Developing a Heart for Birth Parents

 

Domestic Adoption is a scary journey with lots of questions. “What if the birth mother changes her mind?” This seems to be the biggest fear of most adoptive parents. And the truth is that some birth mothers do change their minds about placing their baby for adoption.

Then we have the birth mother’s questions “What if the adoptive parents choose not to adopt the baby after it is born?” Really??? Birth mothers ask these types of questions? Yes, they do.

Domestic Adoption is a scary journey with lots of questions whether you are the adoptive parents or the birth parent. Many birth parents begin an adoption journey by making perhaps the scariest phone call of their lives. I’ve had birth parents state that they have picked up the phone and even dialed the number multiple times before having the courage to speak to a pregnancy counselor.

It has been my experience that adoptive parents come into adoption with their own fears and rightfully so. But many adoptive parents are surprised that the birth parents have fears as well. Fears that they will never see their child again. Fears that their child will hate them for choosing adoption. Fears of what their family or friends will think of them if they find out the birth mother chose an adoption plan for their child. Fears that the adoptive parents will change their minds. Fears that their child will not be loved for the person they are.

As I have walked the journey with many women who were choosing adoption for their unborn child, I have listened to these fears and offered assurance. I have assisted a mother and a father to process these fears as they meet prospective adoptive parents. I have been in the hospital room after the birth of a baby when the mother must again make the most difficult decision in following through with the adoption plan. I have hugged fathers as they thanked me for assisting them and their girlfriend in finding a family who they can trust for their child. I have shed tears with birth parents as they have left the hospital. I have held their hands in attorney offices as they sign documents to terminate their parental rights with tears in their eyes.

I have also walked the journey with many adoptive parents as they look through the nursery window at their baby and state “Lisa, I can’t be fully happy right now because I know what is going on in her room.” Meaning she knew that the birth mother was grieving. I’ve sat with adoptive parents as they grieved for the birth mother as she was leaving the hospital. I’ve counseled with adoptive parents as they are crazy in love with the baby while grieving for their new friend, the birth mother.

How can you develop a heart for a birth parent? See the birth parent as the loving father or mother that he or she is. Meet them and get to know them. Spend some time with them. While it is true that many birth parents have some struggles in their lives and may not live the same lifestyle that you live, it is also true that birth parents love their babies very much and choosing to place their child for adoption is the most difficult decision they will ever make.

 

written by Lisa Whitaker

6 Helpful Tips for Bonding With Your Adopted Child

 

Bonding is a critical part of building your relationship with your adopted child and is a precursor for how they will develop in the future, whether it be their physical growth, intellect, or how they form relationships with others. This is why it is important to have a strong foundation in the household when it comes to bonding and attachment. It’s common for adoptive parents to worry whether or not they will be able to form that bond with their adoptive child.

Whether you first hold your child in the delivery room, three months later, or three years later, the same tips of bonding and attachment apply. They include:

  1. Open the lines of communication: Talk to your child often. Be present and interact with him or her. Children need lots of reassurance and you both will learn about each other this way. Keep the lines of communication wide open. Toddlers and young children are full of a million questions. These questions provide a great way to connect and set the stage for meaningful conversations for years to come. And remember that it’s common for a toddler or older child to be shy when being transitioned into a new family. Don’t force a relationship. Be patient as you learn about one another.
  2. Understand that rejection is not about you: Early interactions make a lifelong impact on a child. It is important for children in hospital/foster/orphanage/institutional settings to be cared for by a familiar figure and to make a connection early on. Studies have shown that children who have benefited from a strong early bond in a safe setting will transition more easily, while children who have been exposed to poor conditions and lack a strong connection to a caregiver often exhibit trust issues later on. Most toddlers who have experienced rejection respond by becoming rejecting. For adoptive parent who feel a sense of rejection or distance, it can be a confusing and hurtful process. It’s easy for adoptive parents to blame themselves. While it may feel overwhelming on your end, try to imagine how your child may be feeling, but unable to put into words.
  3. Touch & Eye Contact: Find opportunities to have physical contact with your child. This can be holding your child in your lap, patting their leg, brushing their hair, lotion after bath time, etc. When talking to your child, make eye contact to let your child know you are fully present. But please do not force your child to make eye contact. When possible, get on their level, put your hand on their shoulder, and speak in a gentle voice. Feed your child during meal time if they will allow you to do so (even older kids benefit from being fed). Touch and eye contact will help your child feel safe and wanted.
  4. Create a routine: Children coming from foster care/institutions crave structure and routines. It helps give them a sense of control and allows them to develop trust. Having set bedtime rituals for a younger child, or a weekly family movie night for an older child are great ways to establish a connection with your child.
  5. Establish Permanency: Your child may have a fear that if they misbehave, you will no longer love them. Reiterate to your child that you still love them, even when you are in a bad mood or if they have misbehaved in some way. Send positive messages to your child to let them know that you will love them no matter what, allowing them to heal and attach.
  6. Do activities together: Teach the child how to do something you love: cooking, gardening, fishing, a favorite sport. They may end up enjoying the activity, creating a shared interest! In turn, engage in an activity that the child enjoys. This will show them that you are interested in what they like, and want to be part of their life. You may even want to consider creating a new tradition together that involves the whole family that everyone can enjoy together.

written by Hannah Tatman & Stephanie Muth

 

 

Meaningful Ideas for Birth Parent Gifts

 

Having a prospective birthmother choose you to raise her child is a priceless gift that you can never truly repay. Many adoptive parents choose to express their feelings for a birthparent by giving them a meaningful gift at the hospital when the baby is born or at placement- something a birthparent can treasure for the rest of their life. With the holidays approaching you can also be mindful to continue celebrating and loving your birthparents, even if the placement has already happened. For birthparents, the holidays can be a difficult time, filled with reminders of loss and grief. This is completely normal. Adoption can hold a lot of pain, loss, heartbreak, and grief, but also a lot of forgiveness, redemption, and love. The sheer definition of the word “gift” is: “a thing given willingly to someone without payment; a present.” It is a simple act of kindness to show someone that they are cared for, thought about, and loved.

 

Because giving birthparents gifts can be a sensitive topic, it’s important that you talk to your agency caseworker about what gift is appropriate in your situation, whether it is for placement or after. Your caseworker will be able to give you input about which kind of gift is best for the birthparent’s emotions at that time, as well as remind you of your state’s legal standards regarding living expense laws before or at placement.

 

Here are some gift ideas for birthparents, whether it is for the adoption placement or a “just because” gift throughout the years as you continue to grow with one another in the adoption process:

 

  1. Flowers: Flowers are always a cheery sight for anyone. For a first match meeting, the hospital, or an annual visit, this can be a great idea to bring with you and give directly to her – or have them delivered. This could also be a fruit or chocolate bouquet.

 

  1. A commemorative piece of jewelry: Many adoptive parents choose to give their child’s birthmother a piece of jewelry she can wear as a reminder of the child she placed for adoption. It may be engraved with her baby’s initials or feature the baby’s birthstone. Whatever personalization you choose to give it, make sure it’s subtle so that your child’s birthmother is not constantly having to explain it to people she may not want to share that part of her story with. We have also seen adoptive families gift their birthmother a beautiful necklace called the “Adoption Triad Necklace”. It is simple, delicate, and a subtle chain necklace with a gold triangle; representing the adoption triad.

 

  1. A post–partum recovery basket: Recovering from giving birth can be both a physical and emotional act. A birthmother could not only be dealing with the emotions of placing her child for adoption, but also may have had to take time off work. You can make that process easier by creating a spa, self-care basket (lotions, bath items, etc.) so she can pamper herself during this time. If approved by your lawyer or agency caseworker, you may wish to also send a gift basket of meal preparation, gift cards and other practical things to help her during this time.

 

  1. Stuffed Animals: Birthmothers will likely be looking for comfort after placing their child for adoption. I recommend getting two identical stuffed animals: gift one to the birthparent, and one to the child. I then encourage adoptive families to take monthly/yearly photos of the child next to the stuffed animal as they continue to grow and send these photos to the birthmother. This is so the birthmother can see how big the child is growing and will be able to compare it to the same stuffed animal she has. To go a step further, you could even purchase a stuffed animal with a recording in it and record the child’s voice or heartbeat to gift to the birthmother. Another option is taking an outfit your child wore during their time in the hospital and have it turned into a bear.

 

  1. An engraved watch: Like jewelry for birthmothers, an engraved watch is a great way for a birthfather to carry around the memory of his child and your relationship with him. As you would with the jewelry, make sure the engraving is subtle (perhaps on the inside of the wrist) so he doesn’t have to answer unwelcomed questions about what it means. Ideas for engravings could be the child’s time of birth, the child’s date of birth, or initials.

 

  1. A meaningful book or an adoption memory book: If you know the birthparent has a particular interest in something, consider buying them a book about that subject. This goes hand in hand with hobbies. If you know your birthparent is interested in a particular hobby as well, consider gifting them something along those lines. Sometimes adoptive parents have created a more involved memory book as well for their birthparents. In addition to photos, it can include mementos from the adoption process, like your original adoptive family profile, things from the hospital stay, baby’s footprints, etc. You can leave blank pages for the memories still to come. Some families purchase a recordable children’s book. Have the birthmother record her voice by reading the book. This will allow her voice to be heard by the baby and it is a wonderful way for her to feel connected with her child. As the child gets older and is able to read, you could also have the child record their voice and gift the book back to the birthmother.

 

  1. Beautiful Framed Art: If you and the birthparents live in different cities or states, you could gift them with a beautiful art piece of the two cities or state maps overlapping one another. This could be found online, such as Etsy. A framed copy of your child’s footprints or handprints would be meaningful too if your birthparent did not receive this from the hospital. Even as your child grows up, don’t forget to gift your birthparents some of the child’s artwork that they will create throughout the years.

 

  1. Photo frame or photo album: A birthparent may appreciate a memorable, engraved frame or photo album with several photos of their child. This way, they can store or switch out photos they receive from you or the agency over the years as their baby grows up.

 

  1. Journal: Gift your birthmom a journal. This can not only be healing and therapeutic for her, but also a way for her to write notes and letters to her child. You could also do a stationary set that includes envelopes and stamps so that she can send letter to her child.

 

  1. Keepsake box: A memory box or a keepsake box contains a selection of memorable and meaningful items or memorabilia that belonged to a loved one. Gifting your birthmom a memory box can be a significant and meaningful way for her to store precious memories and gifts that you send her.

 

Remember, each adoption relationship is different, and it may not always be the right thing to give a gift to the birthparents. However, if you do choose to give your child’s birthparents a meaningful gift, it can be an important step in solidifying a strong relationship between you all for many years to come.

 

Written by Caidon Glover, LMSW | Pregnancy Counselor

Tackling the Holidays as a Birth Parent

 

 

 

 

 

 

While the holidays can be filled with fun times spent with family and friends, they can also be a very difficult time for birthparents, especially if you placed your child for adoption around the holidays. In these seasons, it can be hard to find healthy ways to cope with those feelings. While everyone’s experience is unique, the following strategies may help if you find yourself feeling down this holiday season.

 

Reach Out to Your Child’s Adoptive Family

For many birthparents, hearing from their child’s adoptive family can bring encouragement and peace in difficult times. Send a card or a holiday gift to your child’s adoptive family. Consider making a gift or sharing some of your family holiday traditions with them. Ask your child’s adoptive family if they could send you a photo of your child around Christmas or share a bit about their holiday plans. If you have a closed adoption, you could write a letter to your child that you can keep in a journal or place under your Christmas tree as a way to honor them.

 

Express Your Feelings with Others Who Support You

Identify family or friends that you can talk to about the difficult feelings that may arise during holiday seasons. Reach out to one of Nightlight’s pregnancy counselors in your state and talk about things with her. Connecting with other birthparents is a great way to process your shared experiences and learn what has helped others cope. If you are a birthmother who placed a child through Nightlight, reach out to your pregnancy counselor about joining our private Facebook group for birthmoms!

 

Find Ways to Honor your Child

Whether you have an open or closed adoption, there are many things you can do to honor your child during the holiday season. Try creating an ornament with a picture of your child or your child’s birthday. You can hang this on the Christmas tree as a remembrance of your child during the holidays. Some birthparents light a candle in honor of their child. Giving back is another way to honor your child and help with sadness during the holidays. Look into different organizations where you might be able to volunteer during the holidays. Volunteering could be even more meaningful if you find an organization that reminds you of your child or serves people that have had similar experiences as you.

 

Take Care of Yourself

Make sure you continue to take care of yourself physically and emotionally even in difficult seasons. Spending time outside and getting physical activity have been shown to benefit mental health. Make sure you get plenty of rest and find things that refresh you. Consider taking a weekend away by yourself or with a friend. Try reading a book, learning a new skill or hobby, or setting goals for the next year.

 

Remember that you are not alone if you are grieving this holiday season. Find healthy ways to express your emotions and talk about them with others. It is our prayer that you would be filled with love and comfort this holiday season.

 

written by Lindsay Belus | Pregnancy Counselor

Ways to Teach Your Children Thankfulness

 

Have you wondered how to teach your young children to be grateful when we live in a world where people around us complain or think they deserve certain things? It is a challenge many parents face with a lack of confidence. Research has shown that if adults focus on three to five situations daily, they are thankful for, their mood improves, and over time they are happier overall. Teaching your child at a young age to have gratitude is one of the best gifts toward life-long positive mental health they can receive.

 

Model

Have you seen your child walk around talking nonsensible and holding a phone at an early age? And you laugh, realizing they are mimicking your behavior before they even understand full conversations? It is how modeling works. Children soak up your actions and words at such a fast speed because their brains are learning at a quick rate during their young years. They desire to be like you. One of the best and most important ways to teach thankfulness is to model it on purpose and often by expressing it through words (“I am so grateful I have the opportunity to spend time with you today”). Acts such as smiling, hugging, or being helpful help too!. Say it out loud often to various people and show random acts of kindness.

 Encourage

Create a ritual at the dinner table or bedtime where you say out loud three to five things you’re thankful for, and/or make a gratitude jar and fill it with notes about who or what you appreciate and share them. We live in a culture where we have plenty of material needs, and reminding them of being thankful for a bright moon and stars and enjoying time to play together fosters a consistent grateful attitude.

Reframe

Children need to know that when they face difficulties, they still have it pretty good. The next time they complain, model how to find the silver lining. If you have to wait in line at the grocery store, say, “at least we were able to get everything we needed for the whole week.” It is crucial to not preach this message, but genuinely say it as an example for them to see and learn naturally.  Practice seeing the positives with every setback and help your children find it.

Serve

Create situations that your children can observe and help you serve others who are less fortunate. Help the homeless by dropping off coats, serve at a soup kitchen, create gift boxes for children in other countries, and drop off food and clothes to shelters with other children.

 

written by Lisa Richardson, MSW,LISW-CP/Foster Care Advocate

How Can I Love My Child’s Birth Mother Through Her Grief?

 

“I can’t imagine how you’re feeling right now.”

“What a hard decision you are making.”

“Thank you for trusting us with your baby.”

“You are so brave.”

“I admire your strength.”

 

These are all statements that one might hear being said to a birth mother in the hospital or at placement. How many of us have stood in that moment and wished we had something better to say than the typical “thank you” or “I can’t imagine”? How many birth mothers have wished there was something that could be said that would make the whole situation hurt just a little bit less? As I have had the opportunity to walk alongside birth mothers throughout their pregnancy and placement experiences, I have learned that you can just never be fully prepared for how differently each and every birth mother will feel during the placement process. Some cry, others rejoice, some are disengaged, and others decide that adoption is no longer the choice they wish to make. No matter what emotions are being shown on the birth mother’s face, there is grief involved. This grief feeling may not hit immediately, but it will.

 

As adoptive families and adoption caseworkers, we have the incredible opportunity to support birth mothers through this grief. While all of the above statements are true and the birth mother is strong, brave, selfless, and worthy of admiration, what are some things we can remember about her and ways we can support her through her grieving? Remember that she just went through the 9-month experience of carrying your baby inside of her body and loved that baby enough to choose life. Remember that she just spent “X” number of hours giving birth to a baby that she is choosing not to bring home with her. Remember that this experience is painful and remember that she is incredible.

 

No one has all of the answers in regard to making the pain of adoption go away. No one can pinpoint exactly how each birth mother and adoptive family will feel and respond to the placement of a child, but here are some pieces of advice I would give to adoptive families during all phases of the adoption process:

 

  • Respect your birth mother’s wishes. She is trusting you to care for her child for the rest of his or her life, and while you have the tremendous joy and responsibility of being the baby’s parents, she will also ALWAYS be his or her parent too. The power of DNA is strong and respecting a birth mother’s tie to her child is necessary for both the child’s growth and the birth mother’s growth. Send the pictures that you promised, post or mail the update that you said you would write, make that visit happen even if it is not the most convenient for your schedule. Your birth mom/birth family is worth it!
  • Encourage her to seek support. If your birth mother has a wonderful support system or if she has no one, encourage her to continue healthily processing her emotions and feelings toward the placement of your baby.
  • Tell her you are thinking of her. Even if you do not have the most open of relationships, she wants to feel special, known and remembered (we all do!) so keep trying. Just because your birth mother is not comfortable with contact or gifts right now, that does not mean the door is closed forever. Send your letters and pictures to the agency for the day that she does decide she is ready to know your family and build a relationship with you and your child.
  • Build a genuine relationship with healthy boundaries. While this is easier said than done, be open and honest with each other about your desires for this relationship and do not promise more than you can provide. Set a schedule for picture updates, texting, visits, etc. This relationship is ongoing, so make a plan with your caseworker and your birth mom regarding how everyone’s voices can be heard and how you can ensure that all involved know what to expect for the days ahead.

 

Enjoy your baby and enjoy building a relationship with their birth mother. You have embarked on one of the sweetest and difficult journeys a family can choose to take, and it will be worth it! It will not always be easy, and you will not always be comfortable, but listen to your birth mother, think about her, respect her, and love her- no matter what! She will grieve and you will grieve for her. Continue to pray for her every day and speak highly of the incredible woman that gave your baby life.

 

written by Phoebe Stanford | MSW intern

Spirit of Openness: How it Relates to Adoption

 

 

As an adoption agency, Nightlight Christian Adoptions deeply believes in the value of open adoption and the positive impact it has on all members of the adoption triad. One of the main questions that Nightlight social workers typically receive from inquiring prospective adoptive parents is about openness and the relationship they will have with their future child’s birth family. It is a topic that we often explore in depth with families throughout the process, starting at inquiry and spanning through to post-adoption. If the idea of openness is not explored and researched properly, culture (including movies and TV shows) may lead to feelings of fear and anxiety, especially since society does not portray many parts of adoption accurately or in a healthy way. Many prospective adoptive parents have walked a painful and difficult journey prior to beginning the adoption process with an agency or attorney, and fear may be a comfortable place to settle (as it is for most of us in so many areas of our lives) as the new path to parenthood is begun. As I continue to explore the concept of openness that will be unique to each adoption with prospective or current adoptive parents, I have really begun to shift encouraging both “open adoption” and a “spirit of openness.” The purpose in this is because a “spirit of openness” can be demonstrated within the adoption triad in every adoption (embryo, domestic, foster care, international), where the practical logistics of an open adoption may not – for various reasons.

Now what can this look like? This may look like the creation of a life book (maybe even beginning with the birth mother’s pregnancy journey), open and honest conversations with the child (and almost always his/her birth family), sharing pieces of a child’s tough story as appropriate, explaining openly and kindly to the child as to why they may not have contact or any knowledge about the child’s birth family, and addressing intricate identity questions as the child begins to understand the complex, unique, beautiful, and sometimes painful journey to their adoptive parents. One of Nightlight’s domestic adoptive parents told their son a story about his birth mother every day when he went down for a nap. Before 15 months of age, he knew her name and that she is another person in his life who loves him. Of course at that age, he cannot grasp what that entails; however, he will grow up always having a memory of her being someone important in his and his family’s life – and as appropriate and healthy, he can begin to understand all that entails. Logistically, this family has not had a visit with their child’s birth mother since he was born (a few years ago) due to the birth mother not desiring visits at this point of her journey of adoption (it is so critical to remember the journey experienced by birth parents and navigating that with the child’s). However, he will always understand that his parents not only want to share his story with him, but also his parents’ desire to love his birth mother and honor her role in his life by sharing about her openly and regularly. Birth (or genetic) parents may not always desire visits or even direct contact, and there is no question that adoptive parents may have a difficult time navigating that part of the child’s story. However, the honest and open discussions will allow for the child to ask questions as he or she feels necessary and help in the journey of bridging that gap in their story.

Even in open adoptions, there may not necessarily be a “spirit of openness.” There may be certain circumstances in a birth family’s (or adoptive parents’) life or adoption journey that may lead to hard conversations and complicated contact between members of the adoption triad. But even in those moments, the adoptive parents play a key role in shaping a child’s view of his or her birth family (and, in turn, a reflection of the child’s own personal identity as a part of the biological family). In the end, many adoptees may internalize how adoptive parents reflect on their birth family – as he or she always will have a connection to them that cannot be broken or ignored or glossed over. This lack of a spirit of openness can be displayed in very simple things that adoptive parents may not even realize, such as tone/attitude when discussing the behaviors of the birth family or fear or anxiety when preparing for visits, phone calls, letters, etc. Children pick up on the smallest attitudes and fears, especially when related to their adoption story. There is no doubt that this is a difficult balance to explore, but humility, honesty, forgiveness, and grace play major roles in the journey for the entire adoption triad.

Many times, the struggle with a spirit of openness comes from a place of fear (before, during, or after the adoption). However, our Heavenly Father does not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). Adoption is a complicated, messy, and beautiful journey for all members of the adoption triad, and a spirit of openness is going to further provide opportunities for exploration, development, and healing throughout the process for everyone. A spirit of openness about a child’s adoption and his or her birth family can always be attainable, even when an open adoption may not be (whether now or ever). In the end, the goal for all adoptive parents, birth parents, adoption professionals, etc. is whatever is in the best interest of the child.

 

written by Chelsea Tippins

Grieving the Loss of a Child After an Adoption Dissolution

 

 

 

For the last 10 years, I have worked with families who sought to dissolve their adoptions. When I tell other people about the work, they are astonished adoptive parents would place their child for adoption. Often desperate parents think about such a decision but then wait months to years to actually put anything into action. These are parents who often have saved and spent tens of thousands of dollars, traveled overseas, stayed in flimsy hotels, left other children behind –often for weeks at a time–to adopt a child in a desperate situation. Parents have said to me, “We both prayed about this adoption, felt it was God’s call on our lives to do this, and now we cannot parent this child. Did we not hear the voice of God?”

No one sets out to dissolve an adoption—just as no one sets out to enter marriage with the goal of divorcing. Yet there are circumstances that may lead to a dissolution of a marriage as well as to the dissolution of an adoption.

So where do adoptive couples go when they consider a dissolution? Finding literature on the topic is not easy. What agency wants to say to their clients, “If this does not work out, here is how we can help you end the adoption” Of course, agencies provide resources and counseling to help preserve the placement of a child. Likewise, churches provide pastoral counselor or other resources to help struggling couples reach a healthy marriage. Yet for those who do find themselves divorced, there is open support through such times. Yet, in the adoption or faith community, there is little to no support for those whose lives are so fragmented that they see no way out except to find another family for the child.

There are essentially two broad reasons for a dissolution: the family does not like the child or the child’s behavior is so destructive that anyone would have to find another place for the child. Of course, these reasons overlap.

For children and parents who have a difficult time attaching, the children can do well in the next home. What causes the parents and children not to attach? The first adoptive parents often get into a cycle with their child in which the child’s negative behavior leads to the parents’ shutting down. This is natural. Some of these children have experienced so much trauma that they give nothing back. A parent can pour an incredible amount of love and attention into the child, yet the child shows little response. Parents can only do this for so long.

Other times, the parents’ dismissive attachment style leads the child to act out and, in turn, the child then behaves even more poorly. Once the cycle is broken, the child can begin to heal from trauma and attach to a caregiver. Only then can the child’s negative emotions and behaviors begin to diminish.

The next typical scenario of children who are placed for adoption, is one in which the child’s behavior is dangerous and could lead to injury of others in the home. These adopted children usually need to be placed with well-experienced and trained foster parents.

Regardless of the reason, parents often delay making the decision to relinquish a child. Of course, this is a serious decision, and unlike a birth parent, who almost always place a child at birth, the point at which a parent makes the decision to place a child for adoption has no exact timeframe. With this in mind, the parents must also realize that the younger the child, the easier it is, in general, to find a new family for the child.

Parents often delay the placement of a child into a new home, knowing the embarrassment and shame they and their other children may face. How do you explain this to your neighbors, people at church, or your other kids? Just as people continue in a marriage for the same reasons, when there are clear sins and grounds for divorce.

When anyone experiences such an extreme loss of a child, there must be a healthy way to grieve. As with so many hurting people who have experienced loss, many do not talk about it. The more shame involved in a loss, the more people are prone to hide their grief. Because we as a society are given permission to end a job or a marriage, there are obvious resources to help cope with these losses or transitions. However, there is no “permission” to end a relationship with our own children. So special measures must be taken to grieve this loss.

Have people on your team. To expect everyone around you to agree with your decision, is hoping for the impossible. Share your burden with a few close family members and friends who are supportive. They may not understand all of your reasons, but they should be there for you.

Make sure you and your spouse are on the same page. Making such a life-changing decision means you must grieve together. There may be ways you each could have parented the child differently yet recognize this is not about blaming each other—or even blaming the child. Make sure that you give each other time to talk about the topic. If one spouse finds it difficult to talk, set a time limit such as 30 minutes, four times a week.

Recognize that biological parents make the decision also to place their children in other homes, such as grandparents or aunts and uncles. In adoption circles, we applaud birth mothers who place their babies for adoption. Most birth mothers are not teenagers but women in their 20s. They often make the decision because they have limited resources or it is not a good time in their lives to be parenting. We judge not but rather support such a woman for this decision.

Get some personal counseling. There are probably other losses in your life that compound the pain. Learn how you can grow through this.

Understand the reasons why you are dissolving the adoption. Everyone reaches capacity. If your spouse dies and you have three other children with medical needs, most likely the sibling group, whom you just adopted, would do better in a family that can provide the nurture they need. While this is an extreme example, the needs of the adopted children and the adoptive family all factor into an adoptive family ‘s “reaching capacity.” One mom said she had a personal history of trauma and the child triggered her own issues. Granted the child’s behavior was very negative at times. However, this is a mom who was able to share her own history with grace and demonstrated tenderness toward the child and his history as well.

Create what is called a story or a “narrative.” This story needs to make sense to you and give you a framework in which to tell yourself and others about your decision. Such a narrative will take time to develop.

Find an online support of others who have also placed a child for adoption.

Recognize that there will be what Denalee Chapman calls “trauma-verseries “ after the child leaves your home. Allow yourself to have many emotions and feelings. One such feeling is that the child will fail in the next home. While very few parents want the child to come back after such a circumstance, it is understandable how parents feel this way.

Talk with someone who understands what you have gone through. Carrie O’Toole provides such services through phone coaching and retreats. She has written a book, Relinquished, in which she tells her own story of placing her adopted son for adoption. Three other children from the same orphanage in Viet Nam, where her son had resided, also dissolved from their adoptions.

Recognize you could have been truly in the middle of God’s plan for your and the child’s life when you made the decision to adopt. Your bringing the child into your home is what can lead the child into another family. Many times I have seen children adopted by families who never could have adopted from a specific country due to the country’s restrictions or the next family’s own life circumstances. While none of us sign up to be the conduit to bring a child into another family, this may be part of your child’s life plan. Recognize that you were faithful to God’s call and you will continue to be in His will.

Once a child is placed, give the next family and your relinquished child space for at least at six months. If appropriate, send the child a letter or small gifts. Maintaining some level of openness allows the child know you still care. This balance of allowing the child to attach to the next family while having limited ties with you is a delicate balance that varies by each case. Counseling would be best for such decisions.

Laura Jean Beauvais is the Director of Counseling for Nightlight and provides services to families struggling with a variety of adoption –related issues.

Resources:

The Myth of the Forever Family: When Adoption Falls Apart

http://www.carrieotoole.com/author/lifecoach/

https://adoption.com/adoption-dissolution-from-a-mothers-view-part-one

 

Lessons Learned as an Adoptive Mom

 

When my husband and I prayerfully decided we would like to adopt, I was one of those people who read all the blogs, and did my best to “master” this journey in advance. We ultimately narrowed things down to foster adoption as the best fit for our family.

Fast forward through a home study, lots of education, certification, and waiting in matching for about 6 months for the right placement to come along, I suddenly became a mom to 4-year-old twins.

I say suddenly, because the wait feels agonizing, things just HAPPEN, all at once.

So “suddenly” I was meeting the twins first foster family in an Ikea parking lot, loading up all of their belongings, and driving them through a couple hours of traffic to our home, where my husband was nervously waiting. This was a little over a year ago, and we have finalized our adoption with the twins since that time. I am still on this journey of learning as an adoptive mom, but I have picked up some lessons along the way.

You will love them, in your own time, in the way that you love: Moment of honesty here, I don’t bond quickly with anyone. I signed up for adoption knowing that I would not be that person who saw a picture of a child and immediately feel “this is my child”. I hoped for it, none the less. All of the adoption stories I read or listened to had that moment. That time where an adopter walked into a room, or saw a picture, and felt to their core that everything they had done up to that point lead them to their child. I have so much appreciation for people who are able to have that moment. Also my heart hurts for the individuals that don’t, and think there is something… wrong.

Our twins came into our home, and it mainly felt like babysitting, which was not helped by the fact that I needed to record the exact minute of which I gave them a gummy vitamin, each day. Going through all of these mothering steps felt so off, because there was a mother out there grieving the loss of her children, and they were grieving the loss of her. I was grieving for both of their losses. I was in an incredibly tricky state of mind.

I didn’t feel like a parent when they came home, or even many months afterwards. This was not a failure on behalf of anyone; myself, my agency, the kids. There wasn’t something wrong with me. People just bond differently, and some more obviously and quickly than others.

This could be true for yourself, your spouse, or the child(ren) you bring into your home, and it is not a disaster when it happens. When it comes down to it, I made a choice to love these strangers as my children. I acted out what I knew love to look like, and I told myself (sometimes daily) my feelings will come. Not the feelings someone else experienced in their adoption story, but the ones that are true to me. This ended up serving me well, when things got hard, it did not change the fact that I was still simply acting out what I know love to look like. It kept my feet planted.

To keep it simple, don’t compare. Pray daily to love the children in your home just a little bit more than you loved them the day before, regardless of where you started. The feelings come, they continue to grow, sometimes they ebb and flow. Just like the ending of a story book, “happily ever after” in marriage is much more complicated than we once believed as kids. The same is true for adoption.

Love for kids is spelled “TIME” I feel like most parents probably know this. However, I was really surprised at the results that come from playing with my children individually for just 5 minutes a day. Play that involved letting them lead, and either complimenting, celebrating, or repeating back what they were doing during those 5 minutes. This is not naturally my personality, but I learned, and it worked. Not simply time next to them, but concentrated time loving on who they are at exactly that moment. Not who you want them to be some day, just letting them be them, in all their messy imperfect glory.

Also, that TIME can mean taking time to work on yourself. Parenting really puts you under the microscope and brings out some things that you may have never realized were there. Things like a child that reminds you of someone that caused emotional damage towards you in the past. Maybe it’s opposing personalities that you don’t know how to navigate, or a button that they really learned how to push. Let me be brutally honest with you when I say that taking time to work on your own stuff is one of the most effective ways to love your child.

Do not be afraid to get counseling, it’s worth the financial cost. Your house doesn’t need to be figuratively “on fire” for you to drag yourself to an office for therapy. I tell my kids that a therapist is simply a doctor for their emotions. If it’s normal to do a checkup with your physician, why not an emotional check up too?

Be intentional about relationships, they are key to success I’m not talking about with the kids, but your personal relationships, as they are the ones that will help hold your head up when things get HARD.

Adoption, especially fostering or international adoption, will be isolating. Not everyone will understand trauma, even when you try to educate them. They won’t understand cocooning, or therapeutic parenting strategies. If you are like me, and adoption is the way you first became a parent, people will assume you have no earthly clue what you are doing. To be honest, I didn’t! More specifically, I hadn’t mastered a lot of really basic things that parents normally learn through years of trial and error. We got judged harshly on our little mistakes, and that opened the door for strangers to make a lot of assumptions about our parenting in general. I’m not into oversharing my kids personal story for the benefit of a stranger, so taking criticism or ‘tips’ silently is often what makes adopters feel so isolated.

This may make you want to back away from relationships altogether, but in fact it is the reason they are so important. I found that the people who DID understand, listen, and learn with us, were my rocks in the hardest moments. They let me vent when some well-meaning ‘advice’ made me feel extra insecure. I also realized very quickly how vital it is to get to know other adopting families, and pursue relationships with them intentionally. We had none of those relationships to start, and had to start pursuing them when our lives were busy, crazy, and imperfect. The beauty was, those adoptive families were not fazed by imperfection. Life-giving relationships were so key to our journey, that I would recommend pursuing them with the same passion in which you may currently be pursuing an adopted child.

While this is not everything you could possibly need for your adoptive journey, I have found that being aware of each of these has provided the fuel we needed to get through our harder moments, and ultimately lead our family to overcome some tough times. They also made life a lot more fun in the good times.

–Deb Uber | Snowflakes Adopter Inquiry Specialist

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