How to Manage and Complete Adoption Paperwork

 

When my wife and I meet new people, I love explaining what I do for work and the joy I get from helping guide families throughout their adoption process. I love sharing the adoption stories and testimonies of the families we work with, and how each have a personal and unique journey through adoption. For those looking to build their family through adoption, the process is indeed a journey; one that will be simultaneously life-giving and challenging. As with any journey, often times the hardest part is getting started.

 

I find this to be especially true with the families I work with as they begin to navigate the adoption paperwork stage of the process.  Adoption paperwork is a necessary and vital part of the adoption journey, but it can definitely feel overwhelming for families.  Even the most organized of couples tend to have a hard time keeping it all together! At Nightlight Christian Adoptions, we acknowledge the difficulty of this process, so we have compiled a few tips to help families manage, and ultimately complete, their adoption paperwork.

 

     1. Break Paperwork Down to Manageable Pieces

 

One of the biggest mistakes I see families make in the adoption paperwork phase is when they try to take on every form at once. This usually starts out with good intentions as the family is driven by their excitement to keep the ball rolling, but it is almost always met with them becoming overwhelmed. Instead, we recommend that families break their paperwork down into manageable pieces.

 

Breaking the paperwork down is a beneficial way to both organize forms and find peace of mind by putting your work into perspective. A helpful way to do this is to separate the paperwork into corresponding sections in a folder or binder. An example breakdown of this is as followed:

 

  • Agency Forms
  • Home Study Forms
  • Financial Forms
  • Dossier Forms
  • Education Forms, etc.

 

Another way to break down the paperwork requirements is to separate responsibilities between you and your spouse. You can designate who fills out each section of forms and come together on the forms that require both adoptive parents to complete. Regardless of one’s method, breaking down the paperwork into pieces helps families manage their work and prevents them from becoming overwhelmed with the process.

 

 

  1. Utilize Your Checklists

 

A helpful tool that every Nightlight office provides for families is a checklist for the supporting documents of each case stage.  Viewing the adoption paperwork broken down as a checklist allows a family to physically track their progress towards completing their required forms. We advise families to always keep these checklists handy, and to utilize their own created checklists if it helps them understand the process more tangibly. For families with children in the home, this is also a way to get them involved in the adoption process. One idea for families with little ones is to have a checklist of adoption paperwork on a whiteboard or poster board where they can help you place a sticker or draw a checkmark when and item is completed. This could be a fun way to have the whole family feel a part of the adoption process while giving you a visual of your progress.

 

  1. Make Copies of Everything You Complete

 

Often times I find that families become so focused on filling out and uploading/mailing their forms that they forget to make copies for their own records. This causes an issue later in the process when a document needs to be resent or referred to, only for the family to realize that they mailed or discarded their only copy. Several of the documents completed during the adoption paperwork phase will need to be referred to again in the process, and ensuring that your family has access to what you have already completed will save a lot of time and energy in the future.

 

Your family might choose to store everything online or through hard copies, but regardless of the method it is important to keep records of your paperwork throughout the entire adoption journey. For example, a family that is adopting internationally might think that they are finished with their paperwork once they have arrived back in the U.S. with their child. However, in reality they will need several of their documents in order to obtain the child’s social security number, U.S. Passport, and start the re-adoption process if applicable. So a good rule of thumb is to always back-up and keep record of every document you complete!

 

  1. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help

 

This tip might seem like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how frequently I hear from families who are hesitant to ask for help from their agency caseworker or adoption advisor. At Nightlight we are always willing to help walk our families through the process: from start to finish! This includes the paperwork phase, as we recognize the amount of work that is required and the confusion that comes with the process. From application, to home study, to dossier, to post adoption; whatever questions you might have regarding paperwork during your adoption journey, your Nightlight adoption advisor or caseworker is willing to help you find a solution.

So although paperwork is not the most exciting part of your adoption journey, it is something that is vital to the process. Instead of becoming overwhelmed with the amount of forms and documents, utilize the tools at your disposal to organize and manage what needs to be completed. As always, Nightlight Christian Adoptions is here to see that your journey end with you welcoming your child into a loving home.

 

written by John Hewitt, M.Div.| Home Study Coordinator

Ways to Love a Birth Mom

All the chocolate has been consumed. All the flowers purchased and delivered. All the cards and kind messages relayed to loved ones. As February is drawing to an end, what better time to reflect on what it looks like to love others well in the coming year. As adoptive parents, you often have special people to love that would not have otherwise crossed your paths if it weren’t for adoption. Whether you are still waiting to meet your child’s birth mother or whether you’re walking through life with her already, here are some practical ways you can actively and genuinely love the women in your lives that made the sacrificial choice of adoption and, thus, have become a special part of your family.

  1. Pray. Pray daily for your child’s birth mother. Pray that she would grow in wisdom. Pray that she would know God’s presence and be comforted by His great love for her. Pray that she would be strengthened by His spirit and that any shame or guilt would be laid to rest through Christ’s love and fondness for her. Set aside a special time each day—maybe the hour your child was born or the hour you first met your child’s birth mother—to specifically and earnestly pray for her.
  2. Give. Give your time, especially. Give a listening ear. Give a photo when you promised to send one. Give a special gift on certain days throughout the year. Give validation where it is needed. Birth mothers experience a variety of different thoughts and emotions that are often hard for them to process and express. Validate her fears when they are expressed to you. Validate her sadness and grief. Validate her efforts to remain connected with your child. Validate her value and worth as an individual. Validate her gifts and talents as they become evident to you.
  3. Pay attention. Whether you already know your child’s birth mother or are just beginning to get to know her, take time to understand what makes her feel loved, valued, respected, and cherished. Does she respond well to words of affirmation or prefer receiving gifts? Does she enjoy spending quality time or appreciate acts of service? Be attentive to her needs as an individual and seek to meet them in notable ways. Write a note to her detailing what you love or value about her. Send a bouquet of flowers to her unexpectedly one day. Speak to her as a friend. Really pay attention to what she says and value the opportunity to learn from her.
  4. Do what you say you’re going to do. Birth mothers have often had people in their lives make promises that are left unfulfilled. You can imagine how wounding that can be over time. Overcommitting can often lead to even more heartbreak, grief, and rejection for birth mothers. That is why it is absolutely crucial to avoid overcommitting and only say what you’re actually willing to do. Let your yes be your yes, and your no be your no. If you say you’ll send pictures, send them as you promised. If you agreed to meet up before the birth, make time to meet her! If you told her you would write a letter a few times a year, make sure the letters make it to her.
  5. Empathize. Social researcher, Dr. Brené Brown, made an important distinction when saying that empathy fuels connection, whereas sympathy drives disconnection. Connection is always the goal—for adoptive parents, birth parents, and children. So, when listening to the stories, thoughts, or feelings of these courageous women, try focusing on empathizing—feeling with them rather feeling sorry for them. For more on the distinction Dr. Brown makes and why empathy holds so much more power when connecting with not just birth mothers, but also others with whom we interact each day, I would encourage you to watch this short video.

Equipping Minds of All Ages and Abilities to Reach Their Full Potential

 

 

Autism Spectrum, Anxiety, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia, Gifted, Learning Challenges, ADD/ADHD, Traumatic Brain Injury, Memory,Comprehension, Down Syndrome, Processing Disorders, Dementia, Executive Functioning, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Communication Disorders, Trauma, Post Concussion Syndrome, Parkinsons, PANDAS, and Neurodevelopment Disorders

Equipping Minds to Reach Their Full Potential 

Join Dr. Carol Brown

FACEBOOK LIVE

NO CHARGE

February 6,13,20,27 – March 6,13,20,27

Wednesday’s 6:30-7:30 PM  EDT

Or Join In Person at Buck Run Baptist Church

1950 Leestown Road, Frankfort, KY

Sessions will be recorded and available to watch later on the Equipping Minds Youtube channel and Facebook page.

 

Host a group at your home, church, or school.We will be playing games to build cognitive, social, emotional, sensory, and motor skills.  These games are used to find the specific areas in which the brain struggles such as working memory, processing speed, perceptual reasoning, and comprehension. Parents, teachers, and therapists are implementing at home, in the classroom, and in their centers improving reading, math, writing, language, social skills, and behavior.

 

We will have 8 sessions to equip you to work with your own children.

 

What separates Equipping Minds from other programs is its holistic approach. The Equipping Minds program uses nutritional therapy, primitive reflex exercises, sound therapy, vestibular therapy, and vision exercises in addition to Equipping Minds cognitive exercises.

 

Scientists are excited about your brain’s abilities to keep growing, learning, changing,and healing, ALL THROUGH LIFE! Equipping Minds will give you the practical exercises and games to do just that. You will be equipped to build memory, processing, comprehension, language, social, and reasoning skills in learners of all ages and abilities. It is based on a biblical view of human development that believes the brain can change.

 

Equipping Minds also differs from other programs, in that, these brain strengthening exercises use what the student already knows. Equipping Minds ingeniously sets aside academic skills allowing us to get to the foundational roots and cognitive functions, quickly and accurately. Working memory and processing speed are two of the most common weaknesses we see in students with learning challenges. They often get labeled with ADHD, dyslexia, and other learning disorders when what they really need is a holistic approach to address the neurodevelopmental and cognitive foundations.

 

I am excited to see how God will use this course. Please share with those you feel would benefit.

 

Blessings,

Carol 

Dr. Carol Brown has over 35 years of experience as a principal, teacher, cognitive developmental therapist, social worker, reading and learning specialist, speaker, HSLDA special needs consultant, and mother.  Carol has completed her Doctor of Education (Ed.D) from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. She received her M.A. in Social Services from Southwestern Seminary and B.A. in Rehabilitation Counseling from Marshall University. She is a contributing author in the book, Neuroscience and Christian Formation, Human Development: Equipping Minds with Cognitive Development , and the Equipping Minds Cognitive Development Curriculum. 

She has served as a learning specialist, teacher, principal, and head of school  in classical Christian schools in North Carolina, Georgia, Northern Virginia, and Lyon, France. Carol trains public, private, and homeschool educators in the Equipping Minds Cognitive Development Curriculum which she created. She has conducted professional development workshops for Kentucky Association of School Councils (KASC), Toyota, University of Kentucky College of Medicine, Kentucky Parks and Recreation, Kentucky Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, Centre College,Society of Professors in Christian Education (SPCE), National Alliance on Mental Illness ( NAMI),  homeschool conferences, and civic organizations. 

   

Preserving Your Marriage During Your Adoption Journey

 

Adopting a child is exciting and joyful, but it can also bring stress and strain into a couple’s marriage. Our lives are already filled with stresses from work, financial obligations, and other family-related issues, and the adoption process only adds more strain. Some couples considering adoption may still be experiencing emotions related to infertility. Others may already have children born to them and are now considering adoption to continue building their family. Regardless of the situation, the adoption process will add more pressure to your life.

If you and your spouse are considering adoption, whether it’s domestic, international, foster, or embryo adoption, here are some suggestions for keeping your marriage strong:

First thing’s first: Make sure you are both in agreement before you begin the adoption process.

It is rare to hear of an adoption story where both parties are on the same page when first considering adoption. Adopting a child will rank in the top five most important decisions any couple will make. While you may not begin on the same page, it’s absolutely essential you both agree before starting the process.

If you are facing infertility, one way to begin working towards being on the same page is grieving the loss of your genetic child. Couples who adopt after infertility need to acknowledge their loss and grieve them together. If the couple does not reflect on their loss together, they may not be ready to fully enjoy the amazing blessing of adoption. You can watch our webinar for more information on grieving the loss of a genetic child.

Romance is Important!

Date night is important! Don’t stop enjoying each other’s company because of the stress of the adoption process. Schedule something to do every week, or at least once a month, that has nothing to do with the adoption. This will help you both to remember your relationship is first and foremost.

It’s a Marathon, not a Sprint

Adjusting to the adoption doesn’t end when you sign the initial paperwork, or complete your home study, or when you are matched, or even when you first bring your child into your home. Adoption is a marathon, not a sprint. You will be parents to the child for life. Be prepared to make adjustments to your schedules and lives that you may not have otherwise done.

Communicate Frequently

There may be a tendency to keep things hidden from your spouse. Whether you don’t want to hurt them or you have concerns or doubts they don’t agree with—it can be a temptation. It is important to set aside time to talk to one another about what is happening. It’s also equally important to listen as much as you talk.

For more information on preserving your marriage while building your family, watch our webinar here.

The Travesty of Human Trafficking

Definition: Human trafficking is exploitation of another person to force them to work for little or no pay. It’s often associated with sex work, but trafficking is a little broader than that; for example, many trafficked people are forced to do agricultural labor.

 

Human trafficking is a sticky subject that’s as important to address as it is uncomfortable to think about. We don’t want slavery to be an issue, so sometimes we forget that it still is. Maybe we don’t want to know what’s going on in that dark corner of society. Why should we be aware of the human trafficking situation?

 

Every compassionate person is grieved by the idea of someone else being mistreated or abused. Just as we don’t want to have our life, its potential, and our dreams stolen from us, we don’t want others to experience that loss. But while sometimes we feel pain in our hearts, or empathize with someone in our head, that doesn’t mean our hands act. We may be educated about the plight of slaves, but let us be stirred to action by it.

 

There is a Biblical mandate to help the helpless: Jeremiah 22:3 says, “Thus says the LORD, “Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.” If we are God’s people, we should act according to His values. We ourselves were helpless, and He saved us; should we not do the same for others He longs to save?

 

Let us take a few moments to explore some facts behind human trafficking, and learn about ways people (law enforcement officers and civilians) are fighting this crime. By raising awareness, we seek not merely to educate others, but to spur them into action. Informed minds are a good first step, but busy hands and rescued lives are the goal.

 

 

“If you truly believe in the value of life, you care about all of the weakest and most vulnerable members of society.”               — Joni Eareckson Tada

 

Statistics about Trafficking

Worldwide, there are about 12.3 million adults and children in forced labor.a For this number, the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates a 9:1 ratio for labor trafficking victims to sex trafficking victims. While there are more slaves in the labor trade, sexual exploitation is by far the most commonly identified form of trafficking in persons (79%).b

 

In America, commercial sex enjoys a booming market. Sex is catching up to illegal drugs in demand, and has already passed illegal firearms. This may stem from the relative lower risk of the sex trade, and because victims can be “recycled” and used again.

 

Exploitation of minors is a large concern, especially for parents in metropolitan areas, and about kids from unstable homes. ILO estimates that one in five trafficking victims are minors6; the age for entering victimhood is becoming younger and younger, currently at about 13 years old.c In the United States, Polaris studies found that a little more than 40% of suspected or confirmed child victims of domestic sex trade are runaways from home, foster care, or shelters. 40-70% of all street youth engage in prostitution, at least occasionally, to meet their basic needs. Interestingly, this population is divided nearly equally among male and female.a

 

By state, California has the highest number of human trafficking cases by far, and Georgia is 8th highest on the list. Nationwide, more citizens than foreigners are victimized. Most of these victims are adults, and the majority of them are female (82%). In 2017, Polaris reported 8,524 cases of human trafficking in the United States, and 405,308 total cases since 2007.d

 

Let’s look even closer to home: since 2007 in Georgia there have been about 3.3k victims of “moderate” trafficking cases, and just under 4k victims of “high” trafficking cases.d More recently, in 2018, about 21% of trafficking cases were labor-related, and around 68% were sex trafficking. The number of victims are almost equal for foreigners vs. U.S. citizens, which is a sinister aspect of sex trafficking: the trade isn’t isolated to any one geographical location, neither does it tend to target one race or socioeconomic class over the other.d Women are the only ones that seem singled out, since about 4 in 5 victims are female.c Everyone has at least one woman involved in their lives (a mother, sister, wife, daughter, or friend, etc.), so this is truly a risk that concerns everyone.

 

Last decade, between 2003 and 2007, Washington, D.C. studied 8 major American cities and found that metro Atlanta had the largest sex trade among them, making more revenue off sex ($290 million) than illegal drugs and guns combined.e Miami was 2nd at $200 mil, and Dallas was $99.

Statistics:

Every month in Georgia:

·         354 minors are sold for sex to 7,200 customers.c
·         Including repeat purchases, an estimated 8,770 sex acts are paid for.c
·         Approximately 374 girls are sexually exploited.f
·         About 12,400 customers pay for sex.g

Trafficking in Atlanta:

·         Roughly 300 girls from Atlanta are lured into trafficking every month, many of them from Mexico.e
·         Most sex purchases are done around suburban and metro Atlanta, 9% of them made near the airport.g
·         Atlanta has the highest number of trafficked Hispanic females in the nation.h

 

Effects of Trafficking

So far, all we’ve explored is the population of modern slaves. We’ve established there are far too many people suffering in bondage. Now let us consider the individual slave, and the horrors that defile their life. Statistics mean nothing if there is no day-to-day reality behind them; we will only try to stop a force when we believe it is wicked. What is it that makes trafficking something we should spend energy fighting?

 

The deleterious effects of trafficking are numerous. Of course, there are physical harms done to a body, if they’re forced to work long hours in a sickly environment (chronic fatigue, infectious diseases, and pain are common results of this), or are a part of the sex industry (there is rectal trauma, pregnancies, or botched abortions, and exposure to STDs). Additionally, it is possible a victim is malnourished, physically abused, and unable to get treatment for conditions such as diabetes or cancer. Many victims may turn to substance abuse as a method of mental escape, if they can’t get away physically.

 

There are also psychological harms to consider. Rescued victims of human trafficking are at a great risk for “anxiety, panic disorder, major depression, substance abuse, and eating disorders.”12 Victims also commonly suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD greatly contributes to functional and behavioral problems, such as self-mutilation, suicidal behavior, and difficulties in controlling emotions and concentrating. Thus, even if a victim is physically taken out of the hands of the trafficker, it can be difficult for them to recover, obtain and keep a job, or even perform basic functions in society.i

 

Amorality of Trafficking

“For me, no ideological or political conviction would justify the sacrifice of a human life. For me, the value of life is absolute, with no concessions. It’s not negotiable.”                 — Edgar Ramirez

 

Hopefully we find our stomachs turning over as we consider these atrocities. Feelings of repulsion and disgust assure us that we are not sadistic, but we should understand this is more than just a crime or violation of the 13th Amendment. Trafficking is a moral wrong, and a trespass against not only a person’s body, but on a human’s soul.

 

Our Creator, Who shaped our minds and bodies, knows exactly what the injurious impacts of trafficking are. He speaks clearly against kidnapping in Exodus 21:16 when He commands, “He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death.” (Deut. 24:7 speaks similarly) In Luke 10:7, Jesus says “The laborer is worthy of his wages,” meaning we should pay one another fairly. (This is repeated in 1 Tim. 5:18) In 1 Corinthians 6, verses 9 and 18 speak against sexual immorality and promiscuity, declaring that the sexually immoral will not inherit the kingdom of God, while Deuteronomy 22:25-29 explains the punishment for a rapist.

 

Clearly, human trafficking, whether for labor, sex, or anything else, is contrary to God’s perfect plan for the earth. He instilled in us an antipathy towards these heinous acts, and inspired us to hate what He hates. He even tells us to do something about the problem: Psalm 82:4 says “Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.”

 

The good news is that there are already individuals who are passionate about rescuing the weak and needy. Laws have been passed in Georgia that allow space for stricter punishments on traffickers, and make their case harder to defend.j But we must realize tighter punishment isn’t sufficient to eradicate the problem; if traffickers will ignore their conscience and the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, then cracking down tougher laws won’t stop all of them, either. Thankfully, there are plenty of non-governmental programs who place value on human life and are also ready to see the captive set free.

 

 

What Can We Do?

Although it’s difficult, many victims find they can recover from their trauma and become productive in work again. As Psalm 68:20 says, “God is to us a God of deliverances; And to GOD the Lord belong escapes from death.” Already there are teams and institutions in place that make concerted efforts to free slaves and offer them another chance at life. Some of these are listed below:

 

Street Grace is an Atlanta-based and faith-driven organization dedicated to decreasing the demand for the sex trade. They fight domestic minor sex trafficking through awareness, education, and action. They seek to train all city and county personnel to recognize and report cases of trafficking.c

 

Not for Sale is based in San Francisco, but is at work in over 40 countries across 5 continents.  They labor to stop modern slavery through a 3-step process: they meet the needs of slaves, learn why a region is at risk for slavery, and seek to establish ways to reduce that risk and enrich the lives of inhabitants. “Forced labor is a tool,” they say, but an unethical one they seek to replace with skills, stability, and fairness that still values each person.k

 

There are also networks, like The National Human Trafficking Hotline which is operated by Polaris, a non-profit, non-governmental organization. Funded by the Department of Health and Human Services, the Hotline provides assistance via phone or email in over two hundred languages, at all hours of the day, every day of the year.a

 

Most networks are typically non-profit and rely on the monetary and spiritual support of their communities and churches to function. There are many, many more such projects and groups worldwide, all seeking to rescue specific types of victims.

 

If donations and prayer seem like overly simplistic solutions to the matter of human trafficking, there are more ways to respond. Most organizations gladly welcome more volunteers, and there are ample opportunities to stand against modern slavery every day: educate others about the horrors of the trade; teach your children to protect their peers; learn how to report suspected cases of trafficking; if you see a woman in tears, ask her if she’s okay; stand closer to the little boy who’s alone on the metro, or keep an eye on him as he walks through the mall (you needed to visit the LEGO section anyway, didn’t you?).

 

Be aware of others, and the battles they may be fighting, and more importantly be always ready and equipped to fight your own battle for the Lord. The words of 1 Peter 5:8 will always be true: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” God grant that, through our concerted efforts fueled by the Lord’s power and grace, we can make that prowling lion starve.

 

 

 

  1. Polaris Project. (2010). “Human Trafficking Statistics.” http://www.polarisproject.org/resources/resources-by-topic/human-trafficking
  2. International Labour Office. ILO Global Estimate of Forced Labor: Results and Methodologies. (2012). Special Programme to Combat Forced Labour. http://www.ilo.org/sapfl/Informationresources/ILOPublications/WCMS_182004/lang–en/index.htm
  3. “Initiatives.” Street Grace, www.streetgrace.org/initiatives/. 2019.
  4. “We’ll Listen. We’ll Help.” National Human Trafficking Hotline, humantraffickinghotline.org/. 2018.
  5. Belt, Deb. “Atlanta Ranked No. 1 for Sex Trafficking; Conventions to Blame?” Stone Mountain-Lithonia, GA Patch, Patch National Staff, 13 Mar. 2014, patch.com/georgia/buckhead/atlanta-ranked-no-1-for-sex-trafficking-conventions-to-blame. 2019.
  6. Governor’s Office for Children and Families. (December 2009). Unprecedented Private-Public Collaboration to Support Adolescent Victims of Commercial Sexual Exploitation in Georgia. Retrieved from: http:// children.georgia.gov/press-releases/2009-12-29/unprecedented-private-public-collaboration-support-adolescent-victims
  7. The Schapiro Group. (2010). Men Who Buy Sex with Adolescent Girls: A Scientific Research Study. Retrieved from: http://www.womensfundingnetwork.org/sites/wfnet.org/files/AFNAP/TheSchapiroGroupGeorgiaDemandStudy.pdf
  8. Thomas, Sara R. and Renea Anderson. Human Trafficking: Modern Day Slavery. Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Human Trafficking Unit. Retrieved from: http://dfcs.dhs.georgia.gov/sites/dfcs.dhs.georgia.gov/ files/related_files/site_page/BST%20Human%20Trafficking%20Workshop.pdf
  9. Clawson, Heather J, et al. “Treating the Hidden Wounds: Trauma Treatment and Mental Health Recovery for Victims of Human Trafficking.” ASPE, US Department of Health and Human Services, 21 Feb. 2017, aspe.hhs.gov/report/treating-hidden-wounds-trauma-treatment-and-mental-health-recovery-victims-human-trafficking.
  10. “Human Trafficking.” Office of Attorney General Chris Carr, law.georgia.gov/human-trafficking. 2019.
  11. “Homepage.” Not For Sale, 2016, www.notforsalecampaign.org/.

 

Ways To Give To the Foster Adopt Community

 

 

The holidays are a joyous time of year. But unless gift gifting is your love language, finding gifts for everyone on your Christmas list can cause some extra stress! Here are some recommendations on how you can bless the foster or foster adoptive child or parent in your life this Christmas season.

 

Date-Night In Gift Package

Finding respite care for children in foster care, or feeling comfortable leaving your children with a stranger, is a hard thing for a foster parent. A “date night” in could be the perfect compromise for your foster family. You could include toys or activities for the children, board games or crafts, and gift the parents a movie and popcorn. Offering to provide in-home babysitting while they have their date night is an extra bonus!

 

Gift Cards to Restaurants or Grocery Stores

As your family grows, it can get expensive to eat out. But many foster children have not experienced dinners at a sit-down restaurant, so this would provide an extra special treat for the family. It also provides the parents a break from cooking!

 

Photo Books /Frames

Photo books can be very special for foster children who may not have any pictures of themselves as babies or toddlers. Many foster parents create Lifebooks, a recording of the child’s memories, past and present, that are preserved in a binder, photo album, or book. This is a gift that can stay with the foster child if they return home. Or photo frames the parents can hang on the wall will help a child feel part of the family and provide a sense of extra comfort.

 

Relaxation

Items that provide relaxation for the foster parents is always appreciated. It could be a journal, candles, bath salts, a gift certificate for a massage, or a good book.

 

Sensory Tools & Games

Many children in foster care struggle with sensory integration or the processing and organizing of sensory information from the senses. When a child struggles with sensory integration, they can have a hard time interpreting sensory information. Sensory tools such as a weighted blanket, fidgets, balance disks, etc. can be extremely helpful for a child!

This website has a list of sensory tools recommended by occupational therapists: https://www.therapyshoppe.com/specials/1423-sensory-toys-tools-products-for-sensory-integration-special-needs-kids-children

 

Handmade Gift Certificates

Handmade gift certificates for a month of weekly homemade meals, offers to provide babysitting, or yard care can go a long way, especially for working foster parents.

 

 

If you don’t have a specific child or family in mind, but want to give back to the foster adopt community, here are some recommendations on how to bless and support local and nationwide organizations who have a direct impact on foster youth and teens:

 

Together We Rise – This organization is comprised of motivated young adults and former foster youth. They partner with hundreds of foster agencies, social workers, CASA advocates, and others across the nation to support foster youth. They provide thousands of foster youth with new bicycles, college supplies, and sweet cases so children don’t have to travel from home to home with their belongings in at trash bag. Learn more here: https://www.togetherwerise.org/projects/

 

Dream Makers –Every year, 26,000 teens age out of the foster care system without a family to call their own. Many are left without a loving support system or resources to help them reach their full potential. Dream Makers allows you to meet the needs and dreams of these youth as they enter into adulthood. Requests have included laptops for college, emergency funds, funds for driver’s education classes, and much more. Learn more here: https://dreammakersproject.org/ .

 

The Adoption Exchange – A nonprofit organization that helps establish safety and permanency in the lives of foster children. They provide recruitment services to help children who have survived abuse and neglect find families, training for families and child welfare professionals, and support families along their foster care and adoption journey. Headquartered in Colorado, the Adoption Exchange also operates in Missouri, Nevada, Utah, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wyoming. They have a birthday fund to provide birthday gifts for children waiting in foster care, volunteer opportunities, and monthly giving opportunities. Learn more here: https://www.adoptex.org/

 

Creating a Life Book For Your Adoptive/Foster Child

 

 

 

Creating Lifebooks for our children is one of those things in life that some parents follow through better than others, like sending out Christmas cards. The desire is there, we’ve pictured the outcome, we understand the appreciation it will bring others, and some have gotten as far as making a Shutterfly account. But then, before we know it, it’s December 24th, December 25th, January 1st, January 30th and we’ve convinced ourselves that next year we will do better.

I get it, life is busy, especially now that we’re parenting. But unlike Christmas Cards, that are eventually thrown away or tossed into a drawer, Lifebooks serve as  lifelong tools for our children. It connects a child with their past. It helps them make sense of their experiences, the good and painful. It’s a vehicle that facilitates discussion about the often-messy circumstances leading to their adoption, helps navigate their grief of losses and past traumas, and aids to dispel magical thinking or false beliefs that somehow they caused the separation from their birth family.  All of which, if handled correctly, contributes to strengthening a child’s positive self-identify.

Through a quick internet search, you can find a lot of wonderful resources about creating a Lifebook for your adoptive/foster child. Most of the blogs and articles are better than I could ever recreate. Here are some of the highlights that I’ve learned from my thirteen years working in the adoptions and foster care field.

 

  1. Lifebooks are not reserved for the Pinterest parent. Lifebooks are not meant to be perfect or even pretty. They are filled photos, artwork, words, historic information and journal entries. No Shutterfly account needed. Use a book were pages can be added and rearranged, such as a three-ring binder.
  2. Don’t know where to begin? Start with important dates and places. Stuck again? Search the web for template pages and ideas. Iowa’s Foster and Adoptive Parent Association IFAPA has created over seventy free life book pages for foster and adoptive families and social workers to use. http://www.ifapa.org/publications/ifapa_lifebook_pages.asp
  3. Do a little legwork. I know of one fost/adopt family whose daughter attended twelve schools in only eight years. To help fill in her story, they retrieved the names of the schools from former case workers and spent one summer visiting each school, taking photographs of the schools and asking the school offices for their daughter’s yearbook picture.
  4. Involved the masses. Contact important individuals from your child’s past and ask them to contribute notes and memories. These people may include case workers, foster parents, teachers, mentors, coaches, etc. Even if you don’t have many contacts from your child’s past, you must have had contact with a social worker who facilitated your adoption.
  5. Involve your child. The life book is for your child and in order for it to be a useful therapeutic too., they must contribute. When they are young it may be a drawing they made of their birth family. As they get older they can contribute more. They also must be allowed to handle it, carry it around, land ook at it when they please.
  6. Remain honest. A Lifebook should provide a child the truth about their own life history. The story can become more sophisticated as the child grows older. As painful as it may be, recording the reasons for the child’s adoption is important because truth dispels false beliefs that a child may otherwise have that they caused the circumstances that led them to be separated from their birth family and false guilt that may affect their self-worth. Lifebooks also allow for feelings, complicated and real, such as how much a child loves their birth parents and positive memories living with their birth family even when those parents may have been neglectful, abusive or primarily absent
  7. Leave lots of blank pages to continue to document your child’s growth, development, school progress, hobbies, and relationships etc.

The simple fact is there is no right or wrong way to make a Lifebook, but by not doing a Lifebook you’re missing a powerful way to positively impact your child’s sense of self and the way they view their past, present and future. It’s also a great way to deepen the parent/child relationship. The Christmas cards can wait until next year, your child’s Lifebook should not.

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.

Adoption Support: What Is Helpful from Family and Friends?

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

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

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

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

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

What Is a Putative Birth Father Registry?

 

 

If you have researched domestic infant adoption, you may have heard the terms putative father, putative father registry or birth father registry.  A putative father is a man who is believed to be the biological father of a child when he is not married to the mother at the time of birth.  Unfortunately these men are only known to adoption agencies or attorneys if the birth mother names them.  If the birthmother is unwilling or unable to identify the father of her child, it is impossible to locate him.  As such, this gentleman may not be informed of the child’s birth or the potential adoption process.  In some cases, he may not even know that he has fathered a child.  States are faced with the question of how to protect the parental rights of these men.  A man has the right to know he has fathered a child and the right to choose to parent the child if he desires and is able, just as the birth mother has the right to do so.

 

Each state has its own law on how to proceed with an adoption involving a putative father.  Some states require a man to support the birthmother and be involved in her life during the pregnancy to establish his parental rights.  Generally a set period of time has to pass after the birth of the child without any supportive action from the putative father for a court to proceed with terminating his parental rights.  If a birthfather is unknown, there can be increased legal risk for the adoptive placement.  When a gentleman becomes aware of his child after being placed for adoption, a long legal battle can ensue with possible disruption after a child has attached to their adoptive parents.  The case of baby Jessica [1993], removed from her adoptive parents at the age of 2 years to be placed with her biological father, is an example of this.

 

Many states have responded to this ethical dilemma by using putative birth father registries, which require a man to register if he believes he has fathered a child and would like to assert his parental rights.  Currently over 30 states have such registries and each operates slightly differently.    There is generally a limited time period for him to register after the birth of his potential child.  Registration commonly includes providing his name, verifiable identifying information, location and contact information, as well as any information he has for the woman with whom he was intimate, including approximate date.  During an adoption process, an adoption agency or attorney checks the registry for matches to the birthmother making the adoption plan.  If a match is found, the man is then notified of the birth and the adoption proceedings.  If he does not respond, his parental rights can be terminated along with the birthmother’s so the adoption may proceed.

 

One of the limitations of the current system is that each state operates their putative father registry separately.  If a child is conceived in one state but born in another, a man may not know to register in both states.  It is entirely possible for a child to be born outside of the state where the man is registered and he is therefore never notified.  The Permanency for Children Act of 2017 (HR 3092) proposes a national putative father registry to prevent such issues, assisting states in locating putative fathers in other states.  This bi-partisan bill proposes expanding the use of the Federal Parent Locator Service to cooperate with state systems and cross-reference to exchange information.  The FPLS is currently used to establish paternity and locate parents specifically for child support obligations.  This framework and system is a logical starting point for national cooperation and oversight of a federal putative father system.

 

If you would like to learn more, I encourage you to do the following:

 

  1. Read Mary Beck’s scholarly article “Toward a National Putative Father Registry Database
  2. Review this fact sheet from the National Council for Adoption on the Permanency for Children Act of 2017
  3. Personally call your representative and ask them to support this bill