Discussing Adoption Through Story Books

 

Finding just the right adoption book for your child can be daunting. When my daughters –who are now 28 and 31 years old– were young, there were very few books from which to choose, and quite frankly, I found the content very narrow. For example, one book told how a mommy bunny placed her baby bunny for adoption due her not being able to care for her little baby bunny. Some parents felt the book presented mommy bunny needing to make an adoption decision based solely on her lack of financial resources. A woman’s lack of funds then begs the question, as pronounced by one little adoptee, “Mommy, why didn’t you just send my birth mother money?” While it is true that finances often play a factor in a women’s decision to make an adoption plan, there are many reasons why an expectant women and her partner may choose not to parent. Addressing why an adoption plan is made is often avoided in adoption books. Some books just tell the joy of the adoptive parents and the child. Some topics, such as abuse and neglect, may be too delicate to overtly state in a book directed at the very young; while stories of Chinese adoptions must either tackle or avoid the issue of abandonment.

With so many books from which to choose, how do you, as a parent, decide which ones are appropriate for your child and her particular situation and her age? Predicting how your child may react to a book can be complicated.

First, you want to consider your child’s adoptive relationship with you. For example, your child may not be legally adopted by you. If your child is in a guardian or relative placement, then a book that discusses various family compositions, without mentioning adoption, may be appropriate, such as The Family Book by Todd Parr.

If your child is or has been in foster care, you may want to read Murphy’s Three Homes: A Story for Children in Foster Care by Jan Levinson Gilman. To learn more about other books that address issues of loss, grief, shame, confusion, fear and attachment for children in foster care, visit this YouTube Review of Books for Children in Foster Care.

For those who have adopted an infant, Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born, by Jamie Lee Curtis, is a favorite. This book tells the story of the parents’ excitement of getting a call to receive their newborn infant. The focus is on the parents and the baby. It really could be a book about any baby entering a family—If only the mom had been in labor instead. It does not address adoption issues, and could be a first book for small children in which you with your child can begin the adoption discussion.

When wanting to share what makes your child unique, you can reach for One Wonderful You by Francie Portnoy. The author states, “You are unique because you are a wonderful blend of two families…”

Shaoey and Dot, by Mary Beth and Steven Curtis Chapman, is narrated by a ladybug who accompanies a baby abandoned in China who is then be placed in an orphanage, adopted, and then flown home with her parents. The ladybug shares its feelings and could be a springboard for discussing other strong and sensitive emotions with your child.

 

There is a plethora of books available. So before you present a book to your child, read it first. Also, see what comments/reviews are written regarding the book. As noted, there are YouTube and other platforms to learn more about each book.

 

Although many of the children’s books do not address serious topics, this does not mean your child is not thinking about his birth parents or why he was placed for adoption, abandoned, or removed from his birth parents. These are tough subjects, so make story time very special by creating a cozy and secure setting—free of distractions. Leave plenty of time to talk out questions and feelings your child may have. If you quickly read such a book—especially just before bed—your child may still have some unresolved feelings that can make sleep difficult.

 

As you read books—not necessarily just adoption books—start with the simple. If a book has lots of words and fewer pictures, and may be more than your child can absorb, you can just pare it down. Even non-adoption books can be used to bring up feelings related to having parents, losing parents, as well as proper parental care, and being neglected. Asking questions in a calm and tender way, can help elicit thoughts and feelings from your child that he may not otherwise share.

 

Here are ways to introduce adoption topics to your child at each stage:

 

Pre-school. You can start with the Three Little Bears—a non-adoption book. There is a mommy and daddy, and baby bear. Discuss with your child what the mommy may be thinking. Ask such questions as, “Why would mommy and daddy bear want baby bear’s porridge to be ‘just right’”? Such questions can lead the child, who may have come from a difficult past, to discuss what it may be like to have little food or not to have a mommy who carefully fed her child. You could ask your child, “How do you think the mommy bear fed her little cub?” Then you, as the parent, can show your child how you may have fed her if she were your little bear. You may also discuss with your child how you are sad you could not be there to have fed her porridge when she was just a tiny little bear.

 

Even if the author of an adoption books tends to avoid difficult topics, you can later bring more negative aspects of a child’s life into the story. For example, after reading in the story of Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born, for the zillionth time, you may ask, “Why do you think the baby is going to a new mommy and daddy?” From there you can discuss reasons why a child may be placed for adoption. You can ask, “How do you think the baby’s birth mother and father may have been feeling that night?”

 

School-Age: At this stage some of the picture story books may be too “babyish” for your child, but you can use them as a way to snuggle and have the child read to you. Ask your child questions about the various characters and what they may be feeling. “What are some reasons why the baby was carefully placed in a basket and left where people could find her?” “What do you think it was like for a baby or child to be in an airplane going to his new home?”

 

Middle-School: This is a time when you address more serious and negative issues about adoption. In fact, by this time most children should know their full adoption history—regardless of how difficult their past. You may want to read one page while your child reads another page so the reading is a shared experience and feelings can be discussed.

One such book is Pictures of Hollis Wood, a Newbery Honor, written by Patricia Reilly Giff. The fictional story notes:

Hollis Woods

is the place where a baby was abandoned
is the baby’s name
is an artist

is now a twelve-year-old girl
who’s been in so many foster homes she can hardly remember them all.

 

High School into Young Adulthood:

 

By this time, teenagers are selecting their own books. However, issues may arise and you may feel the need to have a book that helps you with the complex conversations. One such book is Telling the Truth to Your Adopted or Foster Child, by Betsy Keefer and Jayne E. Schooler.

 

Regardless of what books you read or even if you make up your own stories and revisit your child’s lifebook, what matters is that you consider your child’s feelings, you discuss serious topics, you are empathic and sensitive to your child’s past, and you help your child know that while the past may not have been “normal,” your child is viewed by you as a precious person who can have fulfilling and blessed future.

World Down Syndrome Day: “Leave No One Behind”

This year on World Down Syndrome Day 2019, the charge and call of action for every person with Down Syndrome and the advocates who support them is to tell the world to “leave no one behind.” Every person with Down Syndrome is capable, deserving, and worthy to live a full life with equal opportunities. In a world where many are self-focused and driven in their own paths for life, our brothers and sisters with Down Syndrome often face exclusion and discrimination and are often “left behind.” This is especially true for our waiting children.

I had the chance to sit down with an adoptive family, Ross & Tamara, currently in the process of bringing home their two-year-old daughter from South East Asia for an interview. Here is a snippet of what we discussed.

  • What should other families considering adoption know about Down Syndrome?

Down Syndrome is often looked at in a negative light, but there is life and life abundant in parenting a child with Down Syndrome. Above all, she will be our daughter first, our daughter who also happens to have Down Syndrome. Down Syndrome will be a small part of her journey here on this earth, but it will not define her journey. There are opportunities to live a full life and many children are capable of holding jobs, driving cars, and going to college. Yes, parenting a child with Down Syndrome might add more to your life with things like speech therapies, visits to the doctor, and advocating for schooling, however, parenting a child with Down Syndrome will add more to your life in other ways; filling your heart with joy, having a love for others, and caring for the least of these. A verse that we have been praying over our family has been Psalm 68: 5-6; “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling, God sets the lonely in families.”

  • When was your heart first stirred towards parenting a child with Down Syndrome?

My heart was first stirred towards parenting a child with Down Syndrome when I read the article, Where Have All the Kids with Down Syndrome Gone?. The article focuses on the increased rate of abortion when a diagnosis of Down Syndrome is given. As a pro-life family, we want to walk in truth and walk in action. If we are fighting for pro-life, we should also fight for the children that are waiting and take action to support them. For us, that means adoption, for others, that might mean advocating.   

 

  • What does your community and support system look like?

Our community does not have many families that are parenting children with Down Syndrome, however, we have found several online communities and forums that are so supportive and available to answer all of our questions. Our church community has also been very supportive! They have come alongside of us and are praying and patiently waiting for the arrival of our daughter into our community. Our local Regional Center and school district offer plenty of early intervention and educational resources that we are so excited about accessing once our daughter comes home!

 

Let’s stand beside our friends with Down Syndrome and be a part of leaving no one behind! Here are a few links to increase your knowledge of Down Syndrome and to advocate for our friends. Let us know some of your favorites!

Resources about Down Syndrome and Parenting children with Down Syndrome:

https://www.heatheravis.com/the-lucky-few-the-book

https://reecesrainbow.org/

https://www.ndsan.org/

Alone: Keeping Siblings Together

 

 

 

A couple of years ago my husband and I got hooked on a survivalist reality show.  The feature setting this show apart from other survivor type shows is that the contestants were entirely alone.  They were responsible for everything (including filming).  Dropped off unaccompanied in a remote area, the participants hunted and foraged for food, built shelters, and risked their lives for the grand prize.  The only margin between remaining in the game and going home was voluntarily sending a call from a satellite phone, in which they were immediately removed. Faced with wild boars, wolves, and poisonous berries…and yet the most common call on that satellite phone was made because competitors were feeling alone. Desperately missing their families, many grown men and women pressed the button on the phone to get home.

Something these contestants quickly learned is the innate human need to not be alone.  Some hit the button after 40 days and some after only 24 hours, but a majority hit it in despair to see family, hug family, feel the safety of family.  The most prepared and capable people of being alone, simply cannot.

Imagine now, a toddler boy.  Bright eyes, long lashes.  Chubby hands and smooth skin.  He is not a wilderness survivalist, but he too has no familiar shelter.  He is suddenly in the home of strangers.  He too wonders about food.  The afternoon eases into evening.  When the lights go out, fear grips this little boy in the scariest moment of his life.  In tears, he turns over his shoulder looking for the one consistent person in his life, his little sister.  The home he does not know, the adults he does not know, but his sister, his sister is like a thread of his own fabric that cannot be unraveled from him.

There is no stress-free way for a child to be placed in foster care.  Abuse or neglect leads up to the removal and the removal itself can be very distressing.  Just like the contestants in a contrived TV show, these kids long for reliable food, safety, and most of all to not feel alone.  In many cases, every effort should be made to keep sibling groups together.  As you can envision, not all foster families have the ability to accept multiple children at a time.  How sad for the toddler boy who looks over his shoulder and doesn’t see his sister. He reaches for the hand he knows, and it is not there. That satellite phone seems like a luxury in life’s true survival situations.

Psalm 68:6 tells us, “God sets the lonely in families.”  We think the foster family must be where God is setting them, but truly, if children have siblings, then in some regards they already have part of the family to not feel lonely.  Nightlight’s Homes for Hope house is making an effort to ensure that siblings stay together during those initial nights, when fear grips as if wild animals lurked outside.  Having a home devoted to emergency sibling placements is a safeguard against the fear and loneliness throughout the transition.  If adult survivalists use the satellite phone to get to their family, how much more do children need family in their reality?

Nightlight and Adams County Social Services 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 family. This new model of foster care, called Homes for Hope, is designed to provide temporary foster care for children in emergency situations. A large focus of the program will be keeping sibling sets together. To learn more about Homes for Hope or the process to become a foster family contact Meaghan Nally at mnally@nightlight.org, call (970)663-6799 or visit https://www.nightlight.org/colorado-homes-for-hope-program/.

Book Recommendation for Adoptive Parents

 

When you work in the field of adoption for more than 25 years, you get to read a lot of adoption-related books.  Some books stand the test of time and have such broad application to not only adoptive families but all families. The books that address attachment issues perhaps are the most regarded because attachment is critical to forming healthy relationships.

There are two essential types of attachment: parent-child and romantic. To find a set of authors who address the foundational issues in forming healthy attachments in an easy-to-understand manner and from a Christian perspective is a true gift.

This gift is brought to you by Milan and Kay Yerkovich. In a non-judgmental tone, this husband and wife team address what they call “Love Styles” in two books, How We Love, which addresses the marital relationship; and How We Love Our Kids, which addresses parenting. The books are truly companions because the Yerkoviches guide the readers to look at their own childhood issues and how their pasts are affecting their marriage relationship as well as their parenting style.

We adoption professionals believe there is a certain type of parenting style that must be employed when raising an adopted child—especially a child who has experienced trauma. Many of the principles used to parent such a child can and should be used in parenting any child. The Yerkoviches ask the reader to do some of the hard work of looking inward and to make changes to bring about positive changes in the relationships with their partner and children.

The Yerkoviches use terms that are familiar to those who understand attachment parlance—only with a twist. So instead of attachment style, they refer to one’s “love style.” They also list various styles of attachment but use different terms that some may find friendlier and easier to understand.

The authors gently bring the Gospel into the conversation—not with a Sunday school lesson dropped over secular research. Instead, they require the partner or parent to look inward and upward as a means of becoming aware of the negative and protective traits we carry into important relationships as adults. This needs to be part of the reader’s sanctification process for true healing to take place.

Not only do the Yerkoviches write compelling books, they also provide free of charge an online attachment assessment what they call a Love Style Quiz . While there is only one scientifically validated attachment assessment called the Adult Attachment Inventory (AAI) that can cost a client anywhere from $100 to $1,000, this quiz appears to be reliable as it asks some key questions leading to seemingly insightful results. There is even a chart to see what happens when one partner has one love style and the other spouse another. Some of us at Nightlight whose attachment styles were evaluated using the AAI have also gone online and taken the Lovey Style Quiz. We found the results remarkably close to the AAI.

In addition, we suggest you take time to listen to one of the best of 2018’s broadcasts on Focus on the Family “Exploring Your Love Style” by the Yerkoviches.

Many highly regarded marriage and family professionals endorse the Yerkoviches’ books and resources. Take the time to explore more of the How We Love information and products.  As someone interested in adoption, make sure these compelling books enter your library.

The Reason I Became a Social Worker

When I was 11 years old, I was watching a television program about a child who had been abused.  That child was talking with an adult, likely a social worker, though I was not familiar with the term at the time.  I knew right then that I wanted to do what that woman was doing.  I wanted to help children, but I had no idea what that would look like.  When I went to college, I started as a psychology major.  Psychology was the only field I was aware of that would get me to my goal.  At my university the psychology degree was very research based.  As I began studying in that field, it just didn’t fit.  I went to see my college advisor and she said, “Describe to me what you want to do.”  After I told her, she said, “It sounds to me like you want to do social work.”  To which I answered, “What’s that?”

She sent me to the social work department at the university to meet with the dean.  After talking with the dean, I knew that this was the right fit.  As I continued in my studies, often when I would tell others what I was studying, they would make a face or comment on how little money I would make in that field.  Those things didn’t matter to me.  I just knew that God had called me to help people and social work was the best way for me to do that.

Over the years, I have worked for child protective services, community development, therapeutic foster care, adoption, and I even did a short stint in hospice.  I have gained a lot of experience and dealt with some extremely difficult situations, but I have never regretted my decision to pursue social work. Social work is not easy.  It is often a thankless job with low pay, high caseloads, and high stress.  If you know a social worker, take the time to thank her or honor her this month (Social Work Month).  Let her know that she is appreciated.

In my very first social work job after college, I attended a training where the person instructed all of the attendees to begin a “warm fuzzy file”.  She said that we would have discouraging days and we would need to keep reminders of all of our good days.  I took her advice, and I have traveled from job to job with that file.  I now have a Masters in Social Work and have been working in the field for 21 years.  My “warm fuzzy file” is stuffed to overflowing, and I am so grateful for that trainer’s advice.  Whenever I am feeling discouraged, I pull it out and read notes and look at photos.  It helps me to continue and not give up.

 

 

 

 

 

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9