New model of foster care launches in Adams County

From https://co4kids.org/community/new-model-foster-care-launches-adams-county

Thornton, Colorado –  Adams County Human Services and Nightlight Christian Adoptions have opened two homes designed to provide safety, comfort and security to children in foster care at a time when they are most vulnerable: immediately after being removed from their home. This new model of foster care, called Homes for Hope, is designed to provide temporary foster care for children in emergency situations within Adams County.

“We are absolutely thrilled to partner with Adams County for this project. We feel this is a perfect opportunity for children to have a safe haven – a warm smile and warm bed at a time when they are most vulnerable. It’s not enough for children to be safe, they must also feel safe,” Meaghan Nally, foster care program manager for Nightlight Christian Adoptions, said. “It is an absolutely new model, and we hope it can become a national model for emergency foster care.”

Two single-family homes have been renovated specifically for the program, accommodating eight to 10 children at a time. The program will allow the children to stay in their current school and community and ensure sibling sets are kept together. The program allows Adams County time to find suitable long-term treatment options.

Homes for Hope is the first of its kind in the country and could serve as a model to support children and families in all communities. Prioritization will be given to children from birth to 10 years old, but will serve children up to 18 years old to keep sibling sets together. One of the homes is set up to accommodate teen mothers.

Nightlight Christian Adoption is currently looking for interested families who would be willing to become foster parents and live in the homes full-time. “There is a shortage of foster parents across Colorado, and we need the community to provide the safety and care children and teens in Adams County need,” Nally said. “The ideal Homes for Hope foster parent is trauma-informed, has parenting experience, and is willing to move into one of the two homes. They are teachable, flexible and tenacious.”

Nightlight Christian Adoptions is a child placement agency located in Loveland, Colorado. The agency has provided foster care and adoption services since 1959 with licensed offices in nine states. Nightlight is currently recruiting for two families to move into the homes and families interested in becoming foster parents. To learn more, contact Meaghan Nally at mnally@nightlight.org, call (970)663-6799 or visit www.nightlight.org.

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.

Surviving the Holidays While Waiting for Adoption

 

 

We lost our daughter inside the womb the day after Thanksgiving, conceived through in vitro fertilization. Less than 24 hours earlier we were rejoicing that among our many blessings, was the pending arrival of our little girl, and we were looking forward to celebrating the upcoming holidays with our little one. Suddenly the holidays took on a whole new meaning and the commercialism of our culture magnified our loss. Our first Christmas card of the season arrived a few days later. It happened to be a sonogram photograph, our friends’ creative way to announce their pregnancy on their holiday greeting. The barrage of Christmas cards that arrived in our mailbox over the next few weeks competed with the influx of toy advertisements, commercials, and holiday activities for children offered at our church and in the community. When my best friend called me before 7:15 am on Christmas morning to tell me that her at home pregnancy test had just revealed her own little bundle of joy, I held it together until I hung up the phone. That Christmas was the first of many holidays spent waiting for God’s plan for our family to unfold, first through IVF and then through adoption. Each holiday became a painful reminder of our loss and our unfulfilled longing to be parents. Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, an endless cycle of celebrations that center on children and family.
There is no magic formula to “survive the holidays” while you wait to bring a child into your home. However, you can be better prepared by recognizing that the holidays may be difficult, accept the emotions when they come, plan ahead, and pray for God to help you through. Here are some suggestions that helped me discover some ways to not only survive the holidays while we waited, but celebrate, as well.

• Remember what the holiday is all about. As I sobbed that first Christmas morning after losing my daughter and cried out to God in prayer, I recognized that the holidays point to “holy days.” Christmas is about God in the flesh who loved us so much that he came as a baby to earth to address the needs of those suffering, not just here but for eternity. I recognized that Easter was about Him conquering death and bridging the gap between man and God. Because he came and because he died, I now have a relationship with a personal God who hears my innermost cries and is sovereign over my circumstances. That alone is a reason to celebrate!

• Turn to God. “For the Word of God is living and active” (Hebrews 4:12) and “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1). His word says, “Lord you are always with me; you hold me by my right hand…My flesh and my heart may fail, but you are the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:23,26) Allow God to speak and comfort you through his holy word.

• Send a letter to close friends and family. One of the very best ideas I had while I was waiting was writing a letter before the holidays to very close friends and family members. I preemptively answered questions and addressed issues that I thought they would ask so that they would know I loved them and wanted to involve them in our journey to parenthood, but wouldn’t be ambushed during our time together over the holidays. I told them some facts, described my feelings, and lovingly informed them that if I wanted them to know more or wanted to talk about it over the holidays, I would initiate it. This boundary helped me walk into a room knowing that I wasn’t going to be ambushed, they didn’t have to feel awkward wondering what to say or if they should ask, and we could just enjoy our time together. It empowered me to talk about it when I was comfortable.

• Create new traditions. Talk with your spouse about traditions that you want to implement when your child comes home and come up with new ones. If you are adopting internationally, learn about foods and traditions from their birth culture that you can incorporate when your child arrives. If attending a Mother’s Day service at church each year is too painful, create the tradition of going out of town for the weekend or having your own devotional at home followed by a big brunch.

• Be selective about the invitations you accept. Sometimes attending a holiday gathering may prove difficult for you and exposes you to the painful reminder that you are still waiting to hold your child in your arms. Decide with your spouse which invitations you want to accept and reserve the right to change your plans if you or your spouse are having an especially difficult time.

• Script your response. Most people asking questions or making comments about your parental status or adoption plan are honestly wanting to say and do the “right” thing. Well-meaning friends and family members need a lot of grace. Prayerfully consider what you’d like others to know about how you are dealing with your adoption journey and the waiting period, and plan how you will respond to certain questions ahead of time. It not only helps your anxiety in the moment, but is an opportunity to educate others.

• Focus on Others. Shifting your focus towards others is a great way to minister to others, serve God, and take your mind off of your own pain. Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.” (Mark 10:45) Volunteer serving food to the homeless on Thanksgiving, pack boxes for the children around the world with Operation Christmas Child, spend time at a nursing home, or write cards to grieving people in your church. There are people in need all around you.

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