Interesting Facts about Adoption

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I have been a social worker for over 22 years, but I’m no stranger to adoption! I have gained most of my social work experience from long term care, the hospital setting, and hospice. My parents made an adoption plan for one of my older sisters. I also have an older sister that made an adoption plan for two of her own children. As many of you know, there is a wealth of information in books, in articles and on social media around adoption. I thought it would be great to share some fun facts about, adoption, too. Here are just a few:

  • Earliest Known Adoption: The Pharaoh’s daughter adopted baby Moses in the Bible
  • First Modern Adoption Law in the U.S. was enacted by Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1851
  • Prior to the development of infant formula in the 1920s, most adoptees were older children
  • In 2019, around 135,000 children were adopted in the United States. More than half of these children are over the age of six, and there are more boys in the Child Welfare System waiting to be adopted or fostered than girls. (Adoption Network)
  • Only around 2% of people in the United States have actually adopted a child, adoption statistics show. However, one-third of Americans have thought about the possibility of adopting and considered it an option. (Adoption Network)
  • There are around 437,000 children in the United States who are in foster care on any given day. More than 125,000 children in these circumstances are looking to be adopted. The average child in foster care will wait around four years until they are placed into a family that wishes to adopt them. (Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute)
  • In 2015, there were 12,000 international adoptions, with 5,500 children being adopted in the United States. This number is drastically lower than in 2005, when 46,000 children were adopted internationally. Around half of those international adoptions resulted in the child being brought to the United States. This is largely due to certain countries banning international adoption or increasing the difficulty of adopting children from their country, according to international adoption stats. The countries that have banned or cut down on international adoption include China, Ethiopia, South Korea, Kazakhstan, Romania, Russia, and Guatemala. (The Conversation)
  • Nearly 100 million Americans have adoption in their immediate family, whether this includes adopting, placing, or being adopted. (Adoption Research)
  • There are around 2 million LGBTQ people in the United States who want to adopt. That’s a lot of homes and many loving parents for children who desperately deserve them. Current adoption statistics show that around 4% of all adopted children in the United States are living with LGBTQ parents. (Lifelong Adoptions)
  • And at least one fun fact: Famous people who were adopted include Jamie Foxx, Jack Nicholson (by his grandparents), Ray Liotta, Steve Jobs, Frances McDormand, Nancy Reagan, Lance Armstrong, Babe Ruth, Dr. Ruth, Nicole Richie, Dave Thomas (Wendy’s Founder), Eric Clapton, Gary Coleman, Faith Hill, Marilyn Monroe, John Lennon, Melissa Gilbert, and Scott Hamilton. (Huffington Post)

Hundreds of thousands of children are adopted around the world each year. And with that, new loving and happy families are created. The above adoption statistics show, with some insight, how adoption in the United States and international adoption work, as well as how prominent adoption is within the LGBTQ community.

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

To Tell or Not to Tell?

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Let’s face it, trauma is difficult.  It’s difficult knowing our kiddos have a trauma history they had no control over.  It’s difficult knowing that you cannot take away the trauma they’ve experienced, and you cannot wish it away.  It can be difficult deciphering when to address these difficult pieces of your child’s history with them.  You may have wondered what to share and when to share your child’s history with them. You may have even found yourself contemplating whether it’s necessary to share all of the details of their trauma history with them.

These worries and concerns that you may struggle with are valid.  Parents, you may find yourself wanting to protect your child.  You may want to guard them and worry if bringing up their history may re-traumatize them.  This fear comes from the deep love you have for your child.  It’s no fault to you for wanting the absolute best for your child.  The truth is, your child needs to know their trauma history.  Talking with your child about the truths of their trauma history allows your child to grow in their identity of who they are. When determining when and how to have these conversations, consider the age and developmental stage of your child, ensure you’re familiar with your child’s trauma story, and plan what you are going to say.

It’s important to consider your child’s age and where they are developmentally and their readiness when deciding when to talk about their trauma history.   Natural instinct may be to talk with your child when they are a teen.  However, it may be more beneficial to share the difficult points of your child’s trauma history when they are younger, and here’s why.  Teens are trying to figure out what their identity is, which is based on what they know up to this point.  Teens are trying to decipher who they are in relation to what they know of their world up to this point and how they fit in.  Adding their trauma history at a point where there is already so much questioning and deciphering, which can be seen in adolescent years, can become problematic and adds an entirely new layer to sort through.  Because of the large amount of change that does happen during adolescent years, it may be beneficial to tell your child their history prior to adolescence.  You may have conversations throughout the early childhood years, which is great.  It’s never too early to share this information, as long as the information is developmentally appropriate.  Holly van Gulden, author of Real Parents, Real Children and an adoption counselor, has encouraged parents to share a child’s full trauma history between the ages of 9 – 12 years of age, so children can address issues, feelings, and concerns before the changes that occur during adolescence.  Children in this age group may be more open to receive support from their parents, as opposed to children in their adolescent years.  There is also more time to mull through this history with parents, instead of trying to make sense before transitioning to the next chapter of their life.  Evaluating your child’s readiness is necessary to also consider.  Decipher where your child’s sense of self image is and their ability to process information cognitively and emotionally.  Determining where your child may be and how they’re able to process information may help navigate what pieces you’re able to share, as well as the language you’re able to use while sharing their trauma history with your child.

Become familiar with your child’s trauma history and the language that surrounds it.  Read through the documents that were provided to you during the adoption process.  If you have any questions regarding what you’ve read, reach out to the adoption agency you worked through for more clarification.  Understand that you might not be able to gather all the pieces from your child’s history.

Plan what you’re going to share with your child and plan to use words and concepts that are developmentally appropriate.  Be open and honest, sharing information you know to be true. Reverting to an earlier point, you may not know all pieces of information regarding their history.  It’s better for your child to hear that you do not know the entirety of their history instead of filling in gaps that you’re unsure of.   Your child may have questions right away, or need time to process and may come with questions at a later time.  Explain they can ask questions at any time, even if it’s long into the future.  If you need assistance in planning what or how to share, reach out to your Post Adopt Coordinator – we are here to support you through this process!

Navigating through this tough subject can be difficult and filled with emotion.  Finding the best time, the best approach, and the right words to say can be difficult.  It’s ok for you as a parent and for your child to process through this with a therapist with specialized training in working through these tough situations.  Reach out to your Post Adopt Coordinator for assistance for this as well.  We are always happy and ready to help!

Resources that may be valuable in this subject matter include:

https://amaraputskidsfirst.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Talking-with-Children-about-Difficult-History.pdf

https://adoptionsupport.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/05-Talking-with-Children-Difficult.pdf

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

 

Crisis De-escalation and Intervention

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It is very likely that your adopted or guardianship child has experienced some degree of trauma before becoming a part of your family. Trauma can be due to many types of abuse, neglect, maltreatment, losses, and so forth. Any child who experiences trauma can display escalated behaviors, which can be physical, verbal, or through actions, such as stealing, lying, running away, etc. Those behaviors typically result from underlying trauma and emotional triggers. If you have a child that has displayed worrisome behaviors, you are not alone. It is important to understand and have a good understanding on how to handle escalated behaviors to ensure all parties involved are safe.

I will not be discussing physical intervention/de-escalation as physical intervention is to be used as a last resort. Due to the precise ways to engage in physical intervention/techniques, I recommend participating in a Crisis De-Escalation Intervention Class, or CPI, to learn about the safety precautions with physical interventions. These classes can help demonstrate techniques to utilize if needing to engage in physical intervention. These techniques not only help keep the child safe, but can also help keep the parent or adult safe in that situation as well. Physical de-escalation/interventions include some sort of physical restraint, or holdings, of the distressed individual. While physical de-escalation may be needed at some point, it is important to remember to always try to utilize verbal de-escalation techniques prior to engaging in physical interventions.

Here are some steps to take to help de-escalate an escalating situation WITHOUT engaging in physical intervention:

1. It is very important to be aware of both your verbal and non-verbals when communicating with an escalated person, child, or adult:

    • Verbal communication can look like:
      • Active listening, asking questions, validating feelings, providing choices, not arguing, and talking in a calm, but firm voice.
    • Non-verbal communication can look like:
      • Facial expressions and body language

2. Remove other peers/adults from the situation

    • This will ensure safety of others while trying to de-escalate the situation. It will also help to eliminate an audience and attention on the negative behavior that is being displayed.

3. Ensure there is personal space between the escalated individual/child and yourself.

    • This can help with protecting yourself if the situation should turn aggressive and physical.

4. Set limits and boundaries

5. Different techniques to try:

    • Distraction
    • Providing choices

6. Once the situation is diffused, discuss what they could do next time to prevent the escalation of the behavior.

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

Resources/references:

https://www.crisisprevention.com/Blog/De-escalation-Tips

https://www.dbsalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Understanding_Agitation_Poster.pdf

Handling the Holidays

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It’s that time of year when it seems as though we are cleaning up from one holiday, only to prepare for the next.  It starts with Halloween, jumps into Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s!  If any of you have stepped into any store since August, you might have noticed the décor that changes just as quickly as it’s displayed, whether it be Halloween costumes and candies, to fall décor and Thanksgiving turkeys, to Christmas trees, ornaments, presents, and treats.  Let’s not forget the treats and silly glasses to wear for New Year’s Eve!

These displayed items may bring back many delightful memories of your fun filled holidays spent with friends, family, and other loved ones!  Some of your fondest memories may include gathering with extended relatives and catching up on each other’s lives.  You may remember the laughter, not only from catching up with one another, but also of the cousins playing together.  You may remember the comforting aroma of your favorite dinner that was always at these holiday dinners.   Common rituals may have taken place at these fantastic holiday memories, like your grandfather saying grace before dinner, your father always cuts the turkey, and don’t forget about the boot hockey game played between dinner and dessert!

For our adoptive youth, holidays may be filled with a variety of stress.  Youth may feel an assortment of emotions – loss, guilt, or anxiety.  Triggers of smell, taste, or sounds may surround the youth during holidays.  Youth may have traditions with birth and/or former foster families and these activities might not be done in your home.  These stressors may be displayed in a variety of behaviors and/or emotions that aren’t typical.

Support your child during this time.  Be observant of any changes your child may be exhibiting.  Create time and a safe place to discuss behavior changes or variations in moods and emotions.  This time can be allowed to explore triggers your child may have revolving holiday time.  Create conversations with your child about their favorite memories they have with their birth family/foster families and go over their Life Book with them.

Become creative with additional ways to support your child might through these busy times.  Create a calming space for your child to take a break from the hustle and bustle.  In this calming space, have accessible items that help your child to reregulate, such as a comfy chair, fidgets to play with, or access to music.  Construct a safety plan with your family incase overwhelming feelings take over.  This safety plan could include a place to sneak away for a few minutes to reregulate or a word/phrase to use in case it’s deemed to leave altogether.  Consider changing up what you typically do for the holidays to ensure your child feels safe during the holiday time.  If going over for a large family gathering creates too much overload, consider celebrating in a smaller and calmer way.  Keep daily routines as best as possible, such as meal times and bed times.  These routines can help your child remain regulated, as they’re able to know when to expect important parts of their day.  Most importantly, continue to embrace your child and create holiday memories together.

For more ideas, check out Mike and Kristen Berry’s podcast, How to Help Your Child Regulate During the Holidays, at https://honestlyadoption.com/how-to-help-your-child-regulate-during-the-holidays/.

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

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