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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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.

Teaching Children Safety

Recently, I received an email from our Soccer organization about a suspicious individual who has been spotted watching my daughter’s soccer practices, held at a neighborhood park.  Apparently, a concerned parent made a report to the local police. Upon questioning, it was also determined that the person had a history as a sexual offender.  This experience led me to consider sharing some reminder tips with CHI families regarding safety measures for children.

Personally, I’m not a fan of when my kids have their names on their jersey, allowing any stranger to call them by name and therefore appear to know them.  I advocate for leaving names off of jerseys – or if unavoidable – I use our last name instead of first names.  (Bonus: this also enables you to recycle jerseys for younger siblings who might need them in the future!)

Some other tips for teaching your children how to keep themselves safe:

Discuss the concept of “strangers.”  Convey  to your children that strangers can be men or women, young or old. They can have any color skin. Some are tall and some are short, some are thin some are heavy. Some strangers are pretty and some are not so pretty. Some strangers can speak different languages. Most strangers are nice, but some strangers are mean. Because you don’t know if someone is a good stranger or a bad one you should not talk to anyone you don’t know.

Some prompts for having a discussion with your children are:

· What is a stranger? [A person that you and your parents do not know.]
· How might a stranger try to fool you into getting into their car? [By telling you that your parents couldn’t come so he/she was sent to give you a ride home.]
· How can you protect yourself? [By asking the person to give you the family’s secret code word.]
· What should you do if someone brought a package to your house when you’re home alone? [Speak to him/her through a closed door, telling them your mom/dad is resting and cannot come to the door. Tell them to leave the package on the porch.]
· Is it safe to accept gifts from strangers? [NO!]
· If a stranger stops their car near you and asks for directions, what should you do? [Stand at a good distance from the car, even if they ask you to come closer.]
· If you become separated from your family at a store or mall, what should you do? [Tell someone who works in the store that you are lost. DO NOT WANDER.]
· What should you do if someone grabs you and starts taking you out of the store? [Yell, “NO! I don’t know you! This isn’t my parent!!” and be as loud as possible.]
· In an emergency, how can you call the police or fire? [Dial 9-1-1]
· What is a secret family code word used for? [In an emergency, it is to let you know that it is safe for someone to pick you up.]
· If you come home to an empty house after school, what is the first thing you should do? [Lock all the doors.]

Coach children to always tell parents where they are.  If they are mature and old enough to walk anywhere alone, encourage them to:
· Try to walk with a friend whenever possible.
· Don’t take shortcuts through a wooded area.
· Make sure your children follow the agreed upon route with no deviations unless they get your permission FIRST.
· Don’t get close to strangers.
· Do not tell your name or address to a stranger.
· Never go with a stranger to look for a lost pet.
· Never get into a car with anyone you don’t know.
· Never enter someone’s home or place of business without a parent.
· Know safe places you can go (such as Friends Homes, Police, Fire Stations or Neighborhood Watch homes).
· If a stranger follows you or grabs for you, run away.  Yell loud “NO!!!  This is not my parent!” and make as much noise as you can. 

Together, parents and children should discuss:
· Talk about any places your child doesn’t feel safe.
· Come up with a secret code word to be used in an emergency (i.e. any time a plan has changed and you may be unable to convey the plan personally to your child).  Impress upon your child the importance of not going with anyone who does not know this code word.
· If your child has to ask for help from a stranger, if possible seek help from a police officer or teacher.
· Never open the door to a stranger.
· Never tell anyone on the phone that you are home alone. 

Younger children should carry some sort of identification including their name, address, telephone number and emergency contact information.  Have this identification in a secure location and not attached to the outside of a backpack.  They should know where it is so they can share it in an emergency.  Teach young children their phone number and parents names, as early as possible.  Teach your child how to use the telephone in order to dial 9-1-1. 

Finally, educate yourself on any registered sex offenders in your neighborhood. You can check with your local police or visit the CA Sex Offender Registration page at:  http://www.meganslaw.ca.gov

In sympathy…

Our hearts are breaking as we consider the tragic events which took place in Newtown, Connecticut last Friday.  There are no words to express our sadness or our sympathies to those impacted.

With such a tragedy, it is possible that your own child may experience a wide range of emotions while processing this.  How children experience traumatic events and how they express distress depends, largely, on the children’s age and level of development. This resource may be of use in deciding what can be expected:

Age Related Reactions to a Traumatic Event

Some tips in addressing traumatic events with your children:

Be Honest and Reassuring.  When a traumatic event occurs, children of all ages take cues from the adults they trust.  It is important to be honest and realistic when explaining an event. Explain what they can age appropriately handle. Start by asking what they have heard or sharing a basic summary of events and then listen to their thoughts and fears.  Remember that children interpret events differently based on their own developmental level and personal experience.  It is natural for them to ask a lot of questions and seek to understand.

Watch for Signs of Concern.  The range of typical responses to traumatic events is broad. Some children are able to move on without major impact to their daily functioning or ability to interact with others.  However, significant changes in behavior such as excessive crying, eating and sleeping issues, somatic complaints, intense fear, withdrawal, nightmares, and irritability are signs of possible traumatic stress.  Be aware of your own child’s behaviors and seek professional help if things don’t get better.

Limit Access to Media Coverage.  It is hard for adults to avoid media coverage of a dramatic situation, and kids are no different.  They may hear details of an event from friends, the television, radio, or overhear conversations in public places.  You may not be able to insulate your child everywhere, but monitor their access closely.  Adults should check in with older children and teens on a regular basis to monitor their exposure and emotions.

Consider Other Risk Factors.  If your child already has a mental health condition or struggles with emotional regulation, he or she may be more likely impacted by news of a traumatic event. Kids who have recently experienced a loss or trauma in their own lives can also be at higher risk.  Events that are human-caused and include violent deaths are more traumatizing.

Communicate with the School, Social Workers, or other Professionals involved.  If you are concerned about your child, please contact the school and CHI.  Social Workers, Counselors, and Psychologists can help monitor and support children during the school day and provide you with additional resources.  Remind your children of adults who are available to talk, if they are upset.  After a major event reminds us of what is important, it can be difficult for parents to leave their children at school. All parents have to use their own judgment, but remember that kids benefit from a regular daily routine and frequently move on emotionally more quickly than adults.

Take Care of Yourself.  The best resource for a child’s recovery is a caring adult who is healthy and emotionally available.  Make sure you take the time to care for yourself.  Adults who are already managing stress from work, relationships and parenting can easily feel overwhelmed when a traumatic event occurs.  Help your kids learn health habits by demonstrating them yourself.

 ADDITIONAL RESOURCES 

National Child Traumatic Stress Network

Mental Health America

American Academy of Pediatrics

Social Networking: Protect your Family!

True Story:

The parents of three beautiful girls have found Facebook to be a valuable tool for social networking.  Mom and Dad are both active on it, sharing photos, summarizing daily habits, and enjoying a playful banter amongst friends.  Mom & Dad have always been safety conscious, especially since the adoption of their two daughters was arranged to have been “closed.”  Both parents conservatively set their privacy settings according to their comfort level and proceeded to engage in regular facebooking behavior without much worry.

This scenario sounds familiar to many, I’m sure.

Over time, facebook has revised itself, and as result – they found themselves in an awkward predicament.  Mom received a “friend request” from an extended family member of her adopted daughters’ biologic family.  With no intention of approving this request, she wandered through this potential “friend’s” contacts list and discovered her daughters’ biological mother listed amongst those shown.  Further wandering, it was discovered that her own privacy levels had readjusted without her awareness.  It became obvious that the biological mother had recently visited Mom’s facebook wall and obtained photographs of the daughters – reposting them to her own “wall.”  She also noted that the biologic mother still had her daughters listed amongst her own “children” and named them by their full legal (& current) names.  Fast forwarding through 24 hours of emotional angst and fear brings us to -yet- another friend request she received.  This one come from a male biologic family member who allegedly sexually abused her children.

This scenario sounds like your worst nightmare, right?

Social Networking has become the chosen way many communicate in the 21st century. But, just like you’re advised when meeting strangers at clubs, school, or work — you are also advised to proceed with caution online. Networking sites such as MySpace, FriendWise, FriendFinder, Yahoo! 360, Facebook, Orkut, YouTube and Classmates are being accessed by the majority.  And as an agency, we are just realizing the potential of these sites and how they may impact the adoption community.  With just a little thought, one can envision reconnecting with biologic relatives whether they are in Texas, Canada or overseas.  Whether this possibility is appropriate for your family – is unique to each of you.  And, one you should prepare yourselves for.

The point of this story is to raise awareness, not fear.  Please consider the following tips and implement them if they are in the best interests of your family.

  1. Regardless of the site you use: adjust your privacy settings to match your level of comfort, and review them often. You can find detailed information on all of the privacy options offered specifically by Facebook here: http://www.facebook.com/privacy/explanation.php. To edit the privacy settings for your own Facebook account, choose the “Privacy Settings” option from the Account drop-down menu available from the top right corner of every page. From this page you can personalize your privacy settings for Profile Information, Contact Information, Applications and Websites, and Search. For more information on the privacy settings offered by Facebook as well as answers to common questions about privacy, please refer to the Privacy section of the Help Center.
  2. Don’t assume that your settings will forever remain as you set them.  Facebook redesigns itself on a regular basis and with these changes, your privacy settings also evolve.  It might be suddenly possible that your wall can be seen by anyone, that your photos can be used in advertisements, and that friends of friends can be privy to what you make public. Err on the side of caution and check your settings on a regular basis.
  3. Remember that you are role modeling social networking for your own children.  Age appropriately, they will likely become interested in it too.  Prepare yourself proactively for what this could mean for your family.  Doors may open before anyone is quite ready for them too.
  4. Populate social networking sites with content that you are confident in sharing.  Consider not posting your full name, address and phone number. Be cautious about posting information that could be used to identify you or locate you offline.

In summary: Be safe, be aware.