Tips for Creating Felt Safety

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We can’t form a relationship with our youth until they feel safe, Darcy, Post Adopt Coordinator shares some tips on creating felt safety.

Tips for Creating Felt Safety

You know your home is safe.  You have plenty of food in the fridge/cupboards and you keep some of your child’s favorites on hand.  You keep your home clean and decluttered.  You have plenty of seating for everyone and plenty of space to move around without any issues.  You have been meticulous about introducing your child to your family and friends.  All of these are great ways to ensure a physically safe environment.  As a parent, you know your child’s needs will be met, and you feel you’ve taken a great start at providing a safe environment for your child.

You’ve done well with providing a physically safe environment for your child.  However, it takes more than a physically safe environments for our youth from hard places to feel safe within our home.  This need for felt safety is because our youth from hard places has experienced tough situations.  They function more from the primitive part of their brain – the brainstem and amygdala.  Because children from difficult places function from these primitive places, they might not communicate their needs effectively.

Parents can promote felt safety for their children.  Parents can also learn as much as they can about the difficult histories their child has.  Parents might not have access to the entirety of the youth’s trauma history, so it’s important to be attuned to the child and notice behaviors that may seem obscure. This may help parents to understand where behaviors and triggers stem from.  Being attuned to a youth’s behaviors can assist parents in helping process tough emotions early to avoid a meltdown.  Parents can also help their youth to put a name to their emotions.  This can be done through a variety of ways, such as using a wheel of emotion or conversations about how the body feels when experiencing different emotions.  This can help youth in becoming better at expressing how they’re doing.  Parents can validate their youth’s emotions, even if the parent doesn’t fully understand.  This allows a youth to feel like they’re not alone.  Keep things concrete, such as routines.  Unknowns can be very scary, and when youth know what to expect, they can feel safer.

Ensuring felt safety in a home doesn’t happen overnight – it takes time and consistency.  Know that great strides can be made, as well as a few steps back.  Be consistent.  Be patient.  Know the work being put in is well worth it!

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Darcy Solem, LBSW

Adoption and Gift Giving

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Kim Waswick, Post Adopt Coordinator, shares some unique ideas on gifts for people in your life for special occasions around adoption and guardianship adoptive parents.

Adoption and gift giving

A gift or a present is an item that is given to someone without the expectation of payment or anything in return. For some people, gift giving is a sign of affection, or it could be a tradition. It could mark a milestone or an accomplishment in someone’s life. Whatever the reason or motive is behind gift-giving, it can be hard to think of a different or unique gift to give an adoptive parent, adoptive family, or guardianship family. Here are a few ideas that I ran across when I was doing some browsing and research.

Homemade candle – is a beautiful way to honor a birth mom and congratulate a new mom. One of the sayings I found was,

“When the world feels dark,
And hope so far away.
I’ll carry your faith to guide the way.
And until you are ready to let life shine bright,
I’ll be right here, the keeper of your light.”

Plant a tree – Plant a tree in the child’s name so that they can put down their roots. You can watch the tree grow as the child grows. Planting trees on someone’s behalf is a great way to honor someone – and since trees provide so many natural benefits, it is a gift that keeps on giving. Another saying I found was,

“Like branches in a tree, we all grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one.”

Adoption related jewelry – Jewelry makes for a wonderful keepsake and a way to honor the adoptive parent’s decision to adopt. Popular picks include necklaces that symbolize the adoption triad, engraved bracelets, and rings that feature the child’s birthstone. One of the quotes I found, “Not flesh of flesh or bone of bone, but heart of heart and soul of soul.”

Clothing items – It is a very popular trend for people to choose to wear clothing that reflects their thoughts. Another popular trend is to have matching clothes which shows connection and their bond to their child. One of the memorable sayings I found, “I’m an adoptive dad, just like a regular dad, only much cooler.”

Other ideas – Some other suggestions I found in my adventures on the internet were journals, personalized ornaments, magazine subscriptions, an item that celebrates the child’s heritage, photo album/memory book, photo shoot and time. The suggestions that came along with the gift of time were getting together for a meal, a few hours of babysitting, or sending them a text that you are thinking of them.

When you are thinking about the best gift ideas for adoptive parents, birth families or the adopted child, remember that every adoption relationship is different, so go with your gut and knowledge of the family. Think about what would be the most meaningful and go that route. And your gift definitely doesn’t have to be about adoption or guardianship. If you know them pretty well, get them whatever you think they will love, or something based upon their interests. One last quote I found, “Every family has a story, welcome to ours.”

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Kim Waswick, LBSW

A Coordinator’s Book Recommendations

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Brittney, Post Adopt Coordinator shares some of her favorite books on adoption and guardianship.

As coordinators, we have learned the importance of self-care, not only for ourselves but the adoptive and guardianship parents we work with.  Parenting special needs children comes with its unique challenges and struggles.  It is vital you “put on your oxygen mask first,” as flight attendants say, to be the best parent you can be for your children.  How do you take care of yourself?  Personally, I enjoy binging mindless reality shows, and on more productive days, I love snuggling up with a good book.  Here are some of my favorite adoption, trauma-related, and parenting books I have read over the years.

  1. The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog – Dr. Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz

This book tells children’s stories of trauma and transformation through the lens of science, revealing the brain’s astonishing capacity for healing. Deftly combining unforgettable case histories with his own compassionate, insightful strategies for rehabilitation.  Perry explains what happens to the brain when a child is exposed to extreme stress and reveals the unexpected measures that can be taken to ease a child’s pain and help them grow into a healthy adult.

  1. The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity – Dr. Nadine Burke Harris

In this book Harris discusses the ACE study and is punctuated by stories from her work at a pediatric clinic in a low-income community of color. In that clinic, she found it striking that many of her young patients who suffered from conditions like asthma, obesity, and ADHD shared one commonality—they had all experienced some type of traumatic event or significant stressor in their young lives.

  1. The Power of Attachment: How to Create Deep and Lasting Intimate Relationships – Diane Poole Heller

Heller, a pioneer in attachment theory and trauma resolution, shows how overwhelming experiences can disrupt our most important connections― with the parts of ourselves within, with the physical world around us, and with others.

  1. Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain – Daniel J. Siegel, M.D.

Siegel busts a number of commonly held myths about adolescence—for example, that it is merely a stage of “immaturity” filled with often “crazy” behavior. According to Siegel, during adolescence we learn vital skills, such as how to leave home and enter the larger world, connect deeply with others, and safely experiment and take risks.

  1. The Connected Child – Dr. Karen Purvis and Dr. David Cross

This book specializes in adoption and attachment. Learn how to build bonds of affection and trust with your adopted child, effectively cope with any learning or behavioral disorders, and discipline with love without making him or her feel threatened.

  1. Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control: A Love Based Approach to Helping Children With Severe Behaviors – Heather Forbes, LCSW and Bryan Post

This book covers in detail the effects of trauma on the body-mind and how trauma alters children’s behavioral responses.  While scientifically based in research, it is written in an easy to understand and easy to grasp format for anyone working with or parenting children with severe behaviors.

  1. What Happened To You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing – Dr. Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey

This book provides powerful scientific and emotional insights into the behavioral patterns so many of us struggle to understand.  It’s a testament to the authors’ wish for readers to come to grips with, and let go of, the past and to move forward into ‘post-traumatic wisdom.’

  1. Building the Bonds of Attachment: Awakening Love in Deeply Traumatized Children – Daniel Hughes and Kirby Heyborne

This book is a composite case study of the developmental course of one child following years of abuse and neglect.  The text emphasizes both the specialized psychotherapy and parenting strategies often necessary in facilitating a child’s psychological development and attachment security.

  1. Honestly Adoption: Answers To 101 Questions About Adoption and Foster Care – Kristin and Mike Berry

If you are considering adoption or foster care or are already somewhere in this difficult and complicated process, you need trusted information from people who have been where you are.  Mike and Kristin will provide you with practical, down-to-earth advice to make good decisions in your own journey.

  1. More To Me – Saty Conrelius

After fourteen years of family dysfunction, Bri and her younger three siblings enter foster care, where she battles with depression and loneliness – the very things that caused her mother to slip deeply into her alcohol addictions years ago.  Follow Bri on her journey as she slowly discovers the truth about her past.

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Brittney Engelhard, LBSW

Food Insecurity

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Imagine going into your child’s bedroom and finding candy wrappers and scraps of food. Garbage is hidden under their bed, behind their dresser, in their closet, or any other hiding place. Or recently stocking up on groceries to later find snacks missing from the pantry. Your child may also struggle with eating too quickly or get easily upset surrounding food. You may start to feel frustration as this continues to happen.

Unfortunately, your child may have past trauma surrounding food. For example, in their early childhood food may have been withheld, or they may have lived in an environment where food was scarce. Knowing how to respond to food insecurity behaviors can be beneficial to help your child develop a healthy relationship with food.

I have provided some different ideas and suggestions on how to help your child with their food insecurity. I want to note that it is very important to not blame your child for their food insecurity behaviors, as it is their way of survival. It will take time to help your child feel safe with food.

  1. Put together a “yes basket” or a “food basket” filled with healthy snacks that children can grab whenever they may feel hungry, or just need to be able to see food. Providing your child with a food basket can help them understand that food will always be available. You can also create a food basket in the refrigerator for cold foods. It is essential to understand that the basket you create, you cannot say no to. Pick items that you feel good about giving your children at all hours of the day – morning, afternoon, night, or even right before supper.
  2. Eat meals together. Eating meals together can help children develop a better relationship and attachment with food. This can also help model appropriate eating skills, such as slowing down or using utensils. Another benefit of eating meals together is that it may strengthen their bond and attachment with you as their caregiver.
  3. Work with a trained therapist. Working with a therapist can help with addressing the underlying cause of the food insecurity, whether that may be trauma or a major life change.

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Jaclyn Stroehl, LBSW