The Importance of Honoring Communication Wishes of Birth Parents

 

We all know, keeping an agreement, any agreement, is important for the simple sake that it’s a measure of your integrity and moral character. Another helpful question to explore maybe this, “How do I establish a post adoption communication agreement with birth parents that will allow me to act in the highest degree of integrity and honor and is most beneficial to my child?

 

Your child, as they grow, will learn your true character through how you treat others. Additionally, your child is an extension of both you and their birth family. How you treat their birth family may be interpreted by your child as, “this is how they feel about me.”

 

Here are a 7 few tips that will help put you on the right path.

 

Examine yourself. Long before the matching process you need to ask yourself, “What are my feelings towards open adoption and continued contact with birth parents?” If feelings of fear or anxiety begin stirring in your heart, it is time to take a pause and look at the root of these feels. Maybe you have unaddressed fears of being rejected by your child or your child favoring their birth parents over you.  Don’t be afraid to discuss these fears with your adoption social worker. They welcome these questions and will help you work through them. Once these fears and anxieties are addressed you’ll be better prepared to have beneficial conversations about openness with birth parents.

 

Start the conversation about openness as early as possible. It’s important to talk about the level of openness you are all comfortable with during and after the adoption even before you are in an official match.  Talking openly and truthfully about everything lays the foundation of an open communication. This may feel stressful and awkward at first, but it is the best way to establish boundaries and expectations from the beginning.

 

Continue ongoing communication throughout the pregnancy to build a level of comfort with the birth parents. The Doors stated it well in their song lyric “People are strange when you’re a stranger”. The strangeness and awkwardness you may feel towards a birth parent (and they feel towards you) only has a chance to subside with time spent communicating and getting to know each other. Hopefully during this time parties are building a mutual respect. This doesn’t mean asking them personal intrusive questions but instead getting got to know their likes and interests. Just having more exposure to each other over time is likely to make you both feel more comfortable.

 

Know your limits. Don’t promise to more contact than what you are really ready to commit to, just to have the birth parents like you more. You are making a commitment for 18 plus years.

 

Understand the post adoption contact can and will change. One of the key characteristics to a successful adoptive parent is the ability to be flexible. Understand that during the course of your child’s life the communication from the birth parent may ebb and flow, depending on several variables.  If they haven’t had contact with you in a few years and then return, don’t scold them but welcome them back and begin a conversation. (

Additionally, if a birth parent hasn’t been able to commit to their communication agreement, it doesn’t mean you have a pass to break your terms of the agreement. Try to be as consistent as you can. Again, your child is watching you J)

 

Know not to take things personally. You may have established what you thought was a great open relationship with your child’s birth parents only to have them discontinue communication with you or they ask for more contact then what you both originally established. If you are abiding to the communication guidelines clearly established in the beginning, you should not fear that a birth parents’ absence is about you or that you need to abide to their wishes for increased contact.

 

Never hesitate to reach out to your adoption agency for advice. Lastly, if communication between birth parents and adoptive parents become contentious, it’s never too early for either party to reach out to an adoption professional or the adoption agency to ask for help and mediation. It’s much better to involve a third party when the conflict first arises then wait until it escalates.

 

 

These are simple and basic tips to assure that a post adoption communication agreement with your child’s birth parents can be established and sustained throughout your child’s life. Although it seems to be the exception and not the rule, I have spoken to birth parents who had signed an agreement of an open adoption, but then the adoptive parents cut off communication. This is heartbreaking. Remember, a birth parent’s decision was not made from a lack of love. She chose you because she felt that you would raise her child better than she could at that point in her life.

 

Written by Michelle Alabran

 

*For more information about why Nightlight believes that open adoption is in most cases the healthiest choice for all involved in the adoption triad, click here.

How COVID-19 Will Impact the Foster System

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Donate

Preparing Your Biological Children for Adoption

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

Explain the process

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

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

Read books together

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

Involve your child

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

Spend one on one time with your kids

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

 

written by Rebecca Tolson

Embracing Autism

 

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

General Information

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

Common Characteristics

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

Reasons for Challenging Behavior

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

Tips for Interacting  

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

 

written by Lisa Richardson

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 [email protected] 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.

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

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

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

How to Be An Adoption Advocate

 

Have you ever thought “I want to advocate for adoption but how can I do that if I am not called to actually adopt?” or “Am I really helping advocate for adoption if I am not adopting?” It is completely valid, acceptable and feasible to help advocate for adoption without adopting yourself and yes – you will be an immense help in advocating for adoption if you do so.

Support adoptive families

Whether you are supporting adoptive families through encouragement and prayers, financially, helping them prepare their home for when their child comes home, being a steady emotional support to them throughout their adoption process, or helping them with finding or obtaining resources that they need while completing their paperwork – support comes in many different ways and is incredibly valued and appreciated by adoptive parents.

Advocate for waiting children

Social media can be used as an incredible tool for advocating for children. Nightlight has a “Wednesday’s Child” every Wednesday that we share on social media. Simply clicking the “share” button from our Facebook page has led to many interested families being able to pursue waiting children.

Educate others through adoption-positive language

Many people do not realize there is such a thing as adoption-positive language. By modeling the appropriate ways to speak with adoptive families in regards to their children, you are educating the public on how to have an adoption-positive language. For example, instead of saying “is that your real child” or using terms like “birth parent” instead of “real parent”, “birth child” instead of “own child” or “waiting child” instead of “available child” all help educate others on how to speak in an adoption-positive way. Being an example of this language encourages positivity toward adoption and helps adoptive parents and children to feel safe and understood.

Educate your community about adoption

If you have biological children, discuss adoption with their teacher so that their teacher could consider assignments that could potentially be hurtful to students that they have whom are adopted. Ask your church if you can set up a display for Orphan Sunday in November. If you have a book club, a bible study etc. that you go to weekly, discuss different adoption stories to display the positivity of adoption.

Advocate for Changes in Adoption Laws

Whether you are advocating for adoptive parents to have an adoption leave when their children come home, advocating for birth mothers to have mandated counseling after the adoption takes place, or advocating for the adoption tax credit to stay in place – you are advocating for adoption in a major way. In order to advocate this way, you can contact your senator or representative as each member of the U.S. congress have contact information.

Donate

If you don’t know a specific family that is adopting that you can donate to, you can donate to places that provide grants and scholarships to families or to organizations who advocate for adoption or foster children who are in need of homes. Check out websites such as AdoptionBridge.org to view waiting families and support them financially as they seek to grow through adoption.

 

written by Jordyn Giorgi

Back to School for Adoptees With Childhood Trauma

Children who are adopted often come with an early history of trauma. Children with such a background can find the school setting difficult, which then affects their academic performance. Often this background of trauma can lead to such problems as sensory issues and being over or under stimulated; difficulty with controlling emotional responses (e.g., outbursts, anger); difficulty in forming and maintaining relationships with friends at school; little sense of boundaries; and a lack of appropriate trust and “felt” safety. Your child may be bright but at times uncooperative, easily distracted, and “hyper.” Do these symptoms sound like ADHD? Yes, they do. Often a child with such symptoms may be labeled as having ADHD, but the child may be reacting to triggers in the environment due to the child’s past experiences of abuse or neglect. Medication most likely will do little to alleviate the symptoms. Instead, other measures will be needed to help your child feel safe at school instead of out-of-control and afraid.

First, public school may not be the best option, especially if your child is newly arrived from another country. School can be a battleground for children who have limited English language skills. Your child will need to be nurtured in a safe environment before learning can begin. Children who have experienced trauma can be in a “flight or fight” mode, and they are operating in the lower brain where their emotions are working overtime. Without proper nurture and attachment, your child may have difficulty using the frontal cortex—the thinking part of the brain. If the child cannot move to the upper brain to perform school-work, your child will most likely underperform academically.

Some private schools may be appropriate. Often because of lack of funding, they do not have the resources for giving children the individualized attention and special services needed. However, if the atmosphere is calm and nurturing, the private school may be a good option, especially if your child is brighter, has a command of the English language, and does not struggle with serious learning disabilities.

If possible, home-school your child. While home-schooling is not an option for many parents, if at all possible, have your child home with you. Even a limited period of time can help your child do catch-up work while adjusting to being in a family.

If your child is in public school, the type of classroom your child is in can be critical for your child’s long-term well-being. If your newly adopted child is school-age, you will need to consider the child’s academic skills as well as your child’s emotional and social age. Of course, in a regular public school system, you cannot place your 11-year-old child whose English is wobbly into a first grade class. Your child should be placed in a grade close to the child’s age, and, as needed, provide the child with extra supports.

Children from the foster care system, who are not legally adopted, usually cannot be home-schooled. Therefore, how the child is treated in the public school system is even more critical. Your foster child may appear bright, certainly speaks and understand English, but the early trauma can still greatly affect school work. Special provisions may still need to be made even if your child appears “normal.”

Whether your child has newly arrived from the foster care system or was adopted years ago, you will most likely need to be an advocate for your child. Often children can become overwhelmed with the noise, expectations, and school schedule. If you feel your child is struggling—even if academically doing well—you need someone who can help you speak the language of school personnel to get the special services your child may need. Janie Dickens, an adoptive mother who understands the special considerations of adopted children ( [email protected]),  provides consulting services with Nightlight through our Post Adoption Connection Center. You do not have to be in the post-adoption phase to reach out to her, as you may want to prepare yourself and your child’s school environment before your child arrives home. The first consultation is offered at no charge to Nightlight families.

Janie Dickens  of  Pass Advocacy can help you determine if your child may need academic and psychological testing, including an evaluation for any sensory issues or learning disabilities, such as dyslexia. These tests can be expensive if taken outside of the school but are offered at no cost to students in public schools. Again, you most likely will need to advocate for your child to receive such testing, and it may take several months before the assessments are administered.

For children without special educational needs but who have a history of trauma and need certain accommodations, a 504 Plan may be more appropriate. If your child has special educational needs, then your child may qualify for what is called an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP). This article regarding children affected by trauma provides info about the 504 Plan and IEP as well as tips for helping your child during the school day.

Furthermore, be sure your child is well-fed and well-hydrated. Children need to eat regularly and take frequent water breaks. Many children eat very early in the morning, before the bus arrives, and then may wait four or more hours before having lunch. Other kids have lunch in the late morning and then must wait until school is out and the bus arrives home to eat again. That is entirely too much time for most children to go without food or a drink. For children who have a history of food-depravation, which includes most children adopted internationally and many from the foster-care system, such a time span can cause a calm child to be out-of-control.  It is essential these children have a substantial snack every two to three hours. In addition, they should have some water or diluted juices just as frequently. Without regular snacks, children are more likely to be frustrated, “hangry,” and behave more impulsively. Without sufficient hydration, our brains—and your child’s—can have a decreased cognitive function of up to ten percent.

Children need to have regular breaks to stretch and move throughout the day. One recess a day is probably not enough.

Many foster and adopted children struggle with anxiety due to not feeling safe or being overwhelmed by the teacher’s expectations. Teaching your children how to use the 4-7-8 breathing can help alleviate some of this anxiety. In addition, this type of breathing can help children—and adults—fall asleep more easily and reduce angry outbursts.

Another area in which parents have difficulty with their children is after school. Some kids come home exhausted and may need some downtime. This is not a time for videogames, unless your child can play for only 15 minutes. Your child will need a snack and perhaps play board games or engage in other quieter activities. Some may need a short nap.  On the other hand, some kids come home wired to run around and play outside. This is fine. Homework can wait. Trying to get tired or boundless energy kids to do their homework is fruitless. Let them play for an hour or so and then approach homework if they must do it.  There are matters more important than homework—creating family bonds.

 

written by

Laura Jean Beauvais, M.P.H., M.A., L.P.C. | Director of Counseling

Attachment Specialist I | Trust-Based Relational Intervention Practitioner|  Counselor/Coach