Prioritizing Self-Care During the Adoption Process

 

Self-care. This has become a frequent buzzword in our society. It is so wonderful to take some time for yourself for a change; to treat yourself to a bubble bath, massage, pedicure, or even a large fry at the drive through to satisfy that junk food craving. With the pandemic and the more stressful state of our country, we did better collectively at acknowledging the need to prioritize our self-care.

Let’s face it—slowing down to actually put yourself first, can be a lot more difficult than it sounds. Especially when you are on the journey of adoption.

Whether you are adopting your child from foster care, an international program, or a set of embryos, the adoption process can be stressful for all involved. You become so wrapped up in squaring everything away, filling out the paperwork, checking things off the list, and all the emotions to process that you forget about yourself. There is a multitude of excuses we use:

                “My future child is more important”

                “Making sure that this embryo sticks are more important”

                “Making sure my child has a smooth transition is more important”

                “Having a spotless home for the home visit is more important”

You are part of the family that this child is joining. If you are running yourself ragged, your stress levels are high, and your relationship with your spouse is on edge, the process will become rocky. In addition, if these issues are unresolved before the child arrives, it could only get worse. Perhaps you will start to feel very alone and secluded on your journey while forgetting that your spouse is going through this with you. You may even lose sight of why you started this journey in the first place—to grow your family. This is supposed to be an exciting time, right?

During your journey, take some time to step back from the process to care for yourself. Get the excitement back. Go on a date with your spouse. Take a weekend road trip to the mountains. Go out for ice cream after dinner. Take a walk with your spouse around the park. Pay attention to your emotional state and get support where it is needed from a friend or therapist.

The journey to adoption in any form can be stressful. Do not add to it by not taking the necessary steps to take care of yourself. It will be much easier on you, your child, and can even help your reaction to certain situations throughout the process. Take some steps back when you are feeling overwhelmed, and take care of yourself. After all, you cannot pour into others when your own cup is empty.

Prayers for Those Touched By Adoption

 

Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Mark 11:24

 

Prayer is an essential part of an adoption journey, as the adoption process requires courage and trust in the Lord every step of the way. The adoption process can be long, scary, and full of ups and downs for all those involved— adoptees, potential adoptive parents, and expectant and birth parents.

Not everyone feels led to adopt or has a personal connection to adoption, but everyone can pray for those involved in adoption. If you are pursuing adoption or have been touched by adoption, share these words with your friends and family and have them join you in prayer. There is so much power in prayer.

 

Heavenly Father,

Bless all expectant mothers who are placing their children for adoption and who may also be young and afraid. They love their children so much that they are willing to place them with a loving family. Bless, too, all the women who already have shown the sacrificial nature of a mother’s love in making adoption plans for their children. Give them all your courage and your peace, through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

Dear Jesus,

In word and sacrament, you make known the depth of your love for each person.  Never let us forget the tender compassion and mercy which you have shown and continue to show to us.  Instill in our hearts deep love for those who suffer, and help us reflect the face of the Father’s mercy. May the family members of each child to be placed for adoption lovingly support his or her mother as she chooses love and life. And may these family members themselves find continued support in the kindness and encouragement of others. Give to all wisdom and understanding, and may we be instruments of your grace.

Amen.

 

Lord Jesus,

You saw in the innocence of children. the attributes which make us worthy of heaven— trust, joy, humility, obedience and faithfulness. Bless all children who are awaiting adoption. They seek love—may they find it in loving parents. They seek stability—may they find a home rooted in faith. They seek acceptance—may their gifts be recognized and nurtured. And may they always know your steadfast love for them and the true joy of loving you.

Amen.

 

Heavenly Father,

We are all your adopted children, not by flesh or by desire, but through the power of the incarnation of your most beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Bless those children who have been adopted into new families, that they may experience the love that you have shown us which surpasses even the love of a mother for her child. In the difficult transitions and hardships that might beset them in their struggle for belonging, give every adopted child the grace to embrace their new family and trust in your paternal care for them, which lasts forever. Grant this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,

You are one God, living in a relationship of love. When Christ became Man, you shared that divine love with the human race, forever wedding earth to heaven. Send your blessings upon all who nurture children who have been adopted. Give them generous and understanding hearts. Give us all a spirit of understanding and welcome so that all peoples of every nation, race, and tongue may live together peacefully as members of your family. Grant this through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

Source: https://www.usccb.org/

Signs of Post Adoption Depression

 

New adoptive parents never expect to feel anything but happiness, however, depression symptoms may occur in as many as 65% of adoptive parents after adopting their children.

What you are experiencing is natural. Though the rewards and joys of parenting are huge, the challenges can be draining, confusing, and…depressing.

Loss is a catalyst for depression. Post Adoption Depression (PAD) is a response to new experiences and to losses — from feelings of let-down, to the hard work of meeting an adopted baby’s special needs, to the physical and emotional strain of not being prepared for any of the above.

Unlike full-blown post adoption depression syndrome (PADS), in which overwhelming despair, panic, a sense of disconnection from your child, and sometimes even frightening feelings and thoughts occur, the sadness of post adoption blues is more subtle, and alternates with, or exists right next to, truly positive feelings about parenting. These lighter shades of post adoption blues, which are much more common than PADS, can be just as isolating. After all, your dream has come true! Any tinge of guilt, sadness, shame, or dissatisfaction during what is supposed to be a joyous time is unexpected, and makes the blues hard to talk about.

Many of the suggestions recommended to lessen a child’s trauma as she transitions to her new family could actually contribute to your feelings of isolation and depression. Allowing yourself to seek support and communication with other adults is vital to your emotional health. Modify how you think about your new family, and enlist your friends and relatives.

Risk Factors of Post Adoption Depression in Adoptive Parents

There are many risk factors that lead to the development of depression in adoptive parents after their child comes into their home.

Adoptive parents place a lot of pressure on themselves, especially if their child may have come from a difficult background. The extra pressure leads to extra stress and unrealistic expectations. These emotions become feelings of shame and guilt if the parents cannot live up to their idealized view of parenthood.

This pressure, combined with the fact that many adoptive parents do not form an immediate bond with their child, creates a recipe for depression.

Other risk factors that may lead to post adoption depression include:

  • Feeling isolated from peers
  • Society’s attitude toward adoptive parents over biological parents
  • A lack of boundaries between the child and the birth parents
  • Exhaustion from a rigorous adoption process and preparation for the child to arrive
  • Not having support from the rest of the family or friends

The factors faced by adoptive parents make it as likely for adoptive mothers to develop post adoption depression as birth mothers are to develop PPD.

Signs of Trouble

Maybe you are just having a bad day or maybe your depression is larger.  If you answer yes to a number of the questions below, you should discuss your feelings with a professional.  If you answer “yes” to the last question, get help immediately!

In the past few weeks, have you experienced any of the following:

  • Loss of interest in being around other people?
  • Always on the verge of tears?
  • Difficulty concentrating – unable to make decisions?
  • General fatigue or loss of energy?
  • Difficulty sleeping or an increased need for sleep?
  • Significant weight gain or loss?
  • Excessive or inappropriate guilt?
  • Feelings of worthlessness?
  • Feelings of powerlessness?
  • Feelings of hopelessness?
  • Loss of enjoyment in things?
  • Irritability?
  • Recurring thoughts about death or suicide?

Take Care of Yourself – and your Child

If you think you may be experiencing Post Adoption Blues or PADS, do not try to tough it out. Instead, take extra-good care of yourself, as you stay attuned to your new baby’s needs. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Mind your health. Go easy on yourself.  You making a huge transition – often from a prolonged state of wanting a baby to the reality of becoming a parent.  Take naps, eat thoughtfully (more fresh fruit and vegetables, less caffeine and sugar), go for walks, and cut back on outside obligations when possible. Caring for your body will decrease the negative effects of depression and stress.
  2. Ask for support. Do not expect yourself to be a perfect parent!  Accept the fact that, even though you wanted this baby, parenting is difficult and there are times when you will be exhausted.  Ask for help when you need it.  Allow friends or family members to help you with household chores, meals and some baby care.
  3. Strategize. Discuss with your spouse, who is going to perform which duties and when.  Review your agreements and allow for change.  Talk about fatigue and about taking care of each other.  Keep the lines of communication open to discuss sex, and communicate your interest and disinterest in a loving fashion.  Stress, depression and a high-needs baby can strain any relationship.  If you can afford it, consider hiring someone to clean your home or mow your lawn.  Simplify your life so you can devote your attention to your family.
  4. Take care of you. Build in some time away from your baby to relax and clear your mind. Breathing deeply and getting quiet will ease stress. When you are tired, take a nap, take the phone off the hook, and do not feel obligated to answer the door.  Do not feel guilty about lessening your responsibilities or decreasing your volunteer hours.  If you are in a position to do so, quit your job or work part-time, if that is what you want to do.
  5. Take control of visitors. Limit your visitors to one or two at a time and schedule them at your convenience.  If you need adult interaction, phone and friend and invite them to visit and ask them to pick up some take-out on the way over.  It may also be necessary to help your family and friends to understand adoption.
  6. Give yourself and your child time. Attachment and bonding occur in real time, not instantaneously, as you may have imagined.  Not all mothers — adoptive or birth — have an instant connection with their babies. Do not be hard on yourself if you do not feel that “magic bond.” But remember that withholding physical affection can delay a child’s development, so keep cuddling your child to benefit both of you.  Focus on being a parent one step at a time.  Soon enough it will feel more natural.
  7. If you have another child, make a point of spending some time alone with each child. Arrange an outing or other plans for your older child, so you can have some private time with the baby.  Have someone watch the baby while you connect with your older child.  Otherwise, you may start to feel you are not giving either child your full attention.
  8. Learn about grief. Feelings of grief ebb and flow.  It is processed in bits and pieces and tends to resurface at various points in the life cycle.  You will learn to manage the variation of these feelings.  Understand that you can love your baby and feel sad at the same time.  Experiencing more than one emotion at a time is a normal human experience.  Sadness does not mean you are unhappy about the adoption of your child.  You will find that many other adoptive parents have had these same feelings.
  9. Connect with other adoptive parents. They will get it!  Talking to friends and family may help a little but they will not understand the issues you are experiencing.  Other adoptive parents will make you feel like your experiences are normal and okay.  Consider joining an adoptive parent group for support and understanding.
  10. Seek professional help.If self-help methods do not work and post adoption blues or depression persists, ask your physician and/or your adoption social worker for a referral to a qualified mental-health professional who understands concerns surrounding adoption.  Sometimes, seeking a few sessions with an adoptive-savvy counseling are all you need to work through any uncomfortable feelings you may be experiencing.

Sometimes an attitude shift is all it takes to make a difficult situation manageable, but sometimes post adoption depression requires outside help. Finding innovative ways to meet your own needs, while giving precedence to your child’s, is a day-to-day balancing act that requires thought and action. Being aware of PAD (and seeking help quickly) will mitigate the effect that baby shock can have on you, and will give you the freedom to enjoy the child you have forever dreamed of parenting.

Treatment for Post Adoption Depression

Treatment for post adoption depression is similar to any other kind of postpartum depression treatment.  A combination of medication, such as antidepressants, and therapy will help ease the symptoms of postpartum depression in adoptive parents.

Additional treatments may include counseling, support groups or online forums.  These options help you connect with other adoptive parents going through similar experiences.  Work with your doctor and mental health care provider to develop a long-term post adoption depression treatment plan.

By: Dana Poynter

When Love Isn’t Enough for Children Who Experienced Trauma

Love is in the air as we celebrate Valentine’s Day! We often associate Valentine’s Day as a ‘Hallmark holiday’ with the cards, chocolates, and red roses. We celebrate with lavish gifts and expressing our love to our loved ones. Yet how do we express love in a way that matters to our children from hard places? More than simply saying, “I love you” or giving a tangible gift, children who have experienced trauma require something different. They require connection.

We know that the brain that has experienced trauma needs more than just love to grow, develop, and heal. TBRI (Trust Based Relational Intervention) offers us three foundational principles for raising children who have experienced trauma: connection, empowerment, and correction. I often find that it is difficult to follow these principles in the moment and it does not always feel intuitive to parent in this way. Sometimes expressing love to our children feels easier when we can just buy them a new toy or tell them how we love them instead of showing them how we love them. As humans, we are hard-wired for connection and children who have experienced trauma crave connection in a variety of ways. What works for one child to feel connected does not always work for another. Love does not “fix” a history of trauma, but connection can help establish trust and create nurturing bonds.

Below are some great ways to connect and show love to your child:

  • Connect by playing a game by making intentional eye contact and copying each other’s facial expressions. This is also a great way to discuss feelings and emotions and how to define them.
  • Connect by mirroring each other’s body movements as if looking in a mirror. This is a great way to connect through body awareness.
  • Part of being able to connect is ensuring that the child feels safe in their environment. Connect by using “I wonder” questions. It takes the pressure of the child needing to have a direct response and gives a safe space to answer with multiple options for responses. For example, reword the sentence of “What were you thinking?” with “I wonder what you were thinking about?”
  • Connect by preparing and cooking a meal together and discussing the importance of nutrition. Talk about how you feel when you eat a balanced meal and how you feel when you do not.
  • Connect by doing a mindfulness activity together. Take a nature walk and point out what you notice about the sounds you hear, the colors you see, the smells you smell, or how being outside makes you feel.

Showing our children how we love them instead of just simply telling them that we love them helps establish deeper bonds of trust. What are your favorite ways to connect with your child? How do you show them that you love them?

By: Amanda Arata

Let’s Talk About Transracial Adoption

For some, adopting a child of another race can be intimidating. Fears like lack of identity between your child and their racial heritage, getting intrusive questions when you are out as a family, or not bonding well because you look different than your child may come up. While these are valid fears, they should not inhibit you from considering transracial adoption.

Let’s talk about 4 word that can help ease your worries about transracial adoption:

Let’s talk about LOVE

Think about the people in your life you love and who love you. Are they all genetically connected to you? Probably not. Easy examples of this include spousal relationships, deep friendships, and of course—adoption! Love knows no bounds. Adopting parents who have both adopted and biological children repeatedly say that their love for their adopted children is no different than the love they have for their biologically-related children. In the same way, adults who were adopted as children (or embryos!) love their parents deeply! Race does not impact the powerful bond of love.

Let’s talk about CONNECTION

Both connection between an adopted child and her parents and connection between an adopted child and her racial heritage are both important. Connection can be built by having shared experiences, asking questions, being open-minded, and having a listening ear. If you are adopting a child of a race different than yours, we encourage you to be intentional about having shared experiences with your child related to her racial heritage. Ask questions and be open to learning about a culture that may be different than yours. Be willing to listen to your child’s thoughts and feelings as you both learn and grow together.

Let’s talk about REPRESENTATION

Representation matters. If you are pursuing a transracial adoption, be intentional about having community around you of the race of your future child. Find mentors who can encourage and support your child as he explores his racial identity. By creating a safe space for exploration, you are communicating to your child that you value and appreciate his differences.

Let’s talk about PURPOSE 

When you began your journey of adoption, what was your purpose? Was it to give a child a loving home? Was it to fulfill your dreams of having a family of your own? Whatever it may be, hold on to the purpose behind your adoption. Remembering your “why” will help overcome fears as you step into the unknown of adopting, especially adopting a child of another race.

 

Fear can be deceiving. When it creeps in, remember these four words: love, connection, representation, and purpose.  And always remember: transracial adoption is a beautiful gift to both you and your child.

By: Sage Vincent

The Best Therapies for Your Adopted Child (And You)

Adoptive families know that therapy will benefit their child, but it can be difficult to know where to turn. Maybe you thought it was called “counseling” but then you started to see words like “trauma-focused” or “eye movement desensitization” or question the effectiveness of art/animal/music/sand in therapy. We’ve created this guide below to find the right fit for your child or yourself.

 

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)

PCIT is a combination of play therapy and behavioral therapy for young children that will involve you as the parents. Parents learn techniques for relating to their child struggling with emotional and behavioral problems, language issues, developmental disabilities, or mental health disorders.

Who this best serves: Children ages 2-7 and their parents with experiences of trauma or have diagnosis on the autism spectrum.

 

Play Therapy

Children are able to examine and express their thoughts and emotions in an age and developmentally appropriate way through play. The goal is to help children learn to express themselves in a healthy way, learn respect and empathy, and discover positive problem solving techniques. This will work for children still learning English as well. General play therapists will be appropriate or you can consider Theraplay®, which is a specific type of play therapy, and you can look for a practitioner in your area.

Who this best serves: Children ages 3-12 who may have social or emotional deficits, trauma, anxiety, depression, grief, anger, ADD, autism, learning disabilities, and/or language delays.

 

Animal-Assisted Therapy

Often used to enhance other therapy the participant is engaged in, this therapy gives a sense of calm, comfort, or safety and diverts attention from stressful situations. They may keep an animal at home or by their side during the day or engage equine therapy at a ranch or equestrian school. Bonding with an animal can increase self-worth and trust, stabilize emotions, and improve communication, self-regulation, and socialization skills. Equine therapies have been very successful with adopted children.

Who this best serves: Children with behavioral issues, trauma histories, depression, autism, medical conditions, schizophrenia, or addiction.

 

Art/Music Therapy

Artistic therapies are typically nonverbal and allow the participant to process difficult feelings and express them when they cannot with words. This may be due to difficulties with expressing themselves or still learning English when other talk focused therapies may not be helpful. Music focuses on listening to, reflecting, or creating music to improve health and well-being. Art uses drawing, painting, collage, coloring, or sculpting to help express themselves and “decode” the nonverbal messages behind the art. Sandplay uses sand/toys/water to create scenes of miniature worlds that reflect their inner thoughts, struggles, and concerns.

Who this best serves: Children, adolescents, or adults who have experienced trauma, abuse, or neglect. They are useful for anyone struggling with anxiety, depression, trauma, or on the autism spectrum.

 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Trauma Focused- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

This therapy is short-term and focused on intervention in the way an individual thinks and feels and how that affects the way they behave and problem solve. It works on changing thought patterns as a way to change behavior. Trauma-focused is for focusing specifically on effects of early childhood trauma.

Who this best serves: Adolescents and adults but school age children can benefit from this therapy if they are developmentally able to do so. It takes participants who are engaged in therapy and works well with depression, anxiety, PTSD, anger, panic disorders, phobias, or eating disorders.

Trauma-focused is best with adoptees or adoptive parents with abuse histories, PTSD, depression, or anxiety as a result of incidents in childhood.

 

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy

This is a specialized therapy that diminishes negative feelings associated with particular memories of traumatic events. It focuses on emotions and symptoms from the event and uses a hand motion technique causing eyes to move back and forth which engages both sides of the brain. This physical and emotional connection can bring deeper healing, particularly with individuals with significant trauma.

Who this best serves: Adolescents and adults with PTSD, anxiety, phobias, depression, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and stress. It can also be used with younger children with therapists who have this experience and training.

 

Special notes for adoptive parents: The adoption process can bring up difficult emotions, thoughts, or experiences from your own past. While this is painful, it is also good that this is surfacing so you are able to seek healing. You may find your adopted child is pushing buttons you did not know were there and counseling will benefit you and your parenting. We encourage you to also consider the therapies listed above for yourself while you seek services for your child.

 

This information is sources from Psychology Today. You can learn more about these types of therapies and search for counselors on their website.

 

By: Heather Sloan, LBSW

How to Protect Yourself from an Adoption Scam

When I first began working as a member o the adoption community, I imagined that many twists, turns, ups and downs could be part of the adoption process. However, adoption scams were not something that I anticipated coming into contact with. Adoption scams can affect adoption professionals and hopeful adopting parents alike, and can be frustrating, hurtful, time consuming, and exhausting.

The very first case I had when beginning work at Nightlight was with a fraudulent expectant mother. After many weeks of twisted truth and manipulation, she left everyone involved hurt, confused, and absolutely blindsided. After this case, I was determined to go above and beyond learning the signs of an adoption scam, and work to put an end to this issue.

I did much research about forms that adoption scams can take, and how to recognize the signs. Many of these scams come from social media. Just recently, I received a call from an expectant mother who had gotten the expectant mother cell number from an adoptive family via Instagram. Initially, things seemed fine. However, once I began to gather more information, ask more questions, and look into who she was, things did not add up and began to feel ‘off’. Over the next three days, this expectant mother displayed many of the telltale signs of a fraudulent expectant mother, and grew very aggressive over text when I did not give her what she wanted. After I utilized online groups dedicated to stopping adoption scams and saw numerous reports about her, I told her our agency would not be able to move forward. Though it was exhausting to deal with, I was so thankful to recognize the signs and stop our involvement in this scam early on. I have read story after story of lovely adopting families getting strung along by individuals like this, only to result in loss, confusion, and heartache. These stories are happening across the country, but adoption professionals across the country are coming together and joining forces to mitigate this issue, helping each other and our adopting families not stumble into the snares set by these fraudulent individuals. Social media can be an effective way to promote your adoption profile, but many adoption scams can come from these sites and it is important to be prepared to recognize these for what they are.

There are many different forms that an adoption scam can take: an expectant mother who is truly pregnant but has no intentions of placing her baby with a family, an individual who may not be pregnant but claims to be, or an individual who has essentially stolen the identity and photos of a real pregnant woman – all for the purpose of gaining money and services, or manipulating the emotions of adoption professionals and adopting families. So, how can we prepare for this and know when an expectant mother is fraudulent?

 

Learn to Recognize the Signs. There are ways to recognize an adoption scam, both subtle and obvious. If the texts seem odd, trust your instincts. Scammers are often persistent and demanding with their texts, and often times will grow very agitated or aggressive when asked to do things that verify their identity or when told information that could potentially mean they won’t get what they want. They often provide a lot of information upfront, and will often send photos or ultrasound images almost right away. It is also common for them to bombard you with many texts, and get upset if you do not respond right away. It is unusual for moms who are truly placing their baby for adoption to behave in this way.

Utilize Resources. There are many pages and groups online specifically dedicated to recognizing adoption scams and reporting fraudulent individuals. If you intend on connecting with expectant mothers online or utilizing social media as a means to show your profile, I would highly suggest that you join at least one group that is used for this purpose, such as “Ending Adoption Scams” on Facebook. On these pages, you can either search the expectant mother’s name who has reached out to you, or make a post with her first name, last initial, and state to see if any other agencies or individuals have heard from her or reported fraudulent activity or suspicious behavior.

Research and Learn from the Past. Blogs, articles, videos – look into them all. A known adoption scammer to be aware of is Gabby, who made an appearance on Dr. Phil and has continued to harass and deceive hundreds of adoption professionals and hopeful adoptive parents alike. Gabby does not stop creating numerous identities and stories, stealing the photos, names, and due dates of real expectant mothers via Instagram and Facebook. I myself have heard from Gabby and spoken to her on the phone. Learning what she does and what her communication is like will help you recognize if you are being “Gabbied” by her or a similar scammer. Many adoptive parents that have experienced an adoption scam have shared their stories online, and these create perfect opportunities for prospective adoptive parents to learn from these experiences and be prepared.

Report Fraudulent Individuals and Block Numbers/Accounts. In the adoption community, we are all working diligently to do our part in mitigating this issue. If you encounter a fraudulent expectant individual, be sure to report the individual to an adoption professional. In addition to this, do not be hesitate to block scamming expectant mothers’ numbers or social media accounts immediately. Scammers emotionally manipulate to keep the conversation going and make it more difficult for adoption professionals or hopeful families to cut off contact.

How to Ask the Right Questions Without Being Accusatory. Ask questions in an open-minded way, and cast the “blame” on the adoption agency’s policies or recommendations. As an adopting family, it is best to try to avoid getting into in depth conversations with expectant mothers, and instead redirect the interaction and get them connected to your office’s Pregnancy Counselor for a match to be officially made. Our team is here for you, and are trained to recognize scams. If you do end up in a conversation with an expectant mother, try to avoid assuming that every expectant mother may be scamming but still proceed with caution and wisdom. If I suspect that an expectant mother may be fraudulent, I ask if they’d be willing to do a Zoom call and let them know that I, their pregnancy counselor, will need proof of pregnancy (medical records, a statement from clinic, or ultrasound verified by a doctor) before we can proceed with any services. An expectant mother who is truly pregnant and interested in considering adoption will not have a problem with this.

Remember that not every expectant mother who reaches out is fraudulent. The adoption and matching processes are beautiful and delicate, and I encourage you to not be fearful or jaded, but just to be prepared. If you choose to utilize social media as a platform to show your profile or reach expectant mothers, I encourage you to become well-versed on how to protect yourself from the ways of adoption scammers. Be creative, have fun, and be wise as you create your online profiles!

 

By: Winter Baumgartner

Parents Education Beyond Required Training Hours

Fourteen hours… That is the number of training hours that the state required of my husband and me before adopting our first child from foster care. In fourteen hours we learned why children come into care and how that experience may manifest in the behavior of the child. We learned that there is loss, grief, and trauma in adoption and we learned about A LOT of policies and procedures.  What we did not learn was how much we didn’t know.

 

Thirteen years later I can assure you that fourteen hours could not possibly have adequately prepared us for the job of parenting, particularly parenting an adopted child.

 

Those fourteen hours did not prepare me for the tough questions that always seem to come from the backseat of the car. They did not prepare me for knowing when and how to share the tough parts of his story. They did not prepare me for the identity issues he would face as a bi-racial child living in a white family. Though they taught us about trauma, they did not prepare us for it to manifest years later or how to explain that to others. They did not prepare us for handling the effects of prenatal exposure that did not manifest themselves until adolescence and puberty. And NO training of any kind for any parent could adequately prepare you to parent through puberty and the teenage years! (Oh the smell of teenage boys!)

 

Fourteen hours gives you just a glimpse into your journey as a parent and most importantly lets you know that you still have a lifetime of learning ahead.  There is no easy path and no magic manual that spells it all out for you, however, there are a few things I have learned over the last thirteen years that have helped tremendously.

 

  • Find your community. From day one of our adoption journey we have been intentional about surrounding ourselves with other adoptive families. Some of these families have privately adopted and some have adopted from foster care. Many have children in the same age range as our son and some are farther along on their journey. We have learned from each other and supported each other. Sharing resources, having an ear to listen, and a shoulder to cry on have been some of the biggest blessings of finding our adoptive community. They remind me that I am not crazy and I am not alone.
  • Every age and stage is different. As our adopted kids grow and mature, so do their questions. Not only do the questions change, but our responses have to as well.  What my son could understand and emotionally process at age five is very different from what he can understand and process as a teenager. Educating yourself about the emotional development of children will help you know what to share and when. It is their story and they have a right to know, but sometimes they need just enough for right now.
  • Trauma is real. As beautiful as adoption is, the reality is that there is real grief and loss. Even if your child came to you as a newborn or infant, they have experienced great loss. To be the best advocate for your child, adoptive parents need to understand trauma and the effect that it has on their child. Educate yourself about trauma!
  • Give yourself a break! Don’t reinvent the wheel. Parenting is hard!  None of us have it figured out. Read, read, and read some more. Find blogs that you connect with. Find print or online magazines that share both professional and personal articles about adoption. Follow adoption agencies like Nightlight. Glean from those that have been there.

Fourteen hours… That is how long it will take you to figure out that this journey will be a lifelong learning experience.

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

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