Back to School: Tips for Adoption Friendly Teachers

 

With back to school dates on the horizon, it’s time to anticipate a new group of kids, and new challenges with helping little ones grow and learn. For parents who built their family through adoption, this also means deciding whether or not they will discuss an adoption story with their child’s teacher. While this decision is unique to each family, there are many ways that an adoption, and trauma informed teacher can make a significant difference in the lives of the children that join their classroom. Here are a few tips that will help children who were adopted thrive in any classroom setting.

Don’t let an adoption story create expectations about behavior- As an adoptive mother, I have worked with teachers who were knowledgeable (and empathetic) about trauma backgrounds, and those who had preconceived ideas about what it meant to have a “foster child” in their classroom. My children have responded very differently in those two environments. We had a teacher that spent time understanding our children’s history, and was passionate about helping them thrive in a classroom setting. While they were not in a situation that warranted an IEP, she came up with clever ideas to help them grow in confidence in her classroom, and because of that they thrived beautifully. She set the bar high, and gave us tools and terminology to communicate to future teachers so that they would continue to thrive in the future. She will never be forgotten. Heck, I plan to send her a yearly Christmas card and cookies or something. She was a huge blessing to us.

On the flip side we have worked with teachers that automatically assumed our children would be trouble-makers just because they heard the word ‘foster’. One thing you may learn about kids who have experience trauma, they are very observant about what is going on around them. It’s a safety mechanism to be very aware of their surroundings. It’s not so easy to hide your feelings as you may think, and if they know you expect them to misbehave, you might create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Honestly, it can be nerve wracking for parents to approach a new teacher about a trauma history or adoption story. Will you care? Will you help them and come alongside them in their journey to help their child thrive? Will this information create a stigma that will become a problem for them all year? Each child is unique; their adoption should not define them.

Be intentional about projects that may be geared towards traditional families Family tree projects are common in schools. It’s fun to discuss genetic roots as a teaching lesson for kids, but often children from non-traditional families feel uncomfortable with the spotlight being put on their story. Their peers may ask some honest, but tactless questions. Some of these projects may be impossible for them, and whether they participate or not, it will highlight that their story is different. Some children love being different, others don’t.

When creating projects, try to be mindful about how different families can be. Create expectations from the start that differences should be celebrated. We always buy The Family Book by Todd Parr each year for new teachers (they are still young so this works well). This is helpful for story time, and benefits both our kids, and other kids that may feel that their family doesn’t fit the traditional model. Each project can be created with room for differences, and not be so strongly based on genetics.

Their story is their own One of the first things I learned as a foster parent was that as soon as I mention the word adoption, a few questions will come up; “What’s their story?”, “Do they have issues?” “What happened to their real family?” Don’t even get me started on the word real

All of these questions are varying degrees of inappropriate, but they come almost automatically. People are wired to be curious, and since they can read someone’s adoption story online, why shouldn’t they be able to ask about this child’s story too? The problem is that people are constantly asking for a very significant, and painful story about a child right out of the gate. Often with the child right there, LISTENING. That child may want to keep that story private in the future, and adults should allow room for that decision to be made when possible.

Many adoptive parents are well trained to only share necessary information to certain people. They might also get annoyed by blunt questions that show how little you may know about the adoptive world. Remember, they are likely hearing questions like that more often than you realize. It gets old.

Here’s what you should know; Don’t use the term real family, ever. Everyone in adoption is real, the biological and adoptive people. Members from the birth family are spoken about with great kindness and care, at a minimum to prevent a child from feeling shame about where they came from. Often families have relationships with their child’s birth family, and consider them part of the family too. Also, not all types of adoption are the same. Children that were adopted internationally will have very different needs than children adopted domestically, or from the foster system. Try to learn a little bit about each type of adoption if you can.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions I know I may have implied that you shouldn’t ask questions, but really just be mindful of the questions you are asking. Good honest questions can set parents at ease. If they let you know their child was adopted, ask them if there is any terminology that they would prefer for you to use in your classroom, or anything they would like you to know to help their child thrive. Ask if they would be willing to share any necessary information about their child’s story, if it would become relevant in your classroom. If they see that you already are thoughtful with your questions, they will open up and talk to you.

Most importantly, know that you are an important part of this child’s story. You can make a huge difference in a child’s year, and sometimes life, simply by taking the time to learn a little about adoption, asking good questions, and creating an environment that is friendly to non-traditional families. The school system can feel complicated to navigate for parents sometimes, and intentional teachers truly leave a lasting mark in the hearts of the kids and families they are helping.

 

written by Deb Uber

Needs of Children Adopted Internationally

 

In International adoption, the term “special needs” encapsulates a wide variety of characteristics and diagnoses. Special needs not only includes those in wheelchairs, with missing limbs, etc.; it also includes those with learning difficulties or emotional and behavioral difficulties. Most children who join their family through adoption have some sort of special need, or at least may initially demonstrate a special need due to institutionalized living. When a prospective adoptive parent begins the adoption process, they will be asked to review a list of characteristics of the child they wish to adopt. This list is extensive and can be quite overwhelming. Unless a prospective adoptive parent has a background in the medical field, they may be unfamiliar with many of the listed diagnosis. The list includes familiar health issues like asthma and diabetes but also includes less known health issues like strabismus, raised angioma and nevuses. Nightlight recommends that prospective adoptive parents consult an international adoption doctor to decide what special needs their family is able to handle. When adopting internationally, it is important to establish a relationship with an international adoption clinic or physician. Once a family receives a referral of a specific child, the child’s medical reports should also be reviewed by an international doctor. Nightlight also recommends that once the child arrives home they visit an international adoption clinic.

 

A child in need of a family is likely not perfectly healthy. The child may have some behavior issues, be malnourished, have food insecurities, struggle with attachment, and possibly have infectious diseases or parasites. Living in congruent care does not leave a child unscarred, healthy, and without needs. My daughter was characterized as “healthy” in her referral and when you look at her she has all of her limbs and looks perfectly healthy but she has many invisible special needs that affect her daily living. Some examples of invisible special needs that may not be identified in an orphanage but are commonly diagnosed in children from hard places include: ADHD, sensory processing disorder (SPD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), anxiety, food hoarding, Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

 

Special needs are also identified differently among international adoption country programs. For example, in Burkina Faso and Peru adopting a child over the age of 6 is considered “special needs,” while in Ukraine a child will not be entered on the international adoption registry until the age of 5. Some countries like Bulgaria have a list of waiting children who are in need of families. Many times, these children on a waiting list have more significant needs, are older or are part of a large sibling group. Depending on your family you may be able to meet the needs of these children. If so, please contact the program director of the country you’re interested in adopting from to get more information.

 

The characteristics of children living abroad who are in need of families are different now than they’ve been in the past. Infant adoptions are rare and typically the process takes much longer if an adoptive parent is not open to many special needs. However, making the decision to adopt a child with special needs must be something the whole family is comfortable with. Each family will need to determine what level of additional needs they are capable and comfortable accepting and are willing to provide services for their child. We recommend that you research and talk to an international adoption doctor to make the best choice for your family.

 

 

This post was republished with permission from Angela Simpson at MLJ Adoptions International.

Helpful Tips for Language Adaption

 

You may have heard the terms “ESL” and “ELL”.  ESL stands for English as a Second Language.  ELL means English Language Learners.  Most children adopted internationally enter into a family whose spoken and written language is English.  This means your adopted child is an English Language Learner.  If the child is learning English; however, still has access to his native language at home, then he or she will be an ESL learner – learning a new language while maintaining his original language.  It is important to know the difference when you are speaking to your child’s new school to ensure your child receives the best instruction.

Many people who consider adoption wonder how they will communicate with a child who speaks a different language.  This can cause anxiety before and after the child joins their family.  The ability a child has to learn a new language is phenomenal and it should be noted that a lot of information, instruction and emotion can be conveyed between you and your child through gestures, faces, pointing and touching as your child transitions.

Here are some ideas shared by language teachers, adoption professionals and adoptive parents that may be helpful to you!

  • Do not demand that your child speak but rather encourage them to use speech.
  • If you use sign language, be sure to use words to go along with the signs.
  • Name objects as you walk around your home.
  • Repeat heavily used words in many different ways. “Do you want to eat?” “Let’s go eat!” “Are you ready to eat?”  “I’m hungry, let’s eat.”
  • Other children are the best teachers so allow your newly adopted child to be around other children to help learn new words through play.
  • Allowing your child to watch you and him speak into a mirror will show him the motions his mouth should make to create certain sounds. This can be a fun game!
  • There are lots excellent educational videos showing a close up look of how the mouth forms to make different sounds.
  • Should your child have trouble with certain sounds, focus on those.
  • If your child says a word incorrectly, play a game and have them try again. It is important that you not repeat this game to the point of boredom or frustration.
  • Do not change grammatical structure to make learning easier for your child. For example: “Get ball.”
  • It is okay to keep using or learn to use your child’s favorite words in his first language. Using them interchangeably with the English word will not confuse or hamper their language development.
  • Learn and use some of your child’s native language. Most parents feel that mixing their language with a few words from the child’s language helps with bonding.
  • Expose your child to people who speak his or her language. Specifically, native speakers from his/her country.  It is okay to continue phone calls to people he/she knows in the country as long as it is a positive relationship.  Most times, these opportunities should be limited.
  • If your child insists on only watching videos in their first language, you may consider allowing this as a “treat” after practicing English or watching a program in English.
  • For older children who can read, allow them to watch a movie or TV show in English with their first language in subtitles. By doing this, he can see on the screen what the words mean that he is hearing.  It also forces him to read!
  • Do not be sad at your child’s loss of their first language, likewise do not celebrate mastery of their new language.
  • It is a normal stage of development for a child to reject their former language with a desire to be “American.”

Learning some basics of your child’s first language is important!  Many have noticed that children under age six expect their parents to speak their language. They do not understand the concept of a parent coming from another country where they may not speak their language. The child assumes that if that is their parent, they should speak their language and when that does not happen, issues can follow. Many of the issues new families experience are due to miscommunication. Being able to speak, even the basics, can make a huge difference to a newly adopted child! Younger children do not feel so isolated and an older child feels respected that his new family was willing to learn his language to help increase the child’s comfort level on joining into their family.  Be prepared, an older child may laugh when you mispronounce a word!

Here are some resources for learning your child’s language:

https://www.adoptlanguage.com/

http://crunchtimelanguage.com/

Here are some articles about language development in the internationally adopted child:

http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/language-and-older-adopted-child-understanding-second-language-learning

https://leader.pubs.asha.org/article.aspx?articleid=2289686

 

–Dana Poynter

Down Time & Special Activities for the Summer

 

Your child also needs some “down time” to become more regulated and calm.  Just as with movement activities, these quieter times include structure, engagement nurture, and challenge. So what are some downtime activities that promote connectivity with your child?

  • Eating and drinking together can be a bonding experience. You can look at each other while you eat, make pleasant conversation, and, as already noted, even have fun feeding each other.
  • If you are outdoors and your child is just eating a snack and is ready to get back on the playground, then spend about five minutes in some hand-clapping games while you are sitting.
  • Reading together provides an opportunity to ask your child about the characters in the book and what each character may be thinking. If there are parent figures, you can ask your child, “What is the Daddy doing here?” What are some other things daddies do with their children?” What do you like to do with your Daddy?
  • Putting together puzzles can challenge your child while you talk and create something together.
  • Playing board or card games—remember those?—allows for challenge and engagement with your child. Of course, you have other things to do, so encourage your children and their friends to play simple board and card games together. This can promote sharing, winning and losing, as well as cooperation.
  • When your child is resting, you may want to engage in body touching activities such as backrubs or just putting lotion on each other’s hands. When you do such activities, take notice of your child’s hands and count the freckles or other features, such as the nails. You can say, Phili, what cute little freckles you have; I can count three of them on your hand today. Tomorrow we will see if we can find more.” Encourage your child to also put lotion on your hands.

Screen Time is NOT Downtime:

A couple of times per day, you want to make sure your child has about 15-60 minutes of downtime—depending upon your child’s age and ability to have such low-activity. Playing on an Ipad , however, is NOT downtime. Yes, screen-time is definitely a break for you. And, let’s face it, every child is going to spend some time on their screens. So there is probably no need to feel guilty if your child spends less than one hour a day on electronic devices. However, the average child spends more than seven hours a day with these electronics. This amount of time is downright damaging. In addition, the games they play, no matter how innocent, can have an addictive nature and tap into the child’s brain’s pleasure center, increasing your child’s dopamine. Your child’s brain feels like it is getting a reward each time your child plays on the Ipad. So instead of getting pleasure from human interaction, your child gets pleasure from the online games. If that is not bad enough, research shows that the area of the brain where processing takes place, can shrink. A child from less than ideal circumstances already has more difficulty using their frontal lobe of the brain for such higher level functions such as planning and organizing. If this area of the brain is further compromised by the extensive use of video games, then your child can be further dysregulated—leading to angry outbursts, temper tantrums, and impulsive activities. In addition to the gray matter in the brain being compromised, the white matter in the brain is also compromised leading to problems in the connections in the brain. Children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) can already have diminished brain function between the left and right brain hemispheres. Video games can further deteriorate this connectivity.

Initially, it is easy to have your child happily playing away on the Ipad while you get chores and other work done. However, there is a longer-term price to pay. For more information about the dramatic positive effects coming off of electronics can have for your child read https://drdunckley.com/2015/11/11/screentime-making-kids-moody-crazy-lazy/

 

And while we are discussing screen time, please put the phone away.  Even if you are not looking at it while your children are around, just the fact that your phone is out and within sight causes anxiety in children.  They know you could be interrupted any minute.  Somehow our parents and grandparents were able to go to the pool and beach without them.  Put yours away in a plastic Ziploc bag.

 

Special Activities for Special Kids:

 

Many of our adopted children who come from difficult places, have sensory and other issues that make it difficult for the child to engage. Attachment enhancing activities can still be done with your child’s special issues being considered. While I do not like to diagnose children, knowing what types of behaviors your child has (e.g., “My child is hyperactive at times and sometimes has difficulty paying attention.” instead of, “My child has ADHD,”) can help you gear activities with your child’s needs in mind.

For a child with attention and hyperactivity issues, try games such as “Mother May I.” Your child needs to focus on what is being said, (“Jump forward three times”) as well as actually following the instructions. For children who are newly adopted, this game can also reinforce listening to mom and obeying her as well as recognizing her as the “real” mom. The instructions can be playful and funny. Make your child laugh. You will too!

If your child has trouble sitting down, allow the child to have sensory gadgets to squeeze and hold while engaging in an activity. So while your child is being read to, let him hold one of these objects.  Some kids also need chewing toys as well.

For a child who tends to be anxious, any exercise that encourages breathing can be calming. You may want to listen to some muscle relaxation on YouTube such as Progressive Muscle Relaxation.  Calming music is also helpful if you can talk to your child about relaxing her body and helping her breathe slowly and deeply. If your child (and you) can actually do this five to ten minutes a day, twice a day, this can make a great impact on your child’s anxiety level.

To make these relaxation exercises more kid friendly, you can give your child a lemon and encourage her to squeeze the lemon enough to “make” lemonade. As your child squeezes the lemon, your child can also tighten different areas of the body, starting with the neck, chest, and working down to his toes.

If in the pool, you can blow bubbles for a certain period of time. Your child’s taking big breathes, holding her breath, and then exhaling is very calming and helps your child relax. Your child can blow while you count and then you can blow bubbles while your child counts.

To help your child feel more in control and to further reduce anxiety, let your child be a special hero who is able to conquer all sorts of “monsters.” Give your child a towel gently knotted like a cape and let your child play superhero around the pool. Make up the names of various monsters that your child can whack with a pool noodle. “I am going to whack the pretend boogie man who lives under my bed.” (Of course, if your child has never mentioned such fears, do not introduce the thought into your child’s head.)

For children prone to angry explosions, help them to recognize what their body feels like when they “blow up.”  Do not try to discuss the situation in the middle of  your child’s outburst. However, during a time when your child is calm, encourage your child to “explode” like a volcano in the water. He can jump out of the water and then growl. You can do this also. Laugh about your explosions. You can do this with waves in the ocean as they come over the child’s feet. Discuss how angry feelings can take over—just like ocean waves. Or you can make a volcano out of sand and fill it with water. Ask, “What does an ‘angry’ volcano do?” Let your child either have water spill over or perhaps destroy the volcano. If in the pool, have your child splash their arms in the water and make big splashes that represent anger. Then talk about what anger feels like. Then talk about the things that cause your child to feel angry. Share some of what presses your buttons as well. From there you can discuss things that the child can do when he is angry so that he does not feel like the hot lava coming down a volcano. You can ask your child if going to another room, talking with an adult, or holding a stuffed animal helps with angry feelings.

For children with disruptive behaviors, such as those who refuse to follow rules and who refuse to accept “no” for an answer, you can use a bottle of soda water as an illustration of what it is like to hold onto anger too long.  Talk with your child about the things that make a bottle of soda water bubble up and then explode when you open the bottle (e.g., shaking it, turning in upside down). Then talk about ways to open the bottle so that the soda does explode. Then have your child talk about ways that make his bubbles get very excited and ways that he can settle down those bubbles so he does not explode (e.g., punching a pillow, talking with mom, or reading a good book).

For children with annoying behaviors, such as repetitive motions, getting into others’ space, or making inappropriate sounds, you can play games of things that annoy people and ask your child what annoys him. For example, you can both hum loudly and talk about how humming can be very annoying. Make fun of yourself. You can eat noisily and slurp your coffee extra loudly. Then discuss how these noises can be funny but they can also be ver….y annoying. Then get your kiddos to do the same. You may also want to write down some of these behaviors on a beach ball (see below),  in which you put down other social skills  on the ball (e.g., “chew with mouth closed”) and have your child talk about ways do the right behavior instead of the annoying one.

If your child has obsessive compulsive thoughts and behaviors, you can place beans, seeds, or marbles in a bucket, and these can represent the OCD thought or behavior. If at the beach, you can put wet sand in a pail. You can say, “These beans/marbles/ beads/sand are what sometimes takes over your thoughts.” (Do not say to the child she has OCD.) Then have the child put her hands in the bucket and feel the OCD problem taking over her hands. Describe how easy it is to get buried in the thoughts and feelings. Now, you, the parent, are going to protect the child from these beads. Put your hands over your child’s hands so that the beads or other materials cannot touch your child. Another way to do this exercise is to put little toys in the beads or sand and tell your child the objects are the OCD. Then you will put your hands into the sand and help your child’s hands not to get “attacked” by the objects that represent OCD. You, as the parent, can remove the OCD objects.

While keeping the exercise “light,” and even have moments of silliness, let your child know you take her thoughts and feelings seriously. The idea is for you, the parent, not to be the enabler but truly be the protector of your child and to help your child control her thoughts so she does not engage in ritualized OCD behaviors.

Almost all children from difficult circumstances have experienced trauma. Some of this trauma is not remembered or was more subtle. Serious outward trauma may be played out or discussed over and over again by your child. Your child may feel at times that he is re-experiencing it. Other children avoid talking about the incident, no matter how safe they feel with you. Often these children will be clingy and won’t want you out of their sight.

You can make a special box for your child and put things in there that represents part of your child’s history. Your child can take these items out and talk about them. The story your child tells may not be about the specific trauma but about other events that took place. As your child becomes more comfortable, she may begin to share with you. Mellenthin,* recommends watching  “Boundin” –a short film on YouTube that shows a lamb who faces adversity (getting shaved each year). After watching the video, you can have your child get a puppet or stuffed animal to replay what happened and how the  little lamb (and your child) can bounce back.

You can have fun using  beach balls to address many other issues including expressing feelings.   Blow up a beach ball and on the ball , using a Sharpie pen, write as many feelings (e.g., sad, mad, glad, excited, disappointed) on it that your children can name. Then toss the ball. Whoever catches it selects the feeling closest to the right thumb. Have the child share what makes the child have that feeling. Of course, the adults who play also share their feelings. The rule should be that a new feeling is selected each time and each child has a turn. The game can be varied by hitting the ball with your heads, your thumbs, passing it like a volleyball punch, or hitting it with the feet or knees and then picking up with the hands.

A new ball can be blown up and on it you and your children can put on it social skills such as saying, “Thank you,” giving compliments, asking a question nicely, and staying in your own space. As noted above, you can also put down the opposite of annoying behaviors (e.g., quietly chew food).

The third ball can have coping skills on it, which may include deep breathing, doing jumping jacks, pushing the wall down, blowing bubbles, talking to someone, hitting a pillow. It is better if your children can be involved in coming up with their own coping strategies. Playing with the ball can be used to address other issues as well.**

Remember, you only have to get it right with your kids about 30% of the time to be a good and effective parent.  Also, the more playful you are, the more you will enjoy your kids, and, in turn, you will be creating fun summer memories.

 

* Play Therapy: Engaging and & Powerful Techniques for the Treatment of Childhood Disorders, by Clair Mellenthin, LCSW, RPT-S, 2018.

** This was developed by Robert Jason Grant and is called Feelings Beach Ball: from Play Based Interventions of Autism Spectrum disorder and Other Developmental Disabilities.

How to Manage and Complete Adoption Paperwork

 

When my wife and I meet new people, I love explaining what I do for work and the joy I get from helping guide families throughout their adoption process. I love sharing the adoption stories and testimonies of the families we work with, and how each have a personal and unique journey through adoption. For those looking to build their family through adoption, the process is indeed a journey; one that will be simultaneously life-giving and challenging. As with any journey, often times the hardest part is getting started.

 

I find this to be especially true with the families I work with as they begin to navigate the adoption paperwork stage of the process.  Adoption paperwork is a necessary and vital part of the adoption journey, but it can definitely feel overwhelming for families.  Even the most organized of couples tend to have a hard time keeping it all together! At Nightlight Christian Adoptions, we acknowledge the difficulty of this process, so we have compiled a few tips to help families manage, and ultimately complete, their adoption paperwork.

 

     1. Break Paperwork Down to Manageable Pieces

 

One of the biggest mistakes I see families make in the adoption paperwork phase is when they try to take on every form at once. This usually starts out with good intentions as the family is driven by their excitement to keep the ball rolling, but it is almost always met with them becoming overwhelmed. Instead, we recommend that families break their paperwork down into manageable pieces.

 

Breaking the paperwork down is a beneficial way to both organize forms and find peace of mind by putting your work into perspective. A helpful way to do this is to separate the paperwork into corresponding sections in a folder or binder. An example breakdown of this is as followed:

 

  • Agency Forms
  • Home Study Forms
  • Financial Forms
  • Dossier Forms
  • Education Forms, etc.

 

Another way to break down the paperwork requirements is to separate responsibilities between you and your spouse. You can designate who fills out each section of forms and come together on the forms that require both adoptive parents to complete. Regardless of one’s method, breaking down the paperwork into pieces helps families manage their work and prevents them from becoming overwhelmed with the process.

 

 

  1. Utilize Your Checklists

 

A helpful tool that every Nightlight office provides for families is a checklist for the supporting documents of each case stage.  Viewing the adoption paperwork broken down as a checklist allows a family to physically track their progress towards completing their required forms. We advise families to always keep these checklists handy, and to utilize their own created checklists if it helps them understand the process more tangibly. For families with children in the home, this is also a way to get them involved in the adoption process. One idea for families with little ones is to have a checklist of adoption paperwork on a whiteboard or poster board where they can help you place a sticker or draw a checkmark when and item is completed. This could be a fun way to have the whole family feel a part of the adoption process while giving you a visual of your progress.

 

  1. Make Copies of Everything You Complete

 

Often times I find that families become so focused on filling out and uploading/mailing their forms that they forget to make copies for their own records. This causes an issue later in the process when a document needs to be resent or referred to, only for the family to realize that they mailed or discarded their only copy. Several of the documents completed during the adoption paperwork phase will need to be referred to again in the process, and ensuring that your family has access to what you have already completed will save a lot of time and energy in the future.

 

Your family might choose to store everything online or through hard copies, but regardless of the method it is important to keep records of your paperwork throughout the entire adoption journey. For example, a family that is adopting internationally might think that they are finished with their paperwork once they have arrived back in the U.S. with their child. However, in reality they will need several of their documents in order to obtain the child’s social security number, U.S. Passport, and start the re-adoption process if applicable. So a good rule of thumb is to always back-up and keep record of every document you complete!

 

  1. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help

 

This tip might seem like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how frequently I hear from families who are hesitant to ask for help from their agency caseworker or adoption advisor. At Nightlight we are always willing to help walk our families through the process: from start to finish! This includes the paperwork phase, as we recognize the amount of work that is required and the confusion that comes with the process. From application, to home study, to dossier, to post adoption; whatever questions you might have regarding paperwork during your adoption journey, your Nightlight adoption advisor or caseworker is willing to help you find a solution.

So although paperwork is not the most exciting part of your adoption journey, it is something that is vital to the process. Instead of becoming overwhelmed with the amount of forms and documents, utilize the tools at your disposal to organize and manage what needs to be completed. As always, Nightlight Christian Adoptions is here to see that your journey end with you welcoming your child into a loving home.

 

written by John Hewitt, M.Div.| Home Study Coordinator

Ways to Love a Birth Mom

All the chocolate has been consumed. All the flowers purchased and delivered. All the cards and kind messages relayed to loved ones. As February is drawing to an end, what better time to reflect on what it looks like to love others well in the coming year. As adoptive parents, you often have special people to love that would not have otherwise crossed your paths if it weren’t for adoption. Whether you are still waiting to meet your child’s birth mother or whether you’re walking through life with her already, here are some practical ways you can actively and genuinely love the women in your lives that made the sacrificial choice of adoption and, thus, have become a special part of your family.

  1. Pray. Pray daily for your child’s birth mother. Pray that she would grow in wisdom. Pray that she would know God’s presence and be comforted by His great love for her. Pray that she would be strengthened by His spirit and that any shame or guilt would be laid to rest through Christ’s love and fondness for her. Set aside a special time each day—maybe the hour your child was born or the hour you first met your child’s birth mother—to specifically and earnestly pray for her.
  2. Give. Give your time, especially. Give a listening ear. Give a photo when you promised to send one. Give a special gift on certain days throughout the year. Give validation where it is needed. Birth mothers experience a variety of different thoughts and emotions that are often hard for them to process and express. Validate her fears when they are expressed to you. Validate her sadness and grief. Validate her efforts to remain connected with your child. Validate her value and worth as an individual. Validate her gifts and talents as they become evident to you.
  3. Pay attention. Whether you already know your child’s birth mother or are just beginning to get to know her, take time to understand what makes her feel loved, valued, respected, and cherished. Does she respond well to words of affirmation or prefer receiving gifts? Does she enjoy spending quality time or appreciate acts of service? Be attentive to her needs as an individual and seek to meet them in notable ways. Write a note to her detailing what you love or value about her. Send a bouquet of flowers to her unexpectedly one day. Speak to her as a friend. Really pay attention to what she says and value the opportunity to learn from her.
  4. Do what you say you’re going to do. Birth mothers have often had people in their lives make promises that are left unfulfilled. You can imagine how wounding that can be over time. Overcommitting can often lead to even more heartbreak, grief, and rejection for birth mothers. That is why it is absolutely crucial to avoid overcommitting and only say what you’re actually willing to do. Let your yes be your yes, and your no be your no. If you say you’ll send pictures, send them as you promised. If you agreed to meet up before the birth, make time to meet her! If you told her you would write a letter a few times a year, make sure the letters make it to her.
  5. Empathize. Social researcher, Dr. Brené Brown, made an important distinction when saying that empathy fuels connection, whereas sympathy drives disconnection. Connection is always the goal—for adoptive parents, birth parents, and children. So, when listening to the stories, thoughts, or feelings of these courageous women, try focusing on empathizing—feeling with them rather feeling sorry for them. For more on the distinction Dr. Brown makes and why empathy holds so much more power when connecting with not just birth mothers, but also others with whom we interact each day, I would encourage you to watch this short video.

Equipping Minds of All Ages and Abilities to Reach Their Full Potential

 

 

Autism Spectrum, Anxiety, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, Gifted, Learning Challenges, ADD/ADHD, Traumatic Brain Injury, Memory,Comprehension, Down Syndrome, Processing Disorders, Dementia, Executive Functioning, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Communication Disorders, Trauma, Post Concussion Syndrome, Parkinsons, PANDAS, and Neurodevelopment Disorders

Equipping Minds to Reach Their Full Potential 

Join Dr. Carol Brown

FACEBOOK LIVE

NO CHARGE

February 6,13,20,27 – March 6,13,20,27

Wednesday’s 6:30-7:30 PM  EDT

Or Join In Person at Buck Run Baptist Church

1950 Leestown Road, Frankfort, KY

Sessions will be recorded and available to watch later on the Equipping Minds Youtube channel and Facebook page.

 

Host a group at your home, church, or school.We will be playing games to build cognitive, social, emotional, sensory, and motor skills.  These games are used to find the specific areas in which the brain struggles such as working memory, processing speed, perceptual reasoning, and comprehension. Parents, teachers, and therapists are implementing at home, in the classroom, and in their centers improving reading, math, writing, language, social skills, and behavior.

 

We will have 8 sessions to equip you to work with your own children.

 

What separates Equipping Minds from other programs is its holistic approach. The Equipping Minds program uses nutritional therapy, primitive reflex exercises, sound therapy, vestibular therapy, and vision exercises in addition to Equipping Minds cognitive exercises.

 

Scientists are excited about your brain’s abilities to keep growing, learning, changing,and healing, ALL THROUGH LIFE! Equipping Minds will give you the practical exercises and games to do just that. You will be equipped to build memory, processing, comprehension, language, social, and reasoning skills in learners of all ages and abilities. It is based on a biblical view of human development that believes the brain can change.

 

Equipping Minds also differs from other programs, in that, these brain strengthening exercises use what the student already knows. Equipping Minds ingeniously sets aside academic skills allowing us to get to the foundational roots and cognitive functions, quickly and accurately. Working memory and processing speed are two of the most common weaknesses we see in students with learning challenges. They often get labeled with ADHD, dyslexia, and other learning disorders when what they really need is a holistic approach to address the neurodevelopmental and cognitive foundations.

 

I am excited to see how God will use this course. Please share with those you feel would benefit.

 

Blessings,

Carol 

Dr. Carol Brown has over 35 years of experience as a principal, teacher, cognitive developmental therapist, social worker, reading and learning specialist, speaker, HSLDA special needs consultant, and mother.  Carol has completed her Doctor of Education (Ed.D) from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. She received her M.A. in Social Services from Southwestern Seminary and B.A. in Rehabilitation Counseling from Marshall University. She is a contributing author in the book, Neuroscience and Christian Formation, Human Development: Equipping Minds with Cognitive Development , and the Equipping Minds Cognitive Development Curriculum. 

She has served as a learning specialist, teacher, principal, and head of school  in classical Christian schools in North Carolina, Georgia, Northern Virginia, and Lyon, France. Carol trains public, private, and homeschool educators in the Equipping Minds Cognitive Development Curriculum which she created. She has conducted professional development workshops for Kentucky Association of School Councils (KASC), Toyota, University of Kentucky College of Medicine, Kentucky Parks and Recreation, Kentucky Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, Centre College,Society of Professors in Christian Education (SPCE), National Alliance on Mental Illness ( NAMI),  homeschool conferences, and civic organizations. 

   

Preserving Your Marriage During Your Adoption Journey

 

Adopting a child is exciting and joyful, but it can also bring stress and strain into a couple’s marriage. Our lives are already filled with stresses from work, financial obligations, and other family-related issues, and the adoption process only adds more strain. Some couples considering adoption may still be experiencing emotions related to infertility. Others may already have children born to them and are now considering adoption to continue building their family. Regardless of the situation, the adoption process will add more pressure to your life.

If you and your spouse are considering adoption, whether it’s domestic, international, foster, or embryo adoption, here are some suggestions for keeping your marriage strong:

First thing’s first: Make sure you are both in agreement before you begin the adoption process.

It is rare to hear of an adoption story where both parties are on the same page when first considering adoption. Adopting a child will rank in the top five most important decisions any couple will make. While you may not begin on the same page, it’s absolutely essential you both agree before starting the process.

If you are facing infertility, one way to begin working towards being on the same page is grieving the loss of your genetic child. Couples who adopt after infertility need to acknowledge their loss and grieve them together. If the couple does not reflect on their loss together, they may not be ready to fully enjoy the amazing blessing of adoption. You can watch our webinar for more information on grieving the loss of a genetic child.

Romance is Important!

Date night is important! Don’t stop enjoying each other’s company because of the stress of the adoption process. Schedule something to do every week, or at least once a month, that has nothing to do with the adoption. This will help you both to remember your relationship is first and foremost.

It’s a Marathon, not a Sprint

Adjusting to the adoption doesn’t end when you sign the initial paperwork, or complete your home study, or when you are matched, or even when you first bring your child into your home. Adoption is a marathon, not a sprint. You will be parents to the child for life. Be prepared to make adjustments to your schedules and lives that you may not have otherwise done.

Communicate Frequently

There may be a tendency to keep things hidden from your spouse. Whether you don’t want to hurt them or you have concerns or doubts they don’t agree with—it can be a temptation. It is important to set aside time to talk to one another about what is happening. It’s also equally important to listen as much as you talk.

For more information on preserving your marriage while building your family, watch our webinar here.

The Travesty of Human Trafficking

Definition: Human trafficking is exploitation of another person to force them to work for little or no pay. It’s often associated with sex work, but trafficking is a little broader than that; for example, many trafficked people are forced to do agricultural labor.

 

Human trafficking is a sticky subject that’s as important to address as it is uncomfortable to think about. We don’t want slavery to be an issue, so sometimes we forget that it still is. Maybe we don’t want to know what’s going on in that dark corner of society. Why should we be aware of the human trafficking situation?

 

Every compassionate person is grieved by the idea of someone else being mistreated or abused. Just as we don’t want to have our life, its potential, and our dreams stolen from us, we don’t want others to experience that loss. But while sometimes we feel pain in our hearts, or empathize with someone in our head, that doesn’t mean our hands act. We may be educated about the plight of slaves, but let us be stirred to action by it.

 

There is a Biblical mandate to help the helpless: Jeremiah 22:3 says, “Thus says the LORD, “Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.” If we are God’s people, we should act according to His values. We ourselves were helpless, and He saved us; should we not do the same for others He longs to save?

 

Let us take a few moments to explore some facts behind human trafficking, and learn about ways people (law enforcement officers and civilians) are fighting this crime. By raising awareness, we seek not merely to educate others, but to spur them into action. Informed minds are a good first step, but busy hands and rescued lives are the goal.

 

 

“If you truly believe in the value of life, you care about all of the weakest and most vulnerable members of society.”               — Joni Eareckson Tada

 

Statistics about Trafficking

Worldwide, there are about 12.3 million adults and children in forced labor.a For this number, the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates a 9:1 ratio for labor trafficking victims to sex trafficking victims. While there are more slaves in the labor trade, sexual exploitation is by far the most commonly identified form of trafficking in persons (79%).b

 

In America, commercial sex enjoys a booming market. Sex is catching up to illegal drugs in demand, and has already passed illegal firearms. This may stem from the relative lower risk of the sex trade, and because victims can be “recycled” and used again.

 

Exploitation of minors is a large concern, especially for parents in metropolitan areas, and about kids from unstable homes. ILO estimates that one in five trafficking victims are minors6; the age for entering victimhood is becoming younger and younger, currently at about 13 years old.c In the United States, Polaris studies found that a little more than 40% of suspected or confirmed child victims of domestic sex trade are runaways from home, foster care, or shelters. 40-70% of all street youth engage in prostitution, at least occasionally, to meet their basic needs. Interestingly, this population is divided nearly equally among male and female.a

 

By state, California has the highest number of human trafficking cases by far, and Georgia is 8th highest on the list. Nationwide, more citizens than foreigners are victimized. Most of these victims are adults, and the majority of them are female (82%). In 2017, Polaris reported 8,524 cases of human trafficking in the United States, and 405,308 total cases since 2007.d

 

Let’s look even closer to home: since 2007 in Georgia there have been about 3.3k victims of “moderate” trafficking cases, and just under 4k victims of “high” trafficking cases.d More recently, in 2018, about 21% of trafficking cases were labor-related, and around 68% were sex trafficking. The number of victims are almost equal for foreigners vs. U.S. citizens, which is a sinister aspect of sex trafficking: the trade isn’t isolated to any one geographical location, neither does it tend to target one race or socioeconomic class over the other.d Women are the only ones that seem singled out, since about 4 in 5 victims are female.c Everyone has at least one woman involved in their lives (a mother, sister, wife, daughter, or friend, etc.), so this is truly a risk that concerns everyone.

 

Last decade, between 2003 and 2007, Washington, D.C. studied 8 major American cities and found that metro Atlanta had the largest sex trade among them, making more revenue off sex ($290 million) than illegal drugs and guns combined.e Miami was 2nd at $200 mil, and Dallas was $99.

Statistics:

Every month in Georgia:

·         354 minors are sold for sex to 7,200 customers.c
·         Including repeat purchases, an estimated 8,770 sex acts are paid for.c
·         Approximately 374 girls are sexually exploited.f
·         About 12,400 customers pay for sex.g

Trafficking in Atlanta:

·         Roughly 300 girls from Atlanta are lured into trafficking every month, many of them from Mexico.e
·         Most sex purchases are done around suburban and metro Atlanta, 9% of them made near the airport.g
·         Atlanta has the highest number of trafficked Hispanic females in the nation.h

 

Effects of Trafficking

So far, all we’ve explored is the population of modern slaves. We’ve established there are far too many people suffering in bondage. Now let us consider the individual slave, and the horrors that defile their life. Statistics mean nothing if there is no day-to-day reality behind them; we will only try to stop a force when we believe it is wicked. What is it that makes trafficking something we should spend energy fighting?

 

The deleterious effects of trafficking are numerous. Of course, there are physical harms done to a body, if they’re forced to work long hours in a sickly environment (chronic fatigue, infectious diseases, and pain are common results of this), or are a part of the sex industry (there is rectal trauma, pregnancies, or botched abortions, and exposure to STDs). Additionally, it is possible a victim is malnourished, physically abused, and unable to get treatment for conditions such as diabetes or cancer. Many victims may turn to substance abuse as a method of mental escape, if they can’t get away physically.

 

There are also psychological harms to consider. Rescued victims of human trafficking are at a great risk for “anxiety, panic disorder, major depression, substance abuse, and eating disorders.”12 Victims also commonly suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD greatly contributes to functional and behavioral problems, such as self-mutilation, suicidal behavior, and difficulties in controlling emotions and concentrating. Thus, even if a victim is physically taken out of the hands of the trafficker, it can be difficult for them to recover, obtain and keep a job, or even perform basic functions in society.i

 

Amorality of Trafficking

“For me, no ideological or political conviction would justify the sacrifice of a human life. For me, the value of life is absolute, with no concessions. It’s not negotiable.”                 — Edgar Ramirez

 

Hopefully we find our stomachs turning over as we consider these atrocities. Feelings of repulsion and disgust assure us that we are not sadistic, but we should understand this is more than just a crime or violation of the 13th Amendment. Trafficking is a moral wrong, and a trespass against not only a person’s body, but on a human’s soul.

 

Our Creator, Who shaped our minds and bodies, knows exactly what the injurious impacts of trafficking are. He speaks clearly against kidnapping in Exodus 21:16 when He commands, “He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death.” (Deut. 24:7 speaks similarly) In Luke 10:7, Jesus says “The laborer is worthy of his wages,” meaning we should pay one another fairly. (This is repeated in 1 Tim. 5:18) In 1 Corinthians 6, verses 9 and 18 speak against sexual immorality and promiscuity, declaring that the sexually immoral will not inherit the kingdom of God, while Deuteronomy 22:25-29 explains the punishment for a rapist.

 

Clearly, human trafficking, whether for labor, sex, or anything else, is contrary to God’s perfect plan for the earth. He instilled in us an antipathy towards these heinous acts, and inspired us to hate what He hates. He even tells us to do something about the problem: Psalm 82:4 says “Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.”

 

The good news is that there are already individuals who are passionate about rescuing the weak and needy. Laws have been passed in Georgia that allow space for stricter punishments on traffickers, and make their case harder to defend.j But we must realize tighter punishment isn’t sufficient to eradicate the problem; if traffickers will ignore their conscience and the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, then cracking down tougher laws won’t stop all of them, either. Thankfully, there are plenty of non-governmental programs who place value on human life and are also ready to see the captive set free.

 

 

What Can We Do?

Although it’s difficult, many victims find they can recover from their trauma and become productive in work again. As Psalm 68:20 says, “God is to us a God of deliverances; And to GOD the Lord belong escapes from death.” Already there are teams and institutions in place that make concerted efforts to free slaves and offer them another chance at life. Some of these are listed below:

 

Street Grace is an Atlanta-based and faith-driven organization dedicated to decreasing the demand for the sex trade. They fight domestic minor sex trafficking through awareness, education, and action. They seek to train all city and county personnel to recognize and report cases of trafficking.c

 

Not for Sale is based in San Francisco, but is at work in over 40 countries across 5 continents.  They labor to stop modern slavery through a 3-step process: they meet the needs of slaves, learn why a region is at risk for slavery, and seek to establish ways to reduce that risk and enrich the lives of inhabitants. “Forced labor is a tool,” they say, but an unethical one they seek to replace with skills, stability, and fairness that still values each person.k

 

There are also networks, like The National Human Trafficking Hotline which is operated by Polaris, a non-profit, non-governmental organization. Funded by the Department of Health and Human Services, the Hotline provides assistance via phone or email in over two hundred languages, at all hours of the day, every day of the year.a

 

Most networks are typically non-profit and rely on the monetary and spiritual support of their communities and churches to function. There are many, many more such projects and groups worldwide, all seeking to rescue specific types of victims.

 

If donations and prayer seem like overly simplistic solutions to the matter of human trafficking, there are more ways to respond. Most organizations gladly welcome more volunteers, and there are ample opportunities to stand against modern slavery every day: educate others about the horrors of the trade; teach your children to protect their peers; learn how to report suspected cases of trafficking; if you see a woman in tears, ask her if she’s okay; stand closer to the little boy who’s alone on the metro, or keep an eye on him as he walks through the mall (you needed to visit the LEGO section anyway, didn’t you?).

 

Be aware of others, and the battles they may be fighting, and more importantly be always ready and equipped to fight your own battle for the Lord. The words of 1 Peter 5:8 will always be true: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” God grant that, through our concerted efforts fueled by the Lord’s power and grace, we can make that prowling lion starve.

 

 

 

  1. Polaris Project. (2010). “Human Trafficking Statistics.” http://www.polarisproject.org/resources/resources-by-topic/human-trafficking
  2. International Labour Office. ILO Global Estimate of Forced Labor: Results and Methodologies. (2012). Special Programme to Combat Forced Labour. http://www.ilo.org/sapfl/Informationresources/ILOPublications/WCMS_182004/lang–en/index.htm
  3. “Initiatives.” Street Grace, www.streetgrace.org/initiatives/. 2019.
  4. “We’ll Listen. We’ll Help.” National Human Trafficking Hotline, humantraffickinghotline.org/. 2018.
  5. Belt, Deb. “Atlanta Ranked No. 1 for Sex Trafficking; Conventions to Blame?” Stone Mountain-Lithonia, GA Patch, Patch National Staff, 13 Mar. 2014, patch.com/georgia/buckhead/atlanta-ranked-no-1-for-sex-trafficking-conventions-to-blame. 2019.
  6. Governor’s Office for Children and Families. (December 2009). Unprecedented Private-Public Collaboration to Support Adolescent Victims of Commercial Sexual Exploitation in Georgia. Retrieved from: http:// children.georgia.gov/press-releases/2009-12-29/unprecedented-private-public-collaboration-support-adolescent-victims
  7. The Schapiro Group. (2010). Men Who Buy Sex with Adolescent Girls: A Scientific Research Study. Retrieved from: http://www.womensfundingnetwork.org/sites/wfnet.org/files/AFNAP/TheSchapiroGroupGeorgiaDemandStudy.pdf
  8. Thomas, Sara R. and Renea Anderson. Human Trafficking: Modern Day Slavery. Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Human Trafficking Unit. Retrieved from: http://dfcs.dhs.georgia.gov/sites/dfcs.dhs.georgia.gov/ files/related_files/site_page/BST%20Human%20Trafficking%20Workshop.pdf
  9. Clawson, Heather J, et al. “Treating the Hidden Wounds: Trauma Treatment and Mental Health Recovery for Victims of Human Trafficking.” ASPE, US Department of Health and Human Services, 21 Feb. 2017, aspe.hhs.gov/report/treating-hidden-wounds-trauma-treatment-and-mental-health-recovery-victims-human-trafficking.
  10. “Human Trafficking.” Office of Attorney General Chris Carr, law.georgia.gov/human-trafficking. 2019.
  11. “Homepage.” Not For Sale, 2016, www.notforsalecampaign.org/.

 

Ways To Give To the Foster Adopt Community

 

 

The holidays are a joyous time of year. But unless gift gifting is your love language, finding gifts for everyone on your Christmas list can cause some extra stress! Here are some recommendations on how you can bless the foster or foster adoptive child or parent in your life this Christmas season.

 

Date-Night In Gift Package

Finding respite care for children in foster care, or feeling comfortable leaving your children with a stranger, is a hard thing for a foster parent. A “date night” in could be the perfect compromise for your foster family. You could include toys or activities for the children, board games or crafts, and gift the parents a movie and popcorn. Offering to provide in-home babysitting while they have their date night is an extra bonus!

 

Gift Cards to Restaurants or Grocery Stores

As your family grows, it can get expensive to eat out. But many foster children have not experienced dinners at a sit-down restaurant, so this would provide an extra special treat for the family. It also provides the parents a break from cooking!

 

Photo Books /Frames

Photo books can be very special for foster children who may not have any pictures of themselves as babies or toddlers. Many foster parents create Lifebooks, a recording of the child’s memories, past and present, that are preserved in a binder, photo album, or book. This is a gift that can stay with the foster child if they return home. Or photo frames the parents can hang on the wall will help a child feel part of the family and provide a sense of extra comfort.

 

Relaxation

Items that provide relaxation for the foster parents is always appreciated. It could be a journal, candles, bath salts, a gift certificate for a massage, or a good book.

 

Sensory Tools & Games

Many children in foster care struggle with sensory integration or the processing and organizing of sensory information from the senses. When a child struggles with sensory integration, they can have a hard time interpreting sensory information. Sensory tools such as a weighted blanket, fidgets, balance disks, etc. can be extremely helpful for a child!

This website has a list of sensory tools recommended by occupational therapists: https://www.therapyshoppe.com/specials/1423-sensory-toys-tools-products-for-sensory-integration-special-needs-kids-children

 

Handmade Gift Certificates

Handmade gift certificates for a month of weekly homemade meals, offers to provide babysitting, or yard care can go a long way, especially for working foster parents.

 

 

If you don’t have a specific child or family in mind, but want to give back to the foster adopt community, here are some recommendations on how to bless and support local and nationwide organizations who have a direct impact on foster youth and teens:

 

Together We Rise – This organization is comprised of motivated young adults and former foster youth. They partner with hundreds of foster agencies, social workers, CASA advocates, and others across the nation to support foster youth. They provide thousands of foster youth with new bicycles, college supplies, and sweet cases so children don’t have to travel from home to home with their belongings in at trash bag. Learn more here: https://www.togetherwerise.org/projects/

 

Dream Makers –Every year, 26,000 teens age out of the foster care system without a family to call their own. Many are left without a loving support system or resources to help them reach their full potential. Dream Makers allows you to meet the needs and dreams of these youth as they enter into adulthood. Requests have included laptops for college, emergency funds, funds for driver’s education classes, and much more. Learn more here: https://dreammakersproject.org/ .

 

The Adoption Exchange – A nonprofit organization that helps establish safety and permanency in the lives of foster children. They provide recruitment services to help children who have survived abuse and neglect find families, training for families and child welfare professionals, and support families along their foster care and adoption journey. Headquartered in Colorado, the Adoption Exchange also operates in Missouri, Nevada, Utah, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wyoming. They have a birthday fund to provide birthday gifts for children waiting in foster care, volunteer opportunities, and monthly giving opportunities. Learn more here: https://www.adoptex.org/