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.)

 

 

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School & Daycare: Handling Separation Anxiety

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Your children have been back to school for a few weeks now. It’s been long enough, that you probably have a solid grasp on how it’s going. Has it been smooth sailing for your little people? Or, are you perhaps noticing signs of separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety is a normal phase of most children’s development and is a pretty standard expectation for children between 12-18 months old. We can all picture this age group becoming upset or sometimes even hysterical, when their primary caretaker leaves the room. For children who are being raised by their biological parents, this separation anxiety can be a time of great concern.

But, for adoptive and foster children, separations can tap into their past trauma(s) and can be even more challenging than the more typical milestone described above. After all, many of these children were abandoned or removed from their first homes, never to see their first caregivers again. Some have been shuffled from foster home to foster home. And then there’s the separation that occurs in most international adoptions, and that’s when the baby is handed over to you – the new loving adoptive parents. While some agencies and countries do a better job of these transitions, the majority of them are still overwhelmingly anxiety producing for the children. Suddenly the child is placed in the arms of someone who doesn’t look, sound or smell like anyone they’ve ever seen before. How terrifying!

Yet, realizing that these children have been through separations of great magnitude, we often seem surprised at their level of separation anxiety when we drop them off at the sitter’s or leave them at school. And, if we aren’t aware of the importance, we can follow some very bad advice. How the adults in the adopted child’s world react to separating can make a great deal of difference in how the child responds.

Here are some basic “Don’ts” for school aged children:

*Don’t sneak out the back door without saying goodbye (perhaps just like the child’s original abandonment).

*Don’t leave them at daycare centers or new schools for the first time, without any transitional efforts which would allow the child to adjust to new adults and getting to know the people/environment there.

*Don’t consider your feelings first. It’s hard to leave your little one, and many parents feel guilty. So, rather than face the “scene” your child will make, slipping away unnoticed just seems easier. This may be easier on you, but not on your child.

*And, some parents will err to the other extreme, making the separation such a long, drawn-out, tearful event that the child’s anxiety levels increase. Separating from your child should be a deliberate event, after you’ve given the child a chance to get comfortable with their new surroundings and the caregivers.

As parents of children who have been abandoned, shuffled around and separated from those they love, we need to be cognizant of how our children are adjusting to separating from us. Day care providers and school personnel will often minimize separation anxiety issues, even if our children’s anxiety continues to increase. Watch for signs of whether your child is adjusting or not. And don’t be timid to ask for modifications to routines or procedures if the way your child is required to separate from you is adding to their anxiety. Some centers or schools require that a child be dropped off at the door, which is sometimes not right for an anxious child.

In many adoptive and foster children, separation anxiety doesn’t show up for many months or years after they’ve come into your homes. This anxiety often takes adoptive parents by surprise, because the child can be much older than what we consider typical (toddler stage).  As we know, children have to build that attachment to you first, so that you’re no longer just one more of a string of temporary adults in their lives. After that, they can experience the emotional developmental stage of separation anxiety. New school routines, a class filled with kids they do not know, different winding hallways, etc. involves a lot of processing for a five, six, seven or eight year old!

So, much to our confusion and embarrassment, this stage can show up in elementary-aged children, causing problems at their schools. Don’t let the adults in the situation dictate what must be done because of your child’s chronological age. Teachers may emphatically tell you that this step is abnormal and needs to be dealt with “firmly.” Child psychologists will advise otherwise.

You know what your child needs. You also know his history and the potential trauma triggers. Don’t minimize your child’s feelings. Watch his reactions and find a place and a way to separate what works for him.

Here are a couple of ideas about helping your school aged child ease her worries:

*An Exercise: sit in a chair behind your child and face her away from you. Then, ask if she can see you. Naturally, the child might whip her head around and said, “Of course I can. You’re right there.” Tell her to turn back around and close her eyes. Then ask her the same question again. Your child will probably exclaim something like “YES! I can see you!” Prod a little bit: “How can you see me?” She might answer: “Because I KNOW you’re sitting on the couch!”

EXCELLENT! At drop-offs you can remind her of this exercise and stress that “You may not be in the room at school with her, but you are at home sitting in your chair. And she can “see” you in that chair!  You will ALWAYS be there for her.”  

*Place a few family pictures in a small album that your child can access if she gets uneasy at school. This can be kept in a backpack or desk.

*Allow your child to take a comfort object to school.   A small stuffed friend or a special memento can be stashed in the backpack, or carried in a pocket.  The child can then access this when they need reassurance.  Consider giving the memento or stuffed friend a symbolic “kiss” before your child departs. My daughter actually carried a metal heart in her pocket for several weeks at the start of a new school, in first grade.  

*Print out a photo of the family together, laminate it, and have your child help to affix it to the inside of a lunchbox.

With time and consistency – these tiny little reassurances just might get your little one through their school day… tear and anxiety free.  With time and baby-steps toward improvement – the anxiety should alleviate.  Do consider a talk with your CHI social worker or a school principal, if this appears to be an ongoing problem for your child for additional ideas and approaches.

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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.

Building a TEAM.

national adoption month correct

November is National Adoption Awareness Month.  In the spirit of bringing awareness to adoption, our agency mission and the successes of families we serve — we are filling our blog with guest stories throughout this month. Chrysalis House, Inc. believes in the power of sharing experiences and in learning from the stories of others.  We present this series, realizing the words might be the insight that an adoptive family, adoptee or birthparent is searching the internet for!

Our sincerest thanks to the families who have put their lives into words.  We are still accepting submissions through the month of November!  Please send your submissions to stacy@chrysalishouse.com.

Please enjoy another story of: International Adoption.  This family has an enormous heart for adoption and specifically special needs children.  They have built a beautiful family and it’s been our agency’s pleasure to follow them on an amazing journey…

If you would be interested in adopting a special needs child please contact the agency @ 559.229.9862.

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On Building our “Team”

Sean and I met in high school. We were high school sweet hearts and married shortly after he graduated from college. We always thought we would have two children and be a quaint little family. We pursued our college educations and began our adventure. In the next few years, God began working and moving in our hearts. We had our first child and then our second. We named them Deanna and Dylan and thought that those were cute little names for our quaint family of four. As our careers continued in the fields of accounting and psychology, respectively, we settled in to family and professional life. Then, God bestowed on us another blessing and we were expecting another baby. We would name him Darren and stick with our cute little “D” name theme as he would be our last child and we would be a quaint family of five. As our family had grown so did our faith. We began to earnestly seek God and seek His will in our lives.

In 2003, as life was taking us through the experiences of family, church, work, and daily life events, our oldest daughter began to ask questions about the plight of the orphan that would compel us to search our own hearts for meaningful answers. As she tried to wrap her six-year-old mind around the complex world issues of hunger, pain, and the life of an orphan, she asked us pointed questions like: “If orphans need a family and food, and we have a family and food, then why can’t we adopt an orphan so that they no longer need a family.” And “Why do we only give clothes to orphans when what they really need is a mommy and daddy?” Followed by, “Why can’t we do more for the orphans? Why can’t we let them live with us? We have a home. We have lots of love. We can be a family for the orphans, can’t we?”

We were the parents so we really did not have to answer those pointed questions. After all, we had just given birth to Derrick (yes, baby number 4). And yet, we also wanted to be forthright with our children and help them to think like world-changers. Those innocent yet powerful questions forced us to search for answers deep within ourselves. Sean and I began to dialog, “If not us, then who? If not now, then when? Why not us? Why not now?” The next thing we knew, our hearts were changed and we would add one more child to our growing family through adoption. We would soon begin to call our family a team as we learned that we were better together, that each member was significant, that each of us had a vital role, and that each child had blessed us immensely. In 2004 we received the referral through China’s non-special needs program for a little girl that we would name Dory (cuz we had to stick to the “D” name theme). She captured our hearts with her gentle grace and her tender smile. Her delicate little fingers and her sweet voice are more than we could have ever dreamed of. Now our family was complete!

But then in 2006, I received an email asking me to look at the file of a little girl with a limb difference orphaned in Jiangxi, China. She was on a waiting child list. Her right arm was very small and she did not have a hand. I knew our family was complete, but I thought I would at least look at her picture and pray for her. When I first caught sight of her picture, I could not breathe. I sat motionless and I gazed into the face of a little girl that would once again change our lives. When I looked at her, I saw a little girl with a spark in her eyes and a beauty that took my breath away. I immediately emailed Sean and begged him to take a look at this little girl. I told him that she had a minor special need and that arms are really overrated. We prayed, we petitioned for this child, we prayed some more, and we realized that this was to be our daughter. With the adoption of Deanna we realized that no one had truly prepared us for the adoption of a special needs child. Oh, our social worker had gone over the checklists and the cautions with us. We learned all about toddler adoption, limb differences, the potential challenges that special needs adoption could include. And yet no one had prepared us for the amazing blessings we would experience being parents of a child with special challenges. We were not prepared to witness our daughter’s tenacity, her strength, her sheer pleasure in achieving a difficult task after repeated tries. While we initially set out to make a difference in the life of an orphan, we were the ones who were blessed beyond measure. And our family was now complete.

Then in January of 2008, Deanna, our oldest daughter approached me in my office. She was now 12 years old and fully knew and understood the commitment and sacrifice of adoption. We had been home with Deanna for just a few short months and she said, “Mom, I’ve been thinking…” Something about the look in her eyes told me she had been contemplating the orphans of the world. After much prayer and consideration, the Lord moved us to adopt again from the special needs program in China. Some might wonder why on earth we would adopt yet another child. We did already have 6 children. However, we have a passion for making a difference in the lives of the orphans of the world. It is that very passion that brings us pure joy and delight. It is that very passion that navigates us to action in order to make a difference in the eternal things. It is that very passion that causes us to seek God’s will and then ask Him how He would like to use us. While we ache to make a difference in the world, selfishly we also know that we are truly the ones who have been blessed beyond measure when we have added to our family as love abounds through adoption. It is really a paradox in that we reach out and yet our lives are the ones that each new addition has blessed.

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

And so in June of 2009, we went to China to bring home 3-year-old Damian. We spotted him on a waiting child list and knew he belonged on our team. Damian was born with congenital birth defects and has a “little leg” and a missing finger. While we are now experienced adoptive parents, we have learned that each adoption is unique and has its own twists and turns.

When we were in China, we learned that Damian had medical issues that we had not anticipated as they were not listed on his original referral. We had already chosen this little boy and had claimed him as our own. For us, that meant that we claimed him as a whole package. Before we left for China, we had decided that he was born to be our son and that we would face each new challenge like we would with any of our children. As his parents, we would find resources and we would get through all unknown territory as a team. With Damian we have learned that legs, just like arms, are overrated. This little boy has a zest for life and lives abundantly.

Learn about your resources and have positive, supportive people in your life.

Damian’s additional medical needs translate as working closely with a few additional medical specialists. He will have a few more surgeries than we initially anticipated. He now has a pediatric ophthalmologist, a urologist, a geneticist, a dentist, a handful of orthopedic surgeons, a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, an entire staff at Shriner’s Hospital, and most importantly his new family all on his team. Here in America the medical care far surpasses that which he would have had access to in China as an orphan. We have learned that we can choose to cross one bridge at a time and not let fear creep in to our minds. Our son is thriving in his new family. In just four short months, he has learned English, learned about unconditional love, learned about being a brother and a son, learned about loss and gain, and learned that families stick together no matter what. And so now, once again, our family is complete (for now).

Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely at Heaven’s gates in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming, “Wow, what a ride!!!” ~Author Unknown

***Family Names have been changed to preserve Confidentiality.

A Matter of the Heart: China Adoption

national adoption month correct

November is National Adoption Awareness Month.  In the spirit of bringing awareness to adoption, our agency mission and the successes of families we serve — we are filling our blog with guest stories throughout this month. Chrysalis House, Inc. believes in the power of sharing experiences and in learning from the stories of others.  We present this series, realizing the words might be the insight that an adoptive family, adoptee or birthparent is searching the internet for!

Our sincerest thanks to the families who have put their lives into words.  We are still accepting submissions through the month of November!  Please send your submissions to stacy@chrysalishouse.com.

Please enjoy the story of another family’s: Adoption From China. In the event you wish to discuss our China program, please contact the office at 559.229.9862.   

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A Matter of the Heart

Our adoption story began about six years ago at a Christian music festival we attend each year. Bryan and I were really touched by Steven Curtis Chapman’s story and music video of his adopted child. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could do that?  But, then reality set in.

We have two children already and very busy careers.  Fast forward to several years later. Our eldest child, Nathan, was entering the Navy. Maggie was now a sophomore in high school. Bryan started mentioning adoption again and I thought he was out of his mind. There were 100+ reasons why this wouldn’t be good. But everyday for about 2 months, I was restless about this idea. I kept adding to my list of excuses why this wouldn’t be good for us. I had shared my restlessness about adoption with a dear friend. She asked me if I had prayed about it and my response was “No, because I was afraid of what the answer would be.” But I did finally pray about it and discovered that God’s plan for our family was indeed… to adopt a child. I had found peace in this discovery and knew it was the right thing for us to do. All my excuses were about me, not the bigger picture.

Bryan, Maggie and I all attended an adoption information meeting in February. We learned a lot about the adoption process, and the changing regulations of a China adoption. I would be 50 that year, and our adoption had to be approved by the Chinese government by October so we would still qualify. China adoptions were taking about 2 years at this point in time. We left the meeting with mixed emotions: we were still very excited about adopting, but discouraged about the timelines. Two years seemed like an eternity.

 We had decided that we would be open to the possibility of a child with special needs, so it was possible the adoption process would be shorter because special needs children are generally expedited through the process. By 4:45 pm the day that we turned in our application, we received an e-mail with a referral for a little girl! She would be 2 in March and was born with a cleft lip/palette. Our hearts were filled with love at the sight of this little girl who needed a family; and with astonishment for the timing of all this. God’s plan for our family and for this little girl was perfect.

The paperwork and dossier process could have been overwhelming except that I am a type–A personality. In June, we learned that we probably would not travel until November. The time waiting seemed like an eternity. During the long months we kept busy with preparing for our little girl. Bryan, Maggie and I took a Chinese Language/Culture class through Clovis Adult to prepare us for our adventure. In mid-September, we received word that we could travel in late October. Did I mention that I don’t like to fly?

We took a 3-day side trip to Beijing before uniting with our little girl. Two days after my 50th birthday, we left for China. On Sunday, October 28th, we flew from Beijing to Lanzhou to meet our little girl. Gotcha day was scheduled for Monday, but to our pleasant surprise, our daughter was waiting in the hotel lobby for us. We saw her as we entered the lobby and she waved at us – it took our breath away.

The first few days together were heartbreaking to experience; our daughter, Emery LiNa was lost, confused, and scared. It was quite an adjustment for her, but each day brought a closeness that the previous day had not seen. She bonded very well with Maggie, who catered to her every need. On Thursday of that week, we visited the orphanage where Emery LiNa lived. We were concerned that it would be difficult for her because she might want to stay there – but this was not the case at all. In fact, she cried and dragged Maggie down the hallway, trying to leave. Our bonding was going well.

We spent a total of 6 nights in Lanzhou before traveling to Guangzhou for our last four days in China. Other than Emery LiNa, this was the best part of our trip. All American families who are adopting travel through Guangzhou and it was a great experience to share stories and see all the Chinese children being adopted by American families.

Emery has been home with us since November 7; but it seems like it has been forever. We can’t imagine life without her. She is adjusting so well. She speaks quite a bit of English, including partial sentences, and understands ten times more than she can speak. She is a joy and brings fun and laughter to our home each and every day. She possesses some other Griffin traits as well: independent, confident, outgoing, and strong-willed. It’s amazing to me how much she is like her siblings were at that same age. We recommend creating a blog to share the experience with family and friends.  We also kept a journal which was priceless in helping us to remember the journey.

This has been a walk of faith for our family and God has blessed us. Emery’s special need is not really her cleft lip and palette; it was a matter of the heart — to be welcomed into a family that would love and care for her. 

 

***Family Names have been changed to preserve Confidentiality.