Pinterest & Adoption

 

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As you likely know, Pinterest is a social bookmarking website for saving, organizing and sharing things. Many, many people have already recognized its benefits for design, fashion, beauty, cooking and other lifestyle topics. But, it can have some wonderful benefits for couples and singles who are hoping to adopt ~ or in the middle of that process, too.

We have been building our agency Pinterest page for a long while now.  And, we’ve proudly amassed a wealth of resources.  In fact, our Pinterest boards have made it hard to keep this “blog” alive — We’ve come to notice that so much important content has already been written and it’s written so well, that, well… why would CHI write it again?

Please accept our invitation visit and “follow” our Pinterest page: Chrysalis House.  You will then have access to a resource that we have designed to support any and every family, including those who are -or- aren’t clients of our adoption agency.

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We have reviewed a wide collection of topics and amassed over 800 pins all nicely divided into boards on adoption and issue specific topics such as:  anger management, special needs, chores, developmental milestones, safety strategies, foster/domestic/inter-country adoption, bonding and attachment, nutrition, discipline, transracial adoption and …probably just about everything in between, too.  We’ve created boards on: what to do while you are waiting (prospective adoptive parents), how to coach adoptive relatives, how to apply for adoption grants and even how to get ready for back-to-school.

Our Pinterest boards are there for you and they. are. free.  Please access our Pinterest pages whenever it can be of use to you.  Simply put, that’s why it’s there.  And, if you see a topic that we’ve missed, we hope you’ll make a recommendation for us to research it too!  (Just email it to stacy@chrysalishouse.com & she’ll humbly accept that challenge!)

But, there’s another reason why we bring up Pinterest…  This social platform can be part of any waiting parent’s adoption networking strategy. It’s popular and has many millions of visitors ~ which is a fantastic audience.  68 percent of Pinterest visitors are women and 70.9% are between the ages of 17 to 44– which includes the demographic you want to reach and connect with, when you are prospective adoptive parents seeking a domestic adoption.  According to a report, Pinterest drives more referral traffic than Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube combined and is now one of the top 10 social networking websites.

How waiting adoptive parents can use Pinterest:

It’s easy to use and once you’ve joined, sharing, following and “liking” others couldn’t be easier. Just create a board and start pinning.  Conveying “who” you are with words can be a challenge.  Pinterest helps you show the “real” you when it comes to telling an authentic story.  Because Pinterest reveals “who” you are through photos and images that you personally identify with, it gives you the chance to connect with prospective birth parents on a visceral level.

For waiting parents, beyond research on “what you can expect while you’re expecting” –you can also use Pinterest to showcase your personality and share many bits and pieces of your life that didn’t make it into your profile.  Your Pinterest page can show additional facets to your family like: hobbies, traveling plans, your love for the garden, recipes you’d like to try, charities you support, and can ultimately reflect …how you hope to parent that child that you hope to adopt.  Consider loading your families Adoptive Profile to your Pinterest page and consider Pinterest to be another resource for connection(s).  Finally, for anyone who is going through the sometimes arduous (but eventually rewarding) process that is adoption, Pinterest’s beauty, messages of hope, and celebration of the everyday can be a daily pick-me-up.

Now, isn’t that (P)interesting?  (wink.)

 

 

Ask the Author: A discussion of “Finding Pony” by Kara Lucas, MSW

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Many of our CHI families will smile if you check out this book cover closely. If the author was your former social worker – you can now claim to know a famous author!

The lovely Kara Lucas, MSW, has written a fiction novel, Finding Pony, Kara Author Pictures 027which has proven to be quite the page turner!  You might not be aware, but several of our CHI social workers are qite bookworm-ish ~ and therefore several of us obtained a copy upon the debut.  As an agency, we have always loved to review books that may have an impact on our adoptive families.

Briefly, Finding Pony is a Young Adult fiction novel about a boy trying to find his sister in foster care.  Obviously, that subject matter is important to the hearts of CHI!  Although Kara is no longer a social worker for CHI ~ she has graciously agreed to do an “Ask The Author” piece for us.  Please enjoy that interview below.

Also, in the spirit of creating Adoption Awareness during the month
of November, Kara has graciously gifted CHI with a book to give away.  Please visit our Facebook page and follow the instructions there, to be entered to win!  (Kara also mentions that there will be a give-away on Goodreads during the month of November!)

Here are the questions we supplied Kara and we thank her immensely for sharing her writing talents with us via her new book & also in each of her answers below.

CHI:  I love how you titled each chapter. The titles drew me in and kept me reading (“Just one more chapter before bed..,” I thought. Well… until I read the next title & was sucked in further!)

The titles contributed to the pace of the novel, which is swift and full of angst and tension. I bet a true foster care experience would “feel” similarly paced, by those experiencing it. Although your novel is fiction, the thoughts and feelings struck me as highly realistic. How did you wrap your head around what Pony and Jesse might be feeling and thinking?

Kara:  Thank you very much Stacy for your kind compliments. I wanted the book to be a fast, quick read that got people staying up to read it, so I am very glad that I accomplished my intended goal!

Yes, I wanted Finding Pony to be realistic. I knew I wanted to write about kids experiencing the foster care system because I have witnessed what they go through, first hand. When I was researching other fiction books in the genre, I felt that many of the books available for teens weren’t realistic enough–they seemed to me to be too sugar-coated, or too loaded with inaccuracy. I wanted something real, that (in a fictional way) reflected my observations as a social worker.

I really tried to put myself in Jesse’s head when I was writing. I have three teenagers myself right now, so it is easy to write angst when you are around it a lot! Also, back in college, I worked at a group home for juvenile violent offenders. That experience–one of my earliest in the social work arena–taught me a lot about human nature. One truth that really struck me about working in that group home is that, at the end of the day, most of those boys were just kids who were in bad circumstances, making bad choices. Despite their crimes, I liked many of them quite a bit, and saw their humanity and inherent goodness. So, to speak to your comment about the book being realistic, I think that my experiences in social work gave me an advantage, for sure. As far as wrapping my head around the characters, I think that is just the fun of writing–immersing yourself in that person’s skin, and imagining what they might do.

CHI:  Those considering a fost/adoption may be frightened after reading this fiction. What advice would you offer a Prospective Adoptive Parent who hasn’t read your book, but would like to? What words would you express to a family who has read it and might be jumping to the conclusion that this fictional story may be the “reality” of their future experiences?

Kara:  Finding Pony is a young adult fiction novel–emphasis on the fiction part! As a writer, I wanted to write something fast and dramatic. As a social worker, I wanted the authenticity to be there, as well. Jesse’s inner struggle is, I hope, very real. Other issues: siblings getting separated in foster care, parents who are drug users, kids getting molested in foster care, sexual trafficking (the Indian’s story)–any social worker will tell you that yes, sadly, these things do happen.

But as a work of fiction, the drama is definitely exaggerated. I would want to remind any prospective adoptive parents that, no, teenage kids in foster care do not typically try to kidnap their siblings! In fact, I have never seen it happen, ever, nor with birth parents. A common question prospective adoptive or foster parents often have had for me is this: will the birth parents search for the children? Will they come to my home? I have actually never seen that happen in a non-relative adoption.

The thing about kids in foster care, teens included, is at the end of the day, they are just kids. I have seen some kids in adoptive homes transition extremely well, despite their issues, and others really struggle. It just depends on the individual child, & the individual family. However, I have always been so impressed with adoptive homes, including some of my beloved former Chrysalis House families, by their ability to just deeply be there with a child who is hurting, and really be successful in creative a nurturing, safe environment in which that child can blossom, and ultimately heal from their former traumas. Do you need to be a perfect parent? Absolutely not. Do you need to have a lot of love, compassion, and understanding? Yes, yes, and yes.

Parenting any child, whether biological or through adoption, takes a lot of love, and courage. As they say, parenting is not for sissies! I would advise any prospective adoptive parent, as I did with my Chrysalis families and I do with my current Aspira families, is to ask a lot of questions during the certification process. Meet with other foster families and adoptive families. Read a lot of memoirs on adoption and foster care– & Pick your social worker’s brain. Educate yourself on some of the issues surrounding kids who have been in the foster care system, as much as you can. In Finding Pony, the main character Jesse struggles with, among other things, PTSD as a result of being molested in a foster home when he was a child. This is a very real issue some of these kids face.
CHI:  Jesse and Pony have very different emotional reactions to their removal and adjust to their new life at very different paces. Do you feel this is typical of youth coming into care and dependent on age, maturity and former familial roles? Why do you feel Jesse and Pony adjusted in their individually unique ways?

Kara: I do feel it is typical. I have seen kids respond in a full spectrum of behaviors to how they initially adjust to life in their adoptive home, as I am sure you have as well. Again, I think a good yardstick is to view each child as an individual and meet them where they are at. I think anyone will attest to the fact that young children are very resilient, which is why many families will often be drawn to adopting younger children. However, younger children can struggle with trauma, and attachment issues as well, even when adopted at a very young age. Paradoxically, and perhaps incidentally, some of the easiest transitions during the adoption process happened with adopted teenagers. It all depends on the child, their background, the home, everything.

I think in Jesse’s situation, he struggled a lot with his identity. He felt rejected by his birth mother, and had conflicting feelings about being the primary caretaker for his sister, Pony. He was older and had a more realistic view of his world. He knew it was a rough place. He was perhaps more apprehensive and jaded about foster care than Pony, who bonded quite easily with her new adoptive parents, because he had had a previous bad experience in foster care. So when he encounters the DeLeons, he doesn’t trust them at first, and assumes that they will eventually hurt him, and give up on him, which has been his experience all of his life. Unfortunately I see this all the time with kids in care.

Pony, I saw as a little girl, who never really had a mother fussing over her, nurturing her. She had Jesse, but not that traditional functional family unit. Despite her love for her birth brother and mother, I really saw Pony as a little girl just soaking up the love, the attention of her adoptive parents, which ultimately facilitated her bond with them.

CHI:  What are the best fictional books you would most recommend to Prospective Adoptive Parents on the topic of fost/adoption? Did any of these books have any impact on your writing of Finding Pony?

Kara:  I don’t really have a favorite YA out there that addresses kids in foster care. Maybe that’s why I wrote this book. <grin> I keep looking, though.

Some pretty good titles for the teen market are: The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson (older, a classic), Right Behind You by Gail Giles, After by Amy Efaw, Sweet Hearts by Sarah Zarr, Returnable Girl, Hope in Patience (The Patience series, by Beth Faulbaum does not deal with foster care but sexual abuse), The Shadow Society by Marie Rutoski, One for the Murphy’s by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, The Genius Squad by Catherine Jinks, The Guardian by Joyce Sweeney, and Throwaway Girl by Kristine Scarrow. None of these books influenced the writing of Finding Pony, really, because the story came from inside of myself. When I started writing the book, though, I did my research. It was comforting to know that yes, there are teen books out there that deal with these issues!

If I was a prospective adoptive parent, though, I think I would stay away from the fiction books, for now, because it might distort your reality of what actually happens. I would recommend prospective adoptive parents to stick to memoirs and books on attachment, parenting, and learning what makes an adoption successful. 

CHI:  What message would you most like to give children in care who might read your story? Why would you advise that they read your book & why? What age range would you recommend the novel for & why?

Kara:  I think I would want the kids to read my story who have been through foster care, or are in foster care, to get this message: I see you. What you have been through is tough, and hard, and I am blown away by your courage. Keep fighting for happiness, because you deserve it.

I would hope that kids who have been through foster care will maybe perhaps recognize pieces of themselves in this story. Pieces of their own life. I have been fortunate to have heard from some kids–a few adopted, some in a group home–who really loved Jesse’s story because it reminded them so much of themselves. Hearing their positive feedback was worth the world to me. And for other kids, like perhaps kids like my biological kids, I would love for them to realize that everyone out there has something they are going through that’s tough. That kid walking down the hall that scowled at you? He may have not eaten today. That girl that dresses provocatively? She might be getting molested right now. My favorite quote, one which I always try and remember is “Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle.”

I wrote this book aimed for the YA market, for kids ranging in age from 13 and up. That being said, there is s colorful language, and mature themes that are depicted (drug usage, molestation, sexual trafficking), so please read before if you are conservative in what your child reads. I have allowed my 13 year old to read Finding Pony and she loved it.

CHI:  You are an amazing advocate for foster care and adoption. Why did you choose this field to dedicate your life’s work to? What advice would you impart to a fledgling social worker considering an entrance into our field?

Kara:  Thank you for saying that, but really this book is just my small way of trying to point some light on these kids! I think I chose social work as a career because I always had a heart for people who struggled in the world. I think all social workers have huge hearts! I don’t like seeing people lonely, or without love. When I worked in CPS, I would see kids at the very beginning of their journey through foster care. The great thing about adoption is that I get to see kids at the end of their journey, with their forever family.

I would tell a brand new social worker to learn from older social workers, never stop the education process, and most of all, be tolerant, curious, and come from a place of love. I feel it is important to have profound respect for everyone you are dealing with: the children, the birth parents, foster/adoptive parents. When I was a brand new social worker, I was so clueless. I was 22, had never been a parent, and didn’t really know a thing about child development at the time. And here I was expected to counsel these parents on how to raise their children! Looking back, I knew so little, and made a lot of mistakes. But because I stayed open-minded, and tried to leave my judgement at the door, I got through it. And became better in the process.

CHI:  You include facts about foster care at the end of the novel. The numbers are staggering. You also include resources and suggestions of how readers can help at-risk children, of which I’d like to add ‘volunteering’ to the list. [The gift of time to a group home or county agency can have profound impact (although requires a clearance process)]. Are there other things that… after printing… you might wish you’d added to the lists, storyline, etc.?

Kara:  I keep wondering how best we can help. I lie awake at night sometimes and think about it. What can we do? The obvious solution is for more amazing families to step up to the challenge and become adoptive parents. We need more mentor programs. Older children and teens need more encouragement in the education process. Another issue which was touched upon in Finding Pony with Walter Blackfoot was the sad statistic of former foster teens ending up in the human trafficking industry. I am just starting to learn more about this issue and it is heartbreaking that these kids, who have been victimized their whole lives, will continue to be victimized as adults in this way.

In closing, from Kara:  Thank you so much, Stacy, and my former Chrysalis House family! I would love it if everyone checked out my website at karalucasauthor.com. For more suggestions on books to read about social work and adoption related issues, check out my Goodreads pages: child welfare issues and social work. I also have some great articles on the Foster Care Books and Social Work page on my Pinterest Page. And if you had any great book ideas to share, I would love to hear them. Have a great fall!

Dear Readers… Feel free to a leave a question for Kara in the comments!

Book Review: Three Little Words

This is a book that will make you wish you had the power to change the world in an instant.

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Three Little Words is the memoir of Ashley Rhodes-Courter, who was taken into the foster care system at the age of 3 and subsequently passed from place to place while supposedly under the watchful eyes of Child Protective Services. All the while, Ashley is longing for a home, a family and mostly her mother. She writes about the continued neglect, lies and abuse that she endured but also about the kindness of strangers (who ultimately saved her) along the way.

This book helps the reader (whether they are a social worker, prospective adoptive parent, etc.) “imagine.”

Imagine living in fourteen different foster homes in nine years–sometimes with your younger brother, sometimes never knowing if you will see him again. Imagine yearning for your mother but never knowing when you might be able to see her. Imagine living in tight, cramped quarters with other foster kids who often taunt you and destroy your belongings. Imagine the fear of not knowing if the next placement will have nice parents, or cruel ones. Imagine never being able to trust any adult because there’s never been one that truly cares.

Imagine how school can seem to be a safe haven—although you never got to stick around one school for any meaningful length of time. Imagine how difficult it is to tell the truth about experiences when no one seems to ever believe you.

Ashley’s courage to tell her story sheds light on the plight of foster children throughout the U.S. She has incredible insight and is a wonderful storyteller – both of which are even more impressive given that she finished the first draft of this book at the age of 20.

Occasionally, I guessed what the Three Little Words were as I read along. I was wrong, of course. After revealing the Three Little Words in the last pages, the power of this book comes full circle to remind us of the voice of the child.

Points this book helps drive home:

  1. The child’s perspective (they understand more than the adults think).
  2. An understanding of why a foster child might behave in certain ways.
  3. WHY the foster parent certification process must be so intrusive, so plodding.. so “bureaucratic.”
  4. WHY some kids act out or sabotage their own paths.
  5. Sometimes the system is not as efficient nor as effective as it needs to be for the sake of the children involved.

There are also parts of Ashley’s story which promote an unfair and negative stigma of fostercare system as a whole:

  1. NOT all case workers and social workers are negligent, incompetent and ineffective.
  2. NOT all foster parents are abusive, nor in it for the money.
  3. There are most definitely ineffective social workers and foster parents but NOT all of them.

Overall, Ashley Rhodes-Courter’s words paint an amazing story of fortitude and resilience. To make a difference in the lives of children – a positive difference – is truly a gift that no one should discredit. This story is a true example of how great tragedy inspires great works as Ashley is now a spokesperson for adoption and for helping others to have much better experiences in fostercare. I find it commendable that Ashley has used her talents to create a platform and a voice for foster children.

Readers will be touched by her unforgettable story and her passion. I recommend this book for any member of the adoption triad; including child welfare workers, foster and adoptive parents ~ and anyone else who has a heart for at-risk children.

~ Review by: Stacy Dinkel, M.A.

Book Review: The Red Thread by Ann Hood

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Although I hoped to enjoy the story line of this book, I ended up being very disappointed. For your reference, you can read more reviews and information about the book here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7020981-the-red-thread

The storyline is best summarized as:
“In China there is a belief that people who are destined to be together are connected by an invisible red thread. After losing her infant daughter in a freak accident, Maya Lange opens The Red Thread, an adoption agency that specializes in placing baby girls from China with American families. Maya finds some comfort in her work, until a group of six couples share their personal stories of their desire for a child. Their painful and courageous journey toward adoption forces her to confront the lost daughter of her past. Brilliantly braiding together the stories of Chinese birth mothers who give up their daughters, Ann Hood writes a moving and beautifully told novel of fate and the red thread that binds these characters’ lives. Heartrending and wise, The Red Thread is a stirring portrait of unforgettable love and yearning for a baby.”

My Review:
Obviously, I work in the adoption field and fear that readers get a very wrong idea about what it’s like to pursue an international adoption.

The points I would like to make about this book are:

~families are never perfect and social workers shouldn’t expect them to be, but they MUST be stable to adopt. Amongst the dynamics of the prospective adoptive families, there was adultery, substance abuse, partners who were only doing it to please their wives, unresolved infertility, a mother that couldn’t accept a special needs daughter, a last minute pregnancy, unresolved grief and loss issues, etc. These are all issues that would have been massive red flags in the real adoptive world. An agency director having knowledge of these issues and encouraging applicants to move forward without addressing/resolving the issues fully – shouldn’t be working in the field at all.

~babies adopted internationally may appear “perfectly healthy” on record, but there is no assurance that there will not be any challenges going forward. Grief and loss issues (to varying extremes) are an absolute, and this wasn’t mentioned a single time in the book. There is certainly full disclosure on known medical history, etc. but since an abandoned child’s family history is almost entirely unknown – the child’s future should be accepted as holding unknowns as well. Stable families open to adopting internationally should have been better educated on the possibilities, rather than being repeatedly assured that the babies were “healthy!, perfect!, adorable!,” etc.

~Home studies are conducted on prospective families and the way the book describes the process really downplays the service. If any changes occur in a household – an updated home study is required. Education for the family is a huge component to the home study. And, if either of these facts were mentioned, the story line would have played out completely different (and perhaps been more enjoyable for readers like me).

~ Finally, at the end, the agency director moves forward in a manner that is a total conflict of interest. A director shouldn’t be using her own agency in this manner. She also would not be able to use an outdated home study to achieve her end goal. I could go on and on… but finding closure to unresolved grief issues over losing one child – by adopting another is also completely ridiculous.

I don’t want to entirely spoil the story for others… but, what occurred in this book would never be allowed in a true adoption scenario. This kind of story completely perpetuates the negative stigma attached to adoption. If you read this book, consider it to be a completely fictional tale.

Please also note: Many years ago, adoptions did evolve with less bureaucracy, monitoring, etc. However, this book was written in 2010. If you are a prospective adoptive family – please know that something is very very wrong if your adoption proceeds in a manner that resembles this story.

Book Review: The Child Catchers

Our Kara Lucas, MSW, reviews the controversial title by journalist Kathryn Joyce, which takes readers inside the evangelical Christian adoption movement.  Here’s what Kara has to say:

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Description: The Child Catchers is a shocking exposé of what the adoption industry has become and how it got there, told through deep investigative reporting and the heartbreaking stories of individuals who became collateral damage in a market driven by profit and personal beliefs.

Review: This book had me thinking long after I finished it, and it has taken me nearly two weeks before I finally drew the courage to sit down and write a review. At first, I had to decide quite simply how I felt about the book, how much of it I believed, how much of it I still questioned, and whether it had me thinking about adoption in a new way.

As an adoption social worker, I will always be undoubtedly pro-adoption; I have seen too many legitimate children in need of forever homes, and have met and worked with so many amazing families who have opened their hearts and lives to them. That being said, like any formalized institution, adoption undoubtedly has its flaws, and I think that it is important to examine critically the problems in adoption and explore ways to make adoption better.

While I appreciated The Child Catchers in many ways, I was disappointed to find it extremely biased in nature. To begin with, The Child Catchers seeks attention from its reader. The very name of the book is titillating and titled as such to shock–are people “catching” children in the sense of saving them from a worse fate, or are they “catching” them, as in “snatching” them from their families and countries of origin? While it would seem these questions would be fairly explored throughout the book, I would argue that that the stronger sentiment would be in favor of the “child snatching” perception of adoption.

The books is very critical of domestic adoptions past and present. It summarizes the Baby Scoop Era of the early days, and provides stories of young girls being forced into maternity homes and given virtually no choice in placing their babies for adoption. While I deeply sympathize with women who have gone through this experience, I would argue that as a community, we have come a long way with honoring and supporting birthmothers, open adoption, and acceptance. Ms. Joyce argues that modern domestic adoption has many flaws, including adoption social workers failing to give proper counseling towards grieving birthmothers. And while I appreciated the criticism, I wondered if she ever thought domestic adoption was appropriate, because she never gave a positive example of one.

Ms. Joyce discussing in depth the modern phenomenon of the rising numbers of Christians adopting, and the corruption that can ensue as a result in developing nations. It was heartbreaking to learn of the different corruptions and atrocities present in various Third World countries: outright child kidnapping, not adequately advising birth families of their rights prior to relinquishment, and falsifying adoption documentation to make a child-available’s profile more “appealing.” Such situations are worthy of criticism, however I found myself asking: does Ms. Joyce ever think it is appropriate to adopt from a foreign country? And what about the truly orphaned child?
I feel that these questions were never truly answered.

Target Audience: Regardless of my criticisms of the book, I feel that this is an important work, in that it should and will encourage much thoughtful discussion within the adoption community. I feel that every adoption professional should read this book, and take an opportunity to look at their own practices, especially as how they relate to domestic adoption. This book will be very relevant to every adoption professional, adopting family, and people interested in adoption.

Strengths: Meticulous journalism, she interviewed many people and travelled overseas to several countries over a long length of time.

Weaknesses: Comes across as particularly biased against adoption in all forms, in all circumstances.