Sensory Processing Disorder: Why Does My Child Struggle With Sensory Issues?

 

I was greeted at the door by a mom and her two year old newly adopted son dressed in a very cute sailor outfit. However, by the time we walked about ten feet into the kitchen and sat down, the child was naked and flooding the bathroom! Although at first glance, one might assume this child had ADHD, when in fact he had a Sensory Processing Disorder. What this mom learned very quickly, is that therapy and the use of some accessible activities can really help calm the senses of children dealing with sensory integration disorder.

Sensory processing disorder (or SPD) is also known as Sensory Integration Disorder—a condition where the individual struggles to process or have appropriate responses to the demands of their environment. Basically a ‘sensory overload’ where the brain becomes overwhelmed with smells, sounds, sights, textures, temperature and other sensory input—affecting a child’s social skills and behavior.

If you have concerns about your child having these issues, speak with your pediatrician. Your child might benefit from a referral to an occupational therapist. They are trained to evaluate and develop a plan of care or interventions that can be helpful for your child.

Occupational therapists refer to a ‘sensory diet’—activities that are sensory based and help the child to calm down. It might be helpful to keep a diary of your child’s behavior as that will help the professionals identify issues of stress and possible interventions. Be aware of activities or situations that cause your child to go into sensory overload. Avoid them or have ‘escape’ plans with your child, so that your child feels more in control of the situation.

Here is a list of some of the activities or interventions used as part of the treatment for SPD.

  1. Miniature trampoline – jumping can actually help the brain settle down.
  2. Sandbox with Measuring cups and items hidden in the sand to find.
  3. Packing plastic that can be rubbed on the child, or popped.
  4. Weighted blanket – cover the anxious child in a weighted blanket
  5. Weighted vest – sew weights into the pockets
  6. Bubble gum – chewing will help to calm the senses.

Addition Resources:

Websites:

Books:

Combining Kids By Birth & Adoption

Choosing to grow your family through adoption is not an easy or quick decision for parents. Mountains of thought, discussion, research and prayer are involved when embarking on this life changing journey. Now, think about all of these very adult concepts through the eyes of a child. Your biological children hold a very special place in your family and play an important role. Actively choosing to do all that you can to prepare them for what’s about to happen is absolutely essential to the future of your family.

Just like using your pregnancy time to prepare your child for a new brother or sister (don’t forget that big brother/sister t-shirt), you can utilize your entire adoption process to prepare them. Actually, you can begin this well before you turn in your adoption application. This is a big concept; let’s talk about specifics and ideas on how you can strive to be successful in this area.

  • Age matters – Take into account the age of your current child(ren). If your child is five years old and you start throwing words at them like attachment, institutionalization, dossier, termination of parental rights, etc., their eyes will glaze over and they will be checked out of the conversation before you know it. Meet them where they are and use age-appropriate adoption language.
  • Frequent and open discussions – Begin introducing the idea of adoption early and make it a part of your frequent conversations at home. There is not an adoption process out there that is fast so if you start talking about a new brother or sister joining the family before you even begin the actual adoption process, it will give them plenty of time to process what is happening and the major changes that are coming. Be open about where you are in the process. In some cases, families must endure long periods of waiting and this can be confusing to young children. If you are choosing to adopt a child from another country, be open with your existing children about the new child’s country of origin and what kind of lifestyle they may be currently living (remember, age appropriate here). If you are unsure of where to start, there are a multitude of books available that serve as great ice breakers.
  • Pray together – Begin including your child(ren) as you are praying for your adoption process and adopted child, even if you don’t know who they are yet.
  • Celebrate the victories – When you complete that mound of paperwork, celebrate as a family. When you receive a referral, go out for ice cream and talk about the new child. Ask them questions like, “What is the first thing you’re going to teach your new brother/sister when they get here?” or “What color do you think we should paint his/her bedroom?” These events will make the process seem more real to your children and they will feel more like they are a part of the process instead of this being something that is happening to them.
  • Spend one on-one-time with each child – This comes into play mainly when you have multiple children. Set up periodic “dates” with each child so they feel special and know that 100% of your attention is focused on them during that time. Utilize this time for one on one conversation about the adoption and new sibling. They may feel more comfortable opening up and asking questions in this setting. You can also use this time to reiterate that even though the family will be welcoming a new child, they are not being replaced. There are also major benefits to continuing this after your adopted child comes home.

Above all, DO NOT consider yourself a failure if the sun doesn’t shine in your home every single day after your adopted child comes home. There is a reason why this is called an adoption journey. It takes time. Your children are just that-children. Give them lots of patience and grace.

Home Safe Every Night

 

Today we have a guest blog post from Billy Cuchens, an adoptive father of children from Domestic Infant Adoption and Foster Care. He shares on an important issue to consider as a transracial adoptive family. (Heather McAnear, Post Adoption Center Coordinator)

We live a couple blocks from a Baptist church which holds bible study every Wednesday for middle school and high school students. Now that Daylight Savings has begun, we let Isaac ride his bike there and back. It seems like they don’t have a firm structure or end time, because every night around 8pm, we have same negotiation about his curfew.

I typically start by texting, “Hey, Buddy. Home by 830pm.”

Most nights he just responds, “Ok.” But tonight he texted back, “Can we make it 9?”

I respond, “Sorry. I don’t want you riding your bike home in the dark.”

“But we just started the lesson.” A few moments pass, then he responds, “Please.”

He understands I’m not suspicious that he would be up to anything. But he doesn’t understand that we’re not having him ride his bike home in the dark…even if he’s only fifteen houses away. When I was a kid, it seemed like parents were always telling us to watch out for cars or don’t talk to strangers. I guess their greatest fear was that we would get hit by a driver who wasn’t paying attention, or be kidnapped. But today, at least for Laurie and me, our greatest fear is a stranger seeing our boys alone in the neighborhood, assuming they’re up to no good simply because of race and gender, and taking action.

Isaac is thirteen years old, but he’s almost six feet tall and two hundred pounds. He’s also black. He hasn’t been a discipline problem since the day he came home. But to someone who has never met him, he could be seen as a threat.

Laurie and I try explaining our fears to friends and family, and some get it. But for the most part, people seem to think we’re paranoid. Or at least overly cautious. When the Trayvon Martin shooting happened, Laurie and I were and still are terrified the same could happen to our boys. To our family and friends, Isaac is this big, lovable jokester. “Oh that couldn’t happen to him,” they say when we share some of our fears with them. “Not to Isaac, he’s a good boy.” They don’t understand that to the outside world he is not an adorable little boy anymore.

Ultimately, we don’t need people to understand that we live in a biased and scary world. Nor do we need our boys to fully understand this either. At least not yet. Isaac has an idea of who Trayvon Martin was, but really he understands our rules simply because they’re Mom’s and Dad’s rules. As time goes by, we give him the information he needs as it comes up…stay on the sidewalk, don’t put your hoodie up, etc.  But we want him to be able to live in a world where he can still maintain the innocence of youth for as long as possible.

So he doesn’t think anything’s weird when I text him while he’s at bible study, “I’ll be heading to the grocery store and then meet you at the church at 9. I’ll drive alongside you as you ride your bike home.” When I arrive, he flashes me a big grin and waves goodbye to his friends, not at all embarrassed at how ridiculous we look as we pull out of the church’s parking lot side-by-side. We ride the three streets it takes to get home together, at about ten miles an hour, and talk about our day. Then when we get home, he takes a shower and I make him a snack. As he’s getting his pajamas on, we can hear him dancing around and singing a praise and worship song. Finally he comes downstairs in his men’s XL bathrobe, gobbles the snack I made, and gives me a big bear hug. “G’night, Daddy.”

“Buddy, I think you’re big enough for ‘Dad’ now. Don’t you think?”

“Nope,” he says. “You’re always gonna be Daddy.” Then he squeezes me harder, and buries my face into his chest. And with my face smothered in his red flannel bathrobe, I say in a muzzled tone, “Sounds good to me.”

Searching : A Personal Journey of Searching For Birth Parents

 

I grew up knowing that my mom was placed for adoption when she was an infant in the late 1950s.  My grandparents were unable to have children and worked with a private attorney to adopt my mom.  We had little to no information about her birthmother, and what little we may have had, was probably speculation at best for the reasons surrounding her decision.  Growing up, Mom never had a strong inclination to search for her birthmother.  In my high school and college years, I remember asking questions about why she hadn’t looked for her because I had a strong desire to search and (let’s be honest) meet my biological grandmother one day.   But my questions were always met with the same response that she simply wasn’t interested and she knew who her family was.  She also wanted to respect my Grandmother and feared that searching for her birthmother would crush my Grandmother’s heart and cause her to feel like less of a mother in my Mom’s life.  I deeply wish that my Grandmother would have understood that completing a search, and potentially meeting a birth family member, would have never diminished or replaced her role in my Mom’s life (or mine).

After graduate school, I started working in the field of adoption.  I was so amazed to see some of the advances that had been made towards sharing information in adoption – sending pictures, having visits, collecting genetic health information, etc.  As levels of openness in adoption have increased in even the last decade, I have often pondered the circumstances surrounding my mom’s placement. Who was her birthmother and what circumstances did she find herself in that made adoption her best option?  What became of her life and did she ever have more children?  Do I have aunts and uncles out there? Equally as important, I desperately wanted her to know that she made a good choice for my Mom and that she has had a good life.   And then, of course, I had other practical questions like, any chance you’ve had cancer or some other major hereditary disease we should be on the lookout for?

Starting Our Search

The day eventually came that Mom felt comfortable starting the search process.  She began by signing up on the State of Texas’s Central Adoption Registry.  Many states have a website where birthmoms, adoptees and biological siblings can voluntarily register and if a match is found, the state facilitates contact (with a little bit of pre-meeting counseling for all parties).  A short time later, Mom received a letter in the mail in response.  This letter informed us that her records were matched with her birthmother’s and that her birthmother had passed away.  The end.  No name.  No date of death.  No identifying information that would tell us anything beyond the simple fact that she was no longer here (and my dreams of meeting her were crushed). I had always pictured two outcomes from signing up on the registry – either being matched (with a living person) OR knowing nothing (because her birthmother or siblings had not signed up on the registry).  It didn’t occur to me that we would be matched AND we would know nothing further.

Our next step was to have a judge sign a court order to unseal Mom’s adoption records, which are maintained at the Bureau of Vital Statistics (BVS) in our state’s capital.  I thought this process would be like climbing Mount Everest blind folded.  I shared our situation with a friend who is an adoption attorney and he had the right connections to make this happen quickly.  He was able to do a little bit of research for us and within days a judge had signed off on an order!  He mailed it to the BVS office and we waited for a response. And we waited a little longer.  And, sadly, we are still waiting now.

I know there are other methods we could use to continue the search.  A simple Google search yields 11.2 million results for “searching for birth mother” with promises from companies to find birthparents in 3 easy steps.  For our family, we are working through the channels and at the pace with which we are most comfortable.  In my longings to have my questions answered, I have to remember that while this is my history, this is my Mom’s story.  I don’t want to press and pursue beyond her comfort level.

Things to Consider when Searching for Your Biological Family

  1. If you are thinking about searching for your biological parent or child that you placed for adoption, start with signing up on an adoption registry in the state where the child was born. While there is a small fee in some states to do this, these sites are legitimate and a simple way to be available in the event someone is searching for you too.
  2. The options for searching are growing. Court orders to unseal records may be granted or denied.  And, if granted, they still may not yield the answers you’re looking for (as in our case).  There are companies for hire and support groups alike ready to help you search.  We have not engaged in this process so while I have no recommendations to make, I caution you to do your homework on these companies and understand any fee structures before engaging their services.
  3. Have some fun with your DNA. This past Christmas, we purchased a DNA kit from Ancestry.com and learned a little more about Mom’s ethnic heritage.  It didn’t produce direct answers, but I was surprised by the excitement I felt at knowing a little more about where this side of my family comes from.  Another company, MyHeritage is also involved with DNA testing, more specifically to assist in matching biological families.  Currently, they are offering free DNA kits to those who apply and qualify through April 30, 2018.  As stated above, I caution you to do some research here too.
  4. For those of you who may have an open adoption, I would implore you to do what you can to keep the lines of communication open with birth families. Relationships between birth and adoptive families can certainly be challenging to navigate and may change in their frequency over time. However, having direct access to a birth family member who can answer questions an adopted person may not have until decades later (or, ahem, perhaps even the adopted person’s child!) is an asset.  Please know that I’m not encouraging you to maintain close contact if it puts a child in danger, or if someone is not making healthy choices.  But, if the environment is healthy, do what you can to maintain this relationship.
  5. For those considering adoption, I encourage you to work with a licensed agency. If my grandparents had worked with an agency (which I realize were not as common then as they are now), I wonder if documents might have been on file with them.  In our state, agencies today are required to maintain adoption records.  In the event they close, there are policies and procedures in place for the transfer of these records. An adoption agency will be a much easier entity to contact if information is needed.  Plus, they are also required to gather genetic health information from birth families, which is a valuable tool for you and your adopted child to have.  Adoption agencies can also help you navigate through birthparent relationship challenges that may arise.

Searching for birth family is a unique and personal journey.  There is not a one-size-fits-all search process that works for everyone.  Our family has learned a lot about each other in this process and have grown closer as we have experienced both excitement and grief in searching for Mom’s birth mother.  We may never know this side of Heaven who she is, but we know that she made a loving decision for my Mom and we will always honor her for this.

 

Disabilities Awareness Month: An Adoption Story

 

 

Lilly, born in China, was welcomed into the loving arms of her mom and dad, Jenny and Daniel, at the age of 3 years.  That was nearly a decade ago, not long after I began working with the China program!  I recently reconnected with Jenny to talk about Lilly’s journey over the past ten years.   Jenny fondly recalls the excitement of being matched with Lilly.  Although they were thrilled to become parents, there were looming questions about her diagnosis which had the potential to cause great fear.  Lilly was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus, both of which were surgically repaired in China shortly after her birth.  Jenny shared that while she and her husband were hopeful that the surgeries had been successful, they did not know the extent of damage or what her future would hold.

As directed, they researched her medical needs and spoke to a physician specializing in international adoption.  They learned of worst case scenarios while staying cautiously optimistic.  Jenny stated it was easy to allow fear to slip in as they waited to travel.  While worrying about mobility issues, possible paralysis, cognitive deficits, future needs and surgeries, they also began thinking about accommodations that could be made to ensure she was given the best life they could provide for her.  Through it all, they trusted God would provide and pressed forward.

Lilly came to them as a tiny 28 pound 3 year old wearing 12-18 month clothing.  She could barely walk and had many other physical delays common of children coming from less than optimal care.  These deficits were quickly overcome through short term therapy. Jenny reports, however, that the personality that emerged within a few days of placement in China is the same personality Lilly exhibits today which has allowed her to overcome and flourish.

Due to the spina bifida, Lilly has some hip displacement and wears braces on her legs requiring occasional appointments at Shriners Hospital for adjustments.  Because of the hydrocephalus, she has a shunt and sees a neurologist every other year.  She also requires annual visits to an ophthalmologist to check the pressure behind her eyes.  Despite the braces, mobility is not an issue and she even cheers for an Upward basketball team!  She is actively involved in choir, musicals and theatre and does not allow her orthotics to limit her abilities. Cognitively, she is fine and does well in school.  Other than medical visits to monitor her conditions, Lilly is a typical pre-teen on the brink of celebrating her 13th birthday next month.

Jenny told me that as a parent, her greatest challenge has been advocating for her daughter medically.  While she trusts her treating specialists and referred to them as “amazing,” she also trusts her own instincts as Lilly’s mother.  She shared that the neuro department wanted to perform a procedure on Lilly’s shunt, however, Lilly was not showing any neurological symptoms to indicate intervention was needed at the time.  Despite the surgical recommendation, they made a decision together as a family to wait after learning there were more risks with having the surgery than not.  They realize that surgery may be needed in the future and will face that when the time comes.

Jenny and Daniel have also taught Lilly how to deal with curious questions from her friends as well as prying questions from others.  They have given her the confidence that her adoption story and tough beginning are HER story and she can choose to share the details or keep them private.  Her outgoing personality works to her favor in this regard.

When I asked Jenny what she would like other parents to know as they consider a special needs adoption, she said, “Disability does not mean constant illness and inabilities.”  She shared that Lilly is a very healthy child and in the past 10 years, has probably seen her pediatrician for sick visits only 3-4 times.  She also reiterated all of the positives in Lilly’s life and above all she wanted to share that Lilly had taught her and the rest of their family to persevere.  Watching Lilly navigate the hardships in her life “has been amazing to see!”  In talking with Jenny, it became clear long before she said it that, “As her mother, she makes me so proud!”

2 Timothy 1:7 For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Nutrition & Your Adopted Child

When children are adopted, they often have had trauma in their lives that can affect many aspects of their lives, with eating being one of them.  In fact, nearly 80% of children with developmental issues also have feeding issues.  So it is no wonder that our children who are adopted, who are often developmentally delayed and have experienced many issues, such as bottle propping as infants and then given mushy and limited number of foods often have eating problems.

These issues do not just apply to internationally adopted children but can be seen in children who have been in foster-care.  If your child was adopted from foster care, she may be normal weight, but she may have been deprived of certain foods, given lots of snack foods, and may not have been provided any structure around meal time.  On the other hand, if your child is from an orphanage, he may have had overly structured meal times and had to consume limited amounts of food very quickly.

In the  book Love Me Feed Me: The Adoptive Parent’s Guide to Ending the Worry About Weight, Picky Eating, Power Struggles and More ,  Katja Rowell, a medical doctor, does not so much  provide nutritional goals for the adopted  child but  she explains the best ways to establish a positive relationship between you and your child.  Food and dietary habits can become an integral part of what Dr. Rowell call the Trust Model for establishing attachment with your child.  This Trust Model helps to provide nurture as well as means of establishing healthy eating habits in your child.  You may be asking, “But what about my other kids who have not had difficult starts in life? How am I going to make meal time different for all my children?  As with any positive attachment and trust model, this model can be used with all children.

This Trust Model promotes shared power: you the parent determine when, where and what your child will eat, and your child gets to determine if and how much to eat based on what foods are there.  This allows you to decide on what nutritional foods your child can select from and where and when your child will eat, but the child gets to decide on what food to select from and how much to eat.  Now, of course, an infant, who has nearly all the power when it comes to feeding, decides the when, where and how much to eat; you, the parent, just decide on what milk to give her.

The Trust Model gives children the structure that they need as they know what to expect. And as with feeding a baby, sometimes you must take your cues from your child.   For example, younger children need to be fed more often, so they will ask for snacks more often in-between meals.  If your child is malnourished, you may need to offer your child food more often until you get to know your child’s signals as to when he is hungry.

Feeding your child with the family helps your child see others eating, sets a model of portions, and to be able to know when he is hungry and full.  At meal time, it is best to have different types of foods at the table—especially those that your child likes based on taste and texture—so that your child can have familiar foods as well as try new foods in a non-coercive setting.

Giving your child a snack—in the afternoon—or perhaps two snacks—can help a child who gets cranky in the afternoon waiting for dinner to feel more relaxed and content  Do not be concerned with a “ruined appetite” before dinner.    Your child may eat less at meal time, but as long as the snacks provide healthful foods, your child will get the nutrients he needs.

Simple but practical solutions for children who come from difficult pasts can help solve food and meal time problems.  However, some children, especially those with medical and sensory problems, may require more therapeutic assistance.  Often an occupational therapist (OT) is the first professional who may become involved, as the OT usually assesses sensory and gross and fine motor skills and the child’s ability to feed herself.  A registered dietitian (RD) may assess the child’s nutritional intake and growth patterns and if more serious steps must be taken, such as tube feedings, are necessary.   As with any type of professional who is going to provide advice and some counseling, certain factors must be taken into consideration.  A mental health counselor would be involved to assess the parents’ and child’s interactions surrounding food and may also assess attachment issues.  The counselor would also work closely with the other professionals such as an OT and RD.

If you, as a parent, are having major food issues with your child, your child’s pediatrician may not give the advice you need, unless your pediatrician is very familiar with adopted children’s needs.  Instead, you may need to consult with a pediatrician at an international clinic for a referral to a feeding clinic or OT.

If you feel that your child is growing steadily but there are still major issues surrounding  eating issues, then you may want to consult with a counselor who has experience with adoption and attachment issues and can help you use trust based approaches in helping you and your child with behavioral issues surrounding food.  If your child is having eating issues and may also have sensory and other issues related to motor skills, then  the  counselor and OT  need to be working together.  The approach needs to be parent focused as adopted children need to be attaching to their parents—not separated from them.

Rowell has a list of questions you may need to ask before working with a professional:

  • How do you help the parents integrate the skills at home?
  • Am going to be involved in the treatment plan, or am I going to be separated from my child? (Parents are the ones who ultimately work with the child.)
  • Do you use negative/positive reinforcement? (Either type of reinforcement can feel like coercion to a child and can result in a power struggle.)
  • Do you require the child to eat food she does not want or hold food in front of the child until she eats it? (This leads to a power a struggle.)
  • What resources do you suggest?

Children who have had difficult starts in life had little control in their lives and often feel shame.  So any approach that takes away power from a child (instead of offering shared power with the parent) or shames a child into eating often leads to more problems.

Bad formal therapy is worse than no therapy.    But good therapy need not be formal–it can be done by the parents if the parents can take cues from the child.  The parent can trust the child to do the eating while the child trusts the parent to be “there” for him and builds upon the relationship.

To learn more about your child’s nutritional and feeding needs, these websites provide very valuable information, tools, and even equipment:

 

  • http://adoptionnutrition.org/ This website provides information related to the nutritional needs of adopted children—even by country—as well as addresses some feeding issues such as hoarding and children who will not eat.

 

  • http://mealtimenotions.com/  This site offers stories, articles and information regarding the feeding and nutritional needs of children with special physical and sensory issues.

 

Foster and Adoptive Parent Resources

My husband and I became foster parents after only having been married a year and a half. We were in our late twenties and had no biological children. After working with kids in foster care in our professions, going through the home study process, talking with other foster families, and completing the 14+ hours of training required we thought we were somewhat well prepared. Looking back on it now 12 years later however, I see that we were so naive and clueless.

Our first placement was a teenage boy who we parented for a year and a half. Our next placement came in 2007 with a 3 year old and 6 month old- two boys who we would foster for three years and eventually have the honor of adopting in 2010.

We kept up all of the state-mandated training hours for the years we had our foster license. Some trainings were good… some not so much. We did the best we could in those early years to lead with compassion and to address hard behaviors in the best ways we knew how. Our young, starry-eyed selves thought that love would be enough to repair the past our children had endured, but time after time we were left feeling depleted and desperate realizing that it wasn’t enough.

In the past five years since I began working at Nightlight I have learned so much that would have helped me in those early years. I have learned to look beyond the behaviors into what is underneath. I have learned that past trauma can cause real changes in a child’s brain development. I have learned that traditional strategies in parenting a child with a history of abuse, neglect, trauma, prenatal exposure, and chronic stress will not be effective. These kids need more. They need us, as their caregivers, to be trauma-informed. They need us to look past the behaviors and focus on connection. They deserve to know that they are valued and worth fighting for.

Below is a list of resources that I would give to my 28 year old self before any child entered my home. Start reading, listening, and learning about how to help bring true healing to the children in your care. Keep educating yourself after they come into your home. I have thought countless times that “I wish I knew then what I know now…” there are so many things I would have handled better. I realize though, that it’s never too late. There are still so many things that we have not yet walked through with our kids that we will handle better because of the ways we work to continue educating ourselves. These are some of the best tools that I’ve found that have transformed the way that we parent. I hope they will help, encourage, and empower you as you care for the children God entrusts you with.

 

Books to Read

The links for all resources are in the titles.

Videos to Watch

***Both of the above videos expand on information first presented in The Connected Child

Podcasts to Listen To

Follow this link to a popular foster/adoption blog “Confessions of an Adoptive Parent” for a fantastic list of can’t miss podcasts for foster and adoptive parents. We also recommend Creating a Family which has a huge library of podcasts on various topics related to foster parenting, adoption, and infertility.

Conferences to Attend

  • Empowered to Connect– The Empowered to Connect Conference is a two-day event presented by Show Hope and the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development. It offers practical teaching in a safe and supportive community and is meant to equip families, churches, and professionals to better serve children impacted by adoption and foster care. The Empowered to Connect conference is coming up and we encourage all of our families to go if they can! It is being offered April 13-14th and you can experience this conference by attending the live event in Oswego, IL or by attending a live simulcast at a location near you!
  • CAFO– The Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit is an annual conference that inspires and equips the Church to care for orphans and vulnerable children with wisdom-guided love. Last year’s conference drew over 2,000 foster and adoptive parents, orphan advocates, pastors and professionals from 30 countries. This year’s conference will be held in Frisco, Texas on May 9- 11, 2018.

Other Helpful Resources

  • This Free, printable foster care binder to help you organize- this will help create a space for you to easily organize information for any child based in your home such as doctor’s appointments, medications administered, court hearings, visitations, etc.
  • This is a great article about what to do on your child’s first day home to help them feel comfortable and safe.
  • Your local churches! The local churches in our area have really stepped up in so many ways to serve foster families. There are churches in our community that offer support groups, a monthly parents’ night out, training, and resources such as clothes, books, toys, and furniture for families when they receive a new placement. Make some phone calls to local churches to see if they have a foster/adoption ministry.

Celebrating Read Across America Day With Your Adopted Child

With the goal of motivating children to read and ultimately creating successful and life-long learners, over 50 organizations and over three million educators partner with the National Education Association to celebrate reading and provide materials and resources to help children continue to read 365 days a year! Through much research, we have learned that “children who are motivated and spend more time reading do better in school.”

The NEA’s website offers a wealth of resources to be able to celebrate throughout the month. Look for the following exciting and helpful resources: an opportunity for families to participate in a Facebook Live Event, an article noting book recommendations written by a diverse group of children’s book authors, a fun Share Your ‘Shelfie’ Challenge, reading resources for each month of the year, and much more!

Read Across America Day provides a great opportunity to introduce your adopted child to some great children’s books that they can relate to and enjoy!  Many are great tools to celebrate with your child their unique and beautiful adoption story. Perhaps you have a family member or friend preparing to adopt a little one—something like this would be a helpful and treasured gift. Below, we have provided some of the book titles that many adoptive families have enjoyed sharing with their children.

Children’s Books for Domestically Adopted Children:

A Blessing from Above: Patti Henderson

A Koala for Katie: Jonathan London

A Mother for Choco: Keiko Kasra

Did My First Mother Love Me: Kathryn Ann Miller

God Gave Us You: Lisa Tawn Bergren and Laura J. Bryant

Families are Forever: Deborah Capone

Horace (Reading Rainbow Book): Holly Keller

Is That Your Sister: Catherine and Sherry Bunin

Just in Case you Ever Wonder: Max Lucado

The Keeping Quilt: Patricia Polacco (September 1994)

Let’s Talk About It: Adoption: Fred Rogers

Little Miss Spider: David Kirk + A Christmas Wish

A Little Story About a Big Turnip: Tatiana Zunshine (ages 2-8)

Megan’s Birthday Tree: A Story about Open Adoption: Laurie Lears

My Special Someone: A Child’s Perspective of Adoption: Brittany and Sherry Kyle

The Mulberry Bird: Anne Braff Brodzinsky

Never, Never, Never Will She Stop Loving You: Jolene Durrant

Oliver: A Story About Adoption: Lois Wickstrom

Our Twitchy: Kes Gray and Mary McQuillan

Sam’s Sister: Juliet Bond

Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born: Jamie Lee Curtis

Through Moon and Stars and Night Skies: Kristine Wise

 

Children’s Books for Internationally Adopted Children:

At Home in This World. . . A China Adoption Story: Jean MacLeod

Just Add One Chinese Sister: Patricia McMahon and Conor Clarke McCarthy

I Love You Like Crazy Cakes:  Rose A. Lewis

Moonbeams, Dumplings and Dragon Boats: A Treasury of Chinese Holiday Tales:  Nina Simonds, Leslie Swartz and The Children’s Museum, Boston

Waiting for May:  Janet Morgan Stoeke

Families Are Forever: Deborah Capone

Horace: Holly Keller

I Love You Like Crazy Cakes: Rose Lewis

Is That Your Sister?: Catherine and Sherry Bunin

Babies Come from Airports: Erin Dealey

 

Children’s Books for Transracially Adoption Children:

The Keeping Quilt: Patricia Polacco

Little Miss Spider: David Kirk

The Little Snowgirl: Carollyn Croll

A Little Story About A Big Turnip: Tatiana Zunshine

A Mother for Choco: Keiko Kasra

Over The Moon: Karen Katz

Seeds of Love: Mary Ebejer Peteryl

Three Cheers for Catherine the Great! : Cari Best

Through Moon and Stars and Night Skies: Kristine Wise

Honoring Your Child’s Culture and Heritage

As we are celebrating Black History Month in February, it seemed timely to discuss ways that foster or adoptive parents can honor their child’s culture, heritage, and racial identity. This is not only something that is recommended for transracial families, but it is essential. Children have a deep desire to know their history and to have a strong sense of identity in who God made them. It is our responsibility as their parents to not only discuss issues related to race but to instill a sense of pride in our child regarding their rich heritage.

I recently got in touch with one of our adoptive families who welcomed their sweet, beautiful Eden into their family as a newborn over two years ago. When I asked Eden’s mother about the biggest lesson they’ve learned in becoming a transracial family, Ashley shared the following:

We have learned the importance of continuing to learn and being intentional! It’s so important to celebrate our daughter’s heritage. We want to honor the unique beauty God has given her while at the same time showing her “mirrors,” or people who look like her. We have chosen to be intentional in honoring our daughter’s culture and heritage. It won’t happen naturally, so it is something we have to seek out to make it a regular part of our lives. Do your homework! Have books, dolls, and resources in your house that honor his or her heritage. Follow social media accounts that celebrate or mirror your child’s culture. But most importantly, find actual people! Is there a festival in your town? A restaurant? A more diverse playground? A place of worship? Go! Make new friends! 

 

This transracial family life is a journey. I don’t have the advantage of having growing up in [my child’s] culture. There’s no way I could learn a lifetime of history, information, or hair care in a day. (Although, I could try! Hello, YouTube!) But give yourself grace. That’s where those newfound friends can be invaluable! If I take the posture of a student, I’ve yet to find someone who isn’t willing to teach, share, or encourage.

What honest, heartfelt, and beautiful advice! The fact is that honoring your foster or adoptive child’s culture or heritage is something that every parent needs to prioritize in their home and within their family. Some elements will come easier than others. There are times that you will feel out of your comfort zone. There are times when you will want to seek out proud and successful men or women of color for advice on how to raise your son or daughter. Asking for help in this way can be scary, but the reward can be so great.

In speaking with Eden’s mother, Ashley regarding the hardest lesson their family has learned in becoming a transracial family she shared the following:

It took having a child of a different race to care deeply about racial tension, divides, and injustices… And the evolution in my heart doesn’t automatically mean my family and friends have evolved, too. If you’re like me, you’ve read, studied, and listened to all the podcasts on transracial adoption. Chances are your friends and family have logged zero hours doing the same. Give them some grace, too. Sometimes- most of the time- this friction means having hard conversations to share what you’ve learned or how their words could be insensitive to your child. Sometimes (hopefully rarely) it means distancing yourself from some friends. Working toward unity is worth the effort! 

Do you have questions related to celebrating your child’s heritage or culture? Are there specific elements of this topic that you would like to address more directly? Please give us feedback so that we can share information that will be helpful to you.

Other resources you may find helpful are as follows:

Young Adult Transracial Adoptees Talk about Adoption– A podcast from the perspective of the adoptee. The host interviews four black adoptees in their twenties who were raised by white parents about their experience with transracial adoption.

Transracial Adoption: Talking About Race– an article regarding the importance of talking about race with your adopted child, including a link to the podcast “Transracial Adoption: Doing It Well.”

Raising a Child of Another Race– An article about instilling racial pride in adopted kids

Books on Transracial Adoption– this is a list of books that discuss issues related to transracial adoption.

Peace of a Father

Last summer I took three of my sons to the Little League World Series. When we arrived, I realized how incredibly crowded this complex was and knew that it would be tough to keep my excited, always-looking-for-a-little-independence children at my side all day. So, I pointed to a specific welcome booth and told them that if we were separated, they were to find this place and I would come there to find them. Even this didn’t seem like a very good plan — there were people everywhere. But it was the best thing I could come up with. And I was also sure it wouldn’t matter anyway, because I was not letting them out of my sight!

childIt had been a good day. The sun had set. We saw some great baseball, and it was time to use the restroom (and the snack bar… again) before heading to the car. Well, the restroom had two exits, and my son Aaron went out a different door than we had all entered. After waiting for him outside for several minutes, I started to think he must be having some real trouble in there, but when I went in to check on him, he was gone. Gone into the dark, into the crowd of 30,000 people.

I planted the other two boys firmly in one place and told them not to move and started my search. I retraced all of our steps from the day, checked the bathroom again, ran through the crowd again, this time much faster and more frantically than before. Nothing. It was time to get the police and go all out on this search.

My heart was racing as I ran to find an officer, and on my way, I ran right past the welcome booth we had identified on our arrival. I had forgotten about it, but Aaron had not. There he stood, hands casually in his pockets rocking back and forth from heel to toe, probably whistling if I could’ve heard anything.

I dropped to my knees and hugged the life out of him (as he is just young enough not to be too embarrassed by this). I asked him if he was afraid. His words: “Nah. You’re my dad. I knew you’d come for me.

1385296_10153402279045713_713493181_nTHIS IS A BIG DEAL. You see, Aaron used to be counted among the fatherless. He was adopted from Uganda about two and a half years ago. But in that time, he has learned the love, security and peace of knowing that his father would be his rescuer and protector. Aaron is no longer among the fatherless. And, only by God’s grace, Aaron is learning the love of his Heavenly Father through me, the earthly father who showed up just a few years ago. To me, this is a perfect illustration of the kind of transformation that happens when a child learns of his place in a family.

 

 

Written by guest blogger and adoptive parent Adam M. Keath, President of New Hope Uganda Ministries