret the events of Halloween differently, especially considering their age, level of trauma, what country they were adopted from and when they arrived home into their forever family. In fact, children not adopted may also interpret Halloween differently, depending on their own personal experiences, such as the recent death of a loved one or a cherished pet. An especially harrowing Halloween experience might have a lasting impact on them, well into adulthood.  For many children the subject of death may first be brought to their attention during Halloween celebrations.  Whether or not to celebrate Halloween with your child, will depend on your child and his/her past experiences and level of trauma.

Introducing your child early and slowly to the Halloween traditions is the key.  Perhaps starting out with Fall celebrations such as visiting a pumpkin patch, carving a pumpkin, a hayride or purchasing a not so scary Halloween costume may be the key.    If you notice your child becomes fearful, then avoiding traditional haunted houses or parties where children are wearing scary masks are likely a good idea. It is important to remember that adopted children or foster children come with a history of trauma and Halloween and trauma may not fit well together. Children who have experienced trauma may not handle anxiety well, they don’t handle transitions well and some are sensitive to sensory stimuli, that may be present during Halloween and may trigger your child.  Keeping all this in mind when introducing your child to a new celebration such as Halloween is essential. Don’t push them too far, if you sense or see your child becoming anxious, then Halloween or a certain Halloween activity may not be a good idea for your child.

Explain whenever possible.  Explain the traditions of Halloween that your family celebrates.  Explain the holiday of Halloween and why we celebrate it. Explain that what your child sees isn’t real and is make believe, and what they experience will not hurt them. Being around other siblings or friends who are celebrating may ease any possible fear or tension. Explaining to your child that all is make believe will help, but you may need to repeat this frequently and at every occasion or event.

Make things less scary, using non-threatening costumes and party themes can be useful.  Host a Halloween party and advise parents only to use fun or silly costumes and have children participating in fun and silly games that are not frightening.

Bottom line, whether you celebrate with your adopted child, is child specific and always taking into account their history and impact it may have. Always introduce slowly and watch for reactions from your child.  Baby steps will be your best approach.

Happy Halloween!

By: Sonja Brown

Performance Quality Improvement 2021 Q3

Nightlight Christian Adoptions is always looking for ways to change and grow.  We have recently implemented a new Performance Quality Improvement program.  We will be producing quarterly reports showing our progress.  Here is a link to our first PQI report.  We hope that this report will assist you in learning more about our agency, our performance, our values, and our improvements.

Seven Ways to Find Your Biological Parents or Child

  1. If it was a closed adoption, but you know which adoption agency facilitated the adoption, you can ask them to provide a redacted report (without identifying information) that fill in many of the clues and circumstances of the adoption. This can be provided to any consenting party to the adoption (birth parent, child, or adoptive parent).

 

  1. Many states, such as California, have a Consent for Contact form that parties to the adoption (birth parents, child, adoptive parents) can fill out. If the adoption agency gets consent from the adult adoptee and the birth parent, for instance, then the agency is allowed to facilitate contact between them.  https://www.cdss.ca.gov/Forms/English/AD904.pdf

 

  1. One very successful way to find parties to an adoption is a DNA test such as Ancestry.com or 23andme.com. Make sure to add the “extended family” module to your order…not just the health or ancestry.  We are hearing amazing stories of people all over the world finding their relatives who they didn’t even know about.  It’s entirely possible the other parities to your adoption already registered on ancestry.com or www.23andme.com and are waiting to hear from you.

 

  1. The most successful method people are using nowadays is social media (Facebook). Often parties the adoption have some knowledge of at least the first names and city where people live, or even their last names.  We have heard stories of people all of the world finding each other through social media, when all other efforts failed.

 

  1. There are “Adoption Angels” also known as “searchers” who investigate the parties to an adoption for free. Do an internet search for “adoption angel” or “search angel.”  Check out www.adoptionsearch.com

 

  1. Private investigators also can be very successful at finding parties to an adoption. They do charge a fee.  Make sure to find someone who specializes in this area.

 

  1. Try an adoption database. There are many online, such as http://www.adoptiondatabase.org/

How to Manage Sibling Rivalry at Placement

Sibling rivalry is a common and typical occurrence among siblings. There is an innate desire for siblings to compete, challenge, and squabble. Children who grow up in the same home together, whether by birth, adoption or foster care learn how to manage their future relationships through these early interactions with siblings. A healthy and supportive family environment gives children opportunities to learn to resolve differences and develop stronger relationships that they can use in other areas of their lives as they grow up.

When a child joins a family through adoption they come with a history of trauma, and parents should anticipate and prepare for some difficulties in sibling dynamics. By understanding their trauma history, parents can prepare and make safety plans to address issues that may arise. For example, if a child has a history of physical abuse or has been exposed to violence, a safety plan should be in place to protect all children in the home from aggression and additional trauma.

Establishing a new sibling relationship will not necessarily come easily or effortlessly. Here are a few ways that parents can promote healthy relationships among siblings:

  • Carefully examine the motivation behind adopting and set realistic expectations. The primary reason behind adopting shouldn’t be to provide a playmate for your child. If there are children in the home already, help them to understand there may be some difficulties, adjustments, and struggles to adding a child to their family through adoption.
  • Have a plan and explain to your children how you will manage sharing attention among children. Children in the home may feel like their new sibling requires too much attention from their parents during the transition. Encourage open communication and encourage them to talk to you about their feelings.
  • Focus on creating positive early interactions between children. A good first impressions can set a relationship up for success from the beginning. Take into consideration the time of day and regular routine of the children before introducing them for the first time. Don’t introduce them to their new sibling when they are exhausted, hungry, dysregulated or distracted.
  • Reserve time each day to spend time one on one with each child. Attachment specialist encourage adoptive parents to use the 10-20-10 approach, which recommends giving each child 10 minutes of quality time and attention in the morning to start the day on a positive note, 20 minutes in the afternoon to process through any experiences from the day, and 10 minutes in the evening before bed.
  • Encourage healthy competition, playing fair, and good sportsmanship. Teach appropriate social skills such as negotiation, compromise and emotional regulations when conflicts arise.
  • Practice and model appropriate problem-solving skills and empower children to solve their conflicts independently. As children mature try to intervene less in sibling arguments allowing them to work out issues on their own.
  • If family or friends want to bring a gift for your new child, suggest that they also bring a small gift for the existing children in the home as well. Adoption is a big change for everyone in the household and a special gift or attention can help with the transition.
  • Prepare for possible developmental regression in both the current children in the household and adopted children.

Connection and relationship building takes time. Close, healthy relationships do not develop overnight and relationships change over time. Some siblings are close when they are younger and others do not establish a good relationship until they’re adults. If there are significant concerns regarding sibling rivalry reach out to an attachment therapist.  There may be deeper issues that need to be processed. An attachment therapist can also provide more activities or suggestions on how to promote positive attachment between siblings.

By: Angela Simpson