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Supporting Transracial Youth

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Transracial adoptees can often struggle with their racial identity as they may align with – the race and ethnicity they were born into, as well as the race and ethnicity which they’re adopted into.  Often transracial adoptees are seen as too much of the other race.  For example, they may be viewed as more of the race or ethnicity they were born into, or more of the race or ethnicity they were adopted into.  This leads transracial adoptees to feel as though they don’t belong in either culture, as though they’re stuck in the middle.  One of the responsibilities for parents in raising a transracial adoptee is assisting them in positive self-identity.  For parents to assist their child in gaining a sense of positive self-identity, there are a few steps that can be taken.

It’s important for parents to become aware of discrimination that may be present if their child is of a minority culture.  After becoming aware, it’s important to understand how these affect their child through their daily lives.  Parents should learn about how their child has seen or experienced discrimination within their culture and how this is affecting their child.  Listen to what they have to say, and allow for open and free discussion.  It’s also important for parents to believe what their child is saying.

Another way parents can support a positive self-identity is by advocating for their child.  Advocate on behalf of positive educational, religious, and social opportunities.  These opportunities should be inclusive, respectful, and sensitive to cultural diversity.  Advocate for the safety and well-being in all aspects of life.  Parents can also teach their child how to be safe when they become an adult.  This ties back into learning about how people in minority groups are treated.   For example, when becoming of age to drive, parents might need to teach their child to do certain precautions if pulled over by a cop.  A parent might also need to teach their child how to be safe if being followed by employees while shopping.

Parents can also show their child leaders of their cultural community.  These leaders can be both current and historical.  Encourage children to learn about the accomplishments these leaders have done.  Find articles, documentaries/movies, and books about these leaders.  If possible, parents can create an opportunity for their child to meet and spend some time with these leaders.  Along with this, it’s also important for parents to spend time educating their child about their culture’s history and taking part in their cultural community.  Spend time enjoying food, art, music, and religion from the child’s minority culture.

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

Not Just Surviving the Pandemic, but Thriving During It!

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Some people are taking advantage of this pandemic by cleaning and organizing rooms they have avoided, engaging in hobbies, cooking, exercising, etc. A huge kudos to them, what a great time to do these things! I can’t help but think about the parents raising children from trauma, trying to work from home, and helping their children with online schooling all at the same time?  We cannot expect to do this perfectly every day.  Some days we are just lucky to survive.

What is a good thing to take advantage of during these challenging days ahead?  Try strengthening your relationships with your children in times of crisis.  Sound impossible?  Let’s not just survive this pandemic, let’s thrive during it.  The strategy I will share is discussed in TBRI (Trust Based Relational Intervention) created by Karyn Purvis and David Cross.

Children from trauma need structure, routine, predictability, and transitions, to be their best and thrive. They need physical activity, nutrition, hydration, and sensory input to keep their brain and bodies regulated.  We also know they need connection and communication to heal.

When we make mistakes with our children known as a ‘rupture’, we want to repair that mistake.  A big rupture and repair is explained in TBRI training. The rupture is the early-life trauma your child has experienced and the repair is the healing that occurs through relationship.  Parents and children experience many “mini rupture and repairs”.  These mini ruptures include things such as engaging in arguments, yelling, or other mistakes we make when we lose our temper and forget a connected way to respond to our child.  The repair occurs when you go back to your child, connect and apologize.  The rupture occurs because you’re in your downstairs brain (reacting to emotions) instead of your upstairs brain (thinking rationally and logically). The repairs to these ruptures are going back to connect with and apologize to your child once you are back in a regulated state and using your upstairs brain (thinking brain).

We don’t need to fear these mini ruptures or feel ashamed when they occur. It is through these mini ruptures and repairs that healing occurs.   You can view the ruptures as opportunities to connect with your child. When using any parenting strategy, it is not possible to do things perfectly. You will lose your temper, get upset and frustrated, and do things you regret.  That is part of being human.

What matters is what you do after you make the mistake.  Go back, apologize, and connect.  When you repair a rupture, you are modeling vulnerability, and identifying and sharing your emotions.  You are talking about the problem, apologizing for a mistake you made, and showing the other person they are valuable, precious, and loved.  You are modeling healthy, safe relationships.

What will your child learn from this modeling?  They too will learn to be vulnerable, identify and share their feelings, and talk about problems.  They will learn it is normal to make mistakes.  They learn it is safe to admit when they make a mistake.  The best part is the connection that happens when they feel loved, valued, and precious.

Even though this time of pandemic is difficult  to navigate, wouldn’t it feel great to come out of the crisis with a better relationship with your child?

For more information on this strategy google TBRI or watch TBRI or Karyn Purvis videos on Youtube, like this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T43zJDgTNPA

 

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Sherie Madewell-Buesgens, LBSW

 

Offer Grace

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For the past few weeks, the novel COVID-19 pandemic has created significant change.  This change has impacted our lives in so many different aspects.  Some parents have been laid off while others are working from home.  Our children are now learning from home, appointments are occurring remotely instead of in person, we are practicing social distancing, and home necessities are difficult to find.  Our normal is no longer normal.   Along with this change, we may be experiencing many emotions including fear, confusion, and increased anxiety.  We may be experiencing bigger or more frequent behaviors at home, as our children are feeling the same feelings of the unknown that come along with these changes.  As parents, we may be overwhelmed, even tired.   Our home may be dysregulated and it’s been hard to find a way to regulate it.

Parents, take a moment to sit, sip your coffee, and give yourself some grace.  You’re unexpectedly playing multiple roles at home, from parent to teacher to setting up a safe place for therapies to happen online.  You’re creating a new normal for your family.  All of which is no small task.   Given the circumstance and with the sudden, weighty changes and your ability to begin creating a new normal, a new routine for your family, you’re doing fantastic.  Your efforts do not go unnoticed.   You are appreciated.

Along with this, take time to take care of yourself.  Your focus is so much on your children, but you are just as important.  Take a few moments to do something for yourself.  Walk the dog, take a bath, cook a healthy meal, call a friend just to say, ‘Hey!’ or ‘Help!’  Also, know you can reach out to your post adopt worker, we are here for you!

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

LBGTQ FAQ

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Did you know between 18-20% of teens in the United States identify as LBGTQ.  What does that even mean?  How do you know if someone is LBGTQ?  How can you support LBGTQ youth?

LBGTQ is an acronym that stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer and/or Questioning.  It is an ever-changing umbrella term for those who have a non-normative gender or sexuality.  According to the American Psychological Association, sex is assigned at birth, refers to one’s biological status as either male or female, and is associated primarily with physical attributes such as chromosomes, hormone prevalence, and external and internal anatomy. Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for boys and men or girls and women.

Did you know 40% of the transgender community admit attempting suicide at least once in their lifetime?  Gender stereotyping can be described as generalized views of characteristics or roles that are traditionally possessed by or performed by men and women.  Examples of gender stereotypes exist everywhere.  Do you ever notice them? Next time you take a trip to Target, walk down all the toy isles and observe.  Are there certain aisles with an overwhelming amount of blue or green?  Are there little boys smiling and playing with toy cars on the boxes?  Do you see little girls wearing crowns and dressed up as a princess in an aisle consumed in pink?  Most of us never even think about it, but if I had to guess, you would notice if the little boy on the box was the one dressed up as a princess. Why?

Did you know the U.K. just ruled to ban gender stereotyping that is perceived as harmful to reduce gender inequality?

How to support LBGTQ youth:

  1. Practice using LGBTQ inclusive words and phrases every day.

“Ladies and gentleman” vs. “Folks”

“Policeman”                    vs. “Police officer”

“He” or “She”                   vs. “They”

 

  1. Show you support the LBGTQ community and show your home is a safe place (attend local PRIDE events, know LBGTQ resources in your community, display a “Safe Zone” sign or rainbow flag at your home, have LBGTQ sensitive books and movies accessible in your home)

 

  1. Educate yourself and know about your own gender and sexuality. The Genderbread Person is a great way to learn about gender and sexuality in all its complexities from a continuum perspective.  Do it with the youth!  https://www.genderbread.org/

 

  1. Understand if a youth decides to “come out” to you, they trust you. For some, this task may be terrifying, as they may have been rejected by loved ones in the past. Be unconditionally supportive and let them know it will not change your relationship.  Avoid probing questions and let them take the lead.  Clarify if other people know, as you don’t want to risk “coming out” for them to others.
  2. Encourage and support youth through self-growth and exploration. As someone who is close to that youth, it can feel conflicting.  You want to support them, but you also are fearful for them.  Discouraging gender expression and avoiding environments where they may be a target of discrimination can do more damage than the potential discrimination, itself.

 

  1. Humans make mistakes and that’s okay. I get it, it can be overwhelming trying to understand all the appropriate terms and pronouns to use, as it’s ever changing and can be subjective to that person.  You may avoid interactions or situations completely to avoid offending someone or getting it wrong.  Be Human.  Asking someone their preferred pronouns or what gender fluid means is showing that person you care.

 

  1. Advocate. Advocate.

 

 

https://thesafezoneproject.com/

https://www.hrc.org/

https://time.com/5607209/uk-gender-stereotypes-adverts/

 

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

Helping Our Children Grieve Their Losses

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Youth being comforted on couch

Grief and Loss are two of the Seven Core Issues in Adoption that we discuss in Permanency and Adoption Competency training. A lot of our children’s behaviors can be a result of unresolved grief and loss. We find it hard to address grief and loss because it will result in our children experiencing painful feelings all over again. By not addressing it, are we really stopping the pain? NO, we are just avoiding it. Our children feel grief and loss, and they are unable to describe how they feel, and may act out instead.

As stated in the Seven Core Issues in Adoption and Permanency by Sharon Kaplain Roszia and Allison Davis Maxon, “Loss begins the journey. It is crisis and/or trauma that creates the circumstances that lead to the necessity of adoption and permanency. Adoption and permanency losses are too often left un-named, un-acknowledged, and un-grieved.” These struggles with loss and grief can come out in forms of poor behavior or choices from our children. So how do can we help?

Jae Ran Kim gives some suggestions on how to help our children grieve these losses in an article “Ambiguous Loss Haunts Foster and Adopted Children”. The suggestions are:

• Help your child identify what they have lost. Some examples include birthparents, extended family members, old friends, an old neighborhood, their home, people who share their name, their home country, their native language, etc.
• Give voice to the ambiguity. Acknowledge and validate your child if they express feelings of loss. Show that you understand and sympathize.
• Redefine the parameters of what constitutes family. Family has some ambiguous boundaries, and can include a close family friend.
• Give your child permission to grieve the loss of birth parents without guilt. Express times, places and ways your child can express their grief. Some examples can be talking, journaling, drawing or venting feelings through exercise.
• Create a “loss box.” Debbie Riley, a therapist and author who works with adopted teens, guides clients as they decorate a box into which they can put items that represent things they have lost. By creating the box, youth participate in a ritual that acknowledges their loss, and construct a controlled vehicle for revisiting their losses in the future.
• Include birth parents and other birth family members in pictorial representations of the adoptive family tree. One option would be to depict an orchard where trees grow side by side. The birth family, former foster families, or other significant people in their life can be other trees in the same family orchard.
• Be conscious of how certain events, such as birthdays, holidays, adoption day, etc –may trigger intense feelings of loss. Add or alter family rituals to respect the child’s feelings. An example may be on birthdays add an extra candle to the cake in memory of the birth family or say something like “I bet your birth mom and dad are thinking about you today.”
• Keep your expectations reasonable. Let your child know feelings related to these losses will come and go at different times in his/her life. Be a safe person to whom they can express those feelings.
• Model normal, healthy responses to loss. If you or your parenting partner suffers a loss, share your feelings openly. Let your children see you mourn, so they can learn how you express sadness and anger about loss.

Behaviors when struggling with loss can become more apparent when children approach adolescence. Missing pieces of their history make developing a healthy identity a challenge. We can assist them by helping them to understand they are their own person with their own set of strengths and gifts. Working through and grieving their losses give them a better chance at creating a healthy relationship with you and with everyone they meet.

Challenge yourself today to help your child grieve their losses. The feelings are there anyway so help them learn how to handle and grieve their losses in a healthy way.

 

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator and adoptive mom superstar, Sherie Madewell-Buesgens, LBSW.

A Thousand Yes’s

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One of the best ways to help our children who come from hard places learn to trust and bond with us is through connected parenting.  The Empowered to Connect Conference brings to light many techniques and suggestions to do just that.  One of those ideas is a thousand “yes’s.”  When you have a biological child you spend a lot of time that first year or two: holding, feeding, snuggling and looking into the eyes of that baby telling them how much you love them and how precious they are to you.  The infant we had since birth was told yes over and over.  Every time they cried, we changed them, fed them, cuddled, rocked or snuggled them.  A child from hard places may not have had that precious time.

Yes.  Vector Illustration

So how do we build that trust with a child who did not have a thousand yes’s?  A child who did not know we would move heaven and earth to meet their every need — say “yes” as often as you can.  Be intentional.  Every time you think about saying “no”, ask yourself, “can I give my child a yes instead?” Many times we say “no” out of convenience, selfishness or we did not even really think about or consider saying “yes.”  The more “yes’s” I can give my child, the better my child will respond, and the more able we are to connect.  We cannot always give “yes’s” but the more often we do the easier it seems they can accept the “no.”  An example of saying “yes” when you would typically say “no” might be when your child reaches for a snack 10 minutes before dinner, instead of saying “no”, try saying, “let’s put that next to your plate and you can have it once you have finished your supper.” That “yes” meets her need as well as yours.  She gets her need met and you get one more deposit in your trust account.

 

By Sherie Madewell-Buesgens, LBSW

Self-Care

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Woman is having the morning coffee at home

How important is self-care?  When you are a parent, self-care is a requirement.

Did you catch that? A REQUIREMENT! 🙂

Now that the kids are back in school hopefully you have a little more time in your schedule, if not you may just have to carve out the time.  If you struggle to find the time, wake up 15 minutes earlier or stay up 15 minutes later, put it in a your calendar just like an appointment, do some self-care over your lunch or while the kids are napping.  Self-care does not have to take a lot of time it just has to be something that gives you a break, is done on a regular basis and helps you re-energize.

 

There are many different types of self-care:

  • Physical – moving your body such as going for a walk, a run, dancing, yoga, bike riding or any physical movement you enjoy.
  • Emotional – honoring the way you are feeling that day- expressing your feelings in a journal, listening to your favorite music, talking with someone and sharing your thoughts and feelings.
  • Spiritual – doing something good for your soul such as making a gratitude list, writing a thank you note, practicing positive self-talk.
  • Personal- spending some time doing a hobby you enjoy such as reading, knitting, baking.
  • Social – spending quality time with someone such as meeting a friend for coffee, watching a movie and eating popcorn with your spouse after the kids have gone to bed, calling a friend.
  • Household – cleaning and organizing a room, closet or even a drawer.
  • Pampering- treating yourself by having your nails done, buying a special treat, enjoying a bubble bath or massage.

There are so many ways we can help ourselves feel better and live healthier, less stressful lives.  If you are treating yourself with love and kindness, you will respond to your kids and spouse in a kinder more loving manner as well.  Self-care is a requirement not an elective.  Challenge yourself to start today.

This blog post was written by Sherie Madewell-Buesgens, Post Adopt Coordinator

Trauma-Informed Schools

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With school beginning, some students may be excited to return, while others may be anxious about the
transition. A child who has experienced trauma may view aspects and tasks included in the school environment as a
trigger. In 2018, more than two thirds of children reported at least 1 traumatic event by age 16, contributing to the
research showing children who have experienced trauma may find it more challenging than their peers to pay attention,
process new information, and some may even develop sensory processing difficulties which can contribute to problems in
writing and reading.

First, let’s take a quick look at trauma and the body. Every human being has an alarm system in their body that is
designed to keep them safe from harm. When activated, by an event or series of events, this tool prepares the body to
fight, flight, or freeze. When a child experiences such toxic stress the brain goes into overdrive and is in “survival mode”.
As a result, behaviors, stemming from the trauma can reflect inside and outside the classroom. These symptoms of
traumatic stress may present differently in each child and at different developmental stages. Examples of traumatic
symptoms include, struggling to pay attention, difficulty processing new information, and sensory processing difficulties
which can contribute to problems in writing and reading.

Risk concept on speedometer. Vector icon

As a response to trauma and the effects it has on the brain, trauma-informed schools (TIS) intentionally create
policies and practices sensitive to the needs of traumatized students and work to create learning environments where
everyone feels safe and supported. In the documentary Paper Tigers, Jim Sporleder, Principal at Lincoln High School
in Walla Walla Washington and pioneer of TIS, explains “behavior isn’t the kid, behavior is a symptom of something
going on in their life”. Sporleder took this approach and provided TIS training to all school staff. He then implemented
the trauma training to the school by changing policies and procedures. For example, the school stopped suspensions for
minor infractions, shortened the length of suspension or in-school suspensions, and implemented a restorative justice
approach and modeled forgiveness by mediating before coming to expulsion. What the school found was there was a
90% decrease in suspensions, 75% decrease in fights, and a 5 fold increase in graduation rates.

Establishing TIS is not an easy feat as it involves a mind-shift by teachers, administrators, and other school staff.
It also requires changes to transform school culture, build a supporting infrastructure, and alter curriculum content and
interventions. Trauma-informed schools offer educators tools and strategies to identify, address, and manage traumatic
stress symptoms and support overall educational achievement. A trauma-informed approach to misbehavior will help
educator’s move away from reflexive discipline, which can be re-traumatizing for students, and move towards responses
that help students learn to cope with their feelings by building resilience trough acknowledging the trauma,
understanding its triggers, and avoiding stigmatizing and punishing students. When educators are less inclined to send a
child to the office, seclude, or punish, it speaks to their capacity and commitment to support all children socially,
emotionally, behaviorally, and academically. Accordingly, educators will learn to ask “what happened to you?” rather
than “what’s wrong with you?”

HOW YOU CAN HELP:
Foster and adoptive parents are familiar and skilled in regards to children and trauma and can advocate for the
child and push for education reform in your community. Two great resources offer templates for adoptive/foster parents
to provide to teachers and administrators at the beginning of the year. By acknowledging how scholastic experience can
influence mental health and understanding the impact of mental health in all developmental domains and applying it to
how children are educated leads to more beneficial educational outcomes for everyone.

 

This blog post was written by Bailey Kitko, LBSW,  Adoption Specialist @ Adults Adopting Special Kids

 

Sources:
“Trauma-Informed Schools.” Ohio Department of Education, June 2019, education.ohio.gov/Topics/Student-Supports/
PBIS-Resources/Trauma-Informed-Schools.
“Creating, Supporting, and Sustaining Trauma-Informed Schools: A System Framework.” The National Child Traumatic Stress Network,
3 Oct. 2018, www.nctsn.org/resources/creating-supporting-and-sustaining-trauma-informed-schools-system-framework.

 

 

Letting Go Can Be So Hard

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Raising a child who has experienced trauma from abandonment, foster care, and adoption along with an autism diagnosis is hard.  Letting go and allowing them to take steps toward adulthood is even harder.  I know parents never stop worrying about their children but you worry even more if they aren’t a neuro-typical child and they have a trauma background.  How can I help my child be successful but also give him the independence he so badly wants?

One of the first things we started doing was helping our child with life skills.  He is a little more motivated to learn now knowing he will be on his own soon.  We have taught him how to wash his clothes, how to cook a variety of meals, how to clean each room of the house and how to create and follow a budget.  All of these skills require practice and we haven’t mastered any of them yet.  We did allow him to get his driving permit, but have made him practice driving for a year before allowing him to schedule testing for his driver’s license.  Once he does get his license he will have a contract he needs to abide by until we feel comfortable with him driving on his own.

Another important skill we have found that needs practice is problem solving.  This does not come naturally to most children who come from trauma, as trauma changes our brain, and impacts executive functioning skills.  We practice problem solving skills by giving him a scenario, letting him try to solve the problem and then having him anticipate the outcome.  If the anticipated outcome isn’t the outcome he wants we have him try to solve the problem again until he gets a satisfactory outcome.

The last independent skill we are currently examining and working toward is a future career. My son was approved for vocational rehabilitation which has been a very good experience for us.  Now we are looking into jobs that have on the job training included or the possibility of attending a community college and then transitioning to a 4 year college.  Lots of options and things to consider.

Some children with a trauma background and an autism diagnosis can live independently, they just may need our assistance in completing the obstacle course to get there.  Hopefully my son can reach the independence he so desires and I can get let go a little more each day.

 

 This blog post was written by post adopt coordinator and rockstar adoptive mom, Sherie Madewell-Buesgens.

 

 

Practical Ways to Help Your Child Focus

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“How many times to I have to tell you?!” “It’s something you do EVERY DAY! Why can’t you remember to do it?!”

I’m not sure about you, but I have been known to say these things to my children in my weak moments. I am not proud of myself, and yet there are days when I just can’t seem to help my child “get it.” Now with a new school year starting I am trying to plan ahead for what I know may help our children focus and complete their daily routines wit out frustration… for either of us.
We know that this sort of thing isn’t a quick fix. It’s not something that you can sit down and discuss with your child one time and then it will be better.
Realistically- we are all relatively distracted** people who are raising people who can’t focus, for one reason or another. Time and time again I find myself getting frustrated because I have to remind my child over and over again to do their homework, put their things away, etc. I know that I can’t be the only parent feeling the stress of an impending new school year, change of routine (again) and morning struggles to get out the door on time.

Child sitting on sofa and holding book in front of her face

I recently listened to an Honestly Adoption podcast by Mike and Kristen Berry who offered some great suggestions and insight in to some practical ways to help our children focus and attend to their daily tasks. Check it out for yourself here:

The Honestly Adoption Podcast, Season 10, Episode 92

One of the first ways to address this is to OWN your own lack of focus and have a heartfelt conversation with your child about some things that you have noticed in them. Be honest and discuss some things that work for you to stay on track and get your things done.

Having a conversation with your child by the time you need your child to focus (let’s say before kindergarten) might be very helpful if we can address this with our child (our observations) and include them in on the solutions. Oftentimes with their lack of focus, the child feels out of control and they get frustrated, so including them in creating strategies can really help build that connection between you and also give them some control and greatly reduce some of the frustrations.

Some other ideas that can help with focus are:
>>Creating a list- it is a really good strategy to create lists that include 3 to 5 items that are tangible for the child to be able to follow. These lists need to be very specific and not vague. Lists are a picture clue, or reminder, of what comes next. This will be so important as the kids get older as well because what preteen or teenager wants to be nagged? When we can use the lists it takes that argument/nagging away. Children get to cross the list off and then parents can cross off the item in another color as a seal of approval that it was completed to the expectations set.

>>A key to creating and using these lists is creating structure. These lists your kids use are the same every single day- this way everyone knows what to expect. Consistency is such a game changer- our kids need that. Repeat, repeat, repeat every. Single. Day. The longer you do this the more you are going to see positive results. An example that Mike Berry gave during the podcast suggests creating bite sized chunks of time, or bite sized responsibility for your child. This starts by tasking something small that they can accomplish (focused activity) followed by a period of unfocused activity, or something that they enjoy/want to do. “Let’s do one math problem (or work for 10 minutes on homework) and then you can have 15 minutes of playing your video game. When that is done then we need to complete our work.” This can give the child a tangible, do-able task, with a break included, that is specific and short enough in duration to create an accomplishment!

>>Some kids respond well to using a timer along with their tasks; they are challenged by “beating the timer” and enjoy that OR maybe a timer will stress your child out. That is something you will have to consider and evaluate based on your child’s needs. A visual timer can help those younger kids who cannot yet read a clock.

>>Setting goals can be very fun and helpful as well. Setting a goal like- “let’s put away 10 items each and then we will eat supper, and then…”. This is another example of mixing a focused activity and then unfocused activity.

I hope that you find these suggestions helpful and can find a way to incorporate strategies that will fit your family situation. If you want to hear more information about how to create the lists or other strategies for helping your child I encourage you to look up the Honestly Adoption podcast and Mike and Kristen Berry.

 

This blog post was written by former Post Adopt Coordinator, Sonya Lundstrom. 

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