Awesome Resources in the Community!

There are many people working hard to support our adoption community. One of those is the Devereux Post Adoption Program. They have a dedicated unit of professionals that provide support to all adoptive families within their region and are a vital resource for preventing adoption dissolution whenever possible. They offer monthly support groups as well as trainings for professionals and families.  Check out the link below for their one-time special event, a TBRI  Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) Parenting Workshop with Montse Casado-Keheo, PhD, LMFT, RPT. Montse trained under the world renowned Dr. Karyn Purvis. She was a developmental psychologist expert, popular speaker, author and passionate advocate for vulnerable children.

Link for information and how to register (be quick though! RSVP by 7/21): TBRI Parenting Workshop

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Let’s talk Transition Planning!

Gone are the days of trash bags in place of luggage and rushed placements into adoptive homes. Or at least, they should be. Truthfully, there will be times when rushed placements are the only option, but in a better situation, a child’s transition to a new home will include:

The child’s team meeting with each other to come up with a plan, and continuing to meet to adjust that plan accordingly. This could include the child’s current caregiver, legal representative, therapist, the agency, the prospective adoptive parents, and other appropriate parties. Likely, not everyone will agree on every detail, but will be able to have detailed discussions and make agreements on how to move forward. Many topics can be addressed, including those on this template (please feel free edit/use this form): Adoption Transition Planning

Once you have made some preliminary agreements about the transition plan, you get to meet each other (unless you’ve already met each other at a match event, etc.)! It is widely suggested that if your family does not regularly attend Disney, then do not do this on the first visit. Remember that you want to be in an environment that allows for interaction without causing too much pressure/anxiety on anyone. So while you don’t want to just sit and stare at each other, a loud/overstimulating environment may not be the best either. Families find it helpful to bring pictures to the meeting, including of their family, home, activities they do, their pets, etc. As for introductions, you will find different opinions on this. Some workers like to say “Hey, these are my friends that we are going to spend time with!” My personal challenge to this is that a) children are smarter than we give them credit for, and will likely catch on and b) remember, we are modeling the idea of being truthful and not lying.  Some workers have found success with preparation with the child before the meeting. The prep work helps to set expectations, address any fears, and offer support. Ideally, the matching and disclosure process will have helped the family to identify if they can meet the needs of the child so that by the time this visit happens, it is less about “Hey, do we like each other?” and more about “Hey, let’s start building our relationship because I am committing to caring for you”.

After the initial visits have occurred and everyone feels comfortable doing so, visits would become “unsupervised”, meaning that it would be you/your family and the child continuing to getting to know each other. These visits usually lengthen in time until an overnight visit occurs. Keep in mind that the transition process will look different for children who are residing further away/in another state. In this case, it may be helpful to utilize technology (video chat, phone calls, etc.) to build the relationship as frequent visits may not be an option.

During visits, the team should be checking in with each other to see how they are going, and continuing to make plans for future visits/placement. It is important to take cues from the child, but also to be mindful of not rushing. Everything being done should replicate how we want the child to handle relationships, including endings when necessary. Healthy goodbyes are encouraged and can be done by having one on one time with people he/she will not see as often, writing cards, getting contact information and making plans to stay in contact, giving gifts, verbalizing their feelings, and other ways to acknowledge this change. It is especially helpful to have important people in the child’s life give them a “permission message”. A permission message is communicated to the child to allow them to move forward and continue to grow and attach to their new family.  For example, a foster parent can say “I am really going to miss you and will continue to love you. I am so happy for you that you will have even more people to love you and I want you to know that it is ok to love them too.”

Prior to the child’s placement into the home, it is highly recommended that all referrals be made so that services can begin as soon as possible. It is a critical time in the relationship and all involved are going to need support; it would be unwise to wait for a crisis to then put in a referral. Proactive support is one of the key factors to encouraging healthy adoption transitions and adoptions in general. The pre-adoptive family will make the final changes to the home (furniture, safety precautions) prior to the child’s move. Hopefully, a transition time was chosen that allows the child and family some time to adjust to each other, such as over the summer break. In some cases, families utilize FMLA to have time to spend with the child.

What to expect after the child is placed with your family? A honeymoon period typically occurs. As a therapist, I look forward to when that ends as it can be indicative of many different things, including a child’s growing comfort, his/her readiness to show “true” feelings, and the potential to allow the adoptive parent(s) to meet these needs and give support for what is usually a highly tumultuous time in the child’s life. This is your time to shine, parents!! It is also a grrrreat time to use your supports. There are support groups, adoption competent therapists, the agency, and potentially post adoption supports. Of course, you can also utilize friends and family; though they may not quite understand what you are experiencing and can offer suggestions and advice that may not be helpful for a child who has/is experiencing trauma.

During this time, between placement and adoption finalization, there should be a worker visiting your home monthly and offering support. In Florida, the placement period must be at least 90 days before finalization. Other states require other time frames. I believe New York requires 6 months before finalization. The idea is that this allows additional time for support and to reduce the occurrences of adoption dissolutions (when an adoption fails after the finalization). While I support families taking longer than 90 days to finalize, if needed, I have seen some cases when the family struggles with transitioning away from the support of the agency. In these instances, it can be helpful to link the family to other supports within the community while encouraging the parent(s) confidence in themselves and the child’s need for “normalcy”.  We have to remember that the children who are still waiting in foster care need these agencies to help them find their own adoptive families, which is not always easy. Thankfully, post adoption programs throughout the country are becoming more robust as they recognize the need and importance of supporting children and families after they have legally finalized their adoptions. So, know that you will have support when needed!

Free Adoption Competency Training

…because adoptive families, adoptees, birth families should be able to work with professionals that understand the intricacies of adoption. This free training is provided to those that support and work with all members of the adoption community.

Adoption Competency Training is being offered by various providers in the community. As I learn of them, I will share them on Central Florida Adoptions Facebook Page.

The curriculum includes the following modules:

  • The Psychology of Adoption
  • Life Cycle Experiences and Developmental Stages of Adopted Children
  • Issues in the Adoption of Older Children
  • Trauma Informed Care/Attachment-Focused Therapy for Adoptive Families
  • Family-Focused Therapy & Individual Therapy for Adopted Children, Teens and Families
  • Management of Behavior Problems and Discipline for Traumatized Children
  • Review of Core Issues in Adoption and Therapeutic Techniques

 

The DCF Office of Family Safety collaborated with Children’s Mental Health Office, and the Community Based Care agencies to bring the Rutgers University adoption competency certification program to Florida.  Rutgers University has been providing this certification program in New Jersey for over ten years with much success.

Search and Reunion

The decision to search and potentially reunify with a birth family member can be a complicated and emotional decision. With it comes the potential for conflicted feelings about hurting the adoptive family, being rejected, or finding additional loss through a search. There is also the possibility of gaining family history, medical/genetic history, more family, and a sense of feeling more complete. Some decide to search as a young person or as an adult, after adoptive parents pass, with the assistance of adoptive family or not, or not at all. It is a very personal decision that should not be judged by others. The drive and desire to know our roots is a very human one, but the decision to not search should be just as respected and supported.

Right now, and for some time, there has been a movement to allow adoptees access to their original birth certificate (*As a point of education, after an adoption occurs, a new “birth” certificate is generated which lists the adoptive parents as the individuals parents). While there are some instances which allow access to birth/adoption records,  usually a court order is needed. Learn more here:  Search and Reunion Info

Despite the challenges, many adoptees continue to embark on this journey and utilize a variety of resources. Some use the State Registries, others hire a private investigator. Some have been successful through social media, and some have contacted the agencies that completed their adoption.

In the State of Florida, the Adoption Information Center provides a Reunion Registry: FARR .  Interestingly, I learned that at least at one point, 75% of the searches through this registry were to connect with siblings separated through adoption. This may speak to the sibling connection or that some may feel that it is less of an emotional risk to search for a sibling as compared to searching for a parent.

There are many additional venues to search, including registries such as Adoption Registry Connect, which is a worldwide adoptee and birth parent search registry designed to reunite adoptees with their birth parents and siblings.

Regardless of if and how an individual decides to search for birth family, it is important that the person be supported by family, friends, and/or adoption competent professionals to manage the outcome of the search and/or reunion. This support system can help you to navigate how to search, discuss what your expectations and hopes are, and manage what happens if you do/do not decide to more forward with a reunion.

Adoption Professionals

What does Adoption Competency mean?

To me, it means that there is an understanding of the complexities associated with adoption, for ALL members of the adoption circle/triad. More and more we are seeing judges order therapy with an Adoption Competent Professional, and individuals/families seeking  support from those who may have a better understanding of what they are experiencing when they are considering making an adoption plan, seeking an adoption home study, parenting children with complex emotions and behaviors, searching for a mother or father…

There are several trainings available to those who want to learn more about adoption, in-state, and nationally. There are national models that are being provided at various sites, and there is work being done on a web-based training as well. In the State of Florida, the Department of Children and Families sought a curriculum that was developed by Rutgers University. That model was implemented in 2009 and is continuing to be adjusted to reflect developments in the adoption field.  The trainings I have held have included professionals from various backgrounds, including therapists, case managers, adoption specialists, guardian ad litems, etc. Each trainer decides the audience, dependent on the needs of the community and availability.  There are trainers throughout the state and you can contact Adopt Florida to try to find a trainer and training nearest you (1800-96-ADOPT).  One of those upcoming trainings will be held on March 7th, 14th, 15th, 21st, and 22nd in Orlando. Space is limited so if you are interested, call soon! ACT Flyer January-2016

Finding Families for Children

Finding a Family for Your Child in Foster Care

  1. Local Heart Gallery: Heart Gallery of Central Florida
  2. Adopt Florida Website
  3. AdoptUSKids
  4. Family Finding
  5. A Family For Every Child
  6. Children Awaiting Parents
  7. One Church One Child
  8. Adopt America Network
  9. Your Local Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Recruiter
  10. Adoption.com
  11. News Segments
  12. Facebook
  13. Online Matching Events
  14. Registering your Agency to be matched with families

Look Within the Child’s Circle

  1. Ask the caregiver/foster parent
  2. School personnel
  3. Coaches/teachers
  4. Relatives
  5. Church members
  6. Mentors
  7. Old teachers/mentors/etc.
  8. Prior foster parents
  9. Previously explored relatives (circumstances can change)
  10. Older siblings
  11. Parents of other siblings
  12. Re-explore biological parents (circumstances can change)
  13. Daycare providers
  14. Family friends (bio, foster, etc.)
  15. Anyone who has a connection to this being
  16. Ask the youth! They can be their best recruiters.

The Home Study Process-Things To Consider

This is the time for your agency to get to know you and for you to get to learn more about adoption. Use it to your advantage! It will benefit you to consider and discuss the various topics that may be covered so that you are not caught off-guard.

Your worker will have 1,000,001 questions for you, but you should also be prepared with your own questions. Some to consider:

How long will this process take?

When will I learn more about the child/ren I will adopt?

What recommendations do you have for me based on what you have learned?

Where can I learn more about adoption?

The Narrative/Home Study Document

Each agency will have their own format for the Adoption Home Study, but in general, most will want to know your:

Motivation to Adopt

     Is Adoption your 1st, 2nd, or 3rd choice? What do you hope to gain/give through adoption?

Personal History

     The good and the not so good- they want the truth, not what you think they want to hear.

Education and Employment

     What are your values regarding education and what is your work ethic?

Medical and Mental Health

     Past and current treatment

Stability: financial and otherwise

    Proof of income. You need not be a millionaire to adopt, but the agency will not want to send you into a financial                     tailspin either.

Family Life

     A day/week/month in the life of you!

Parenting Experience

     Have you parented? If so, how? If not, what is your experience with children?

Adult Functioning

     Strengths/Needs. How do you handle challenges/stress? What is your attachment style?

Relationships

     Dating? Long-term relationship? Married? Divorced? What are those relationships like?

Views on Adoption

     Open vs Closed? How will you handle normative adoption related issues as they arise?

The Walk Through

No white gloves y’all! The home study assessor will want you to point out the safety features of your home, however. Where are the smoke detectors? Fire extinguisher? Safety locks? Cleaning supplies? Medication? Where will the child/ren sleep? Your worker may need to take pictures of your home for the file.

More Tips

Be honest and be you! There is nothing worse than a bland, boring, cookie-cutter home study that says nothing about you. Some families feel that they are not ___ enough. Rich enough, active enough, smart enough, experienced enough. There are so many factors about the matching/choosing process that you may or may not be made aware of. A birth parent or agency may be drawn to an adoptive parent who has experienced the “downs” in life because then that adoptive parent can relate. I find that the most successful families are the ones that are stable enough, loving enough, and flexible enough.

I typically allow my families to review their home studies before submission for approval. I want the family to read what has been written about them and have the opportunity to correct, add to, or question what is in the document. I also advocate for families to receive a copy of their home study after it is approved. While this is suggested, not all agencies agree. There is no harm is asking though, right?