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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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!

 

Conspicuous Comments: Part 1

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Following up on a previous blog post, “Words Can Hurt,” we’re furthering the discussion a bit on the topic of specifically being a Conspicuous Adoptive Family.  This can be more obvious from the standpoint of adopting a child of another culture.  Or it can be less obvious – with physical characteristics such as hair and eye color differing greatly from those of the adoptive parents.  Whichever the case, surprisingly, sometimes any difference at all… can seem to open the family to comment from the community.

We can all expect to meet people who oppose multiracial adoption for political reasons – some will be the same race as the child, and some not.  A family built of multiple heritages will be especially visible and that will influence the reactions of other people.  Some of these families may feel like they are on display every time they go out!  They might come to expect questions and comments about their conspicuous families, from strangers and people they know.  These comments may challenge their family identity and privacy boundaries.

Any responses to the curiosities about your family, needs to reflect pride and confidence and above all, serve the child. As a family you can decide what info you are prepared to share (“Yes she joined our family by adoption, she was born in ______”) and what needs to remain private (“I’m sorry, we don’t share our child’s story with anyone but family. I hope you understand.”) We advise that families develop a few “scripts,” short and sweet …and practice until you feel comfortable. Role-play with kids works well and can be fun too, especially if you employ the dress-up clothes stash!

Adopted children may need to be prepared to handle attention, comments and questions that they will receive when they are with their families – and on their own. As parents, you need to model for them how to respond while honoring their story and their dignity.  Give your child some control over sharing his story – “Would you like to answer the strangers question?”  A parent can answer if they or you wish – and you CAN choose to not answer at all.

It’s natural to feel and respond differently to people who share your child’s heritage. You shouldn’t feel obliged or pressured to share private family information simply because those posing the questions are the same race/culture as your children. Share what you’re comfortable sharing.  Getting involved in the community is a great opportunity to build bridges. Similarly, if your children see you treating people who share their heritage with respect and openness, they may feel more comfortable interacting in their own racial communities. This can have a positive effect on our children’s self esteem and make them more comfortable with their identities as they see us building relationships with people of all different racial and cultural backgrounds. 
You may be particularly aware of this when travelling to your children’s countries of origin. You may also feel defensive, protective and even inadequate in responding.

You can absolutely provide information on a need-to-know basis. Remember that your children’s life details belong to them, and parents are the caretakers of those details. Understandably, most adoptive parents have had a lot of experience working with professionals before the adoption even takes place – and as result, boundaries around confidentiality have been stretched. Now is the time to tighten these boundaries and take back control of them.

There are as many ways to respond to difficult situations as there are people, but the types of responses tend to fall into three different categories:

INFORMATIONAL:

…gives the questioner some kind of information about the child’s adoption or the adoptive family.  This is usually more effective with people you see frequently.

HUMOROUS:  

…defuses difficult situations with comedy  or sarcasm.  This is usually more effective in public situations with strangers.  Be cautious when using sarcasm, however, as children of certain ages may not be mature enough to “get it.”

PRIVACY GUARDING:  

…are responses designed to protect your child and your family.  They quickly cut off further discussion.  Often these responses are posed as questions.

 

W.I.S.E. UP! is  a program created by Marilyn Schoettle, at C.A.S.E (Center for Adoption Support and Education) that teaches effective techniques for helping kids with the painful and often disturbing encounters with others who are uneducated about adoption. The kids are taught that they have 4 choices:

      W: Walk away or choose not to pay attention

      I: It’s private: I can choose not to share information

      S: Share some information about adoption or my story

      E: Educate others about adoption in general, by telling them correct information and helping them to understand it

Here are two sources discussing/offering the W.I.S.E. UP! Powerbook:

To Read Review:  http://adoption.about.com/od/guidereviews/fr/wiseuprev.htm

To Purchase:  http://www.amazon.com/W-I-S-E-Up-Powerbook-Marilyn-Schoettle/dp/0971173206

Another great resource is the PACT Family Camp, which is open for registration.  A Gathering for Adoptive Families
With Children of Color will occur on:

July 3-7, 2013 at the 
Granlibakken Conference Center and Lodge, in 
Tahoe City, CA

For more information: https://www.pactadopt.org/adoptive/services/education/pact_camp.html

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Because this post is a lengthy and important one, we are splitting the content into two posts.  The next blog post will address specific examples and conversations and how they have played out in real life.  Our social workers and parents have shared insights about how to manage each of the situations.

Stay tuned for that post later this week!

Words Can Hurt

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Words convey facts and evoke feelings. The way we talk—and the specifically the words we choose—say a lot about what we think and value. When we use positive adoption language, we are supporting that adoption is a wonderful way to build a family – just as birth is.  Both ways are important, unique and special.  One is not more important than the other.

By using emotionally sensitive language, we educate others about adoption and the fact that it isn’t a “second best” route to becoming a parent. We speak and write this way in the hope of influencing others so that this language will someday become the norm.  It is important to talk with your family and friends about why certain verbiage has a negative impact – and relate it to your preferences. Your coaching can also be contagious to those around you, correcting adoption misconceptions in a powerful way.

When considering your adoption language, it is important to think of the child’s perspective. For an adopted child, the difference in the words they hear about adoption can change the way they view themselves.  It’s also the tone and intent of the user that puts the communicative concept in a positive or negative light.

In adoption, children will always have two absolutely “real” families: one by birth and one by adoption.  By sweetening the language, we sometimes remove the truth though.  A fact remains that can’t be changed with emotionally sensitive words… that every adoption really begins with a catastrophe.

Sometimes we may actually have to choose between politically correct terms and those a child chooses to use – based on their age level and cognitive understanding.  For example, in a foster child’s eyes, they were “taken away” from their parent by police and CPS workers.  So, they won’t easily apply the preferred term: “court termination” to that scenario. They were there for the “taking away” part and if it’s historically accurate, any correction might cause unnecessary confusion.

If you have reached this article because you are unsure of what phrases to use, we believe it’s perfectly acceptable to ask the biological parents or adoptive family what they prefer. By being overt, you can avoid phrases that may be confusing to a child and/or hurtful to both the birth family and adopting family.  Quite frankly, they may not even entirely support this agency’s chosen terms – and that’s just fine.  We should all aim to create comfort with our words.  Use the terms that they support and find the most value in, given their unique relationships and situation.

Adoption has significant impact on the lives of those it touches, but it is not a “condition.” It should never become a label.  Choose which words you use carefully and thoughtfully.  After all — Words Can Hurt.

Below are vocabulary terms about adoption which have been chosen carefully to reflect maximum respect, responsibility and objectivity about the decisions occurring in family planning decisions, children who have been adopted and families who have been impacted by adoption.

More Sensitive:                                    Less Sensitive:

Say: Birthparent                                   Don’t say: Real Parent

Say: Biological parent                         Don’t say: Natural parent

Say: Birth Child                                    Don’t say: My own child, real child, natural child

Say: My child                                         Don’t say: My adopted child, My own child

Say: Person                                           Don’t say: Adoptee

Say: Born to unmarried parents         Don’t say: Illegitimate

Say: Make an adoption plan                Don’t say: Give away, adopt out

Say: Chose adoption                            Don’t say: Put up or give up for adoption

Say: To parent the baby                       Don’t say: To keep the baby

Say: Child in need of a family             Don’t say: Adoptable child/unwanted child

Say: I’m a Parent                                   Don’t clarify: I’m an Adoptive parent

Say: Child who has special needs     Don’t say: Handicapped child, Hard to place child

Say: He/She WAS adopted                 Don’t say:  He/She IS adopted

Say: Choosing adoption plan            Don’t say: giving away the child

Say: Search                                           Don’t say: Track down parents

Say: Unintended pregnancy               Don’t say: Unwanted pregnancy

Say: Court termination                        Don’t say:  Child taken away

Say: Intercountry Adoption                 Don’t say:  Foreign adoption

Say: Making Contact With                  Don’t say:  Reunion

Say: Biological or birth father             Don’t say:  Real Father

Say: Biological or birth mother           Don’t say:  Real Mother

Say: Finding a family to parent a child    Don’t say: Putting a child up for adoption