10 Helpful Adoption Books for Parents and Children

Understanding the concept of adoption may be confusing for many children to understand. While it is important for caregivers to provide information and support when necessary, they may not have all the answers themselves. Here is a list of books and resources that can provide information and experiences from other adoptive parents about their adoption processes and also help children and teens to better understand the adoption process in age appropriate and engaging ways:

 

For Caregivers:

  1. The Unofficial Guide to Adoptive Parenting: The Small Stuff, The Big Stuff and The Stuff In Between by Sally Donovan1  

In this unofficial guide to adoption, award-winning Columnist Sally Donovan shares hilarious stories drawn from her own life experiences. Donovan offers fun and savvy advice on how to handle the everyday trials and tribulations of being an adoptive parent – from feeling like you aren’t “good enough” to dealing with anxieties and meltdowns, to feeling strong enough to protect and nurture your child(ren). This guide offers a compassionate and refreshing take on parenting that seeks counteract with more serious and dense adoption manuals.

2. Attaching Through Love, Hugs and Play : Simple Strategies to Help Build Connections With Your Child by Deborah D. Gray 

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Written by therapist Deborah D. Gray, This book offers advice to parents who have difficulties forming bonds with their children – whether they are dealing with adoption, divorce, or other difficult situations. Dr. Gray uses techniques that are proven to help children bond with their caregivers- such as holding close eye contact or stroking your child’s feet or cheeks- and explains why maintaining routines is essential to helping children attach. This book not only offers insight as to why children struggle to attach, but is filled with positive, easy-to-use ideas that will help you to respond to difficult behaviors and meltdowns, as well as provide long-term strategies to assist with developmental skills as your child grows. This guide will give you warm and fun advice that will help you to enjoy the act of bonding with your child.

3. The Adoption Club Therapeutic Workbook Series By Regina Kupecky

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Although this book is originally intended to be used as a guide for youth counselors and therapist to help children explore their feelings and behaviors surrounding the complex issues of adoption, this series of books can also be useful for adoptive parents. This set of 5 books is designed to help children navigate their feelings and behaviors while addressing emotional and psychological challenges adopted children often experience.  These workbooks offer helpful ways for children to have fun while learning about themselves and their feelings.

4. Adoption Parenting: Creating a Toolbox, Building Connections by Jean Macleod and Sheena Macrae

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This book acts as a “what to expect” guide for adoptive families and offers helpful advice on how parents can meet the emotional and developmental needs of their adopted children. . Adopted children tend to come from loss, whether that loss is from loss of a birth family, loss of culture, loss of language etc. This guide seeks to address these issues and make parents more aware of how to navigate them. Some core issues that are touched on include: sleeping through the night, discipline and attachment, FASD, trauma and PTSD, sensory integration, speech and language delays, learning issues, food issues, racial differences etc. With 520 pages of information, this book is not intended to be read completely through in one sitting, but instead to act as a reference guide when you are seeking information about issues surrounding adoption and how it affects your child.

5. Talking With Young Children About Adoption by Mary Watkins and Dr. Susan Fisher

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Many adoptive parents advocate for starting the conversation about adoption with their children at a young age and discussing the topic of adoption freely and openly. However, there are limited guidelines that exist for parents to prepare them for the various ways in which their children may respond to conversations surrounding adoption. In this book, two adoptive mothers who are a clinical psychologist and psychiatrist, offer insight into how children react to adoption, whether it is through verbal expression or physical expression (such as through play and personal interactions), as well as provide personal accounts from families who tell in detail how conversations with their children panned out.

 

For Children & Adolescents:

  1. Dear Wonderful You, Letters to Adopted & Fostered Youth by Diane René Christian & Mei-Mei Akwai Ellerman, PHD

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This book is comprised of thoughtful and inspiring letters written by a global community of adult adoptees and adults who were fostered that are addressed to the upcoming generation of adopted and fostered youth. The mission of this collection is to help adopted and fostered youth to feel assured in the fact that there is an entire network of people who have gone through what they are currently going through, and that there is someone out there in the world who “gets them”. Parents can read letters from this collection to younger children, or gift this book to preteens and young adults.

2. In Their Own Voices: Transracial Adoptees Tell Their Stories by Rita J. Simon

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This book is a collection of interviews conducted with black and biracial young adults who were adopted and raised by parents who were white. The author combines the stories of two dozen individuals who come from a diverse range of religious, economic, political, and professional backgrounds, and questions them on how their experiences affect their racial and social identities, intimate relationships, and lifestyles. The book also touches on the history and legal issues surrounding transracial adoptions.

3. Tell Me Again About The Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis Written for young children,Tell me Again About The Night I Was Born

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is told from the perspective of a young girl as she urges her parents to tell her the story of her birth and adoption and reminisces over the details of this event; this book is a great bedtime story for young children, and gets them thinking about ways in which they can connect with and appreciate their own adoption stories.

4. Why Was I Adopted? By Carole Livingston

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One adopted states that they received this book as a gift from their parents in grade school and still find the information to be relatable and relevant 15 years later. This book of illustrations depicts various forms of adoption, providing explanations for emotions that are often felt during the adoption process, and encourages open lines of communication between parents and adoptees.

5. Adopted Like Me by Ann Angel

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This book is for children aged 8+ who have been adopted. Many people may not be aware of the famous inventors, musicians, and athletes who, just like them have been adopted. This book reintroduces famous names such as Bo Diddley, Nelson Mandela, and Marilyn Monroe etc. as adoptees and shines the light on the fact children who have been adopted have the same amount of potential and opportunity to pursue their dreams as anyone else.

Adopting a Child with Special Needs: What Does It Mean and Why it Could Be the Right Choice For You

There are so many children with special needs waiting to be adopted into loving families. For some adoption agencies, children with special needs are often thought to be more difficult to place than other children, but for other agencies all it takes is finding a family that is equipped with the resources to care for and the room in their hearts to love a special needs child.

Adopting A child With final
Adoption.com explained some of the legislation surrounding this area of adoption. The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (P.L. 105-89) has focused more attention on finding homes for children with special needs and making sure they receive the post adoption services they need. Congress enacted the law to ensure that children in foster care, who cannot be reunited with their birth parents, are freed for adoption and placed with permanent families as quickly as possible. We will continue to outline some of the important points to know if you are considering a special needs adoption.

What Does Special Needs Mean?

Love Without Boundaries: Adopt Special Needs outlined different types of special needs that infants and children may have. It is highly recommended to speak with an experienced and trusted physician for more in-depth analysis of each condition. Here is the list they compiled:

  • Alcohol and drug exposure: drug exposure and fetal alcohol syndrome
  • Blood conditions: hemophilia, lead poisoning, and thalassemia
  • Chromosome disorders: down syndrome and turner syndrome
  • Congenital heart defects: atrial septal defect, complete transposition of the great arteries, double outlet right ventricle, endocardial cushion defect, patent foramen ovale, pulmonary atresia, and tetralogy of fallot
  • Craniofacial conditions: cleft lip and palate, hemifacial microsomia, and microtia
  • Development needs: autism spectrum disorder, institutional autism
  • Digestive system conditions: imperforate anus, gastroschisis, megacolon, and pyloric stenosis
  • Infectious diseases: congenital syphilis, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, HIV, meningitis, polio, and tuberculosis
  • Metabolic disorders: diabetes, failure to thrive, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, and phenylketonuria
  • Neurological conditions: apraxia of speech, arachnoid cyst, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, hydrocephalus, and spina bifida
  • Orthopedic conditions: amniotic band syndrome, arthrogryposis, brachial plexus injury, club feet, dwarfism, fibular/tibular hemimelia, funnel chest/pigeon breast, hip dysplasia, osteogenesis imperfecta, radial club hand, rickets, syndactyly, and torticollis
  • Sensory conditions: blindness/visual impairment, cataracts, deafness, glaucoma, microphthalmia, nystagmus, ptosis, sensory processing disorder, and strabismus
  • Skin conditions: albinism, burns, congenital blue nevus, congenital nevus birthmark, eczema, ichthyosis, and scabies
  • Urogential conditions: ambiguous genitalia, anorchism, concealed penis, cryptorchidism, hypospadias, and polycystic kidney disease
  • Vascular conditions: hemangioma and lymphedema

It is important to not only discuss with a medical professional, but to consider all options as a family. There may be certain conditions you feel capable of caring for, but others you don’t. The adoption process whether you are open to special needs or not is all about doing what fits best and feels right for you and your family.

Understanding a Child with Special Needs

Sometimes parents, whose children have special needs, the path to understanding can begin before the child is even born. Adoption.com explains that chromosomal differences such as Down Syndrome can be detected prenatally, and other developmental disabilities can be predicted with varying rates of accuracy based on the parents’ genetic history and previous children. However, that is not always the case. Parents might discover their child has some special needs once they are a few years old or once they start going to school. If you think your child might have some special needs, but don’t really know where to start or how to determine exactly what they may be, there are some early steps to take.

  1. Evaluate your child’s medical history/academic history if that is available to you. If there are medical clues that indicate a particular special need you might not have noticed before. Review medical records if you have them or reach out to your social worker or child’s birth family to see if you can get a more detailed copy of records.
  2. Establish the special need and to what degree your child’s needs are. As described above, special needs come in many shapes and sizes. Whether your child has physical impairments that are easier to spot, or cognitive disabilities that are harder to pin point, talking to a child psychologist or any specialist might help you to understand what obstacles your child might have in the future and what you can do to help prepare your child to overcome them.
  3. Support you child and don’t be afraid to let other’s help you. No one wants to feel different than their peers and children can become very upset at the thought of being different. Being a support system for them and having a supportive friend group is beneficial to every child, but especially a child with special needs. Seeking professional or emotional support as a parent is also important.

Knowledge is power and by actively working to understand your child’s special need, you will be able to provide the best care possible.

Real Adoptive Parents and Their Experiences with Special Needs Children

In an Adoption.com article, adoptive mother Joy Lundberg expresses what it was like to have adopted a child with special needs. “We learned so much about what can be done to help children with disabilities. Most of all we’ve learned to focus on her abilities instead. We discovered that our love for her is her greatest asset, and ours. She is indeed a special child. And some days she still drives me crazy. But then I hug my husband and we remember to laugh at the humorous moments. When they’re not staring us in the face, we look for them, and we find them.”

Other Resources:

http://www.lovewithoutboundaries.com/adoption/realistic-expectations/
http://phdinspecialeducation.com/special-needs-parenting-handbook/
http://www.specialeducationguide.com/

Degree of Openness in Adoption

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In previous generations, adoptions were often stigmatized and kept secret. This practice reflected the cultural ideal at the time that adoption illegitimated the connection between parents and their adoptive children. Most children did not know their birthparents or information regarding their birth family. Many were not told they were adopted until they were older, or were never told at all. It was believed that lack of openness would make it easier for birthparents, children, and adoptive parents to adjust and move forward. However, the secrecy in previous closed adoptions left children and adoptive parents with many unanswered questions and unresolved feelings of loss, as well as the inability for adoptive children to access their medical history, familial medical history, or obtain information about their genetic background.

Today, society has become more accepting of adoption. Studies show that about one third of adoptive parents and adoptees have contact with their birth families. A newfound trend to openness is adoption can be attributed to prior negative effects that secrecy has played on adoption and the realization that openness can help to improve the adoption process for all parties involved.

Benefits of Having an Open Adoption

levels of openness

Open adoption benefits children, birth parents, and adoptive parents.

Benefits to children adopted through open adoption:

  • Lessening a child’s need to fantasize about their parents and where they came from and instead giving them opportunity to view them as real people.
  • Giving them the resources to ask questions directly to their birthparents as they grow
  • Allowing them to have a knowledge of their history
  • Allowing them to have a deeper understanding of their identity
  • Allowing them to gain access to their genetic and medical history
  • Helping them to understand the reasoning for their placement and decreasing their sense of abandonment
  • Increasing the number of adults in their lives that can offer them a support system
  • Contact with biological siblings in the future

Benefits to birthparents:

  • Helping to gain peace of mind by knowing that their child is doing well by receiving updates and photos and even have visits
  • Allowing them the opportunity to remain in their child’s life and develop personal relationships with their child and their child’s adoptive parents throughout the course of their child’s life
  • Assists a little in easing the loss

 Benefits to adoptive parents:

  • Allowing them to build healthy relationships with their child’s birth families
  • Obtaining important medical and background information about their child
  • Giving them the opportunity to contact their child’s birth families in order to answer questions they may have regarding their child’s history
  • Helping them to gain a shared respect for child’s birth family
  • Increasing their sense of confidence and permanency in their parenting

Deciding On a Level of Openness

When deciding on a level of openness within an adoption, it is important to determine what will work best for you and your family, not just in your current situation but going into the future. An adoptive parent must take into consideration when they will share information regarding their child with their child’s birthparents and to what degree. This conversation should take places before you are matched with a birthmother, when the decision can be made based on logic and not emotion. Agencies will require prospective adoptive parents to decide on the level of openness as well as other decisions that will define the situations the family is open to prior to being presented with a match. Social workers will then use your key to dictate which expecting parents to show your profile to be considered. This ensures that both families desire a similar level of openness which helps to create a positive match. Be honest about the commitment you are willing to have and create limitations that you are comfortable with. For instance, if you believe that due to distance you are only able to really commit to one visit a year, don’t promise two visits.

Once you have decided on a level of communication, the agency will create a Future Contact Agreement which will be used to document the openness levels both parties have agreed upon. Agreements typically plan out the precise number of times per year and forms of contact that the adoptive parents will have with birthparents. For instance, the agreement may state “ Birthparents may visit no fewer than three times a year until the child reaches the age of six, and then afterwards no fewer than one time a year, on mutually agreed upon dates and times, with visits totaling no less than four hours per visit”.

Some parents choose to have all communication between the birthparent and the child be filtered through them until the child reaches the age of 18, and then allowing the child to determine the nature of their future communication.

There are no set requirements that an adoptive parent must put into place within the agreement, but instead the agreement should be used to be specific in details regarding open communication and to reach a level of agreement with the birthparents.

It is important to note that in most states, these agreements are not legally enforceable. They are set up to be a show of good faith in keeping the promises made to each other.

 

Levels of Open Communication

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Fully Open Adoption – This means that the adoptive and birthparents exchange identifying information such as last names, phone numbers addresses, etc. The majority of adoptions do not begin full open however many do become more open over time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Over Initial Fears of Open Adoption In Order to Gain the Benefits

It is important to remember that although open adoption may seem like a scary concept at first, it’s important to dive into the fear and break apart the insecurities in order to really see how the benefits of open adoption typically outweigh the negatives. Most importantly, it is about the child and helping them to be able to securely establish a sense of identity as they grow and continue to ask questions.

 

January 2016 Book/Film Reviews

2016-AFTH-book-reviews

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.

adoptedAdopted: a Film by Barb Lee– This film follows a family who is adopting from China and a young woman who was adopted from Korea, who is struggling with her identity as well as her adoptive parents dying. While this doesn’t depict the feelings of every adoptee it does deal with race and identity.

Jennifer Faro was adopted from Korea when she was a few years old, she is now in her early 30’s.  She describes growing up in a white family, in a white community, never really seeing anyone who looks like her.  She struggled with her identity and adoption which is not really spoken about in her family.  Her family states that they just see her as one of them, not as Korean, but as they research the Faro family history her connection or no connection to the family becomes clearer.  As Jennifer states in the movie, families adopt and adoptees adapt. I’m not sure her parents ever fully understand what she is trying to explain to them.

The other part of the film deals with a family who is adopting from China, they get to meet their child’s birth mother, have photos of China in their home, play videos in Chinese and English, and really try to honor her past as well as her present.  This family also lives in a very white area and they have made a point to try to reach out and expand their circle to include as much diversity as they can.

I think this film showcases the differences between adoptions in the past and adoption now.  It is now more apparent that adoptive parents have to make more of an effort when adopting trans-racially and/or trans-culturally to incorporate their child’s heritage into their lives.  They may need to move outside of thier comfort zones in order to make sure that their children are seeing representations of themselves.  Adoptions agencies as well need to do more to educate adoptive parents who are adopting across color lines of the challenges they face.

While some may look at this film in a negative light I focused on the message of we need to do more, not that Jennifer’s family didn’t do enough, even she says they did the best they could and gave her a wonderful life, but we need to do better. Back when she was adopted there really was no research on adopting transracially, now there is, so parents and adoption agencies need to do more to help families navigate the world as a trans-racial family.  Free on Amazon.com with Prime Membership

anything for ameliaAnything For Amelia: A true story of the challenges endured by two gay men who had the desire to adopt a child. by Andrew C. Branham –

This book really drives home to me how using an agency instead of an adoption facilitator can help shelter families from women who try to take advantage of prospective adoptive parents. Andrew and his partner DJ used an adoption facilitator who matched them with a birth mother (Sandi) but most of the work was done by themselves with calls to their attorney.  They got paperwork signed, they set up meetings with their birth mother and her family and they didn’t have anyone really looking out or protecting them from this demanding woman. In addition further along in the book you realize that their facilitator knew more about this woman than she told Andrew and DJ, there had already been an agency that had tried to put information out there about her manipulations and illegal actions with another family.

We can all look at Sandi with disdain for her manipulations and actions but this woman was smart and knew how to work the system.  She was manipulative, she lied, and she blackmailed, she was abusive to her children, to her boyfriend, and to pretty much everyone around her yet she survived and usually got her way.  I’m not saying she was a wonderful person but you have to give credit to her survival skills.

I think that there were many unrealistic expectations on the part of Andrew and DJ as well as Sandi on what to expect during the whole process and the facilitator didn’t do enough to help them navigate this new relationship.  Throughout this book I was struck that Andrew and DJ considered this child theirs before termination even happened.  This is not a surrogate relationship, this was an adoption, and Sandi had rights, and the child she was carrying was hers until she signed her surrenders.  The fact that Andrew and DJ were posting on facebook that they were going to have a boy or a girl was disrespectful to Sandi and manipulative in its own way.  I understand that Andrew was worn down and angry with Sandi at the time he wrote this book but I feel the anger and disrespect he writes about her, his child’s mother is inconsiderate of Amelia.  Even with all her faults this is the woman who carried and gave life to their daughter and that in itself should be enough to think about how this tale will effect his daughter when she is older, and I wonder how they speak of her to their daughter.

Even in divorce situations you are always cautioned against badmouthing the other parent. Andrew didn’t just tell his story, he told Sandi’s and he also told Amelia’s.  If he was that concerned about Sandi’s children he would have called Child Protective Services, or better yet why didn’t the Adoption Facilitator? She should be a mandated reporter, so knowing everything that was going on she should have been obligated to make a call.  Andrew has stated in comments that he didn’t call anyone because it may have jeopardized the adoption, that Amelia may have wound up with Sandi and while I appreciate that he wanted to save a child from her wrath, he and all the other adults in this situation allowed 4 children to suffer for months, which seems a little self serving and selfish.

I think that anyone reading this book would feel compassion for Andrew and DJ but I really wonder how will this book impact Amelia in the future? This negative, degrading description of her birth mother? This is a good cautionary tale and a good reason why using an agency to facilitate the adoption process and navigate the relationship between prospective adoptive parents and birth parents is a good idea, but I still feel that there were expectations and feelings on both sides that led this adoption down a dark path that could have been nipped in the bud early on. amazon.com price: $7.99 (Kindle) $14.19 (pb)

 

giving a child awayGiving A Child Away Documentary -Tracy and her husband are having a difficult time having a child, they tried infertility treatments, and had a failed adoption.  Tracy’s brother, Darren, calls her from Australia and says that he and his wife are pregnant for the 5th time, they are both concerned about raising another child and offer to let Tracy and her husband adopt their child.

Darren & Joanna explain how difficult following through with the adoption was and how even now they wonder if they made the right decision.  They feel guilty but also are happy that they were able to offer Tracy this gift.  Hearing the mixed emotions and pain that Darren and Jo go through really gives you an appreciation for birth parents and what they have to go through when placing their child.

Tracy also feels mixed emotions because she understands that her joy came at the expense of Darren & Joanna’s pain.  It is really special to be able to see both sides of this process so vividly.  That they are both so honest about their feelings helps really showcase all the emotions that happen during an adoption.  There is no closure at the end of this movie, you don’t know how things turn out, if Tracy and her husband are able to have another child through surrogacy using her sisters eggs, or whether or not Darren & Joanna have some closure when they decide to have another baby.  This is real life, there are no certainties, and this very heartfelt documentary shows that.  Make sure you  have a box of tissues when you watch it. Free on Amazon.com with Prime membership

Adopting a Substance Exposed Child

Adopting a Substance Exposed Child

 

Substance abuse amongst pregnant women is more prevalent than one may believe. About 1 in 5 women will use an illicit drug or substance during pregnancy. Detecting the effects of substance abuse on an infant or child may be difficult because oftentimes the symptoms presented are subtle and similar to that of other illnesses.

Symptoms of Substance Abuse during Pregnancy

Babies who are born to moms who abuse substances during their pregnancies can encounter an array of complications. Some of these complications include:

  • Premature Birth
  • Low Birth weight
  • Heart Defects
  • Birth Defects
  • Infections
  • Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome ( NAS)

Babies who are born to moms who abuse substances during pregnancy may also encounter other problems later on in life. Some of these include:

  • Learning and Behavior Problems
  • ADD/ADHD
  • Slower Than Average Growth Rate
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome ( SIDS)
  • Sensory Integration issues

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Adoption Process

Prenatal exposure to substances can affect all types of adoptions: Infant or older child, domestic or international; public, private, or independent.

Some initial steps that can be taken when going through the adoption process are as follows:

  • Ask for a complete medical history and details about exposures: what substances were taken, for how long, whether or not the child can be or was born addicted, results of neonatal and subsequent testing, developmental aptitudes, etc.
  • Seek independent medical evaluations
  • Learn about prenatal exposures, what they are and potential effects.
  • Examine your attitudes and work with adoption and/or counseling professionals if you need help assessing your own abilities and capabilities.

Most agencies will offer you access to, information about, or assist you in finding resources to help you before, during, and after the adoption process. Here some resources that may be helpful for you to utilize:

 

  • Adoption and/or medical subsidies
  • Continuing to seek out information about support and/or educational services
  • Health and child development follow-ups throughout the preschool years
  • Special education services, including tutoring for those children who are underperforming
  • Counseling Services, including assessment and intervention for neuropsychological problems
  • Support groups for parents
  • Behavioral Management Services, including education and guidance for dealing with children throughout various developmental stages
  • Respite care
  • Legal assistance for parents in finalizing the adoption and pursuing services

It is Important to Remember..

Remember that every child responds to substance abuse differently and there is no way to predict how your child may be affected. However, if impairment is present, don’t assume that there is nothing that can be done to help your child. The greatest asset to you is assessing the needs of your child and intervening early on.

Children with developmental delays can and should be referred to federal early intervention programs or programs offered by adoption agencies and local school systems. Mental health professionals can also assist parents in coping with their child’s difficult behaviors and helping children attach to their caregivers.

Although parenting a child who has been exposed to prenatal drug use can be challenging to even the most skilled parent, research shows that when parents work with professionals and provide a loving and stimulating home, most children are able to thrive and adjust well.

12 Tips to Help With Adoption Preparation

When adoptive parents choose to take the route of adoption, many are so excited that they do not take into account the amount of preparation that must occur before they can welcome home their new child. Some have no idea that they will need to gather documents, fill out forms, take classes, write papers, and schedule home visits. Here are some helpful tips for completing adoption preparation in an organized and timely manner.

1. Concentrate– Although the process may be overwhelming, remember that it is worth it! In the end you will be welcoming a new child into your family.

2. Organize– Create a binder using sections and tabs that correlate with each section of the packet you are working on. Once documents are gathered and completed, file them into the binder immediately.

checklist-911840_19203. Plan– A great way to do this is to use the checklist provided to you or to create a checklist of your own. Decided which tasks need to be completed first and then work on each, one at a time. Make sure to check off each task you complete them. There are great phone apps such as Lumen Trails if you prefer making digital check lists.

4. Prioritize– Some forms and letters must be completed by others on your behalf. Their schedule may not coincide with yours, so make sure that you delegate these tasks to be worked on first, giving them a reasonable amount of time to complete them. Make sure to agree on a deadline that they will be able to meet.

5. Set Goals– Give yourself a set amount of work that you want to complete each day/ week and push yourself towards meeting this goal

6. Teamwork – Don’t try to accomplish everything on your own. Partner up with your spouse, family members, and/or friends and divide the task up among each other. Work together to create a timeline and deadlines that you all can follow.

7. Be Creative– Telling personal experiences and interesting stories about yourself will give your home-study coordinator a more accurate picture of who you are. As you write your autobiography, include your favorite memories and experiences.

8. Double Check – Go over everything a few times before turning in your paperwork. Have someone proofread your essay for errors, and make sure you make a copy of everything.

9. Persist– Don’t give up if you have trouble finding a document. Think of where you may have placed it or where you can get a copy. For instance, search for your latest bank statement online or contact your tax preparer for a copy of your most recent tax return

10. Learn– The required adoption classes you must take are a great start, but it can be helpful to go beyond the required information to better educate yourself. For instance, you can read books and blogs about adoption, learn about the culture your child comes from, and speak to others who have adopted about their experiences. The more educated you are about adoption, the better prepared you will be when it comes time to bring your child home.

11. Seek Support– Build a network of families that are adopting a child in the same age range you are adopting in or who is adopting from the same country as you. You and your support system can be there for each other during the ups and downs of the adoption process and when dealing with issues after you bring your child home.

12. Relax- During your home visit, stay calm and be yourself. No one is expected to be perfect, because there is no such thing as the “perfect parent”.

While these tips can be a helpful guideline for you when navigating your adoption process, the most important thing you can do is to remain focused. Remember that after this hard work is finished, you will be met with the end goal of welcoming a new child into your family!

Holiday Traveling with Your Newly Adopted Baby

Let’s face it, while the Holiday’s are a wonderful time of year, they can at times be a stressful too. Many families get together around the holiday’s which often times results in traveling. Whether by car, train, or even air plane a lot of families find themselves staying at friends or relatives house’s during the holiday season. As new Adoptive Parents, you may want to introduce your new little one to your family and friends as well as start your own holiday traditions as a new family. However, sometimes adoptive parents may feel an extra sense of stress for fear of changing your newly established routine as parent’s to a newborn. If you have just become adoptive parents around the holidays, you yourself may still be getting to know and bond with your new baby, and the thought of changing the infant’s surroundings can be alarming to many parents. Many times, adoptive parents might be hesitant to travel with their newly adopted child for fear of changing a routine that they have just settled into.
Sometimes, babies can become especially sensitive to a change in their surroundings and may become irritable or restless. The key is to stay within your comfort zone. It is important to plan ahead for the lengthy travel, stick to a routine with your newborn once you arrive, and set boundaries with relatives and friends who may want to help with the care giving of your newborn during your visit. If you have adopted an older child, remind your family and friends that meeting so many new people may be frightening to your child and so to allow the child some space to adjust and warm up to new relatives on their own terms.

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Below are tips to surviving holiday travel and staying in a temporary home away-from-home as newly adoptive parents:

Traveling by car
• Time your travels to fit your baby’s sleep schedule. If you’re driving, try to leave at night or before dawn as babies sleep most soundly during these hours.
• Stop every hour or two. Take your baby out in the fresh air, or (weather permitting) place her on a blanket and let her wiggle her arms and legs. The break will make her less restless, and give you both a chance to play and connect. If traveling by plane, walk up and down the aisles (when possible) to give your baby a change of scene and to keep her entertained. Of course, if your little one has fallen asleep, skip the stop and try to get as much distance covered while your baby is asleep.
• Bring along infant-safe toys and snacks to pull out at intervals during your car or plane trip. Plastic mirrors, teething rings, colorful board books, Cheerios (or other finger foods) can distract, amuse, or soothe your baby while traveling.

Traveling by plane
• Plan your seat ahead of time. When booking your flight, be sure to indicate that you are traveling with an infant. Sometimes, there are restrictions on where the child and car seat can be placed. Also, the closer to the front of the plane, the better. The back of the plane can be hard to navigate and will take longer to exit once you arrive. The back is also notoriously noisy and vibrates more, which may disrupt your hopefully napping child.
• Plan your luggage accordingly. It is very hard to travel light with a newborn. You may be packing a lot more luggage than ever before. The best thing to do is check your bags at the curbside when arriving at the airport. This will eliminate lugging everything through the airport.
• Protect your infant’s ears. One of the worst parts about flying is the need to constantly pop your ears. Unfortunately, infants will feel the same sensation but will not be able to relieve the pressure themselves. Parents.com suggests that you give your child something to suck on like a bottle or pacifier to elevate the pressure in your baby’s ears.
• Fight Jet Lag. If you plan to cross time zones and you are worried about upsetting your baby’s sleep schedule try to shift your existing sleep schedule for a few days leading up to the trip. This sleep schedule can be kept once you arrive as well for a better adjustment in your destination. Also avoid early evening flights. Most babies can be restless that time of day. Aim for a late-evening flight or red eye.

Staying with family or friends
While traveling can be nerve wracking for many parents, arriving to your destination can be a bit unsettling too, especially for newly adoptive parents. AdoptiveFamilies.com explains the importance of maintaining a sense of routine when traveling and how important it is to maintain the bond that you’ve been building with your baby at home. When staying in your home-away-from-home over the holidays AdoptiveFamilies.com states that is important to:
1. Bring along familiar smells. Don’t wash that crib sheet or blanket before you pack. The comforting smells of home — as well as your baby’s own scent — will help her settle in to her new surroundings. (So will a favorite bedtime CD or cuddly toy.)
2. Stick to your baby’s daily feeding and nap schedule, as much as possible. If you are traveling through time zones, expect your baby to be cranky or restless upon arrival. If she acts fussy around relatives, keep your cool. Remind yourself that these experiences are all new to her.
3. Hold your child as much as possible, using a baby sling or other carrier, if necessary. This will keep you and your baby physically close and help you maintain a bond.

Holiday travel and staying in a home unfamiliar to your baby can be a bit unsettling for new parents. However, it can also be a very rewarding and special time for your family and friends to meet your new bundle of joy. If traveling is on your horizon for the holidays, it is important to be extra prepared and take the necessary steps for your family to comfortably arrive at your destination. Adoptions From The Heart sells a great handbook that many adoptive families keep with them in their cars and bags that prepares many parent’s for problems that may arise on the road. Being prepared can elevate some stress that may arise from traveling, and allow you and your new baby to enjoy the holidays with family and friends, creating your own traditions and memories as a new family!