Why Foster Teens?

 

The attitudes. The cell phones. The hormones. Are these things that come to mind when you think of teens in foster care? It’s true — all teens, whether in foster care or not, can be challenging. Being a foster care parent to teens is hard, but it is also incredibly rewarding.

Plus, teens also come with great perks:

  • Teens are independent.
  • You can sleep in on weekends.
  • Date nights can happen without a babysitter.
  • Teens can babysit.
  • You get to teach valuable adult life skills.
  • They love structure.
  • They get to see a healthy, loving family.
  • You can help stop a cycle.
  • They’ll remember what you did for them forever.
  • You can help them rebuild trust in adults.
  • You get to help them envision a positive future.
  • Did I mention the extra sleep?

If you’re considering fostering teens, you’ve probably got a lot of questions, uncertainties, and fears. You may feel unprepared. That’s normal and it’s OK. What a teen in foster care needs most is love, acceptance, and grace — they just need someone to show up for them and a place to feel safe.

Here are a few tips for fostering teens:

  • Make boundaries, expectations, and rules clear from the start.
  • Meet them where they are, not where you think they should be.
  • Offer gentle nudges in the “right” direction.
  • Give them their own space to unpack, process, and feel things.
  • Always be honest and keep open communication.
  • Allow them to open up to you in their own time.
  • Don’t take things personally.

The need is great for foster families who are willing to say “Yes” to a teen. More teens need a loving and stable home than any other age range. These teens need and want a place to call home, a consistent place to celebrate holidays and milestones, and a place to feel safe and wanted. Many teens have to stay in a DSS office while a home is found for them, often missing school or other important events while they wait in limbo. Will you see the value in these amazing young adults? Will you step out on faith and say “Yes” to making a world of difference in the life of a teen?

If you aren’t quite ready to welcome a teen into your home long-term, there are many other ways to help, such as:

  • Offer emergency and short-term placement in your home.
  • Become a mentor to a teen in foster care.
  • Support a teen by becoming a Guardian ad Litem (GAL).
  • Initiate a fundraiser for local foster care organizations.
  • Volunteer in a group home for teens.
  • Provide meals for foster families.

The possibilities of ways you can help teens in foster care are endless. 

Every teen is unique and has individual needs, strengths, hopes, and fears. But each teen is worthy of love and worthy of the chance to bless your family. If you’re ready to find out more about how you can support teens by fostering or through other ways, your foster care community is here to support you every step of the way.

Compassion Fatigue in Fostering

 

It’s ok to say no…

 

People make the decision to be foster parents for many different reasons.  Many of those reasons come back to one core reason, the desire to help a child.  If you’ve made the decision to foster or are considering fostering, chances are good that you are compassionate.  That compassion is what drives you to step in a fill the gap in a child’s life.  It drives you to provide a loving, nurturing, and stable environment for the children in your care.

 

Despite the complexities of caring for children from tough backgrounds and the frustrations of dealing with the red tape of the foster care system, it is likely that you love what you do as a foster parent.  I’ve heard it said that foster parenting is the toughest job you’ll ever love and in my own experience that is 100% true.  It is a tough job (one of the toughest), but that compassion keeps driving you forward.  But, without learning to set boundaries and say no, that compassion can drive you right to compassion fatigue.

 

Compassion fatigue refers to an identifiable set of negative psychological symptoms that caregivers experience as a result of providing care while being exposed to either primary trauma (experiencing the trauma firsthand) or secondary trauma (rendering care to those experiencing trauma).  -Charles Figley

 

When we experience compassion fatigue we can’t care well for ourselves or the children in our care.  As a foster parent, you can’t go home and leave the worries of your job at work. Your home is your place of work, caring for these children is your job.  A study conducted by the University of Bristol’s Hadley Centre for Adoption and Foster Care Studies found that with appropriate support and regular “time-outs” foster parents are less likely to experience compassion fatigue.

 

Simply stated, it’s ok to say no!  Say no to the placement that you don’t think your family is equipped to care for.  Say no to the placement when your family needs to grieve the loss of the child that recently left you.  Say no to taking a placement when you feel you need a few days to regroup from your last placement.  Say no when your kids need a few days with you all to themselves.  It’s ok!  Your Nightlight Foster Care Advocate understands.  You need to be healthy and refreshed.  Your cup has to be filled or you will have nothing to pour out to your foster kids.  Just say no and give your family and your future foster kids the best you!

Ambiguous Loss and Adopted Children

Ambiguous loss is a term that defines the heartache and grief that comes with losing a person or relationship that is surrounded by confusion or uncertainty about that person or relationship.  Finding closure is difficult with normal losses, such as death, but it is impossible with ambiguous loss when the loss is not officially recognized or final.

Think about children who are unable to grow up in their biological family.  In addition to being separated from their family of origin, they lose all that is familiar to them. They experience the absence of their birth family, but know they are still present in the world. The foster or adopted child, as well as the birth family, may think about and be curious about the other. They may dream about what it would be like to be together. Adoptive parents may also experience ambiguous loss because of pregnancies that ended in miscarriage or from the loss of their dream of having biological children.  This article will focus on children, specifically as they reach school age, and begin to realize their losses. This time may bring about feelings of hurt and grief the child may have never acknowledged in the past. These losses are not commonly addressed in society and few rituals exist to allow an adoptee to express their loss.

Recently, I was talking to my teenage son, who was adopted from a Central American country as a toddler.  I talked to him about how ecstatic I was to return to the U.S. to introduce him to our family and friends, who were very happy about his arrival into our family.  At the same time, I shed tears as we flew away from his country of birth, knowing he was leaving behind his foster family, his birth family, his siblings (both foster and biological), his country of birth, first language, culture, traditions, religion, racial connections, medical history, genealogy, favorite foods, smells, etc.  I said, “We showered you with gifts and joyfulness, no one has ever talked to you about all that you lost. When someone dies, we go to their funeral and take a casserole to their family, but we’ve never really done anything to help give closure to all that you have lost.”  Even if no one dies, there is still loss in these situations.

There are two types of ambiguous loss. Type 1 is when a person is physically absent but psychologically present, meaning that the birth parent continues to influence the child’s thoughts, emotions, behaviors, identity and family unity. Type 2 is when there is a psychological absence with a physical presence.  This can be due to a mental or physical illness or a substance abuse problem.  This sometimes leads to Type 1 when the child is removed from the parent due to neglect.

Ambiguous loss has some warning signs that can look different from the normal response to grief throughout life stages:

  • When an infant or toddler is grieving, it is normal to show some separation anxiety.  However, if your foster or adopted child in this age range shows behavioral regression, confusion, or night terrors, it could be attributed to ambiguous loss.
  • School age children typically have difficulty identifying and expressing their emotions related to grief so they experience physical complaints such as stomachaches or headaches and show increased irritability.  Warning signs include acting-out behaviors, a loss of interest in school, teachers seeing poor concentration, regression, night terrors or an obsession with retelling.
  • Normal reactions to loss in adolescents is very similar to adults. They frequently experience feelings of guilt and often look to peers for support.  If you see a change in their energy level, poor concentration, loss of interest in school or if they seem emotionally numb or start to withdraw, these are warning signs of grieving ambiguous losses.  Signs of depression and anxiety, an inability to cope, difficulty with change and transitions, difficulty making decisions, decreased ability to cope with routine childhood or teenage losses, and PTSD symptoms are common responses.  The child may display learned helplessness or hopelessness or have feelings of guilt.

Ambiguous loss is overwhelming and confusing because the outcomes are not clear and cannot be determined.  The foster child or adoptee has trouble pressing forward because the loss lacks resolution – it’s unknown if it is temporary or final.  They want transparency about their past but at the same time refrain from receiving new information.  Ambiguity can wear away a child’s sense of mastery causing them to feel hopeless and creating feelings that the world is biased, dangerous, unpredictable and unruly. The stress of ambiguity, or vagueness, can be eased by helping the child acquire information.

The effect of unresolved loss on children can be great.  The bigger the ambiguity surrounding the child’s life, the more challenge they will have in mastering it.  In other words, increased uncertainties make it difficult to deal with the loss and has potential to cause increased depression, anxiety and internal conflict.  They can feel a lack of control over their situation or feel that people outside their family have more power than their parents.  Anxiety and fear can have a great influence if they were “taken away” or removed from their home, family, or country of origin. The child sometimes feels that they are the reason for the separation from their parents and have lost their ability to trust adults.  We can help influence a child’s reactions by validating their grief, inviting them to express their feelings, sharing similar experiences of other children and accepting the child’s spectrum of feelings.

Here are some ways to help your child deal with ambiguous loss:

  • Give voice!  Explain the feelings of ambiguous loss and acknowledge the difficulty of living with not having the answers.
  • Help the child understand as much as possible – Knowing what happened to the birth parent who left and why, or knowing what situations caused the loss and why it happened are key in helping the child understand.  This will allow the child to grieve which involves experiencing the painful feelings associated with the loss.
  • Help the child identify what has been lost – parent, extended family, loss of home or town where they were born, family that looks like them, last name, birth country, language, etc.
  • Find a way to commemorate the loss – Honor, recognize and acknowledge the memory of the people, places and things that are no longer part of the child’s daily life.  This leads to moving forward and permits the child to learn that the pain of grief lessens and the legacy of their past lies within themselves.
  • Create a “loss box” – find a box that can be decorated, if desired, and allow you child to place things inside the box that represent things that they have lost.  This can serve as a ritual and a way to revisit the losses in the future.
  • Events through the lifetime (holidays, birthdays, adoption anniversary, etc) can trigger feelings of loss.  Acknowledge the child’s feelings and add a family ritual to recognize important people or relationships that have been lost.  Example: Adding an extra candle on the birthday cake to represent the child’s birth family; or say “I bet your mom and dad are thinking about you today”.
  • Do not allow new relationships to be a replacement for past relationships.  Acknowledge your child’s birth parents and their previous foster families.  Look for ways to recognize members of their birth family.  Share their story and talk about it from the time they arrive home and continue this over time.  We can free our children from the past by giving opportunities to process and grieve their past losses.
  • Give your child permission to grieve without guilt!
  • Model ways for them to communicate their thoughts and the questions they may have.
  • Support your child’s emotions as he copes with his grief – It is impossible for us to fix the loss but we can validate and affirm their feelings.
  • Don’t expect that grief associated with ambiguous loss can be resolved within a specific time frame.  Understand and explain that these feelings will come and go at different times in life.  Always provide a safe place for your child to express those feelings.
  • Get in touch with your own grief!
  • Seek support from a therapist who is an adoption-competent professional.

While I have heard the term “ambiguous loss” for several years working in adoption, I’ve become passionate about the topic after sharing the term and the theory with my son.  I honestly feel like it was a turning point in his life and our relationship.  He understands that I know he has questions to which we have no answers and that I am familiar with some of what he has lost.  He knows that not having answers makes figuring out who he is, as well as the grief process, more difficult.  I’m pretty sure he identifies me as his safe place when he needs to express his feelings.  I’ve told him if he wants to search for his birth family to try to get more answers, I’ll be his biggest supporter.  I have more work to do to help him through his grief and loss and I understand there will be triggers as he grows and matures.  Having an understanding of ambiguous loss and the ability to explain it to him was a big step in the right direction.  I encourage you to start talking to your kids as soon as they are placed in your home and keep talking, especially as they reach adolescence, when it becomes increasingly more difficult.

By: Dana Poynter

The Best Therapies for Your Adopted Child (And You)

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

 

Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT)

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

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

 

Play Therapy

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

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

 

Animal-Assisted Therapy

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

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

 

Art/Music Therapy

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

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

 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Trauma Focused- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

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

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

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

 

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Therapy

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

By: Heather Sloan, LBSW

Book Review: The Connected Parent

A Book Review by Dana Poynter of “The Connected Parent: Real-Life Strategies for Building Trust and Attachment” authored by Karyn Purvis, PhD and Lisa Qualls with Emmelie Pickett

 

Several Nightlight employees, including myself, through a grant from Show Hope, had the privilege of becoming TBRI trained in 2012 by Dr. Karyn Purvis herself!  Nine years later, this continues to be a highlight of training as an adoption professional.  It is our intention that all Nightlight clients become familiar with the letters “TBRI” which stand for Trust-Based Relational Intervention and receive an introduction and understanding of what it means to be TBRI trained as they begin their adoption journey.  As part of our Parent Education process, we require Nightlight clients read The Connected Child by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. David Cross, the best-selling book in the category of adoption.  It is our belief that much can be learned from their thorough research and resources on attaching with and parenting children from “hard places”, a term coined by Dr. Purvis.

When Dr. Purvis passed away in the Spring of 2016, after a long hard-fought battle with cancer, we at Nightlight, along with others familiar with her research, mourned her loss.  When The Connected Parent was released in 2020, so many of us were excited to get our hands on a new resource backed by Dr. Purvis.

Lisa Qualls had approached Dr. Purvis about co-authoring a book wherein Ms. Qualls would explain how she used TBRI principles with her own children who were adopted.  What transpired was a wonderful parenting guide for families who are parenting children who come from difficult beginnings.  By combining Dr. Purvis’ research and strategies and Ms. Qualls (and others) real life situations, even more practical information is given for handling difficult parenting moments.  The book not only shares advice on how to approach and direct children, but also how to help them heal.

The book is easy to read with short chapters ending with key takeaways and simple ideas of strategies to try “today”.  The chapters are organized into three parts. The first part delves into understanding attachment.  As always, TBRI focuses on a child’s cycle of attachment while also encouraging parents to consider their own history of attachment and the effects on current relationships.  The second part addresses real life strategies, which include but is not limited to using scripts, nurturing practices, teaching respect, recognizing sensory concerns and adapting the strategies for all age groups.  Part three reminds parents the importance of caring for themselves and applying the Empower, Connect, Correct strategies in their own lives to maintain hope and strength through the journey.

This book will remain in my personal collection of adoption references to be used as a guide in parenting my children from hard places.

Family Adoption Story: A Father’s Perspective

 

As Father’s Day approaches, we want to honor all dads, especially those who have opened their hearts and homes to adoption. When it comes to stories of parenting, fathers do not often take center stage. That is why we asked two adoptive fathers to share their experiences during and after adoption. Each faced unique struggles on their journey, but their success and words of encouragement are an important reminder of the power of a strong father.

Ryan, who was initially in our Mexico program but adopted from a dissolution, shares how experiencing hardship through his adopted daughter helped him to be more compassionate toward everyone around him.

“To me, adoption means opening your home, family, and yourself to offer love and support for a child that needs it. It’s is about putting your family and a child before yourself. I was always nervous about adoption. I feel like I barely knew what I was doing with the 2 kids I already had and I wasn’t sure if I was a good enough parent or person to handle a child that has been through the trauma that adoption brings. I still get the same feelings now at times, even 5 years into being an adoptive parent.

          “A big consideration is the cost of adoption. Adoption costs are expensive and they were very much a concern when we started looking more into adoption. We did some fundraising to help offset some of the costs. After adopting, we also took advantage of any and all adoption tax breaks that we qualified for. We were able to recoup a significant amount of the costs with just these two methods.

          “Since adopting, I have grown a lot as a parent and as a person. My daughter may have learned some things from me, but I think I have learned more from her. I have a much better understanding of how trauma affects people and I try to use it in my interactions with other people as well by trying to give people more grace because I don’t know what they have, or are currently, going through.

          “My advice to anyone wanting to adopt is to throw your expectations out the window because in my experience, expectations are nothing like reality when it comes to adoption. Some things are easier than you expected while other things are harder. If an adoptive parent is afraid he won’t be able to love a child who is not his biological child, I would say It definitely takes time and unconditional love. I don’t think any reasonable person would expect you to deeply love your adopted child when you first meet. I have found that attachment can be very hard, for both parent and child. Perseverance, patience, and communication have helped us when attachment wasn’t going well. As long as you continue to strengthen your relationship, love should come naturally.”

Joe, who adopted from Nigeria, discusses his faith as a guiding light through the ups and downs of adoption.

“From the time we started the adoption process to the time we finally brought our child home was five and a half years. The process was long and hard…. but unforgettable! We have learned that adoption is very much like a roller coaster, both in the process and in your emotions. For us, there were times we thought the process was moving along very smoothly, the never-ending paperwork was getting done and everything seems on schedule. But then, out of nowhere, something would happen and cause a delay. After a while, the pace would pick back up, sometimes even too fast! Up and down we would go.

 

“Our emotions would be on the same roller coaster as the process was. When things went great, we felt great. When things were delayed or doors were closed, we felt sad and hopeless. We have learned that this is just how the adoption process is. So, if you are going through that, you are right where you should be. You will have ups and downs, happiness and tears, excitement and fears, joy and anger. The memories of this journey will always be with you. And in the end, if you stick with it and don’t give up, you will have a precious child to share your life with, forever.

 

“For us, God specifically called us to adopt a child from Africa. We knew it was His calling. So whenever one of those delays or setbacks happened, we always reflected back on that calling. Did God still want us to adopt? Every time we asked Him, we got the confirmation to continue, despite the feeling of giving up. And we had good reason to feel that way! There were so many roadblocks and hiccups along the way. We had to switch countries from Uganda to Nigeria after a year and a half in the adoption process. We were officially matched with three children and almost matched with two or three others. We almost traveled to those countries twice. We were even matched with a child for a year, sending him letters and gifts, only to have it fail in the end. All those opportunities of adopting those children fell through, except the last one. The last child we were matched with worked out! We officially adopted our son in October of 2019 and the following year, in October of 2020, he came home!

 

“The adoption process is so complex and difficult to understand that we just need to trust those people that know what they are doing and trust in God that He will see it through.”

 

 

In these fathers’ accounts of the rewards and hardships of their adoption processes, the need for perseverance is a clear theme. Setbacks can be discouraging, and you may find that you have much room to grow once you are united with your adoptive child. This June, take time to appreciate the fathers in your life who give so much of themselves for their families.

 

co-written by Julie Conner & Casey Kutrip

Why Reunification is so Important in Foster Care

 

What is the primary goal of foster care? That’s the most important question to ask yourself no matter where you are on your journey through the foster care world — whether that be a prospective foster parent, a first-time foster parent, a veteran seven-year foster parent, or a social worker.

The answer can be a tough pill to swallow for many.

We often bring these precious children into our homes for one reason – to protect them. We want to protect them from the ones who have in some form or another caused them harm. Our basic instinct is to shelter them, hold them tight, and never let them go.

But the reality is that our job as caregivers to these little ones is to keep them safe and protected until they can safely return home. Until a judge decides that parental rights are to be terminated, reunification is 100% the goal.

Since roughly one-half of foster children are reunited with their parents or a family member, it’s important to refocus our lenses a bit. If we can view foster care in a more holistic approach, focusing on the big picture of reunification, we can work from there to better help our foster children in a way that best prepares them to return to their biological families.

Biological families need and deserve support as they work through the process of regaining custody of their children. What can we provide? As we care for their children, we can provide them with time – plus an open mind and heart.

Reunification can offer the children:

  • Better outcomes – The child is less likely to have to transition again or change home. This gives more stability and security, as well as a feeling of “home.” It puts them back into their own traditions, culture, and maybe even their first language.
  • A positive impact on their parents – Fostering allows parents the time and space they need to make a lifestyle change or to get the medical help they need to become better caregivers. The system offers them accountability.
  • Less stress – Reunification can allow children to return to a consistent environment with routines they know.
  • Positive ties to extended family – Reunification supports more than just the child, mom, and dad. It supports their relationship with extended family as well as they’re often not involved during foster care.
  • Better development outcomes – A fear of moving, changing schools, and living with strangers can cause anxiety and depression for children. When they can return home to healed, prepared, and loving parents, they can develop better socially and academically.

In a perfect world of reunification, these benefits would always be met. Unfortunately, we know this can’t always be the case. Foster parents are already loving and selfless people, and once we can change our focus toward reunification that helps families heal, we can begin to see a positive future for our foster children with their biological family.

Reunification can be difficult for most foster parents, especially after you’ve bonded with your foster child. You’re not alone. Your foster community is here to support you through the process of reunification.

 

written by foster momma, Cristy Buczko

Identifying Signs of Post-Adoption Depression

Much like the “fourth trimester” of pregnancy (also known as Post-Partum Depression), Post- Adoption Depression can sneak up on families during what seems like the happiest time in a couple’s life. Post- Adoption Depression can happen after a family welcomes an adopted child into their home, especially when reality does not meet expectation. Attachment and bonding do not always happen instantly, with biological children or children that have been adopted. New parents can be laden with negative feelings, like some of those listed below, and can often feel very alone during this time. It is estimated that approximately 65% of adoptive mothers experience symptoms related to Post- Adoption Depression Syndrome (PADS). Listed below are some signs that you or a loved one might be battling PADS and some suggestions for what you can do!

Signs of PADS:

  • Losing interest or enjoyment in activities you once loved
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Difficulty sleeping or increased need for sleep
  • Significant weight changes
  • Excessive guilt
  • Feeling powerless, worthless, or hopeless
  • Irritability, frustration, or anger
  • Feeling inadequate or undeserving
  • Retreating from friends, family or others sources of support
  • Suicidal thoughts or ideation

Fighting PADS:

  • Take time for you!
    • You cannot take care of someone else if you are not taking care of you. Take care of yourself however you see fit- enjoy a healthy meal, spend time with friends, get fresh air, or participate in any other self-care that leaves you feeling a little more like yourself.
  • Remember you are not alone
    • Find other adoptive couples who have experienced what you are going through. Many of our families complete an activity with an “alumni family” as part of their educational instruction, so you already know at least one person who can help!
  • Give yourself time to bond with your child
    • Attachment and bonding are not always instant in adoption. Be patient with yourself and with your child and allow that process to happen at its own pace.
  • Ask for help
    • Never be afraid to speak up and ask for help for you and your family. Call your social worker, your best friend, your preacher, your Nightlight contact, or a licensed professional to help you today. You don’t have to be in a crisis or at a breaking point to ask for help.

Most importantly, if you or someone you know is dealing with Post-Adoption Depression, I’d like to leave you with this:

“If you are suffering with bonding issues or Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome, there is something you need to hear: There is nothing wrong with you. Bonding issues or PADS have no bearing on your worth as a parent. You are capable of this. There is nothing to be ashamed about. There is hope. You are not alone. This is not the time to duck and run. This is the time to dig deep, make a plan, assess and re-assess, pour your time into this, and fight for your child. You’ve got this, and there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Keep pushing forward, knowing you’re not alone.” – Melissa Giarrosso

 

 

No matter what problems you’re dealing with, whether or not you’re thinking about suicide, if you need someone to lean on for emotional support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

Other Resources:

https://www.adoptionstogether.org/blog/2013/01/07/why-arent-i-happy-recognizing-post-adoption-depression-syndrome/

https://adoption.com/overcoming-post-adoption-depression-syndrome

 

Racial Reconciliation and Adoption

 

Reconciliation is at the center of the gospel. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 says, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”

Jesus Christ was sent to this world to reconcile our sinful selves to God and call us to the ministry of reconciliation. Reconciliation means “to restore to friendship or harmony.” Christ first restored our relationship and harmony with God and now offers this same act as a ministry for us to participate in with others. Reconciliation is the very act of adoption – we were brought into God’s family after our brokenness was restored through Christ.

We see much division across our nation due to differences in perspectives and experiences. This spans across values, politics, faith, and racial issues, just to name a few. God calls us to walk in harmony with others and seek reconciliation. He calls us to see value in those that may look, act, or believe differently than us and not to separate ourselves. One of those areas is racial reconciliation, which has come to the forefront of our nation’s attention. For transracial adoptive families, you have been confronted with many feelings, fears, and concerns as racial tensions now confront us. As a world, we are challenged to consider what it means to seek harmony when any of our community is hurting and in need. What should reconciliation look like?

The process of reconciliation should first look like opening and evaluating your heart, mind, emotions, and actions, through guidance by the Holy Spirit. Laying yourself before God and praying along with David in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” As God reveals sin in our thoughts, words, and deeds, we can ask Him first for forgiveness and then turn to seek forgiveness and harmony from any that we have hurt. How might this look in a racial reconciliation context? We can allow God to examine our hearts for any judgments, prejudices, or racist thoughts, words, or deeds.

Being surrounded by our culture that has been permeated with racism, these thoughts can creep inside us, often without our realization. God can reveal these to us through prayer, reading books that address racism, listening to the voices of people of color around us, and examining our hearts. When we as individuals can do this, it plays into the greater movement of our society seeking harmony and restoration with others that have been wronged. We can seek harmony with our brothers and sisters of color around us and speak to others through our ministry of reconciliation.

Where does adoption fit into the narrative of racial reconciliation? Adoption can move us in the right direction, but this is done through changes in our hearts: not simply through the act of adoption. Transracial adoption does not fix underlying problems. A family adopting a child of a different race or ethnicity into their family will not automatically rid them or others of prejudice. When the adoptive parents open their hearts to reconciliation as they consider adopting a child of another race, He can show you any places of racial prejudice inside you to rid from your heart and mind, as discussed above. Adopting a child from another race or culture will naturally bring up conversations and comments from friends and family that will allow you an opportunity to speak the truth and confront any of their prejudicial beliefs, whether conscious or subconscious. These conversations allow others to learn about someone else’s experience that differs from their own and challenges them to understand. These are changes that can come from our experiences in adoption and can impact the greater sins of racism around us if you are mindful to do so.

Recognizing the joys and true challenges of bringing a child from another race into your home is imperative. Our desire at Nightlight is to help guide our adoptive families in this journey through education and support. We are growing the resources we have available to transracial adoptive families and hope you keep checking back on the blog for more information in parenting your adopted child.

–Heather McAnear Sloan, Director of Post Adoption Connection Center

The Importance of Honoring Communication Wishes of Birth Parents

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

Written by Michelle Alabran

 

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