Stages of Waiting

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We’ve all heard of the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross model for the stages of grief, but what about the Adoption stages of waiting? We all know how difficult and frustrating the process can be – we also know how joyous and amazing it can be as well. Sometimes the frustration gets overwhelming and you need a break. Well when you do, read our lighthearted list of stages of waiting – we hope it makes you smile as you embark on your own roller coaster ride of emotions.

 1. Relief. You have finally decided that you are going to adopt. No ifs, ands, or buts! You feel like a weight has been lifted off of your shoulders, you finally know what you are going to do!

2. Overwhelm. You just got stuck with all this paperwork to do for adoption and you are trying to continue with your everyday life at the same time and it just doesn’t seem like it’s ever going to get done.

3. Joy. Your paperwork is finally done and your classes are completed – you’re ready to be matched! You’ve hurried up to this point and now… You must wait.

4. Doubt in yourself. Why hasn’t any expectant parents picked you yet? Is it your profile key? Did you say something wrong on your profile? Are there not enough pictures of yourself in there? Are there too many pictures? Do you come off as a nerd? Do you come off as conceded? What don’t they see in us?

5. Doubt it will ever happen. It’s been a lifetime, ok its been three months, and you haven’t been picked. Other couples who applied after you are getting picked. No one will ever pick you and you might as well just get on with your life knowing you’ll never have a baby through adoption.

6. Exhilaration. YOU’VE BEEN PICKED! The phone rang and you picked it up and you’ve been picked by an expectant couple and they want to meet you!

7. Insecurity. Will they not like you when you finally meet them? What if they don’t like the color shirt that you’re wearing? What if they decide you’re too (insert any adjective here) to parent their baby? What if you don’t click? What if they don’t get your husband’s humor?

8. Overwhelming Excitement. The meeting went so well and the baby is due in a month! You and the expectant parents have came up with an agreement for everyone and everything looks like a perfect match and connection!

9. Fear of parenthood. Are you ready to be a parent? What if the baby crys every time you hold her? What if the mother decides to parent? Do you have enough diapers? What about wipes? How many bottles will we need? How will you EVER get through this next month?!

10. Joyful, uneasy anticipation. She’s gone into labor. She sounds like she’s in pain. It’s been 10 hours since her water broke.. is something wrong? Is everything okay? Is she okay? Where’s the baby? Is the baby okay?

11. Exhilaration. The baby is finally here! The paperwork has been signed and you’re ready to go home. You’re ready for all of the challenges and joys of being a parent — Your happy ending. :)

Adoption in the Classroom: Back to School Edition

Summer has ended and it’s time to send the kiddos back to school. Sometimes discussing adoption can be tricky when speaking with school aged children who don’t have a personal connection to adoption, so we compiled some ways for teachers and parents to incorporate conversations about adoption into the classroom and household.

Courtesy of Livewellmagazine.orgA good place to start when talking to youngsters about adoption is to ask them to tell you some of the things they already know about adoption and if they know someone close to them that was adopted. When they start to volunteer questions, theories, ideas and facts, just let them talk and don’t challenge what they have to say. Let them know they did a terrific job with coming up with some of the right ideas and that some of them were not quite exact. Explain all that adoption can involve, and that it is a loving but difficult choice for birth parents to make.

Anticipate that you will be asked lots of questions after your discussion about adoption and there is no shame in being stumped or not knowing how to give an adequate answer. Just let the child know you will check back after doing some research of your own! As a parent it is up to you to decide at what age you want to talk about adoption with your child at home or in the classroom, but know that by the ages of nine or ten children will understand enough to ask fairly sophisticated questions and contribute ideas about adoption to the conversation.

Here are some helpful hints to share with your child’s teacher or to use at home!

Preschool
• Mention the words “adopted” or “adoption” every now and again when you talk about babies, families, or when you are telling stories.
• Choose stories to read or movies to watch that mention or incorporate the theme of adoption. “Dinosaur Train” on PBS is a great show that kids will love.
• Make sure that the pictures and books in your classroom reflect the diversity in the world.

Early Elementary
• As you discuss different kinds of families, always mention adoptive families.
• If a student in the class has a baby born into their family, use this as an opportunity to mention that some children join families through adoption.
• Consider a class activity for National Adoption Awareness Month (November), such as having an adoptive parent visit.

Later Elementary
• Be sensitive to the fact that children in this stage generally want to fit in and be the same as their classmates. They are very unlikely to want to be singled out because they are adopted, or for any reason for that matter.
• Present the Family Tree exercise with several alternatives for the whole class, describing how the exercise can be adopted for adopted children or other situations such as being raised in other non-traditional families.
• Mention that many famous people are adoptees: Former President Gerald Ford, Stephen Jobs, Nelson Mandela, John Lennon, even Superman.

Middle and High School
• Suggest adoption as one of the themes for essay or journal writing, allow students to explore their feelings.
• Introduce family history assignments sensitively, mentioning alternatives and noting that some students may not have access to their birth relatives because of divorce, death, adoption or various other reasons.
• Mention adoption in science class in connection with genetic studies, noting those traits, skills, and characteristics which are inherited and those which are acquired.
• In family life and sex education classes, discuss families formed by adoption. Explain adoption as a choice for people who face an unplanned pregnancy.

Talking about adoption with a classroom of children or with your child one-on-one can help provide them with information that they may not have had access to before. As a result of adoption education you can also connect with many other adoptive families that you may not have known where adoptive families—expanding the network of support for all of your adopted children.

Telling Your Loved Ones You’re Facing an Unplanned Pregnancy

ISTOCK - Birthmother looking at her stomachAn unplanned pregnancy is a huge obstacle that you are facing right now. Now more than ever you will need your loved ones support and help through this difficult time. Neither you nor your loved ones are ready for this conversation, but it needs to be done. It’s important to acknowledge the feelings that your family or loved ones might go through when you tell them about your unplanned pregnancy whether it be anger, disappointment, or joy. It will be an easier conversation and they will be more understanding of you if you understand what emotions they are going through.

You may be questioning whether or not you even want to tell your loved ones of your unplanned pregnancy. It is important to tell your loved ones because keeping secrets as big as this one is not always good for your emotional health and your ability to take care of your health. No matter your decision on what to do with this unplanned pregnancy, you should rally up all support you can receive from your loved ones.

It’s important to think through how you are going to have the conversation with your loved one by thinking through several practical matters. What time of the day would be best to tell them? What room in the house would you like to tell them? Do you want to tell them somewhere other than the house? Would writing a letter to them and then having a conversation be more beneficial for you and your loved ones? Do you want to tell them together or each separately? Would you want someone else with you when you tell them?

The best way to start the conversation with your loved one is to be upfront and just say it. Easy conversation starters could be “I have something difficult to tell you, I’m pregnant,” “I need to talk to you but I’m afraid you will be upset with me,” “I really need your support so please don’t be angry,” or “I just took a pregnancy test and it came back positive.”

Understand that your family and loved ones may need some time to process everything you just told them. They might freak out, which is understandable as they always want what is best for you, so it could be a good idea to give them some time alone to process.

Some of your loved ones might be very excited about your pregnancy, but might not agree with the direction you are choosing to go with this unplanned pregnancy. A good tip to dealing with this is writing down a list of reasons you have chosen this path. By explaining it to your loved ones with logical reasons, they may be more understanding of your decision.

You should understand that some people are set in their own ways, and they may not agree with your decision. There are counselors that you can speak to and get support from no matter what path you choose in this unplanned pregnancy.

Newborn Bonding

The first month of a baby’s life is all about meeting their physical needs. Whether they need to be held, fed, or comforted to sleep — it is important for parents to meet those needs. By the second month, a baby begins to seek their mother’s or father’s presence through smell and touch, the same way that they may seek food, a dry diaper, or a nap. The parent-child relationship is a way through which a child’s framework for understanding interpersonal relationships evolves.

Adoptive ParentsHere are some tips to help facilitate bond for adopting children of different ages:

Adopting a Child from Birth to Five Months
Your most important task is to boost bonding by keeping your baby close to you and responding to their needs. Infants can sometimes avoid eye contact, become fussy on a whim, refuse to take a bottle, sleep excessively or not at all. Just remember that this has nothing to do with your parenting ability or whether or not you have birth to this child, try and relax and give your baby and yourself some time to familiarize.
• Appeal to their senses: Maybe don’t wash the outfit your baby come home in right away, keep it near them in the crib because newborns are sensitive to smell and that familiar aroma could be comforting.
• Provide primary care: Help your baby identify you with comfort by providing all of their care (diaper changes, feeding, soothing to sleep, etc.). Tell your friends and family that for at least the first couple weeks, you want to be the only ones to do those tasks.
• Always be there: A good rule of thumb to follow for the first few months would be that no matter what your child’s age at adoption, respond to their cries or calls verbally or physically whenever possible within fifteen seconds. Don’t feel like you have to dash through the house to their side, check the clock, 15 seconds is actually probably longer than you may think. At the beginning, to help bolster bonding, it is important for your child to know that you are there for them, to provide for their needs, and to offer comfort.
• Snuggle up: Your little one won’t be spoiled by too much holding, rocking, or cuddling. Enjoy some skin on skin contact after a bath and even try a front carrier for your baby so they can hear your heartbeat.

Adopting a Child from Five to Ten Months
When adopting a 5-10 month old, they may have already developed a separation anxiety by the time of the adoption and could act sad or fearful. The natural fear of strangers that comes with this stage of a baby’s life is magnified.
• Go back to basics: Even if there is some resistance, try holding your baby in a nursing position, maybe when giving a bottle or before bedtime. The goal of this action is to reinforce the eye contact and relaxation that is usually achieved in earlier months of nurturing.
• Allow your baby to grieve: It might be difficult for you, but stay with your baby when they are grieving and crying — even if they won’t accept consolation.
• Maintain your baby’s routines: Now really isn’t the time to change feeding or nap times, the routine will reassure your baby.
• Keep it playful: Play games like peek-a-boo, smile, and sing songs to help your baby associate those positive feelings with you.

Adopting a Child from Nine to Eighteen Months
A child adopted at this age needs to transfer the trust they developed with previous caregivers to their new family. If you are able, observe your baby with their pre-adoption caregivers, see if they move away to play and return for reassurance or move away without checking back, meaning they may have concluded that there’s no one to watch over them.
• Revisit earlier stages of development: Offer comfort, even if they don’t seek it. Your child may not have developed a strong sense of security or attachment during earlier stages of their life, so they may want to stay near you and explore.
• Teach your child to check in with you: You want to make sure your child knows you are a source of their safety, have them check in with you. Have them check in with you before playing with toys or leaving the room to play in another room, and express joy in their accomplishments.

Adopting a Child from Fifteen to Twenty-Two Months
Moving a child in the toddler stage is difficult because they have already built attachment to a caregiver. Their greatest fear of losing that person has come true and they are not developed enough to understand adoption.
• Prepare your child: Visit your child in the presence of their caregiver before placement and together talk about the move. If a pre-adoption visit isn’t possible, send your child an album of family photos or a voice recording so they will be familiar by your first meeting.
• Help your child identify feelings: Your child’s verbal abilities aren’t developed enough to really express their feelings about this life change, so help him label emotions such as sadness, anger and fear.
• Record the circumstances: Write down everything about placement day in detail and take photos. Details will help them understand what happened and why.
• Get good advice: Sometimes children adopted as toddlers struggle with balancing dependence and autonomy, seeking professional advice may be helpful.

The blessing that your child brings will out weigh any obstacles you may face. Just as all new parents discover, some days are just harder than others. The most important thing is to reassure your child that you love them and you are there for all their needs. Keep in mind some of these techniques when bonding after placement and share any of your tips with us so we can spread the love!

August Book Reviews 2014

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All books purchased by clicking the link in our review will give AFTH a small donation from Amazon.com.  If you are interested in purchasing one of the books in our review please consider buying it through our link to amazon.com.

61rKOPiTrYL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Zero Degree Zombie Zone (Bakari Katari Johnson) by Patrik Henry Bass – Still on my quest to find books with main characters of color that don’t center around sports or aren’t set in the “hood”, I stumbled upon the Zombie Zone.  The illustrations in this book remind me of Captain Underpants, and it will probably appeal to the same audience of Elementary school kids. The difference is that all the characters in this book are African-American. Bakari and his classmates are forced to work together to help save their world from the frozen Zombies that are threatening to invade their planet if they can’t find a special ring.  While some of the books intents (bullying) may be over most kids heads it is still entertaining and fun.  amazon.com price $8.99 kindle price $7.99

9780545399333_p0_v2_s260x420The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Letters to their Younger Selves edited by Sarah Moon –   Uplifting letters from authors to their younger selves.  These letters cover everything from self-acceptance, keep pursuing your dream because it will happen, to stop being a bully and hanging out in parks at night.  For every kid who thought they were weird, different or didn’t know where they fit in this shows that it does indeed get better. I also like the idea of writing to yourself, one of the authors actually wrote a letter to his older self when he was 13 then stumbled upon it later and used it when writing his piece in this book.  What an amazing find and what a great idea.  To see where you are in 10-20-30 years and look back on what you thought was important to ask at that time.   amazon.com price $9.81 Kindle price $9.32 

593176Are We There Yet?: Adopting and Raising 22 Kids! by Hector & Sue Badeau – Sue and Hector Badeau didn’t begin their journey thinking they were going to adopt as many children as they did but somewhere along the way it happened.  In addition to the two biological children they had, Sue & Hector ended up adopting 20 children of all different backgrounds, several of who are severely disabled. Does this make them crazy? Many would think so and reading the book may leave you shaking your head thinking there is no way I could do that! But they did, through love, strength and faith.

 

While this book could have used some editing as it is sometimes clumsy and disjointed its ultimately about the children and the family. There is no sugar coated we all get along and life is just sunshine and roses despite having 22 kids, no there go through ups and way downs, but they make it through.  If nothing else you walk away from this book with hope and inspiration that whatever life dishes out you can make it through, because if they can do it, you can do it too. amazon  price $13.40 Kindle edition $9.99

Talking to Your Adopted Child

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Whether you have adopted your child through an open or closed adoption, your child will have some questions on their mind as they grow older. You may have asked yourself, “When should I start talking to him/her,” “Should I bring it up or wait for him/her,” or “How do I even bring it up?” Below are some common tips to help bring up the conversation, when to bring it up, techniques to get your kid talking, and some tips during your conversations.

Talk early and often. By talking to your child starting in infancy, your child will be able to learn adoption language and begin to grasp their adoption story. Revisiting the story helps your child process the emotional information you may be discussing. We are asking our children to understand complexities about their adoption stories that sometimes adults can’t understand, so talking early, in an age appropriate language, and often can help your child tremendously. Books are a great resource for getting the talk started.

Help your child learn to express their feelings. From a young age, help your child develop a feeling-word vocabulary so they can identify feelings that get jumbled up. Some children would rather draw pictures or keep a journal – Any of these work, as long as their feelings are being expressed.

Teach your child positive and negative adoption language. Talking with your child about the ways to respond to negative adoption comments can help them to handle awkward or hurtful situations as well as educate others. By teaching your child positive adoption language to replace the negative adoption language they may hear, your child will feel proud of their adoption expertise.

Keep your conversations developmentally appropriate. These conversations require you to think carefully about how to discuss your child’s story without lying. Most back and forth conversations start at around age 3 or 4 with the common question, “Was I in your tummy?” Keep in mind that as your child ages you will need to change the storytelling technique and the language that can be grasped by your child.

Be Honest. This one is simple – don’t lie or keep things out of the story. If you know your child was conceived by rape, you don’t want to tell the story as saying that their birth mommy and birth daddy loved each other very much. Instead, you may imply that your child’s birthparents didn’t know each other well. Remember, your child deserves the truth. Children are remarkable able to cope with implications when told the truth straight forward.

Develop a Lifebook. A lifestory book is your child’s adoption story told in words and pictures. It helps you and your child talk about adoption and keep the facts straight forward. One book that is very helpful for parents is Lifebooks: Creating a Treasure for the Adopted Child, by Beth O’Malley. Some agencies and support groups also have workshops to help adoptive parents get started on their lifebooks.

Be aware of possible triggers. School projects involving family, birthdays, and Mother’s or Father’s day are occasions that might be difficult for adopted children. Watch for how your child is behaving or feeling to make sure they are okay with it. Not all events will trigger questions or concerns for every child. Don’t be surprised if they breeze through without a problem.

Don’t push a conversation. Asking general questions like, “How do you feel about being adopted,” could cause your child to shoulder shrug or continue to be silent. Strive for open-ended questions, and some closed-ended questions, as a way to plant seeds for further conversation in the future. Good questions to ask are “What are your feelings about your birthmother or birthfather,” “Do you have any friends that are adopted,” or “Do you have any questions about your birthmother or birthfather?” Just remember to not push and to listen and speak with compassion. Your child will open up when they are ready and you have already planted the seed for discussion.

Listen through the silence. Remember that your child is processing extremely sensitive information. Silence is not always a bad thing. As your parents always say, “Actions speak louder than words.” Your child could be more afraid of talking to you about their adoption for fear of hurting your feelings. So bringing it up occasionally could spark some conversation.

Consider using techniques to spark conversation. Great examples are discussing with your partner or a family member when knowing that the child is nearby about the child’s adoption such as “I always think of Megan on Mother’s Day since she’s Tommy’s birthmother. Should we buy flowers for her or send her a card?” Another idea is to make a small comment about a topic and see if the child responds.

Don’t wait until they ask. If your child has come to you with a tough question, they probably thought about it for a long time before working up the nerve to ask it. If you provide your child with the answers before they ask, it may be easier for them to approach you with additional questions.

Include the birthparents. If possible, you should work as a team with your child’s birthparents to decide together how to answer your child’s questions, that way your child isn’t hearing different details. Some answers might be more appropriate coming directly from the birthparents. You can also get the correct answers from the birthparents and keep your child involved.

Talk in a comfortable setting. Talking about adoption can be uncomfortable in an awkward setting, so find a place your child feels comfortable to get the conversation started. Starting the conversation at the kitchen table with siblings or when asking about how their day went might be awkward for the child. Meet your child in their zone; whether it is the ice cream parlor, out shopping, at their favorite restaurant, or at the basketball court, by going to where your child feels comfortable they might be willing to discuss some uncomfortable topics.

Involve mentors. Most adoptive parents don’t have the personal experience to draw upon when it comes to adoption. It’s important for your child to have other people in their lives with whom they are comfortable talking about adoption. Any older individual who has been adopted could become a mentor for your child to turn to when they feel as though you might not understand.

Final words: Remember that every child is different. You could have 4 adopted children who will all discuss or react differently when on the topic of adoption. Some might enjoy these conversations while others dread it. You know your child best, so don’t push them too much to the point that they feel uncomfortable. Talk about adoption early, and plant the seed for later discussions when your child is ready.

 

Finally, below are some great books to read on the topic of discussing your child’s adoption story:

  • Raising Adoption Children: Practical Reassuring Advice for Every Adoptive Parent, by Lois Ruskai Melina
  • Making Sense of Adoption: A Parent’s Guide, by Lois Ruskai Melina
  • Real Parents, Real Children: Parenting the Adopted Child, by Holly van Gulden and Lisa M. Bartels-Rabb
  • Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self, by David M. Brodzinsky, Marshall D. Schecter and Robin Marantz Hendig
  • The Family of Adoption, by Joyce Maguire Pavao
  • Talking With Young Children About Adoption, by Mary Watkins and Susan Fisher
  • Dialogues About Adoption: Conversations Between Parents and Their Children, by Linda Bothun
  • Talking To Your Child About Adoption, by Patricia Martinez Doner
  • 20 Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew, by Sherrie Eldridge

Fundraising for Your Adoption

Some people have different opinions when it comes to fundraising for adoption. If you are someone who has decided to go the fundraising route it can be daunting, but never fear, we are here to help! Start by going over all the fees with your attorney or your social worker from your agency so you can gain a better understanding of how much the cost of all the services will be. Consider opening a special savings account for all of your adoption expenses to help keep yourself organized during an especially hectic time. Take some time to go over the areas of your budget where you can cut spending. You might have to stop going out to eat as often, skip the expensive summer vacation, or go on monthly shopping sprees, but in the end saving where you can is the ultimate goal.

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Adoption Fundraising Etiquette
Before you start your fundraising efforts, it is important to take some time to develop an adoption expenses fundraising plan. You obviously aren’t a mind reader, and you might not know how much you’ll be able to make from fundraising, but take a stab at it! Focus on the greatest money making potential options first when creating your plan, this way you aren’t asking your social circle multiply times for donations. Finally, be aware of fundraising fatigue. Chances are that the people in your life will be more than willing to help support your adoption journey, but you don’t want to set up multiple fundraisers that ask for funds from the same group of people.

Fundraising
Starting simple by adding a PayPal button to your blog if you have one, or setting up a small yard sale can really jump start your fundraising efforts. GoFundMe is another awesome way to crowd fund for your adoption and you can sign up for free, share your page with friends and family and even on social media. Here a couple other fun and creative fundraising ideas that take a little more planning:

• “Tag the Bag”
Grab the suitcase that you’re going to use for all the travel related to your adoption and some Sharpie markers. For every donation someone makes towards your adoption, they can “tag” your bag with their name. It is totally up to you if you choose to specify an amount for donations, or if you choose to keep the donation amount open. After your adoption is finalized, you can turn the suitcase into a home for your child’s keepsakes or even feel free to tag a different item if your adoption doesn’t require travel.

• The Envelope Adoption Fundraiser
Select a number of envelopes to offer (100, 150, 200, etc.) and number those envelopes one to whatever number you’ve decided on. You can get super creative with the envelopes and include instructions on the fundraiser and maybe even a little note about your family’s adoption journey. Display the envelopes on a large bulletin board in a church lobby or anywhere else in your community. (If you don’t have a public wall to display you can do an online version and display the envelopes on a wall in your house, take a photo and post to your blog/Facebook, and just be sure to keep it updated). A person selects an envelope and puts the corresponding dollar amount inside to go towards your adoption. A holiday twist can be successful too! You can check Pinterest for some DIY ornament ideas and number them (instead of envelopes) and then people can “buy” the ornaments.

• Adoption Auction
Consider setting up a dinner and auction at your home. Invite everyone and anyone! Draft and send a letter to friends and family, post about your event on Facebook, at your church, even have friends invite their friends, the more the merrier! Try reaching out to local restaurants or franchises for donations because that will be so much less stressful than making all the food yourself. If securing donations ends up being unsuccessful, think about making the dinner a potluck! You can set a suggested donation amount at $15 and leave a basket of some type near the food and dessert tables.
In another area, set up the auction! To prepare for this, put some items together yourselves and ask for donations prior to the event. If you send a support letter to places in your community, you might be surprised by the items and services that get donated. Place a silent auction sheet by each item (include: item name, the value, the starting bid, amount bids must increase by) so your guests can bid on your donated items.
You will most likely be busy with hosting duties and saying hello to everyone that you may think about delegating some of the responsibilities. Someone can oversee the auction and the exchange at the end of the night, the food table, trash, taking pictures, and let your DJ or wannabe DJ friends play music all night. If your family and friends are movie junkies, think about making the auction a movie night! Borrow a projector from church or your local library and use a large sheet as the screen!

If you don’t have a natural talent for fundraising, that doesn’t mean you are alone when it comes to financing your adoption. Tax credits and grants are available to prospective adoptive parents; visit our website for more information about those options: http://www.afth.org/pdfs/education/help_with_adoption_expenses.pdf. Have you found success in any of the fundraisers that you’ve had? We would love to hear your stories and share them with our families!