In the Classroom: Acknowledging Foster and Adopted Children

 

 

As parents of six children, all school aged at adoption, we realized almost immediately, that adoption would need to be addressed in the classroom. We have been very involved in our children’s education, so have dealt with a lot of teachers! For the most part, we have been blessed to have amazing, nurturing and involved teachers, who truly wanted the best for our children. However, even the best teacher, may not be aware of how to be sensitive to the issues our children may encounter with some of the material presented in the classroom.

This week, I received an email from the PTA President, who’d requested the 5th grade parents to send in their children’s baby photos for the school yearbook. It brought up such sadness for me, as I thought about the children in the 5th grade at our school and others throughout the country, that would receive this assignment or others that request information or photos from early childhood. None of my children have a single photo of them as a baby or toddler.  Our youngest son looks at the early photos I took of him when he was six and refers to them as when he ‘was a baby.’ I sent a request to the PTA President to consider eliminating baby pictures from the yearbook as it highlights those children from foster care or international adoption who are unlikely to have those special photos. I was ignored, so I had to call in to the school principal.

There are a few school assignments through the years that are used to talk about genetics, family trees or a lifeline. I remember the second grade assignment to make a lifeline of major events for each year of the child’s life. I called the teacher and reminded her that my child and another child in the class that was in the foster care system, might not feel comfortable having their lives up on the wall for open house and all to see! The teacher began to cry and was very apologetic, offering to immediately cancel the assignment.

One of my daughters did the genetics assignment in school, ignoring the fact she was adopted, and identified her brown eyes coming from me and her blonde hair coming from her dad’s side of the family! I thought it was interesting that she did not want to make her story part of the assignment. It wasn’t that she was embarrassed by her adoption, or wanted to pretend her early years with her biological family did not exist. It was just that her adoption and anything related to it, even the color of her eyes, is her business, and she chose not to share her personal story in a school assignment with her peers in the classroom.

It is important that as parents, we encourage our children to feel comfortable sharing the parts of their story that they choose to share. School assignments need to include all of the students and include them in a safe, positive manner. At the beginning of each school year, I go to the school prior to the first day, introduce myself to my child’s teacher and share that my child was adopted and had some difficult years. I suggest that my child’s story is his or her own, and that we encourage sharing only if the child chooses.  Assignments need to be sensitive to that child’s history or lack of photos, etc. recognizing that for a child from Foster Care or Adoption, their story will be far different than other children in the classroom and may not be appropriate for sharing. I also provide a wonderful article from the U.S. Department of Education, “What Teachers Should Know About Adoption.” http://qic-ag.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/QICAG-Education-Brochure-v041-final.pdf I’d encourage all parents to help pave the way for their child, by following these steps, meeting with the teacher prior to the school year, giving a bit of general history, strengths and challenges of your child, along with this article. It can only help your child to feel more comfortable in the classroom and hopefully avoid some of these challenges.

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. 

   

3 Things I Learned from Dr. Karyn Purvis

 

 

As most families and agencies would say, Dr. Karyn Purvis, who lost her valiant battle with cancer on April 12, 2016, has been one of the most influential teachers for adoptive families. There are few conversations I have with adoptive families where I do not reference her words, wisdom, and expertise. “Be gentle”, “Are you asking or telling?”, and “Use your words” are so ingrained in me that they come out to just about any child (or adult) that I come across, in my adoption world or not. As a TBRI Educator, I was beyond blessed to sit and learn from Dr. Purvis at their intensive training, countless conferences, and Empowered to Connect before her passing. Each time I read her words, whether in the book The Connected Child or notes from past trainings, her lessons sink deeper, and I hope that I can turn to our clients and impart even a fraction of her wisdom as they care for their children from hard places. I took some time to reflect on all that I learned from Dr. Purvis and want to share those words with you today.

Adult Attachment Inventory

“We can only lead a child to a place of healing if we know the way ourselves.” – Dr. Karyn Purvis

Dr. Purvis’s instruction on evaluating adult attachment has not only been instrumental in my own personal journey, but is crucial for adoptive families to explore. As we consider taking children into our homes that have experienced trauma, we must give space and time to our own healing journey. These children are likely to trigger our own past wounds, no matter how big or small, and as the quote says above, we must lead the way into healing.

I took a flight a few days ago where I was struck again by the instructions to place the oxygen mask on yourself first before helping a child. The idea here is that you cannot help a child if you are passed out or harmed yourself by the lack of oxygen. If oxygen is flowing to you, you can quickly come to the aid of a child, calming them down and providing the oxygen they need to survive. The same principle applies to our own healing journeys. You cannot help a child if you are preoccupied with your own needs. You cannot guide a child toward healing if you don’t know what a healthy, secure person looks like for yourself. How do you know where to lead them? How do you teach them secure relationships if you are not secure yourself?

So what are the characteristics of a securely attached adult? Dr. Purvis outlines them simply as an adult that is able to:

  • give care to another
  • receive care from another
  • be autonomous
  • negotiate their own needs

Do you struggle with any of these areas? I can give care very easily but receiving that care from another person is quite difficult. Parents must be honest with themselves about their own childhood experiences and how that impacts you as an adult. Take some time to give real consideration to the list above that describe a securely attached adult. Which of these areas do you struggle with in your romantic, family, and friend relationships? If you struggle to receive care, you won’t be able to receive the love your child wants to extend to you. If you don’t know how to negotiate your needs, you will lean toward anger or distrust in your relationships. Perhaps you don’t trust that someone will meet your needs if you say them out loud, so you stay silent and grow resentful.

I encourage you to be honest with yourself and give grace and kindness to the areas where you struggle. This will make you better in all of your relationships, especially with your adopted child. When you learn to give love in a healthier way, your child learns to receive real love. If you can learn to be autonomous your child learns to trust others and trust themselves. Seek out the perspective of a counselor, pastor, friend, or spouse to identify the reasons you struggle with any of these areas. Journal, pray, and bring it to God to start your own healing journey to mark the path for your child to follow.

Finding and Giving Voice

“Tell your children ‘you are precious, you are valuable, and nobody else is created like you’” – Dr. Karyn Purvis

I have heard people speak of going into orphanages in Eastern Europe, filled with babies and toddlers, and describe the eerie silence. Is that what you would expect to hear from a room full of 2 year olds? What was discovered is that neglected children will stop crying once they learn that their cries are not attended to. If no one will respond and connect with you when you cry out, why take the time to cry out and feel that repeated rejection? Crying is a way of expressing a need, especially for a child that is not old enough to put their needs into words. If they experience neglect or abuse as a young child, they begin to feel as if they do not have a voice. As I mentioned above, learning to negotiate your needs requires an environment where you feel safe to express your needs and trust that you and your needs will be valued by a response. This cycle starts for us when as infants. You cried when you were hungry, your mother heard your cries, and fed you. This creates a cycle of trust, value, and love. Our children from hard places often have that cycle disrupted which solidifies the message that their needs are not important and no one will respond with care for them. As they grow, they stop speaking out their needs and develop strategies to meet their own needs. This often manifests in negative behaviors such as lying, stealing, manipulation, or aggression.

“Use your words” is one of my favorite catch phrases from Dr. Purvis because it teaches children to ask for what they need instead of using tantrums, lying, or acting out to communicate. It reinforces that their words, over negative behaviors, have power to get their needs met. They don’t need to hoard food if they learn they can ask for a snack and food will be provided to them. They don’t need to steal toys from their siblings if they learn they can ask to play with them.

Dr. Purvis encourages families to learn how to say “yes” over always saying “no”. This does not mean you become a pushover that spoils your child. You can learn to say yes to your child, even while technically saying no. For example, let’s say your child wants to watch a TV show or play with a particular toy but you are in a situation where they cannot do that in that moment. Instead of saying “no, we don’t have time for that” you can instead say, “right now we are doing this activity but tonight after dinner you can watch that TV show”. This message still keeps you on track for what you are doing in that moment while also telling the child that you heard their need (or want) and will meet that need, just not in that exact moment. Think over the last few days and all the times you said “no” to your child. Sometimes you must say “no” in situations where they are trying to run into the street or touching something that could harm them. However, I bet there are at least a few things that could be easily rephrased to turn your “no” into a “yes” and reinforce connection, trust, and security between you and your child.

Sensory Integration Disorder

“Deprivation and harm suffered early in life impact all the ways that a child develops – coordinator, ability to learn, social skills, size, and even the neurochemical pathways in the brain.” – Dr. Karyn Purvis

Dr. Purvis identifies 6 risk factors for children from hard places. Abuse, neglect, and trauma are the first factors that most people identify but Dr. Purvis also emphasizes earlier exposure to risk for the child in a difficult pregnancy, difficult birth, and early hospitalization. These risk factors influence the way children think, trust, and connect with others and these will impact our children regardless of the age they are adopted. One main area that these risk factors can hinder is our ability to process sensory input. Dr. Purvis states that our senses serve four primary functions:

  • To alert the body and brain to important cues
  • To protect the body and brain from becoming overwhelmed
  • To select what is important to pay attention to
  • To organize the brain automatically

We take in the world around us through our senses – taste, smell, see, hear, and touch. We will add to this list common list the senses of proprioceptive (deep tactile pressure) and vestibular (balance, body in relation to the earth). Our senses help us take in input from our environment, organize that input, and send us a message. For example, if we smell something burning, our brain very quickly processes that smell by telling us what the smell is (burning food or burning materials) and tells our body how to respond (look for fire in the house, run away from danger, stay calm because it is just a campfire, etc). When our children have a breakdown in processing, their brain is not able to compute the input their senses are giving them as quickly or in the same way are someone with typically functioning sensory processing.

For our children from hard places, a disruption in sensory processing often results in frustration, overstimulation, or dysregulation. If your child is oversensitive in one or more of their senses, they are taking in too much information and their brain cannot organize it in a way to keep us calm and understanding. These are children that cannot wear certain fabrics in their clothing because the feeling on their body is overstimulating. They may not be able to say to you this issue is occurring but if their brain is preoccupied with the feel of their clothes, they are not able to compartmentalize that input and are unable to focus in school or at the dinner table. They may be too easily startled by loud noises and their brain is not able to calm them down as quickly or interpret any loud noise they hear as a threat. Other children may be under stimulated by sensory input and need stronger or more intense input in order to organize their world and thoughts.

Children that have experienced any of the 6 risk factors that Dr. Purvis outlines are at risk of Sensory Processing Disorder. These children will often display these struggles with sensory input in their behavior and parents should keep watch this. Perhaps your child is aggressive when others come too close, shriek when their hair is brushed, or refuse to participate in certain activities. If your child has a complete meltdown when eating certain textures of food or certain articles of clothing, this could be misbehavior, but it likely indicates an issue with sensory processing.

Here are some things you can do if you think your child may be struggling with sensory input:

  • Keep a log of your child’s odd or problematic behavior to see if there are patterns. Perhaps your child always has aggressive behavior after you come home from a crowded activity (party, church, grocery store, shopping, etc). This could indicate your child was overstimulated by the noise or bumping into others and their brain is not able to calm them down like it should once they are away from the overstimulation.
  • Give your child lots of sensory rich activities each day. This will help them meet their sensory needs and teach their brain to sense, organize, and respond to sensory input. You can search online for sensory activities you can do at home with your child.
  • Have your child evaluated for Sensory Processing Disorder by an Occupational Therapist. They will do an evaluation and treatment plan to help your child learn to regulate and get sensory needs met.

These three lessons are simple concepts but take a lot of intention and practice for you as a parent. Contact us at the Post Adoption Connection Center to learn more about how to integrate these concepts into your parenting, especially if you are experiencing difficulties with your child.

Post Adoption Connection Center

 

 

In December of 2017, I received an e-mail from a family who had adopted their 6-year-old son through international adoption the year before.  In their e-mail they expressed feelings of hopelessness.  They were writing to tell me that they were considering dissolving their adoption.  In their e-mail they stated, “At this point we have exhausted all our resources”.  I was particular struck by that statement.  How could they have exhausted all of their resources, when they had not reached out to me, their adoption advisor.

Prior to this e-mail, I had already been dreaming about a way to stay connected with our adoptive families.  I had long realized that after the adoption is final, many families do not return to their placing agency.  In fact, some families feel that their agency has “dropped” them and doesn’t care.  The staff person that they were previously working with has moved on to help the next family home with their child, and their time is limited.  They are unable to reach out to alumni families and offer support.  We remain here for our families, and It is our hope that families needing support will reach out to us.  Unfortunately, that is not usually the case.  I had begun to think and dream of a way to change this phenomenon.

Out of that dreaming and planning, came the Post Adoption Connection Center.  I am thrilled to see this vision become a reality.  On November 1, 2018, Nightlight Christian Adoptions officially launched the PACC.  It is our goal to use this center to stay in connection with our adoptive families.  We will be reaching out to you instead of waiting for you to reach out to us.  We want you to know that we are here, and that we want to be your first point of contact for anything that you are facing.  In addition, we desire for the PACC to be a place for birth mothers to stay in connection and receive support from our team.  We are offering mentoring and education resources, as well as, counseling services.  For more information about the PACC and how we can help, please click this link.

I am happy to report that the family I mentioned above is doing well today. I was able to put them in touch with our counselor on staff and through skype meetings and assistance, they made the decision not to dissolve their adoption.  They were able to overcome the hurdles they were facing and move forward as a successful family.  Nightlight Christian Adoptions serves our adoptive families for life.  We are here for you even after your adoption is final.  It is my hope that the PACC will assure our families that we care and that we are here for the long term.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching” Hebrews 10: 24-25

Adoption Support: What Is Helpful from Family and Friends?

So… you are parents and you’re in your home loving on your baby.  Friends and family are excited and want to celebrate with you, however, they may not quite know how to support you during this time.  They may wonder if it’s okay to stop by, deliver a meal or offer to babysit.  They may have additional questions as to what you need.  While I’m an advocate of telling people what you need, not all people hear when there’s a baby involved!  Let’s look at a few ways family and friends can support you while you bond and spend time snuggling with your little one.

In asking several adoptive parents how they either received support or would have liked to receive support, I compiled a list of things to consider as your family and friends champion you and your child:

  • DO pray!
  • DO accept our decision to adopt without question and how we choose to share about our personal life and decisions.
  • DO accept our choice of a child regardless of their race, heritage or age.
  • DO offer practical help if you don’t mind giving us your time.
  • DO respect that we need bonding time with our child.
  • DO respect our parenting style.
  • DO speak of the birth family with favorable words – We want to honor them with our words and our actions. Speaking negatively of our child(ren)’s biology can transfer to them.
  • DO be willing to learn and educate yourself about adoption.
  • DO show our child unconditional love.
  • DON’T feel sorry for our adopted child.
  • DON’T tell us that now that we’ve adopted we’ll get pregnant with a child of “our own”.
  • DON’T make demands for our time and attention during our adjustment to this new phase.

One adoptive mother’s story:  When we brought our child home (directly from the hospital) we had very few items.  We struggled for years with infertility and it was too painful to have baby items in our home.  Our child was born a month early (we had no idea of gender prior to birth) so we stopped at Babies R Us (while traveling home) to get what we needed.  Upon arriving home, I borrowed from friends (bottles and necessary items) to get through until a baby shower was planned.  I think everyone thought we must have everything that we needed (despite being registered at Babies R Us!) because at the baby shower we received only clothes and small items.  In addition, not one person brought us a meal or offered to help out in any other way.  I also didn’t get paid maternity leave!  We were not angry, we never expected anything from anyone, but I was hurt.  For years I had been supportive, excited, and giving (of time and resources) when my friends welcomed their children into the world.  In fact, when I confided in one friend about how sleep deprived I was she stated “well, isn’t this what you wanted?”.  This was what I wanted, but I was tired!  Everyone thought I should spring right in to motherhood, but I didn’t.  I was struggling terribly (with what later was pointed out to me, by an adoption worker, as post adoption blues).  I didn’t feel worthy of being my baby’s mom.  I would stay awake at night wondering if his birth mother was hurting, missing him.  I wondered if he missed her.  If I would ever be good enough.  I was sad, confused, and felt guilty during what should have been one of the happiest times of my life.  So… support me, on my terms.

Let’s work together to help those in the adoption community as they begin this wonderful stage of the journey! Be aware, and be sensitive/understanding and look for ways you can help, so that these new parents feel empowered and prepared to welcome home their new little one.

How Do You Celebrate “Gotcha Day”?

 

The term “Gotcha Day” has been used for many years by adoptive parents to celebrate the day their adopted child became part of their family.  We recognize that not everyone appreciates this term.  Some people instead call this special day “Family Day,” “Adoption Day,” or something similar.  Regardless of what you call it, this is the day that your adopted child became yours for forever.  Why is it important to celebrate this day?  It’s important to celebrate your child and to recognize that your child came to you in a very special way.  It’s important to celebrate the child’s heritage, birth country, and birth parents.  Your child establishes his identity through embracing who he is and where he came from.  Celebrating this day reveals to the child that you are aware of the culture and history of his background.  It also enables you to recognize the importance of the child’s birth parents and their love for him.  Everyone appreciates the opportunity to celebrate their child and the way their child came into their family.

Families choose different days to celebrate.  Some celebrate the first day the child was put in their arms.  Some celebrate the court hearing that made that child officially a part of the family.  Some celebrate the first day that their child met their whole family.  It doesn’t matter what day you choose.

In some families, the child may not be comfortable celebrating at all.  They may have negative feelings associated with the adoption process or parts of it.  In these cases, another option is to celebrate National Adoption Day (the Saturday before Thanksgiving) with family and friends.  The focus in such a celebration can be on adoption in general, and such events can help reduce the stigma surrounding adoption as well.

How do you celebrate “Gotcha Day” or “Family Day”?

The Marvin family celebrates “Family Day” by recognizing their son’s birth country.  In The Congo, people celebrate special days by purchasing Fanta Orange soft drinks in glass bottles.  The family has incorporated this tradition into their “Family Day” to give their son the ability to appreciate his culture.

The Inabinet family recently celebrated their 4-year-old son’s domestic adoption “Gotcha Day” by explaining to him in greater detail his adoption and that he has two mommies and two daddies.  The next day the adoptive and birth families came together to celebrate Preston by spending the day at the zoo together.  Preston was able to celebrate his adoptive family and still recognize and know his birth family.

Other ideas for how to celebrate this special day are as follows:

  • Create a book of the adoption journey and read the book to the child every year.
  • Look at pictures of the child’s birth family or birth country.
  • Go to a restaurant related to your child’s culture.
  • Mail a care package to the orphanage your child spent their early years in.
  • Tell your child stories of your visit to his birth country or the days leading up to his birth.
  • Be intentional on this day to create new memories and record them in a special way.
  • Plant a tree.
  • Take a picture as a family.

“Gotcha Day” or “Family Day” celebrations do not have to be elaborate, as long as they are meaningful to you and your child.

How to Educate Your Child’s Teacher & Advocate For Your Foster Child

 

 

There are many different approaches to take when educating teachers and advocating for our foster children. If we share too much, will teachers make assumptions? If we don’t share enough, teachers might not be able to help our child flourish.

Some parents feel it is best to share as little as possible. Many times, teachers who are not trauma informed hear they have a foster child in the classroom and suddenly our child becomes the classroom scapegoat. Minor issues—issues every child has—suddenly turn in to “red flags” and, more often than not, expectations are lowered to unreasonable standards.

On the other hand, some parents feel it is best to share as much as possible because knowledge is power. Educating your child’s teacher, telling their story, may help the teacher understand your child’s moods and behaviors in the classroom setting. When we know the “why” behind behaviors they can be addressed in a way that helps create new pathways leading to long lasting behavior change.

We know that parenting, and sharing, is not black and white. Therefore, let’s find balance in the gray area, as we strive to share on a need to know basis. Working together as a team, both at home and in the classroom, creates a sense of “Felt Safety” for our child.  It is helpful for teachers to know what triggers to watch for, and what intervention works best, when our child is triggered. Sharing on a need to know basis allows for understanding, for example—“Thursdays are rough because of visits on Wednesdays”.

It is not necessary for teachers to know private details of the birth parents, the case, or how the child came to live with you. Sharing on a need to know basis allows the teacher to have enough information to support your foster child, while simultaneously ensuring that we respect the details of a story that is not ours to share.

Calling All Teachers: School Assignments to be Prepared for Regarding Adopted Kids

 

 

With the start of the new school year comes the onslaught of homework and class assignments. While well intended, many assignments can be difficult for foster and adopted children as they require the child to know details about their genetics, heredity, and family history. Our children may feel uncomfortable or too embarrassed to publicly disclose to their teacher or their classmates that they don’t know some of their history or their knowledge is incomplete or missing. If they decide to share their story, they could face well-meaning but intrusive and very personal questions they’re not prepared to answer. The child may wind up feeling different from their peers and experience an increased sense of isolation.

 

We recommend scheduling a meeting with your child’s teacher ahead of time to find out their knowledge of adoption. This could be a great opportunity to educate them and advocate for your child and other children in the classroom coming from non-traditional family backgrounds. Some of the more common school assignments to be aware of and alternative options:

 

Baby Pictures: This can be distressing for a child who may not have any baby pictures of their childhood. Instead, the child could draw a picture of themselves or the assignment could focus on “All About Me” and include the child’s favorite things.

 

Family Tree: Many children have non-traditional family structures. A family garden or forest allows the child to include as many individuals in their family as they desire, whether it be step-parents, half siblings, adopted and biological parents, grandparents, aunts and cousins, etc. This is a great opportunity for children to learn families can be all shapes and sizes. Or the assignment could focus on those who have cared for the child, a “caring tree,” including previous teachers, foster parents, doctors, nannies, etc.  If the child wants to share that they’re adopted, an alternative assignment is the “Rooted Tree.” The child is the trunk, the roots are members of the biological family, and the branches are members of their current family.

 

Nationality/Heritage/Country Studies: Rather than having a child pick the country their heritage is from, they should be able to pick a country of their choice.

 

Autobiographies: Many children coming from painful or traumatic backgrounds lack information about their early years or it’s private and difficult to discuss. Alternatives could be to ask the child to write about a special event or person in their life, their life in the past year, or their entire life with less emphasis on their childhood.

 

Your child may react differently to each assignment, they may be excited to share information about their adoption or they may desperately want to fit in. Regardless, it’s important to prepare them ahead of time and talk through how they might handle particular situations. A great tool to prepare your child is the WISE Up! Book. WISE Up! empowers children to learn their story is unique, personal, and that they have the choice in how much information they decide to share about that. They can:

 

  1. Walk Away or ignore what it said or heart
  2. It’s private and I don’t have to answer it
  3. Share something about my adoption story
  4. Educate others about adoption in general

 

You can purchase the book online and listen to the companion webinar.

 

Why Do We Support Open Adoption?

 

 

I’ve been working in adoptions long enough to see the significant trend toward open adoptions over the past forty years. I recall sitting in meetings in the 70’ and 80’s with an Adoption Committee in the first agency where I worked doing the matching of birth parents and adoptive parents. Actually it was a matching of child and adoptive parents because the couple would never meet the birth parents; it was just important that the child had features or background matching that of the adoptive parents. The adopting couple received a piece of paper with information about the birth mother and birth father, and in turn, the birth parents would receive information about the couple. First names only, if that, and perhaps some additional non-identifying facts. Then, the baby, who had been in foster care from birth awaiting the legal work to be done, would be placed in the arms of the adoptive family. Happy endings? Yes, usually more so for the family than the birth parent. Could it be better? Yes.

Secrecy surrounding adoptions began in the 40’s and 50’s with good intentions. It was believed to protect all the parties involved.

• The birth parents were protected from the stigma of pregnancy without the benefits of marriage.
• The adoptee was protected from the stigma of illegitimacy and the concerns of “bad blood” which was loosely connected with what we know today about genetics and carried with it the overtones of the “sins of the father.”
• The adoptive parents, often an infertile couple, would be protected from the stigma of raising an illegitimate child.

 

They were protected from dealing with their infertility and from facing the differences between being a parent through adoption vs. being a parent by birth.

Closed records also precluded the possibility of birth relatives seeking out the child, or heaven forbid, set them up for a potential kidnapping. Fear was the driving force.

By the 70’s adoptees were beginning to speak out about the fact they did not know anything about their biological families and their heritage. They had been cut off from that part of their lives. As a result of their efforts over the past three or four decades, the practice of secrecy has taken a turn–for several reasons:

Adoptees have voiced their belief that they have the right to know more about their biological roots. Birth parents have said they want to know that their child has had a good life. If they haven’t said it out loud (which many could not in years gone by), they have thought it—every day.

Adoptive parents have come to desire that connection for themselves and their child. They understand that a relationship with the birth parent does not diminish their role in the child’s life – or heart. Single parenthood, being adopted and infertility no longer carry the stigma they once did.

Adoption professionals, lawmakers and counselors have listened to the voices and tried to make laws and policies that provide helpful answers for all. Underlying our effort at Nightlight is our confident belief that some level of openness is good and emotionally healthy for all parties. It can be in the form of meetings, visits, letters, pictures, texts, videos, Facebook page or any number of other ways to have contact. In order to be a good fit for individuals in the adoption triad, relationships must be customized, but all good open adoptions are characterized by open hearts, understanding and a good amount of trust.

When birth parents and adoptive parents meet, there is a “realness” that appears. These are no longer people in a book, or birthparents who don’t care about the baby. They are real caring families who want to be parents more than anything meeting with a woman who is trying to make the right decision for her child in spite of her own sadness. Fears on both sides melt away, and relationships begin.

As contact continues through the lifetime of the child, the relationship can change, as all relationships do. They may increase or decrease in frequency. Lives go in different directions, but the child will know that everyone in his life, whether contact is frequent or not, that he is loved by everyone in his world. We now have several years’ experience with openness in adoption and they have proven to have very positive outcomes.

It seems that society at large and those who have not had a recent connection with adoption continue to believe that closed adoptions are the best. Having a relationship with birth parents is a scary proposition… “we’d really feel better if we could just go on down the road and pretend there are no other connections out there.” But the truth is there is another dimension to the child’s life. Adoptive parents’ lives can be greatly enriched by opening their hearts and getting to know the person responsible for bringing life to their child. Meeting and establishing a relationship is the greatest honor that can be given to a birth mother–to the person that has entrusted her child, and all her hopes and dreams for him to the care of the adoptive parents. It is an act that binds them together.