6 Helpful Tips for Bonding With Your Adopted Child

 

Bonding is a critical part of building your relationship with your adopted child and is a precursor for how they will develop in the future, whether it be their physical growth, intellect, or how they form relationships with others. This is why it is important to have a strong foundation in the household when it comes to bonding and attachment. It’s common for adoptive parents to worry whether or not they will be able to form that bond with their adoptive child.

Whether you first hold your child in the delivery room, three months later, or three years later, the same tips of bonding and attachment apply. They include:

  1. Open the lines of communication: Talk to your child often. Be present and interact with him or her. Children need lots of reassurance and you both will learn about each other this way. Keep the lines of communication wide open. Toddlers and young children are full of a million questions. These questions provide a great way to connect and set the stage for meaningful conversations for years to come. And remember that it’s common for a toddler or older child to be shy when being transitioned into a new family. Don’t force a relationship. Be patient as you learn about one another.
  2. Understand that rejection is not about you: Early interactions make a lifelong impact on a child. It is important for children in hospital/foster/orphanage/institutional settings to be cared for by a familiar figure and to make a connection early on. Studies have shown that children who have benefited from a strong early bond in a safe setting will transition more easily, while children who have been exposed to poor conditions and lack a strong connection to a caregiver often exhibit trust issues later on. Most toddlers who have experienced rejection respond by becoming rejecting. For adoptive parent who feel a sense of rejection or distance, it can be a confusing and hurtful process. It’s easy for adoptive parents to blame themselves. While it may feel overwhelming on your end, try to imagine how your child may be feeling, but unable to put into words.
  3. Touch & Eye Contact: Find opportunities to have physical contact with your child. This can be holding your child in your lap, patting their leg, brushing their hair, lotion after bath time, etc. When talking to your child, make eye contact to let your child know you are fully present. But please do not force your child to make eye contact. When possible, get on their level, put your hand on their shoulder, and speak in a gentle voice. Feed your child during meal time if they will allow you to do so (even older kids benefit from being fed). Touch and eye contact will help your child feel safe and wanted.
  4. Create a routine: Children coming from foster care/institutions crave structure and routines. It helps give them a sense of control and allows them to develop trust. Having set bedtime rituals for a younger child, or a weekly family movie night for an older child are great ways to establish a connection with your child.
  5. Establish Permanency: Your child may have a fear that if they misbehave, you will no longer love them. Reiterate to your child that you still love them, even when you are in a bad mood or if they have misbehaved in some way. Send positive messages to your child to let them know that you will love them no matter what, allowing them to heal and attach.
  6. Do activities together: Teach the child how to do something you love: cooking, gardening, fishing, a favorite sport. They may end up enjoying the activity, creating a shared interest! In turn, engage in an activity that the child enjoys. This will show them that you are interested in what they like, and want to be part of their life. You may even want to consider creating a new tradition together that involves the whole family that everyone can enjoy together.

written by Hannah Tatman & Stephanie Muth

 

 

Easing the Home Study Jitters: What the Home Study Really Involves

 

My husband and I were asked to share about our experience with the home study process. It’s definitely a big part of adoption and can cause anxiety looking at it from afar. We were happy to provide our first-hand experience and hope it encourages you, wherever you are in your adoption journey.

Jay and I had gone to some foster-to-adopt classes before moving forward with domestic adoption, so we had heard about the dreaded home study and how intense it is. Going into our home study with Nightlight we expected it to be similar to what we had heard from the state. We thought our house and our lives would be picked apart and dissected for flaws. Thankfully we were completely wrong.

We had Katherine as our home study coordinator, she is so kind and made the process as comfortable as it could be. I don’t want to sugar coat it, there is quite a bit involved in a home study with paperwork and taking classes but as far as the part where you are interviewed and your house is “studied” it was nothing like we expected. We actually looked forward to having Katherine over and “chatting” because that’s what it felt like, a conversation. It was fun to talk about the future, how we would parent, our goals and aspirations for ourselves and our family. We never felt judged by any of the questions asked, it was clear that they were meant to make you dig deeper and really think about what is involved in parenting a child. Our favorite question to answer was, “What do you think will make your spouse a great dad/mom?” This was asked during our one-on-one interviews and later that day Jay and I talked about what our answers were, it got us even more excited and confident in our choice to pursue adoption.

We also expected our house to need a lot of adjustments based on the requirements of the state for foster care. With Nightlight it was just about making sure there was no glaring safety hazards, we didn’t have to show a lockbox for medication or have every inch of the house baby-proofed. They make it clear that they trust you to have your house ready for a little one when the time comes.

The process definitely takes dedication but if you’re pursuing adoption you already have the dedication you need. Nightlight will be there to support you from beginning to end and afterwards you’ll even be a bit sad that it’s over, except that you’re one BIG step closer to bringing your baby home!

 

Submitted by Katherine Calvin, MA | Home Study Coordinator

Written by the ‘K’ Family | NCA Adopting Family

Nightlight Christian Adoption’s Core Values

 

 

There are plenty of adoption agencies to choose from, but which adoption agency is best for you?

Of course, the type of adoption you are interested in pursuing factors into your choice.  The good news is that Nightlight offers all types of adoption services: domestic infant, international (20+ nations), Snowflakes Embryo Adoption (we pioneered it!) and foster care/adoption in several of our states.

Nightlight provides home study services in the states where we are licensed.  For our embryo adoption program we can provide home study services wherever you live.

But, aside from the services we offer, why Nightlight? Recently our executive management team reviewed and discussed the core values of our agency. The people who work at Nightlight are FOR YOU.  They want you to be successful in your adoption journey.  They want each child to get placed into the best family for that child.  We are child-centric.

Here is a list of the core values we hold at Nightlight.  Read through it. Is this the type of adoption agency you would like to help you?

  1. Christian worldview
  2. Prayer
  3. Help more children in need be adopted into loving and permanent families
  4. Solid pro-life position
  5. Culture of yes
  6. Teamwork – internally and with our clients
  7. Excellence in client Service – before, during and after your adoption
  8. Courtesy and Respect – internally and with our clients
  9. Client success by offering program variety
  10. Diligent family screening
  11. Biblical conflict resolution
  12. Solid commitment to open adoptions

Nightlight has been serving adopting families before, during and after their adoptions for more than 60 years.  Our experienced and compassionate staff are available to answer your questions and help you choose the adoption program that is best for you.

Learn more at https://www.Nightlight.org.

 

written by Kimberly Tyson

How to Spread the Word About Embryo Adoption

 

For the past twelve years, I have been working for Nightlight Christian Adoptions. All of my focus has been on raising awareness and participation in embryo donation and adoption. The most discouraging words I hear on any given day are, “I’ve never heard about this before. You need to be doing more to help people know about this wonderful adoption choice!”

Yes. We do.

Today we are going to focus on our BEST voice for letting other people know—YOU!

Why are you our best voice?

  • Because you may have successfully placed your remaining embryos for adoption.
  • Because you may have adopted embryos and given birth to your child.
  • Because you know people who are facing infertility and would be delighted to know about this adoption choice.
  • Because whether you know it or not, you know people who have remaining embryos and would love to help them be born.
  • Because the more people like you who are telling other people, the more people know.
  • One in eight couples are diagnosed with infertility in the United States.

Here are some ideas for helping you engage with people around you. If you would like to talk with me about one of these ideas, or another fabulous idea you have, please contact me in our Colorado office.

  1. Forward the monthly Snowflakes Newsletter to everyone in your email distribution list. There is a super-easy ‘Forward to a Friend’ button at the bottom.
  2. When you send out your Christmas cards/photos/letters this year attach this Snowflakes badge. There are many online services that will allow you to create personalized stickers.
  3. Participate on a Snowflakes Facebook Live session to share your donation or adoption story and answer questions from new inquirers.
  4. Create a vlog series of short, interesting, engaging videos for YouTube, allowing you to uniquely record and share your embryo donation or adoption journey.
  5. If you live near one of our ten Nightlight state offices, work with that office’s staff to be the keynote at an informational adoption seminar specifically on embryo adoption.
  6. Take your Snowflake baby back to your fertility clinic to introduce your baby and encourage the Reproductive Endocrinologist, Embryologist, Donor Coordinator, Nursing staff—everyone—to proactively promote Snowflakes among patients, both donation and adoption.
  7. Choose six (or more) churches in your community. Go visit. Talk with the church secretary. See if you can talk with the pastor or schedule an appointment for later. Ask if there is a specific person in the church who is passionate about adoption and talk with them.
  8. Submit your family’s embryo donation or adoption story to be included on our Family Story pages on the Snowflakes website (please email paige@nightlight.org to learn how to submit your story).
  9. Create a 15-30 second video that can be used in our social media advertising campaigns.
  10. Send us photos of your Snowflakes babies, along with a completed photo release form, to use in our awareness efforts!
  11. Talk with your employer’s human resource department and ask to have any adoption benefits apply to embryo adoption. (Proctor & Gamble provides this benefit to their employees.)
  12. Reach out to your local media outlets—newspapers/T.V./radio, to ask if they would be interested in your embryo donation or adoption story. Human-interest stories are a valuable tool for grabbing the attention of their audience.

Written by Kimberly Tyson

Learn more about embryo adoption at Snowflakes.org and EmbryoAdoption.org.

Meaningful Ideas for Birth Parent Gifts

 

Having a prospective birthmother choose you to raise her child is a priceless gift that you can never truly repay. Many adoptive parents choose to express their feelings for a birthparent by giving them a meaningful gift at the hospital when the baby is born or at placement- something a birthparent can treasure for the rest of their life. With the holidays approaching you can also be mindful to continue celebrating and loving your birthparents, even if the placement has already happened. For birthparents, the holidays can be a difficult time, filled with reminders of loss and grief. This is completely normal. Adoption can hold a lot of pain, loss, heartbreak, and grief, but also a lot of forgiveness, redemption, and love. The sheer definition of the word “gift” is: “a thing given willingly to someone without payment; a present.” It is a simple act of kindness to show someone that they are cared for, thought about, and loved.

 

Because giving birthparents gifts can be a sensitive topic, it’s important that you talk to your agency caseworker about what gift is appropriate in your situation, whether it is for placement or after. Your caseworker will be able to give you input about which kind of gift is best for the birthparent’s emotions at that time, as well as remind you of your state’s legal standards regarding living expense laws before or at placement.

 

Here are some gift ideas for birthparents, whether it is for the adoption placement or a “just because” gift throughout the years as you continue to grow with one another in the adoption process:

 

  1. Flowers: Flowers are always a cheery sight for anyone. For a first match meeting, the hospital, or an annual visit, this can be a great idea to bring with you and give directly to her – or have them delivered. This could also be a fruit or chocolate bouquet.

 

  1. A commemorative piece of jewelry: Many adoptive parents choose to give their child’s birthmother a piece of jewelry she can wear as a reminder of the child she placed for adoption. It may be engraved with her baby’s initials or feature the baby’s birthstone. Whatever personalization you choose to give it, make sure it’s subtle so that your child’s birthmother is not constantly having to explain it to people she may not want to share that part of her story with. We have also seen adoptive families gift their birthmother a beautiful necklace called the “Adoption Triad Necklace”. It is simple, delicate, and a subtle chain necklace with a gold triangle; representing the adoption triad.

 

  1. A post–partum recovery basket: Recovering from giving birth can be both a physical and emotional act. A birthmother could not only be dealing with the emotions of placing her child for adoption, but also may have had to take time off work. You can make that process easier by creating a spa, self-care basket (lotions, bath items, etc.) so she can pamper herself during this time. If approved by your lawyer or agency caseworker, you may wish to also send a gift basket of meal preparation, gift cards and other practical things to help her during this time.

 

  1. Stuffed Animals: Birthmothers will likely be looking for comfort after placing their child for adoption. I recommend getting two identical stuffed animals: gift one to the birthparent, and one to the child. I then encourage adoptive families to take monthly/yearly photos of the child next to the stuffed animal as they continue to grow and send these photos to the birthmother. This is so the birthmother can see how big the child is growing and will be able to compare it to the same stuffed animal she has. To go a step further, you could even purchase a stuffed animal with a recording in it and record the child’s voice or heartbeat to gift to the birthmother. Another option is taking an outfit your child wore during their time in the hospital and have it turned into a bear.

 

  1. An engraved watch: Like jewelry for birthmothers, an engraved watch is a great way for a birthfather to carry around the memory of his child and your relationship with him. As you would with the jewelry, make sure the engraving is subtle (perhaps on the inside of the wrist) so he doesn’t have to answer unwelcomed questions about what it means. Ideas for engravings could be the child’s time of birth, the child’s date of birth, or initials.

 

  1. A meaningful book or an adoption memory book: If you know the birthparent has a particular interest in something, consider buying them a book about that subject. This goes hand in hand with hobbies. If you know your birthparent is interested in a particular hobby as well, consider gifting them something along those lines. Sometimes adoptive parents have created a more involved memory book as well for their birthparents. In addition to photos, it can include mementos from the adoption process, like your original adoptive family profile, things from the hospital stay, baby’s footprints, etc. You can leave blank pages for the memories still to come. Some families purchase a recordable children’s book. Have the birthmother record her voice by reading the book. This will allow her voice to be heard by the baby and it is a wonderful way for her to feel connected with her child. As the child gets older and is able to read, you could also have the child record their voice and gift the book back to the birthmother.

 

  1. Beautiful Framed Art: If you and the birthparents live in different cities or states, you could gift them with a beautiful art piece of the two cities or state maps overlapping one another. This could be found online, such as Etsy. A framed copy of your child’s footprints or handprints would be meaningful too if your birthparent did not receive this from the hospital. Even as your child grows up, don’t forget to gift your birthparents some of the child’s artwork that they will create throughout the years.

 

  1. Photo frame or photo album: A birthparent may appreciate a memorable, engraved frame or photo album with several photos of their child. This way, they can store or switch out photos they receive from you or the agency over the years as their baby grows up.

 

  1. Journal: Gift your birthmom a journal. This can not only be healing and therapeutic for her, but also a way for her to write notes and letters to her child. You could also do a stationary set that includes envelopes and stamps so that she can send letter to her child.

 

  1. Keepsake box: A memory box or a keepsake box contains a selection of memorable and meaningful items or memorabilia that belonged to a loved one. Gifting your birthmom a memory box can be a significant and meaningful way for her to store precious memories and gifts that you send her.

 

Remember, each adoption relationship is different, and it may not always be the right thing to give a gift to the birthparents. However, if you do choose to give your child’s birthparents a meaningful gift, it can be an important step in solidifying a strong relationship between you all for many years to come.

 

Written by Caidon Glover, LMSW | Pregnancy Counselor

The Money Grab

 

 

 

As an adoption professional working in private adoption, I am often confronted with what I call “The Money Grab” accusation.  Often, well-meaning people make grand sweeping statements about the cost of adoption, such as:

“If you are a Christian organization, then why don’t you do this for free?”

“Why does private adoption cost so much, when it’s free to adopt from the state?”

“Charging this much money for a child is unethical!”

“It just feels like a money grab to me.”

“What is the agency really doing that costs so much, when people adopt independently, it doesn’t cost them nearly as much?”

It is important to me that people are properly educated on all aspects of adoption, including the cost.  Allow me to respond to a few of these statements above.

For most adoption agencies, the biggest cost is staff salaries.  As a nonprofit, our staff are not paid high salaries, but they must be paid for their work.  There is so much that is done by our staff behind the scenes prior to the birth mother ever matching with a family. Although it is possible to do an independent adoption, in those scenarios, it is the adoptive family communicating with birth mother inquiries, paying for advertising, using their time to visit pregnancy resource centers, and talking to birth mothers that may contact them 24/7 and then screening each one to determine if she is legit or scamming, if she is a good match for their family, what the costs would be to support her during her pregnancy, etc.  I once had a family who was inquiring with us that was doing this very thing.  Just before deciding to apply with us, they had a birth mother contact them.  They put their application on hold while they vetted the situation and called us often for advice.  Ultimately, after flying to meet the birth mother and evaluate the situation, they decided not to move forward with the match.  When they called to finalize their application, he told me how stressful the whole experience was and that he would pay us “any amount of money” to avoid having to do that again.  (Of course, he was being facetious but I think his experience was very common).

Many families with our own agency do their own outreach and connecting with birth mothers, and while we encourage families to put their profiles on social media to gather more coverage, we always ask that the birth mothers contact our pregnancy counselors in order to connect with the adoptive family.  The reason we do this is so that we can cut down on financial and emotional scams that sometimes come along with being in contact with a birth mother for the first time.  It allows us to start the counseling with her immediately, and bring the family in when the time is right.

In addition, adoption from foster care is not free.  This is a myth.  While it may only cost the adoptive family 0 to a few thousand dollars to adopt from foster care, tax payers have already paid for all of the other steps in the process.  Did you know that the average cost to care for a child in state custody is $60,000 per year?  Certainly, foster parents are not receiving that amount of money.  The majority of this cost is to pay state employees.  Even after the child is adopted, the state continues to pay a monthly subsidy for the child. And of course, that money comes from taxpayers. So, the truth is that private adoption is MUCH cheaper but because the money is paid by the adopter rather than tax payers, it is often seen as “unethical”.

Regarding Christians stepping up to address this issue, many have!  There are so many organizations out there now that offer grants, funding, and no interest loans.  Most of these organizations are Christian organizations who recognize that we need to support adoption and adoptive families but not expect that professionals working in the adoption community should be working without pay.  While I’m sure that you have heard people say they can’t afford to adopt, one of the first things we tell people when they come to us is that they can afford to adopt.  We have seen families pay for their entire adoption through grant funding or crowd funding.  The idea that adoption is not affordable for some is simply not true but most people do not know that these options exist.  Our agency even has a person on staff who will meet with families if needed to go over all of these options and help them with their applications for funding.

Of course there are people out there who overcharge and see adoption as a money making business and that is sad.  I typically see this more often in for profit organizations or adoption attorneys, though I want to be clear that not all for profit agencies or attorneys view adoption this way, and I am sure that there are some nonprofit organizations also operating with poor business practices.  For many of these organizations, if the birth mother changes her mind, usually the family loses all of the money they have paid and have to start over.  I agree with you that this should not be the case.  Nightlight handles most birth mother expenses through our agency fees and families do not have to pay all the fees again if a birth mother does not place.  This is our attempt to mitigate cost for adoptive families.

For more information on the costs of adoption and where the money goes, please see these other Nightlight blogs:

https://nightlight.org/2018/08/the-cost-an-analogy-for-adoption-part1/

https://nightlight.org/2018/08/the-cost-an-analogy-for-adoption-part-2/

https://nightlight.org/2019/11/why-isnt-adoption-free/

https://www.adoptioncouncil.org/blog/2018/09/where-does-all-the-money-go

For ideas on funding your adoption, please see the blog and financial resources page linked below:

https://nightlight.org/2018/05/funding-your-adoption-it-is-possible/

https://nightlight.org/page/2/?s=adoption+funding

 

written by Lisa Prather , LMSW | Vice President of Operations

Ways to Teach Your Children Thankfulness

 

Have you wondered how to teach your young children to be grateful when we live in a world where people around us complain or think they deserve certain things? It is a challenge many parents face with a lack of confidence. Research has shown that if adults focus on three to five situations daily, they are thankful for, their mood improves, and over time they are happier overall. Teaching your child at a young age to have gratitude is one of the best gifts toward life-long positive mental health they can receive.

 

Model

Have you seen your child walk around talking nonsensible and holding a phone at an early age? And you laugh, realizing they are mimicking your behavior before they even understand full conversations? It is how modeling works. Children soak up your actions and words at such a fast speed because their brains are learning at a quick rate during their young years. They desire to be like you. One of the best and most important ways to teach thankfulness is to model it on purpose and often by expressing it through words (“I am so grateful I have the opportunity to spend time with you today”). Acts such as smiling, hugging, or being helpful help too!. Say it out loud often to various people and show random acts of kindness.

 Encourage

Create a ritual at the dinner table or bedtime where you say out loud three to five things you’re thankful for, and/or make a gratitude jar and fill it with notes about who or what you appreciate and share them. We live in a culture where we have plenty of material needs, and reminding them of being thankful for a bright moon and stars and enjoying time to play together fosters a consistent grateful attitude.

Reframe

Children need to know that when they face difficulties, they still have it pretty good. The next time they complain, model how to find the silver lining. If you have to wait in line at the grocery store, say, “at least we were able to get everything we needed for the whole week.” It is crucial to not preach this message, but genuinely say it as an example for them to see and learn naturally.  Practice seeing the positives with every setback and help your children find it.

Serve

Create situations that your children can observe and help you serve others who are less fortunate. Help the homeless by dropping off coats, serve at a soup kitchen, create gift boxes for children in other countries, and drop off food and clothes to shelters with other children.

 

written by Lisa Richardson, MSW,LISW-CP/Foster Care Advocate

How Can I Love My Child’s Birth Mother Through Her Grief?

 

“I can’t imagine how you’re feeling right now.”

“What a hard decision you are making.”

“Thank you for trusting us with your baby.”

“You are so brave.”

“I admire your strength.”

 

These are all statements that one might hear being said to a birth mother in the hospital or at placement. How many of us have stood in that moment and wished we had something better to say than the typical “thank you” or “I can’t imagine”? How many birth mothers have wished there was something that could be said that would make the whole situation hurt just a little bit less? As I have had the opportunity to walk alongside birth mothers throughout their pregnancy and placement experiences, I have learned that you can just never be fully prepared for how differently each and every birth mother will feel during the placement process. Some cry, others rejoice, some are disengaged, and others decide that adoption is no longer the choice they wish to make. No matter what emotions are being shown on the birth mother’s face, there is grief involved. This grief feeling may not hit immediately, but it will.

 

As adoptive families and adoption caseworkers, we have the incredible opportunity to support birth mothers through this grief. While all of the above statements are true and the birth mother is strong, brave, selfless, and worthy of admiration, what are some things we can remember about her and ways we can support her through her grieving? Remember that she just went through the 9-month experience of carrying your baby inside of her body and loved that baby enough to choose life. Remember that she just spent “X” number of hours giving birth to a baby that she is choosing not to bring home with her. Remember that this experience is painful and remember that she is incredible.

 

No one has all of the answers in regard to making the pain of adoption go away. No one can pinpoint exactly how each birth mother and adoptive family will feel and respond to the placement of a child, but here are some pieces of advice I would give to adoptive families during all phases of the adoption process:

 

  • Respect your birth mother’s wishes. She is trusting you to care for her child for the rest of his or her life, and while you have the tremendous joy and responsibility of being the baby’s parents, she will also ALWAYS be his or her parent too. The power of DNA is strong and respecting a birth mother’s tie to her child is necessary for both the child’s growth and the birth mother’s growth. Send the pictures that you promised, post or mail the update that you said you would write, make that visit happen even if it is not the most convenient for your schedule. Your birth mom/birth family is worth it!
  • Encourage her to seek support. If your birth mother has a wonderful support system or if she has no one, encourage her to continue healthily processing her emotions and feelings toward the placement of your baby.
  • Tell her you are thinking of her. Even if you do not have the most open of relationships, she wants to feel special, known and remembered (we all do!) so keep trying. Just because your birth mother is not comfortable with contact or gifts right now, that does not mean the door is closed forever. Send your letters and pictures to the agency for the day that she does decide she is ready to know your family and build a relationship with you and your child.
  • Build a genuine relationship with healthy boundaries. While this is easier said than done, be open and honest with each other about your desires for this relationship and do not promise more than you can provide. Set a schedule for picture updates, texting, visits, etc. This relationship is ongoing, so make a plan with your caseworker and your birth mom regarding how everyone’s voices can be heard and how you can ensure that all involved know what to expect for the days ahead.

 

Enjoy your baby and enjoy building a relationship with their birth mother. You have embarked on one of the sweetest and difficult journeys a family can choose to take, and it will be worth it! It will not always be easy, and you will not always be comfortable, but listen to your birth mother, think about her, respect her, and love her- no matter what! She will grieve and you will grieve for her. Continue to pray for her every day and speak highly of the incredible woman that gave your baby life.

 

written by Phoebe Stanford | MSW intern

Learning the Attachment “Dance”

 

 

Attachment is the secure bond that is created initially between an infant and their caregiver. This attachment process will begin in utero with a child’s birthmother and then be formed again with other caregivers, specifically their adoptive parents. Children have the capacity to form several attachment relationships, the important thing is those are formed with adults who will remain consistently, and lovingly, in the child’s life. Even for children adopted in infancy, there is an element of loss that the child will feel when receiving new caregivers after their birthmother. In order to have healthy, intimate attachments later in life with family, friends, and spouses, an individual has to learn healthy attachment as a child.

 

This article discusses the styles, or ways, an infant attaches to a parent as well as the ways that a parent attaches to their child. Attachment is often called a dance, corresponding movements and counter-movements between both the child and parent. Both have to participate and move in order to make this a real dance. When the child is securely attached and the parent is securely attached, this dance moves as it is supposed to. Often times because of our own difficult childhoods and the experiences your child has had with caregivers in his life, one or both parties may not have the ability to attach in a healthy and secure way. Below is an outline of secure and insecure attachments and how those impact us as adults.

Attachment Styles – Children

There are four identified attachment styles in children that predict the way they attach to their caregiver. In observational experiments in children age 18 months, called The Strange Experiment, these four styles are demonstrated and can be matched with a corresponding attachment style in their caregiver. We will first examine the four styles in children to understand these attachment styles and how that impacts the child as an adult and their attachment style.

Secure

A child who is securely attached has a caregiver that consistently responds to the needs/cries of their child. This child regularly has their physical and emotional needs met and they are confident when they have a need (hungry, upset, tired, diaper change), crying will result in their needs being met.

Anxious – Avoidant

A child with anxious-avoidant attachment has a caregiver who does not respond when the infant is upset. The parent may shush their child to stop crying without meeting their needs (the reason for the crying in the first place). This child learns not to cry to get needs met and that they have to meet their needs themselves.

Anxious-Ambivalent

A child with anxious-ambivalent attachment has a caregiver who inconsistently responds when the infant is upset. This parent sometimes responds to the cries and needs of their child and other times does not. This can be for a variety of reasons, but some may be mental health issues or substance abuse in the parent. When the parent is in a good place, they respond well to their child, but they do not respond well when they are in a bad place. This child cries and is difficult to soothe in an effort to stay in the caregiver’s direct attention.

Disorganized

A child with disorganized attachment has a caregiver who is frightening/traumatic. This typically happens in situations where a child is in an abusive home. The person who is supposed to be their source of comfort when they have a need or are upset is also the person that is hurting them. The child has no clear strategy when upset and you will see very erratic behavior from them when they are upset.

Attachment Styles – Adults

It is important to understand the attachment style that we developed as children because this will directly impact our attachment relationship with our children. The duty to attach is not placed solely on a child’s attachment to you, but it is also your ability to attach to them. In studies done on attachment styles, 81% of the time a mother’s Adult Attachment Inventory (AAI) classification (listed below) predicted their classification as children. This shows a direct correlation with your childhood attachment style and your corresponding adult attachment style. When looking back through generations, 75% of the time the mother’s classification predicted their grandmother’s classification. Attachment styles can be passed down from caregiver to child to caregiver to child through a generation. You usually parent your children the way your parents parented you, good or bad. If that generational line of descendants are not securely attached, then they are passing on insecure attachment relationships to their children.

Secure

A secure adult is 1) able to give care, 2) able to receive care, 3) able to negotiate their needs, and 4) able to be autonomous. These skills are developed as infants/children in healthy attachment relationships with our caregivers. For example, if our cries were appropriately attended to, then we learned that when we speak a need, a loved one will meet that need and we can trust them to do so. If we learned that our needs are not met, then as adults we will not voice our needs or trust anyone will meet them if we do.

Avoidant – Dismissing

A dismissive adult is closed off emotionally. They are able to give physical care to a child (feed, clothe, bathe, etc.) but do not connect emotionally. They can be described as not a “huggy, touchy, or feely” person, as physical affection does not come naturally. These adults put energy/interest into objects/things rather than people.

Ambivalent – Entangled

An entangled adult can be described as intrusive with care and in relationships or they get emotionally close to someone very quickly. They do not have good and healthy boundaries in their relationships and can be seen as controlling or overbearing. They may carry anger or resentment toward their own parents that is unresolved as an adult.

Unresolved – Disorganized

A disorganized adult may engage in mental “checking out” behaviors/disassociation. They commonly have behavioral or emotional disorders or another mental health diagnosis. Their personal relationships are chaotic/confusing.

 

In the general population, among adults you will find that 60% are categorized as Secure, 18% Avoidant, 12% Ambivalent, and 10% Unresolved. Interestingly, among the foster/adoptive parent population, you will find that 15% are categorized as Secure, 40% Avoidant, 15% Ambivalent, and 30% Unresolved. There is a much higher percentage of Avoidant and Unresolved adults among foster/adoptive parents. Reasons for this could be that these adults grew up in homes where their parents did not connect/attach with them emotionally (Avoidant attachment style) or were abusive/unstable (Unresolved) and their attachment style corresponds to their parents (remember, 81% have the same attachment style as their parents.) These parents want to provide a different experience for a child that has been orphaned or placed for adoption, so they are drawn to serve and love this population of children. However, without intervention, these adoptive parents will struggle in attaching with their child, especially if their child has their own attachment insecurities, and perpetuate the cycle.

Intervention

Dr. Karyn Purvis says that we cannot take a child to a place of healing if we have not gone there ourselves. Even with children adopted at infancy, impacts of stress, substance use/abuse, or traumatic experiences in utero or during delivery will leave lasting impacts on a child in development and attachment. There are great resources to read and digest in the areas of child and adult attachment and impacts of trauma on the brain to children, especially in adoption. Three authors we highly recommend are:

 

If you would like to have an evaluation done of your adult attachment style, you can get an Adult Attachment Inventory (AAI) completed by a trained and licensed counselor or psychologist. One professional we recommend is Jim Harlow (http://www.jimharlowlpc.com/) but there are other counselors around Texas that can complete this evaluation. There are online inventories you can do, but the best results will be received by an in-person interview.

 

We encourage you to seek a path to healing for yourself if you grew up with a difficult childhood or relationship with either of your parents. Any impacts or wounds from your childhood will have lasting results that will be brought up in you as you become a parent. A child knows exactly how to find the right buttons to push in you, especially if your child has any struggles. The best thing you can do for your child is to seek healing for yourself. Our staff are here to support you and your path to healing. Everyone has some negative impacts from their childhood and openly admitting these will not disqualify you from adoption. We know counseling is used by the Lord to make you the best individual, spouse, and parent you can be and we encourage you to seek this as needed while you are adopting.

 

written by Heather McAnear, LBSW | Inquiry Specialist | Post Adoption Connection Center Coordinator 

Abounding Opportunities for Children with Down Syndrome

 

In case you didn’t know, October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. As a mother to a child with Down Syndrome it’s one of my favorite months as it gives me a good excuse to talk about my child to anyone who will listen! But every year at least one person asks me why we need an awareness month because, “Everyone knows about Down Syndrome” they claim. The truth is, while people know DS exists, most of the perceptions about people with DS and their lives are largely outdated and inaccurate. This is partially because the educational and social opportunities available for children like my son are growing and increasing every year in communities all across the world. These new opportunities help people with DS reach their full potential and bring a new sense of community among special needs families.

If you have a new child with Down Syndrome or are considering adopting a child with Down Syndrome you probably want to take advantage of these types of opportunities, but you may not know where to look for them. While every community is different and I can’t tell you exactly what’s in your area, there are some things that should be available no matter where you live and other programs that are common in most cities.

Therapies and special education are a HUGE part of life when you have a child with DS, and every child with DS is provided certain things through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Depending on your child’s age they will be provided services such as therapies (sometimes in-home or at school), play groups, pre-school, early intervention services, service coordinators, and employment services (for teens and adults). A good early interventionist or service coordinator can be extremely helpful in getting you connected to other services available in your state such as respite care funding, diaper programs (for older children), community support waivers, free medical equipment programs, and information about Medicaid eligibility. For more information about the IDEA, you can visit their official website here: https://sites.ed.gov/idea/

Community is vitally important to everyone but especially for families and individuals with special needs. When you are not part of a community, it’s easy to feel so alone, like no one understands your life or your child. But when you get connected… It’s hard to describe the kind of instant connection you can have with someone when you realize that you both have a child with DS. Thankfully, most communities have some type of special needs family support, and the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) has over 375 local affiliates all over the US. These organizations can provide emotional support, advice, and socialization for the whole family! Our local Down Syndrome Association is very active and has multiple events every month. With opportunities like mothers’ night out, private events at the local children’s museum, summer camps, and the annual Buddy Walk… there really is something for everyone! Your child’s service coordinator or early interventionist can help get you connected to one of these associations, or you can check the NDSS website here: https://sites.ed.gov/idea/ . Another great community can be found in online groups. I’m a member of a special mom’s support group on Facebook which has been very helpful for me. Besides just the emotional support and information on local events, the ladies in the group offer amazing advice on everything from potty training kids with special needs, to toys, to which movie theaters are the most “sensory friendly”.

Before I had a child with Down Syndrome I had NO IDEA about all the local events and opportunities available to people with special needs. There are so many that it would take me weeks to compile an accurate list of events in just the upstate of SC, but here’s my quick list of popular other opportunities to check for in your area:

– County Rec camps and swim lessons for special needs individuals
– Special Needs day or Sensory Friendly day at your local children’s museum or zoo
– Sensory friendly events at your county library
– Date night or respite night at your local church
– Kid’s gyms or playgrounds with inclusive equipment for kids with all abilities
– Sensory friendly movie times at the movie theater

– “Wings for All” program at your local airport to help older child practice before they travel
– Sports teams, dance groups, and horseback riding programs that are inclusive
– Holiday events like egg hunts, parades, or Santa encounters that have special needs areas or times

The point is, opportunities abound if you know where to look for them. And if something doesn’t exist yet, maybe you can help start it! Almost every event or opportunity for our kids exists because of a parent and a community. A parent who said “my kid needs this” and a community who helped make it happen!

If you have a child with special needs, tell me what’s your favorite event or opportunity in your community? I love hearing new ideas and discovering new programs!

 

written by Jennifer P | Adoptive Momma