Ways to Honor Your Child’s Birth Father

 

Although there may not be a day each year designated to honor your child’s birth father, it is still important to consider how to incorporate him into your child’s story. Understandably, we give a lot of attention to birth mothers. There could be a number of reasons why birth fathers are not as involved in the adoption process. Perhaps he is not known by the birth mother or maybe she does not want him to know about the pregnancy. It is also very possible that he simply does not desire to be involved in the process or there is a reason contact should not occur with him. Even if little is known about the birth father, though, it does not mean he does not exist. He, just like your child’s birth mother, is a member of the adoption triad and there are several unique ways to honor him no matter how much (or little) you know about him.

Here are some ideas to consider:

  1. Try to gather as much information as you can about the birth father. Take note of his interests, unique physical features, and personality, as these can be things you share with your child eventually. If you have an opportunity to meet him, take it! Ask questions that help him feel seen and valued as an individual. If you are not able to meet him in person, try to gather this information from others that know him—whether that is the birth mother, a relative of his, or an agency representative.
  2. If the birth father is active in the process, consider how he may feel appreciated or honored. It is common, of course, for adoptive families to give a gift to their child’s birth mother upon placement. Maybe you could also consider giving the birth father his own special keepsake at the hospital, such as a framed photo of him with your child, an engraved piece of jewelry or leather, or a collection of some of his favorite items.
  3. Speak considerately of your child’s birth father in your home, even if you do not know who he is or there are parts of his story that are difficult to explain to your child. This does not mean you should make up information about him or try to hide the reality of his situation. There are ways, though, to still display respect towards him when talking to your child. It may be a challenge for adoptees to not know much about their birth father. Although it may not ever be possible to get more information about him, inviting your child to wonder and ask questions about him and simply acknowledging him when talking about your child’s origins may go a long way.
  4. Develop a plan with the birth father for ongoing contact, even if it is different than the one established with your child’s birth mother. It is possible that a birth father may desire more contact than a birth mother, and it is important for his voice to be heard in this regard. Consider writing a separate letter to him with updates and photos so that he, too, feels like he has a place in your family.
  5. Consider choosing a day around Father’s Day each year to do something to honor your child’s birth father. If you know him and have contact with him, consider reaching out to him in a unique way. If he is unknown or there is no contact with him, you could consider doing a special activity with your child instead. Perhaps you could help your child make a craft they could put in a keepsake box or take them to do an activity you knew their birth father enjoyed.

It is not as common to hear directly from birth fathers about their experience of placing a child for adoption. Here’s one birth father, though, that wanted to share some of his thoughts with others: Zachary | A birth father from Georgia – BraveLove. Although this is not representative of every birth father, it provides a thorough glimpse into his experience through the adoption process and also highlights the importance of incorporating your child’s birth father into their story in some way.

How the Beauty of Easter Reflects Adoption

 

During this Spring season, we see flowers blooming and everything that was dead during the winter months sprouting to new life. For Christians, it is also the time of surrender and sacrifice through the reminder of Easter and the weeks and traditions leading up to it, such as Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and Palm Sunday. But what does this time have to do with adoption, and how can we think of adoption in the terms of the cross?

What does scripture say?

In John 3:3, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Because of the cross, and Jesus sacrificing His life for our sins, we are able to be born again and are given a new life. In adoption, children are also able to begin a new life as a child in your family. Adoption is a picture of how brokenness on earth, and our humble beginnings, can be made beautiful and used for good.

We are reminded again in Psalm 37:18 of God’s provision and care; “Day by day the Lord takes care of the innocent, and they will receive an inheritance that lasts forever.” Through adoption, children receive an inheritance on earth. Through a relationship with Christ, we have all received an eternal inheritance and life with Jesus.

What does this mean to me?

With this in mind, Easter can be a time of celebration; a celebration of warmer weather, of Christ’s resurrection and of your child becoming a new part of your family, whether their adoption occurred weeks, months, or many years ago. One way to honor your child during this time is through pointing out the consistencies in their own stories with the story God wrote for us as believers in Jesus and his death on the cross.

For those of you who are still waiting for your adopted child, who are currently fostering, or maybe you are just about to begin the process, Easter is a beautiful reminder to all of us of our worth and the freedom we have in Jesus because of his resurrection. Because of Him, we are all accepted into a forever family in heaven. That alone is a reason to celebrate with a heart full of gratitude.

 

I want to end this with a section of a poem by Deborah Ann called Abba – My Father;

Abba my Father,

has adopted me . . .

into His royal family

so I could be . . .

 

An heir to salvation,

a daughter of light

a child that brings

to Him great delight.

 

I’m no longer an orphan,

I’m no longer a stray

I’ve inherited a room

in His mansion I’ll stay.

 

Abba my Father,

has adopted me . . .

into His royal family

so I can be free . . .

 

Free from the guilt,

of my wandering ways

free from the darkness

that once filled my days.

 

The adoption became final,

that day on the Cross

when Jesus died for me

and all those who are lost.

 

Abba my Father,

has adopted me . . .

into His royal family

so I might see . . .

 

See His glory,

in the middle of my pain

see His grace fall

like sweet drops of rain.

 

The inheritance is mine,

I’m claiming my right

and now I have privilege

to His power and might.

 

Abba my Father,

has adopted me . . .

into His royal family,

I willingly flee . . .

 

Reference

Ann, Deborah. “ABBA My Father.” CHRISTian Poetry, 31 May 2013, https://poetrybydeborahann.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/abba-my-father/.

 

By: Paige Burch

The Journey of Adoption: An Adoptee’s Perspective

 

When talking about adoption I often hear it referred to as a journey. When I think about a journey I think about something that is ongoing with no definitive end. One of the definitions for the word journey is “passage or progress from one stage to another.” I think it is that definition of the word journey that best describes the journey of adoption. You see, adoption is not a one-time thing. It is not just the event that happens on the day that your child is placed with you. It is an ongoing journey that morphs and changes with time.

I was brought home from the hospital at just a few days old. Having been adopted in the 80’s there was little information provided regarding my birth family. I know their ages and that is about it. My parents have always been open and honest about the fact that I was adopted and have always been supportive of me searching for my birth family or not. To be quite honest, I was never the kid who asked a lot of questions about my adoption; it never bothered me. I have always been secure in who I am and who my parents are and never really struggled with the fact that I was adopted.

In graduate school I decided it might be interesting to search for my birth family so I made some initial inquiries and found out in Pennsylvania it was not an easy process, for my type of adoption, to initiate a search. I let it go at the time and moved on. Then in 2016, I was ready and I wanted to know where I came from. Where did I get my green eyes, my nose, what was my ethnic heritage, did I have any similar traits to my birth mother? So I began with the attorney who facilitated my adoption. He claimed to have no recollection of the adoption. Next I went to the courts (still called orphan court in Pennsylvania) and was told they had no records based on the little information I had. As a final recourse I decided to try Ancestry DNA and, besides now knowing my ethnic heritage, I struck out again.

Now let’s talk about August 2020; 11:37 p.m. on Friday, August 7, 2020 to be exact. The night that a Facebook message popped up on my phone. In that moment I read that a woman had an Ancestry DNA match that listed me as a “close relative” and she had been searching for her sister for years who had been adopted and could I possibly be that person. The answer, YES.

As I began talking with my sister, birth mother, two other sisters, and brother (yes there are 4 siblings) life got real. You learn things that are both exciting and hard. You learn that your birth father wanted you to be aborted. You learn that your birth mother stood up to her own family in order to carry you to term. You learn that your birth mother, on the day you turned 18, contacted the aforementioned attorney to give them her information in case I ever contacted him, which clearly he did not pass on to me when I did indeed contact him. It is realizing that my siblings grew up drastically different from me and experiencing feelings of guilt and relief that my life was different. Adoption is a journey. I am slowly getting to know the family that shares my blood. I love seeing what we have in common while also learning about our uniqueness.

This relationship continues to be a journey, something that is growing and changing over time. I remember when I first posted my story, when I was ready, on Facebook. A friend asked what would make me want to share this story publicly. An easy answer was that it was a quick way to let friends (beyond those I had told in person) what was going on in my life. The more in depth answer is that I feel that often the adoptee voice is forgotten and I wanted to share my journey, the good and bad; the joyous and the heartbreaking. I cannot speak for every adoptee out there. We each have our own unique story and journey. And while it is oftentimes beautiful no one can forget that each adoptee’s story began with loss and eventually that loss is going to emerge. I am not sure how the journey will continue but I can say that I am beyond blessed to be on it.

By: Rebekah Hall

Introducing: Adoptions from Anchored in Hope

Becoming a parent and raising children is a shared dream of many individuals and couples. Throughout history, adoption has been one way to realize that dream. Nightlight Christian Adoptions has provided many paths to reach that goal. Domestic infant, embryo and international adoption services have seen thousands of children find permanency in loving homes. Our foster care program offers a way to help children who have been removed from their biological families find temporary care, love and stability until a long-term plan can be established. Many of those placements end in adoption.

 

A new program has been created to help children in foster care find an adoptive family when the way home has been closed. These are children who do not have the option of returning to their biological family, but must find another couple to call Mom and Dad. This is no small task for the workers of child welfare agencies who are given the job of finding adoptive homes for these children, most of whom are the age of 8 years and up and sibling groups who want and should be together. We felt it was time to help.

 

Anchored In Hope is the program designed to bring adoptive families to a child or children whose most basic needs of love and the security of family remain unmet.  We are looking for families who desire to be that Anchor to a child whose heart and future needs Hope. The children are available now, and their biggest hope is for someone to be their family.

 

There is honestly some apprehension felt by many about adopting an older child—what kind of history have they been through?  What kinds of behaviors will I have to deal with?  What if the child does not attach?  What if…what if…These are questions that can at the least give us pause, and at most paralyze our willingness to make a decision to step out and open ourselves and our homes to a child.  Here are some facts to consider:

  • The need is great. There are about 400,000 children in foster care across the United States.
  • Approximately 117,000 children are legally eligible to be adopted and are waiting for permanent homes.
  • Children who need adoptive homes are on national websites such as AdoptUSKids and state websites. You can determine what your preferences are and look for potential matches.
  • There has been tremendous growth in research regarding the impact of abuse, neglect and trauma on children, and as a result, many new successful ways of addressing behaviors are evolving. Adoption competent therapy has been developed to help counselors recognize the important issues related specifically to adoption.
  • Nightlight will do your home study and become the liaison between you and the child welfare system who has responsibility for the child.
  • Nightlight provides pre-adoption education to families preparing to adopt an older child. We also have a Post Adoption Connection Center to assist families who need education, support, referrals or resources beyond the adoption finalization.
  • Monthly subsidies are available from the placing states for the continued care for children
  • Medicaid or the state equivalent is also available to help with the financial costs of caring for children. This can include counseling services.

 

The rewards? For families who are committed to helping a child find a new life, the possibilities are endless. Children of all ages, even teens-especially teens, need to be loved unconditionally, given steadfast security, helped through the healing and Anchored in Hope. Learn more at https://nightlight.org/afcc/.

 

Are you willing to be that family?  No one ever outgrows the need.

How to Talk with Children About Your Adoption Plan

Many birth mothers who place a child for adoption are either parenting other children while making an adoption plan or go on to parent other children in the future. Whether you are parenting before making an adoption plan or hope to parent a child in the future, wondering about how to have those conversations with your children may feel overwhelming. You do not have to figure out those conversations alone. Here are some general guidelines that may help you feel more confident in discussing adoption with your children.

 

Share Honestly with Your Children

Kids are intuitive, and they often pick up on more than we realize. Be honest with your children about your adoption plan and share why you believe adoption is best for the child and your family in an age-appropriate way. Creating an environment for open communication will also show your children that they can speak openly with you about their thoughts, questions, and feelings. If you have a child after making an adoption plan, find ways to share with your child about their biological sibling from a young age. By talking about your adoption plan when your child is young, this can be a normal part of their life and family instead of being surprised by this information later down the road.

 

Find Ways for Your Children to Be Involved in Your Adoption Plan

Let your children be involved in aspects of the adoption, both before and after placement, if they would like. Some expectant mothers may have an older child who wants to look at family profiles with them. Consider asking your children if they want to draw a picture for the baby to have or pick out a special gift to give the baby at placement. Some children may want to provide the adoptive family with pictures of themselves for the baby to have. If you have an open adoption, consider involving your children in your visits or contact with the adoptive family. Maybe your children want to help bake a cake each year to celebrate the child’s birthday, hang an ornament with the child’s picture on it up at Christmas, or take part in some other tradition to commemorate the child.

 

Assure Your Children of Their Security

Assure your children that they will remain with you and will not be adopted with their sibling. Remind them that this is a decision that you think is best for the baby and for them. Remind them that you are not going anywhere and that they will continue to live with you. Reassure your kids that they have not done anything wrong, and they are always welcome to ask you questions as they come up.

 

Don’t Be Afraid to Seek Outside Help

The topic of adoption is a big one, and there are resources out there to help! Depending on the age of your children, consider using books such as Sam’s Sister or The Mulberry Bird to start the conversation. Finding a counselor for your child before and/or after placement could be another way for them to learn how to process their emotions in a healthy way. Similarly, attending family therapy together could be beneficial for both you and your children.

 

Although these conversations may feel hard, they will be beneficial for your children in the long run. In a world with social media and DNA testing, few things truly stay secret. By having these conversations with your children early, you can create an environment where your children know they can ask you questions, deepening the trust between you and your children. Your Nightlight pregnancy counselor is also available to discuss the specific needs of your children as you prepare to share with them about your adoption plan.

 

By: Lindsay Belus

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

A Birth Mother’s Story on Openness

A Nightlight birth mother’s perspective on open adoption –

 

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

 

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

 

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

Bonding with a New Child

When I adopted my then four-year-old daughter from China in 2008, I did not plan intentional ways to attach to her. I thought it would come naturally, like it did with my birth children. I was mistaken to think I did not need to have an idea of what to do. Shortly after bringing her home from the orphanage, I read an amazing book which changed by parenting plan. Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child: From Your First Hours Together Through the Teen Years by Patty Cogen (2008) changed my perspective. I was reading it the first few months together and wished I had read it prior to the adoption and the multiple times I have referred back to it over the years.

I used many of the techniques Cogen refers to in her book. I had my four-year-old using a bottle to rock her to sleep and then a pacifier. I sang her lullabies and played silly finger games of Itsy Bitsy Spider. I read story books and played dress up. I pushed a stroller, took pictures, and did many of the things I had with my birth children when they were much younger biologically than four. I rebuilt the foundation to help my daughter to attach, learn the world is safe, and built trust.

There are fun ways for families to build this attachment with children of all ages. Their beginning story in life does not have to be the end of their story. Here are some suggestions for you to put into practice with your child:

  • Play games! Bring out Candy Land, Old Maid Cards, and Trouble. Roll the dice. Play games that call for the child to make eye contact with you. Do peek-a-boo with your young child.
  • Give piggy back rides to your child, play airplane on the floor or bicycle gymnastics with your child. With airplane, have your little one lay across your feet while you are on your back. Holding their hands, move the child through the air as you make sounds. And bicycle? Face each other and touch feet with your knees bent. Cycle your feet back and forth, singing a silly song of “bicycle, bicycle, who’s going to ride the bicycle”.
  • Embrace crazy hair day and let your child do your hair, or make up, or even face paint!
  • Dance & Sing – swirl around holding your child in your arms, your child standing on your feet, or do a fun hip hop. Break out the karaoke machine. Put on a dance video. Use songs that are soothing and quiet. Sing lullabies.
  • Write notes to your child. Leave a sticky note on the counter, put a love note in their lunch box, or mail them a letter. Send a meaningful text to the teen or write a loving post to the child, expressing affirmation to the child.
  • Read together. Make this a daily part of your structured routine. Get a library card and make going to the library a meaningful event for your child.

Whatever you add to your parenting to help your child attach, be attuned. Make things fun, even if they are intentional. Baking, decorating cookies, drawing, coloring, folding clothes, cleaning up their room, Legos and building forts – all activities that increase the time you spend with your child building the relationship they need to become thriving individuals and adults.

 

By: Tina Daniel, Ed.D., LPC

Encouragements for a Grieving Birth Mother

“Grief is like the ocean, it comes in waves, ebbing and flowing. Sometimes the water is calm, and sometimes it is overwhelming. All we can do is learn to swim.” –Vicki Harrison

No matter if you recently placed a child for adoption or placed a child many years ago, know that you are strong, beautiful, and courageous and there is support available to you at any time you may need it. An adoption support system is vital to help in processing emotions, struggles, and pain. You need a safe place where you can embrace yourself with a community of other courageous women who are on the same journey. A community where you don’t have to explain yourself or be fearful of what others may think. A community where you can learn to grieve, heal, and love again. You can impact your life for the better and find the courage you need, even when things get hard, by knowing that you are not alone.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

 

Here are some resources and support groups to surround yourself with community on this journey:

  1. Talk with Your Adoption Professional – We, at Nightlight have created the Post Adoption Connection Center to meet the variety of needs of those involved in an adoption. Whether you have come here to seek guidance, counsel, or connection, know that we are here to support you and extend God’s love and peace to you wherever you are.

 

  1. Brave Love- An organization that exists to change the perception of adoption through honest, informative and hopeful communication that conveys the bravery of birth mothers. BraveLove offers post-placement support groups and events around the country. You can also read inspiring stories from other birth parents on their site.

 

  1. On Your Feet Foundation- This organization honors and values birth parents and the choice to place for adoption. They offer many avenues of support after placement including birth mother support groups, a birth mother mentor program, and retreats throughout the year. (Empowering birth parents after adoption | On Your Feet Foundation)

 

  1. Concerned United Birthparents (CUB)– A national organization focused on birthparents experiences, healing and wisdom. They offer a yearly healing retreat that welcomes all. Concerned United Birthparents (cubirthparents.org)

 

  1. Tied at The Heart – “is dedicated to providing birth parent support.  We work to facilitate healing retreats throughout the United States. We believe that no birth parent should feel alone or unsupported in their post placement journey,” (tiedattheheart.com)

 

  1. Birth Mom Buds – A web-based, faith-based organization that provides peer counseling, support, encouragement, and friendship to birthmoms as well as pregnant women considering adoption. (BirthMom Buds | Providing Support to Birthmoms & Pregnant Women Considering Adoption)

 

  1. Birth Mother Baskets- A resource that sends gift baskets to birth mothers and matches birth mothers with peers through programs, retreats, and online Facebook groups. (birthmotherbaskets.org)

 

  1. Start a support group- If your local area does not have a support group, this may be an opportunity to start one up. Utilize creativity and skills to focus on building a community to reach others who seek healing. “Two are better than one. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

 

By Nichole Chase

Love Language Within the World of Trauma

 

Love languages and the knowledge of different ways to communicate love have gradually increased in popularity over the past few years. It can be especially important for children who have experienced trauma to be able to receive love in a way that they understand and can receive without fear. This can be particularly complicated when the child you are caring for may potentially have a love language that was abused through traumatic memories. Children who have experienced abuse or neglect may react differently to love languages that are spoken by their foster or parents through adoption. Here are some things to keep in mind for each love language with some alternatives that may feel more secure for a child who has experienced abuse in an area where they have a predominate love language.

As an overall reminder, young children between 0-6 rarely have a set love language and need each language to fill their bucket until a clear preference starts to show as their personality develops. This is the recommended starting point for all children and youth of all ages when they first come into your home, even the 17 year olds. Children who experienced trauma at a young age may have never had a consistent or attentive caregiver. It will be important to communicate each language consistently while you are bonding, and well after they begin to trust you and push boundaries. It may feel as if you are starting with an infant and working your way up, but this is a good sign. With safety and connection in place, often their language will develop into one or two predominate preferences. This can take years, or happen quickly depending on the child and their past experiences. If your child is rejecting certain languages, do not assume that they do not receive love that way. It is possibly a sign that they were extremely hurt before in that area, and they need extra care, attention, and patience before they will feel comfortable letting anyone touch, affirm, help, give gifts to them or spending one on one time with them again.

Physical Touch. This language has a lot of capacity for abuse, especially for children who were either neglected and left alone for significant amounts of time, or those who were physically hurt by their parents. Often kids experience both, which can make a child crave physical touch while at the same time being frightened of it and left struggling to relax when they are receiving physical contact. The goal then becomes safe touch and a lot of patience. We recommend looking through handheld therapeutic acupressure tools and helping your child pick one or two they may like to try. If deep pressure does not appeal to them they may prefer something like a paint brush or using a soft brush to make predictable circles on their arm as they relax. You may even introduce cuddling during a movie where there can be a pillow as a barrier. This provides enough felt safety while still meeting their needs. You may also want to consider a pet like a cat, dog or rabbit for some children who can cuddle something that has not caused physical harm to them in the past and keep your own touches to their shoulder or arm and only for specific purposes like when you are teaching them to cook or a sport. Be especially cautious with situations where family members may be requesting good bye hugs, as forced contact may be uncomfortable and feel unsafe for children and youth. Eventually, your child will feel more comfortable letting their guard down around specific caregivers and may request a lot of physical contact or even seem extremely needy in this area. This is a great sign! Be patient, they are catching up for lost time. Many parents intentionally will rock much older children as a reminder of the contact they should have received in infancy, but missed out on.

Words of Affirmation: Children who prefer verbal affirmation to receive love may have come from emotionally and verbally abusive homes where they were told they were stupid, selfish, or screamed obscenities at. This is particularly destructive to their self-esteem, as they can easily develop the belief that they are a bad child, unlovable, or a waste of space. Grand statements of “you are amazing” will feel fake to children who have a damaged self-esteem. Instead we recommend starting with a softer approach. When you are around your child, try pointing out exactly what they are doing, just notice it. For instance, if you are with a child who is playing with Legos, let them lead and avoid asking questions but make comments about what they are doing and mix those comments with gentle compliments. “I see you are building a ship there” “you are making your ship blue” “you are great at building Legos” “I love how gently you play with your toys”. Pick a time of the day where you can focus on using these types of statements and compliments, even 5 minutes a day. This will help with bonding while also showing them that they are seen and heard. Eventually they will become more receptive to hearing compliments to you outside of that concentrated time of play. You may be surprised at how many affirmations that it can take to start making a dent in the damage that was done before they came to your home, but it is well worth the effort. This is also important with youth and older teens, but they may be more aware that you are choosing specific times to concentrate on this, so it will need to be broken up throughout the day.

Quality Time: Is your child stuck to you like a little barnacle and afraid to be alone? They may have missed out on a lot of quality time as they moved home to home in foster homes with a ton of kids, group homes, or orphanages. Often these group settings have few caregiver and a lot of kids who need care, so a healthy need for quality time and attention becomes a fear that they will not have their needs met if they are ever left alone. Usually parents underestimate the amount of concentrated quality time that a child needs to fill their bucket, 15 minutes a day per parent. For these kids, schedule that time in and make it a priority that you will sit down with them to play for 15 minutes, even if you need to use a timer. Put your phone and other distractions away and let them lead the play, comment on what they are doing, affirm them, go along with their goofy antics. That consistent 15 minutes a day will have a bigger impact on them than you may realize. With it, they will be more open to you scheduling in your own self-care where you can step away for a mommy or daddy break and your own 15 minutes of rest. With patience and time their fears of not having their needs met will shift to trust.

Acts of Service: Neglect is one of the biggest factors for children who have experienced abuse in this particular love language. If your child is parentified, it is a good sign that this language is of particular importance to them. They may have had a parent who completely ignored their needs, and so they turned to meeting others needs and caring for them in the hopes that it would earn them love and safety so that their own needs could finally be met. They are likely to be particularly combative about anyone doing things for them, because their trust has been so damaged in this area. One of your first steps is to acknowledge all of the hard work that your child has done to care for those around them, because it is likely that their siblings and past caregivers took it for granted. Take time to do those extra touches that parents do for younger children, especially for older kids who can reasonably do these things on their own. Make homemade lunches for them, help clean their room when they aren’t looking, and sit next to them while they are working on their homework to offer assistance. They may not show that they appreciate this, but it speaks louder than you may believe. These are often the kids that don’t show their trauma, or get forgotten because they are so busy taking care of everyone else, and aren’t showing their need in an obvious way. In reality they need their love language spoken just as much, if not more than the kids that they were always taking care of.

Gifts: This language is consistently misunderstood in adults and children, so taking time to understand what that language is about is particularly important. Gifts as a love language is more about having something tangible to know that someone was thinking of you when you were not physically around, and that they care enough to listen and know what you like. This is not about the cost, it’s about the “I was thinking about you”. There is particular room for abuse of this love language as abusive caregivers may have used gifts as an apology for abuse, or even in grooming. In those situations, gifts that were supposed to be about “I care about you” were really about “I want something from you, and I know you like this”. This can be devastating to the psyche of a child who may come to believe that the only way they can receive love is to please their caregiver regardless of if that causes them physical and emotional harm. This also can create a lot of manipulative tendencies in children who are simply trying to get their needs met and feel loved.

Parents of children from hard places should focus on small gifts given consistently over time, and do not stop providing love this way when your child has messed up. This doesn’t have to cost anything, try picking a flower for them, painting a small rock, drawing a picture for them, or even taking them to the dollar store to pick their own gift out. You will want to avoid rewarding manipulation, and instead give these gifts when they are least expecting it and are entirely removed from difficult or good behaviors. The main goal is consistently speaking this language in small ways with no strings attached.

Children who have dealt with trauma often feel as if it is their fault. This causes a loss of self-esteem and eventually, the child may believe that they cannot be loved. Love languages are a way to show you care, you are there for them, and that they are loved. In the beginning, the child who does not believe they can be loved, will be hesitant with you and become potentially suspicious as to what you are doing. Don’t take it personally, be consistent, be patient, encourage self-esteem, and be emotionally and physically available for them. We recommend working with a reputable therapist if possible as you work through each love language, especially if you child finds a specific love language to be triggering.

Our favorite kids tool for speaking all of these love languages? Melissa & Doug Scratch Art Notes can be used for safe physical touch (helping kids learn to sketch things out, soft touches on the shoulder or sitting close by a child while you sketch together), Words of Affirmation (encouraging notes left all around the house or in lunch boxes) Quality time (drawing together), acts of service (little notes left behind after you helped do a chore they don’t always enjoy), and gifts (little drawings or gifting a card and scratcher for them to play with at school in their free time).

 

written by Natalie Burton & Deb Uber