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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Post Adoption Support

Post Adoption Support

Adoption affects adopted persons and families in many different ways over the course of their lifetime.  As result many adoptive families need information and support to manage challenges as they arise. Challenges may appear and reappear at different stages of life, even when their adoption is a positive experience.  We encourage families to seek assistance proactively when the first concern or questions arise.  Please note: there is no need for a family to feel ashamed or hesitant to request help… Just give yourself permission to learn & expand your skills!

Post-adoption services can help families with a range of challenges which may include:

  1. A parent struggling with how to explain adoption to a preschooler..or any aged child.
  2. A teenager struggling with their teenage identity, especially as it pertains to being an adopted child.  Identity development can be more complex for adopted children and teenagers.
  3. Identity development can be complicated if the child’s race or birth culture differs from that of the adoptive family.  Given the importance of maintaining a child’s birth heritage, parents may seek resources on this topic.
  4. Families of children who have experienced trauma, neglect, abuse, out-of-home care, or institutionalization may require more intensive services.
  5. All adopted children and youth, (even those adopted as infants) experience some level of grief and loss.  They may grieve as they come to understand their history and they may also struggle with feelings of abandonment.
  6. Any child or youth separated from birth parents has experienced a break in attachment, and may not have known consistent love and affection.  As result, they may have difficulty trusting and attaching to their new family.  These children may need help building healthy relationships.
  7. Open adoptions may lead to families and adopted children needing support in maintaining relationships with birth family members.
  8. Adoptive parents may experience grief and loss issues of their own, which may relate to infertility.  Emotions can be intensified by the reality of their adoption, especially if it doesn’t match what they expected it to be.
  9. At some point, many adoptees want to access birth information and/or reconnect with birth families.  While technology can accelerate a birth relative search, this faster pace can be emotionally overwhelming.  They also may not know where to begin their search.
  10. Children who were exposed prenatally to drugs and alcohol may have ongoing emotional, developmental, physical or behavioral difficulties.  These may vary from health issues, to developmental delays, to feeding, sleeping and attachment issues. Issues may arise at school requiring an Individualized Education Program (IEP) and a referral fro special services.

There are many tangible services available which can help with post-adoption challenges:

  1. Therapy/Counseling:  Professional help for concerns is always available to address any post-adoption challenge.  Proactive access can often prevent concerns from becoming serious problems.  For more information, contact the CHI office for insight and a referral.
  2. Support Groups:  Both Online and in-person groups are available.  Both offer parents and adoptees valuable opportunities to interact and share with others who may have had relevant experiences.  Parents can even start their own group as many post-adoption services were founded by concerned adoptive parents!
  3. Camps, picnics and other events:  Retreats and camps are available for members of adoptive families to connect with others like themselves.
  4. Educational resources:   Parents can access a workshop or conference, or an online resource to learn about the topics important to them, socialize with other families, and access adoption materials.  (many will be listed below).
  5. Financial assistance:  While most services are not free of charge, their may be assistance available for some adoptive families.  Many children adopted from public agencies qualify for adoption subsidy which can be used to pay for these services as spelled out in the adoption assistance agreement. Medicaid is available to meet a child’s special health, mental or emotional needs.  Your health insurance carrier may also offer benefits which can be used for post adoption services.  Some employers may provide benefits which will reimburse adoption related service fees.  Scholarships are often available to help with the cost of attending adoption conferences and seminars.
  6. Public adoption agencies (county or State offices) & many private adoption agencies may provide services which can benefit your family dynamic.

In addition to the specific services listed above, we’ve compiled a lengthy list of online resources – which can be accessed at any time & are listed below.  These may be especially helpful if your family is not living within this agency’s home state, which is California.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network was established to improve access to care, treatment, and services for traumatized children and adolescents exposed to traumatic events. The group offers a wealth of online trainings and informational links.

Child Welfare Information Gateway promotes the well-being of families by connecting the public to information, resources and tools covering topics on child welfare, child abuse & neglect, adoption and more.  Child Information Gateway provides access to information and resources to help protect and strengthen families.

TCU Institute of Child Development  Offers Trust Based Relationship Intervention (TBRI) DVD’s that families can order for themselves.

Empowered to Connect offers a faith based version of TBRI. Families can go onto the website, click resources & then on the righthand side there are many topics they can click & see a short video or write up on the subject.

Attachment Trauma Network promotes healing of traumatized children and their families through support, education and advocacy.

CASE -Center for Adoption Support & Education C.A.S.E. is the national leader in adoption-competent support with foster and adopted children and adults, their families and the network of professionals who assist them. With more than 17 years of adoption expertise and an extensive range of services, C.A.S.E. is empowering families in the adoption and foster care community to grow together and overcome challenges.  This is an excellent site that offers articles, trainings, and lots of resources for all members of an adoptive family.

REACH – Tulare County and REACH- Kings County  REACH, which stands for Resources, Education, Advocacy, Crisis Intervention and Hope was designed to support and enrich the lives of adopted children and families, as well as others who have been touched by adoption.   REACH services are family-centered and recognize the core issues of adoption. Services are designed to support and preserve all family relationships and maximize the child’s potential and full integration into a family. REACH services are provided at multiple locations throughout California to help families effectively prepare for the experience of adoption and to ensure families receive support at all stages of adoptive parenting. There are REACH programs in the following counties:  Contra Costa, San Benito, Solano, Kings, Mono, Madera, Mariposa, and Tulare.

Dave Thomas Foundation  Access the link for a guide to Strengthen your Forever Family:  A step-by-Step guide to Post-Adoption.  This free resource booklet includes information for parents about the types of resources available after adoptions have been finalized. Topics include how to select and locate providers, what to do if your community doesn’t have resources available, and recommendations of other national non-profits that can help.

NACAC North American Council on Adoptable Children is an organization that offers numerous articles designed to help families who have adopted children with special needs.

PACT, an Adoption Alliance, was begun by two adoptive parents in 1991.  Pact has developed a range of services that can connect you to other families like your own.

CWLA Child Welfare League of America is the oldest national organization serving vulnerable children, youth, and their families. CLWA provides trainings, consultations, and a variety of conferences including teleconferences found at the link.

Voice for Adoption is a national organization that works to make a difference in the lives of children in foster care who are waiting to be adopted and the families who adopt children from foster care

Adoption Learning Partners provides educational adoption resources for adopted individuals, parents, families, and professionals through web-based and interactive courses. Adoption Learning Partners offers courses for families parenting adopted children to learn how to sort through issues and learn new skills. Courses address topics like talking to your child about adoption, helping your child cope with feelings of grief and loss, and answering questions about your child’s heritage and background with sensitivity and respect.

Evan B. Donaldson Institute is a non-profit organization that dedicates itself to adoption by improving the current policies and practices of adoption. Through a wealth of publications, the Institute seeks to end negative stereotypes and misinformation about adoption by providing an accurate picture of its rewards, as well as its challenges.  Search by topic to locate resources you may need.

Adoptive Families Magazine is an excellent magazine with well-written articles for all adoptive parents.

What have we missed? Please add any resources you have found to be helpful to your family in the comments.

 

Roots

Most adopted children will encounter at least one class in school where they are required to create a family tree as an assignment. This creates stress for many adoptive families.  Parents may be relieved to know that – a family tree CAN be quite helpful for your child in understanding the overall concept of “who he is.”   Adopted children often feel the need to know where they “come from,” and the family tree can be the perfect way to explore that with your child.

The family tree gives adopted children a chance to look at their “roots.”   As a parent, if you have presented an honest and up-front account of their life story – including the existence of a birth family, he or she will be happy to and easily include them on their family tree.

Take a look at this example of a family tree drawing and see how easily you might personalize it to your own adoption story.

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Your child can fill in whatever information is truly known about his birth parents – but be careful that the project doesn’t become a work of fiction.  With closed adoptions, the parents’ names might not be available, in which case they can simply be noted as “Birth Father” and “Birth Mother.”  If there are biological siblings, they can be included as well.  Represent only the facts… but that doesn’t mean you can’t talk about the unknowns, if your child wants to explore that information.

Regardless of how you decide to complete the assignment, make sure your child is comfortable with the final product. Some children prefer their adoption story not become public information.  If this is the case, they might rather complete the project with just their adoptive family for school. You can, however, create a family tree just for yourselves including the birth parents, then turn in the other to his or her teacher.

You can also take it a step further and create two family trees for the school assignment. Adopted children often want to represent both families in full, especially if they were adopted at an older age. The tree might include grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and even great-grandparents to fully recognize both types of families.

Be your child’s advocate:

If your child isn’t comfortable making a family tree, or is worried the other kids will make fun, talk to his or her teacher to find out what you can do to help. For example, if students are expected to present their family trees to the class, perhaps you can advocate why this is difficult for your child and encourage the teacher to accept only “volunteers” for this presentation (instead of requiring it of the entire class).

Your child might be worried that his or her family tree is different from everyone else’s. Explain that “being different can be neat,” and that he or she possibly “has the most exciting family tree of all.”  This can be an opportunity for your child to teach other children about “differences.” (IF they feel comfortable and are confident to do so!)

If your child has another friend at school who is adopted, consider advocating that they be encouraged to work together on this project. This could allow them to take courage and strength from one another as two of a kind.

Conspicuous Comments, Part 2

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To wrap up our previous post on conspicuous comments made in the public, we have solicited some specific scenarios that have played out in real life!

Executive Director, Brandy Lucas, PhD. reminds our families to be thoughtful of what they are comfortable sharing. With any of the comments below, “I think a person (or family) should know that they have the right not to engage in the conversation. Just because a stranger is curious about their family doesn’t mean that they are obligated to entertain that person’s curiosity.”

In the spirit of preparing our families for similar exchanges – our CHI staff consists of some fantastically trained Master’s level Social Workers, adoptive parents and an adoptive daughter.  Combined, we’ve shared insights about how to manage the following conspicuous exchanges:

What to say if a family is questioned:  “How much did you pay for him?”

Peggy (our Adoption Services Manager and Adoptive Mom of two grown children) relates:  “I was actually asked this by my son when he was 15 or 16.  At the time he asked, he was very angry.  I told him we paid fees for services provided to us so that we could adopt, but did not ‘pay’ for him.”

To address this question asked by anyone else in the community, Stacy Dinkel, MA (our Clinical Documentation Specialist) advises a good response might be sticking with informational statements:  “We paid the typical attorney and agency fees for our adoption.” You might also consider answering with an overt Privacy Guarding response such as:  “If you forgive me for not answering, I’ll forgive you for asking.”

CHI is unanimously a big fan of turning the question back to the originator so that they can answer it for themselves (or just take a breath and come up with a more respectable inquiry).  For example, Peggy suggests: “Are you interested in adopting?”

If asked “Where did you get her?” 

Peggy recommends: “Why do you ask?”  She explains sometimes people phrase things in an awkward way when they are really seeking something different than what you think they are.  Brandy suggests another deflection delivered in a kindly tone:  “How would it help you to know that?”  If the asker is genuinely interested, their response might welcome a conversation.  If the asker chooses to decline – the conversation has been easily squelched.  Stacy advises that an informational response using adoption appropriate language might also fit the bill.  For example:  “We are an Adoptive Family. We adopted from Guatemala.”

JulieAnn (Adoption Social Work Supervisor and Adoptive Mother of a gorgeous African American daughter) recalls “I had a woman ask me ‘Why did you decide to adopt a child ‘like that?’” 

Flabbergasted, she asked the speaker for clarification on what she meant.  She states, “I think when you reframe the question back to them, having to explain themselves makes them uncomfortable. It also gives them time to rethink their words. My inquirer immediately felt badly for wording it the way she had. She then re-stated “Why did you adopt a child who doesn’t look like you?” JulieAnn factually answered: “We were open to adopting any child that would be the youngest in our birth order from the foster care system.  We didn’t think what they looked like (& in this case, the race) should matter.”

If faced with the question:  “Is it difficult to love a child that’s not your own?” 

Peggy suggests stating “They are my own . . . “ said sweetly while maintaining direct eye contact.

When inquisitively asked:  “Where did she get her blonde hair and blue eyes?” 

Both Megan and her mother fondly recall Megan answering this question in line at the grocery store.   “Jesus gave ‘em to me,” said  3-year-old Megan Schulze (our Administrative Assistant, who was adopted at birth).  Wow.  Could there be a better or more profound answer??? Her mother just smiled and left it at that.  JulieAnn also recollects a similar situation:  “At our first day back to church one of the little girls in my daughter’s kindergarten class kept asking her ‘Why is your sister was ‘brown’?  For a long time she didn’t answer.  Then she simply delivered:  “Uhhh…because God MADE her that way!”

When the curious might ask:  “Have you ever met her real mother?” 

Peggy advises frankly reframing the inquiry:  “You mean her birth mother?  Yes, I have (or No I haven’t).”

Similarly, imagine you are in the post office and a stranger asks…”What a cute little girl.  Is she your real daughter?”  Although, Stacy’s sarcastic instincts would drive her to want to reply with a humor filled: “No, she’s my fake daughter,” we believe offering a privacy guarding or informational response would be healthiest for your child to witness and process.  Stacy therefore recommends: “Yes, she’s really mine! I’m so lucky.”  (privacy guarding) or “Yes, we are an adoptive family!”  (informational).

Occasionally a frank inquiry might occur on the topic of: “Were you unable to have another of your own children?”

Again, Peggy would respond: ‘why do you ask?’  She furthers, maybe the person is struggling with infertility and is actually reaching out – or maybe they are just expressing curiosity. Let the person discuss why they are curious—if they seem genuinely interested, then maybe that’s a conversation worth approaching (and if its not, then the client can come up with the “out” at that point). A follow-up question might be appropriate if the former seems to be the case:  “You sound like you’re curious about adoption?”

Imagine you are having a small family get-together to celebrate the adoption of your 3-year-old son.  Your sister-in-law enthusiastically announces… “Well, now that you’ve adopted, you’re sure to get pregnant!”  Stacy acknowledges there is a myriad of responses for this:  “Actually, that is just a myth.  It’s no more likely now than before we adopted” (which is an informational delivery).  Or, “Maybe…. we’ll see.” (which is a privacy guarding response).  Or, if you favor the application of humor and sarcasm:  “After the stories you’ve told me about childbirth, why would I want to?”

Consider playing at a park, where there is visibly one African American child who happens to be yours.  A stranger making small talk, asks – “Which one is yours?” Do you point out skin color, which is a pretty simple identifier – or perhaps as Stacy advises – make it less about skin color by stating: “She’s the princess wearing a tutu on the swings over there!”

JulieAnn also shares: “A teacher asked (while my 4-year-old daughter was with me):  “So, what’s the story with her?”

Her adoption was finalized & she’d been with us quite awhile.  I was so shocked that I just looked at my child and then looked at the teacher while informing her it was “an inappropriate time for her to ask me such a question.”  JulieAnn advises, there is a lot of public and support system education that happens when an adoption occurs.  Sometimes you can choose to educate the person.  But when they are completely rude or aggressive, “I think you can chose to walk away…as you truly owe them nothing.”

JulieAnn also recalls that “It used to really bother me when my daughter was little — that she received so much attention from strangers.  People would come up to us and remark about “How cute & beautiful” she was.  The compliments were made while ignoring my other young & cute children!!”  To this, JulieAnn’s standard reply became: “Yes, we’ve been blessed with THREE really cute kids!”

In closing, know that it’s very important to check-in with your child after someone has said something you consider offensive.  Ask how are they feeling after that comment – and allow them to express feelings of anger, sadness, confusion, etc.   If you find yourself in the position of an awkward or socially uncomfortable inquiry — giving the power to the child to decide or relinquish power to the parent is absolutely appropriate in some circumstances.   You might choose to ask your child & say: “Do you want to handle this one, or do you want me to?”   If you face an inquiry that feels too aggressive, JulieAnn also suggests that parents place their physical body between their child & the inquirer.  This will imply and instill that you are the child’s protector.

If you’re considering adoption, please don’t let this post sway your choices.  It’s important to remember that the majority of the public will support your adoption story in a conversationally appropriate way.  The spirit of this post is simply to offer ideas and to encourage preparedness for those who may need it.

Have you experienced adoption related banter in the community that left you uncomfortable, mad or maybe even… extremely pleased?  We’d love to hear about it!

 

Hair Care Tips for the African American or Biracial Child

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Adoptive parents often foster and adopt children who are of a different cultural or ethnic group. As we’ve mentioned previously, this requires a family commitment to embrace their child’s ethnicity and culture. A small part of adopting an African American or Biracial child is understanding how to best care for their hair.

African American Hair is surprisingly fragile in spite of its strong and course appearance. For this reason, African American hair needs special care in order to make it grow and keep it healthy.

Some Facts and Tips:

– Most experts say you should shampoo only every seven to 10 days.
– African-American hair shrinks more when dry (wet hair can be up to twice as long as dry hair), and has more elasticity. Generally, the hair contains less water, grows more slowly, and breaks more easily than Caucasian or Asian hair.
-African-American hair needs supplemental moisture to stand up to styling because it is naturally dry. Stay away from products that contain alcohol.
– Curly textures tend to be the most vulnerable to drying out and breaking because the bends in kinky hair make it difficult for natural oils to work their way down the hair shaft.
-When combing African American hair always use a wide-toothed comb that will not catch and snag the hair. Avoid using a brush on wet hair as it will stretch and damage the hair follicle. Try to loosen the tangles with your fingers.
-Chemical and heat styling can suck the internal moisture from hair, making it brittle and fragile. To avoid breakage, look for heat-shielding and hydrating products that contain silicone. They coat the hair and help seal in moisture.
-Avoid products designed for limp hair. Ingredients that add body can actually strip oils and remove moisture. Products with lanolin or other greasy products moisturize, but they can clog the pores on your scalp and weigh hair down. You may prefers conditioners with essential oils — like grape seed oil, for example — that moisturize without leaving an oily residue.
-Experts also suggest wrapping hair in a satin scarf before bed to help hair retain moisture. Cotton fibers in pillowcases can wick away hydration.

Our Staff member JulieAnn Jones, MSW, is an adoptive Mama and our Social Work Supervisor at CHI. She offers her insights about specifically caring for her daughter’s hair:

For my African American daughter, one of her most significant and visible cultural needs is her hair! She has beautiful, gorgeous, kinky, curly hair. When I first became her mama eight wonderful years ago, I had only the basic knowledge of how to care for her hair. Many books, blogs, friends, magazines, and YouTube videos later, we are doing much better! Hair is an ongoing topic in our home which includes weekly washing and styling sessions. Our typical routine is to wash her hair on Friday nights and style it on Saturday. Sticking to a routine has worked best for us and we vary it when needed. Here are a few of our favorite hair products:

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Our typical routine is to wash her hair once a week and then comb out with a leave in conditioner. We moisturize her hair daily by either adding in hair lotion or spray-on hair moisturizer. Other products are used for twisting, braiding, and moisturizing her scalp. As my daughter gets older, the styles that are appropriate for her are constantly changing. It’s an ongoing challenge to continue learning, I will never have all the answers.

When you are a conspicuous family, your child likely realizes their differences more significantly than you. Helping them to identify with their peer group can be even more important to adopted children. As a mother, I feel it is my responsibly to make myself vulnerable for her sake. I have worked to expand my peer group and have found a great response when I’ve asked for help. I learned how to cornrow by watching YouTube! Yes, YouTube is a great reference when looking for a tutorial. I also have several blogs I follow which help with hair products and styling ideas.

Two of my favorites are:
http://beadsbraidsbeyond.blogspot.com/
http://www.chocolatehairvanillacare.com/

I also started off by reading several books on basic care for African American hair care. Here are two of my favorites:
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My daughter and I enjoy looking through magazines or blogs for new and interesting hairstyles to try. I often let her steer the direction of her style, as long as it’s within my ability! We have had many brilliant successes and some humorous disasters! It’s a wonderful bonding experience between the two of us and she has developed a strong sense of pride in her beautiful and fun hair.

When adopting a child of another culture, we need to be committed to building their self-esteem while acknowledging and celebrating their differences. It is important as a parent to stay aware of cultural styles. If there are some that are not congruent with your family beliefs, incorporate the ones you are comfortable with and find an appropriate balance.