6 reasons to hug

6 reasons to hug
Have you ever received a hug from someone and felt better afterwards? Have you ever been one to dole out a hug and feel the hugee relax in your arms? There’s something about a hug that changes our chemistry.

In the movie Temple Grandin, Temple creates a machine that basically hugs her, she says something like this about the device, “Getting a hug connects something in the brain, you can feel it, and when I’m in my squeeze machine, I feel better.”

Whether your child is biological, adopted, foster, or has Autism, hugs are beneficial for everyone. Here’s why:

  1. Hugs calm us. If you’ve ever felt stressed when you were embraced by someone, it’s possible that anxiety lessened. This is especially true if you have a connection with the person giving the hug. There are times when I’ve been hugged during a tumultuous time and that hug made everything that was overwhelming me seem less important.
  2. Hugs create feelings of acceptance. When you embrace someone it usually means you like them. (Okay, there are exceptions, but it’s generally the rule.) Our hurting children deal with intense feelings of rejection. Even when they join a family who loves them dearly, they wonder constantly if they’ll be accepted. Do they like who I am? Do they think I’m dirty, because my last foster home didn’t let me wear deodorant? I look different than them, they can’t possibly love me like their other children. The questions continue and expand. When we hug our children (begin appropriately, because you don’t know your child’s complete history), we are showing them we accept who they are and love them. We hold nothing back when we hug someone. It’s complete acceptance.
  3. Hugs make us feel safe. When you put your arms around your child they feel safe. They may not recognize it at first, but eventually they will recognize that you’ll keep them out of harms way. When we went to our only counseling session with Payton, the therapist saw how she hugged me and she made a declaration, “See how she’s hugging you. She’s placing her arms above yours (I was sitting, Payton was standing), which means she thinks she’s in control of the relationship.” When you hug someone next time, notice where their arms are. I wouldn’t say what this therapist said is true 100% of the time, but often it is. When we place our arms around a child (usually above their arms), it communicates that we are taking care of them. When we hug a friend, it’s kind of like a figure eight, 50/50, one arm above, one arm below. If a husband is hugging a wife, his arms are usually on top, not in a controlling way (or I hope not), but in a protective way. We want our children to feel safe, so we hug them, showing them we will protect them.
    For children with Autism, their world may be spinning because of sensory issues, a hug may center them and make them feel safe. If they’re in a new environment they may feel more secure with you close by. Just because a child with Autism doesn’t seem like they care about your proximity, they do.
    Of course, there are some Autistic kids who don’t want to be hugged. In that case you can put your arm around their shoulder, try different approaches to see what works. Never stop trying. One month your child may hate hugs, the next they may accept them and want more.
    the simple act of hugging
  4. Hugs encourage. Even the strongest individual, whether it be a hurting child or mature adult, when confronted with daunting circumstances, can be greatly encourage by the simple gesture of an arm around the shoulders. It communicates on a neurological and emotional level, it truly is going to be okay, and even if it isn’t, they’re going to be okay. A hug makes us feel like we can do it.
  5. Hugs heal our children. For the child who’s come from trauma, it’s especially important to give out hugs regularly. If you wonder how important hugs are, consider what Dr. Mercola says, “…consider that children who aren’t hugged have delays in walking, talking, and reading.”
  6. Hugs help us grow. Family therapist Virginia Satir said, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.”

Have you ever felt better after a hug? When you’ve hugged your child have you ever seen it make a difference in their demeanor?

Hug your children today. Hug your spouse today. Hug a friend today.

You can receive every post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, you can do this on the web version. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more helpful information and links. Have a great day!

when words are triggers (adoption/foster)

words can be triggers
Risa’s daughter, Ashley, screamed every time she said, “Sit down.” It didn’t matter if it was dinner time, snack time, bed time, or movie time, Ashley broke down.

The question could be asked, is this simply defiance? If it’s in several areas, it could be, but if a child’s experienced trauma, their behavior won’t fall in line as some would expect. There will be defiance from a traumatized child.

In Ashely’s case, the breakdown usually takes place when certain statements are made, like, “Sit down.” If Ashely were able to define how she’s feeling, Risa could ask her what’s going on. Chances are she’s done this, and she’s not getting a response. There a few reasons for this. Either Ashley’s too young to verbalize how she feels or she can’t put it in words because she doesn’t understand. Or, she has repressed the memories that are triggering the fear of the words, “sit down.” Or, those memories are too frightening and she does everything she can to bury them, therefore she’s not able to talk about them.

It’s impossible to know everything that happened to our children before they came to us.

We don’t know if they were with their birth mother at all times, if all of the workers in the orphanage were kind, if Grandpa yelled, if their birth father was abusive, if their mother left them with strangers. So, we don’t know what happened to Ashely before she arrived at Risa’s home. Maybe someone screamed, “Sit down!” before they abused her. Maybe those words surrounded something that happened to her brother. Maybe those words are the culmination of all the fear she experienced in her former home.

If your child is responding similar to Ashley, there are some steps you can take to help them work through this fear.

First, use other directives instead of those trigger words. Risa knows that the words, “sit down” create fear. Whether Ashley shows fear in her face when they’re said or not, something is brought up in her mind that causes anxiety in her. We don’t want Ashley to feel this way, we want to build trust, so Risa would use other words like, “Have a seat,” “It’s time to eat,” or, “Pop a squat.” Whichever works.

Second, try to find out what happened to trigger that fear response. Above I listed a few reasons why Ashely may not be able to express her feelings. Maybe your child is doing the same as Ashely, so here are links to some posts that will help you create trust with your child so they can open up to you.

tips on bonding with an adopted or foster child

These posts will help your child open up to you:
emotional balance begins with us (feelings: part 1)
name those feelings (feelings: part 2)
be available (feelings: part 3)
just deal with it (feelings: part 4)

Third, remember that your child’s been through trauma, whether they’re an infant, a toddler who lived in a foster home in a foreign country, a child who was “well taken care of” in an orphanage, or a child who had great foster parents before joining your family. All of these children have been removed from their birth mom or birth family, all of them experienced trauma. And with all of them, we don’t know the WHOLE story.

Although we don’t know the whole story and need to have compassion, we still need to have expectations and consistency. Ashley has a meltdown each time Risa asks her to do something. Notice, Risa isn’t supposed to say, “You don’t need to sit to eat dinner, you can walk around and do whatever you want.” She still has expectations. These expectations need to fit reasonably within what your child can actually do, but they need to be present. Risa also needs to be consistent by following through with what she says.

Does your child break down at certain times? Have you been able to nail down the cause? Do these tips help you make a plan to reach your child and reduce anxiety? I love comments, so please share your thoughts.

I hope to see you next week. You can receive every post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more helpful information and links. Feel free to share this with anyone who would benefit. Have a great day!

8 ways to help foster youth who are aging out of the system

8 ways to help foster youth who are aging out of the system
Last week I shared this article, We Are Abandoning Children in Foster Care, from CNN on my Twitter page. The article gives some shocking numbers, one of those being the

23,439 foster teens who aged out of foster care in 2012.

The reality that children are kicked out on their eighteenth birthday is made even more poignant when you read, Happy Birthday! Welcome to Homelessness. In this article, Pam Parish shows us what it’s like for teens who are no longer wards of the state. Not all of them have loving foster families who will act as their forever families.

In response to the tweet, We Are Abandoning Children in Foster Care, one of my followers asked if I knew of ten practical things anyone could do to help correct the problem. She asked for ten, but I only came up with eight, I think these eight will keep you fairly busy 🙂 :

  1. Adopt. Although these teens are eighteen and aging out of the system (meaning they will no longer be in a foster home), it doesn’t mean they don’t need, and deserve a family. If done through the state, the adoption should be free or very minimal.
  2. Become a surrogate family. Get to know a teen and be available to them as a family would. Support them in every way a forever family would.
  3. Support Connections Homes. Connections Homes is an organization founded by Pam Parish (a trustworthy friend of mine). Pam says, “Through our family’s journey, we’ve discovered a burning passion in our hearts for youth and young adults who have no one to belong to.”
    The goal of Connections Homes is to provide connection for those foster teens who no longer have a place to call “home”. You can support Connections Homes in many ways, so be sure to check out their wonderful organization.
    Pam says, “Every child should be able to launch out in life knowing that they have a seat at a Thanksgiving table somewhere. Knowing that if they get sick, get a promotion at work or fall in love, there’s someone there who will celebrate and care for them in those critical moments.”
    Their biggest need right now is financial support to train families who will be the lifelong connections for these kids.
  4. We are not equipped to go through this world aloneBe a mentor. Children and teens need to know that /someone/ cares for them, by being a mentor you can be a consistent support in a child’s life.
  5. Provide respite. Through your local Department of Human Services you can find out which foster families don’t plan on caring for a teen past their eighteenth birthday. You can provide respite care for this family, get to know the teen, and be a family they can depend upon beyond their time in foster care.
  6. Become a tutor, which could turn into a mentoring situation. Encourage teens to graduate from high school and continue on to work in a field they enjoy or get a college degree.
  7. Provide a job. You can provide on the job training to a foster teen who might otherwise be ostracized because of their label. A teen coming from foster care may not have had good parent role models and will need  assistance. Maybe you can provide this to them.
  8. Donate a car. In the article, Cars Donated to Foster Youth, Bree Boyce says, “…One of the greatest challenges [foster youth who age out of the system] face is transportation to work and school.” In Boyce’s article, she reports on The Riley Diversity Leadership Institute who partnered with The South Carolina Foster Parent Association to provide three vehicles to foster teens. The program, On the Road Again is a program which, “…provides donated cars to foster care youth who are at least 18 but not yet 21 years old, actively employed, pursuing a GED or engaged in a post high school educational program.” If you have the means, you can easily donate a car to a foster child wherever you live, or you can start an organization like this in your area.

where do you fitIn the article, Helping Children in Care Succeed, Fares Bounajm says, “Without stability, these youth [who are aging out of foster care] can face chronic unemployment, unplanned parenthood, homelessness, inadequately treated mental health issues and incarceration among other problems.”

*After posting this a friend shared with me about the organization, Salina’s Hope Foundation. Be sure to take a look at the amazing work they’re doing in Arizona.

I hope this gives you some ideas on how to support foster youth. Please feel free to share with others.

Do you have other ideas on how to help teens who are aging out of the system?

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emotional age vs. chronological age (adoption/foster)

emotioanl age vs chronological age
Evan lay in his room, screaming and pounding his fists on the floor, his feet slammed against his door. His mom, Talia, looked out the window, sure her neighbors could hear everything and imagined what they were thinking.

She couldn’t believe he was behaving this way, he was eight-years-old and acting worse than a toddler, the rages were catastrophic. Evan joined their family through adoption nine months ago and she’d expected him to grow out of this stage, especially with the constant love they all showed him, the toys, bed, nice room, good food, sport activities, and so much more. Hadn’t he bonded yet?

Why was it all taking so long?

Evan did well in school, he’d caught up so quickly because they’d worked with him. There were battles with that too, but nothing like these setbacks when Evan didn’t feel he was in charge.

Talia was noticing the gap between Evan’s emotional age and his chronological age.

Talia was expecting Evan’s emotional age to be in line with his chronological age, and that won’t happen when a child’s been neglected, abused, and traumatized. This image (courtesy of Dr. Bruce Perry and his studies) shows how significantly smaller the size of the traumatized child’s brain is versus the child who wasn’t traumatized. (If you’re a frequent reader here, you’re tired of hearing this – the size of their brain doesn’t mean it can’t grow, learn, and excel. It doesn’t mean your child can’t hear you, understand how you feel, or that they aren’t aware of the world around them.)

Because of trauma, your child’s age will not determine their abilities in any area. If a child is six-years-old, you can’t expect their emotional state to be equal to their age. You may have behaviors that range from infantile to age appropriate.

Even though there are gaps between your child’s emotional, mental, physical, and chronological age, you can still meet them where they are in each area. Your child may be very smart and able to do seventh grade algebra at age ten, so meet him where he is academically. His emotional state may not be that of a ten-year-old, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give him educational opportunities.

Your ten-year-old may exhibit behaviors of a three-year-old, so emotionally you would meet him where he needs it. You can hold him and rock him to help meet his need at that three-year-old level.
grow your child where they're succeeding

Meeting your child where they are can be done through Floortime, which is explained further at The Greenspan Floortime Approach. “Floortime meets children where they are and builds upon their strengths and abilities through interacting and creating a warm relationship. It challenges them to go further and to develop who they are…” I love every point in this statement about Floortime. In my post, Let’s Bond Already – Creating Attachment with an Adopted Child, I explain each of these points in more detail and give ideas on how to use this technique with older children.

As your child heals and bonds, his chronological and emotional age will become more equal,

you’ll see the gap between the two begin to close. Your child may always be more attuned to their world than a typical child, they may be able to tell you how to get across town to your friend’s house, or surprise you with their ability to recall events. This is because they were forced to protect themselves and possibly siblings when they were with their bio family. Their brain was catapulted into survival mode, and it’s possible part of it will always be there, overly conscious of their world. It’ll subside quite a bit as they move farther from the trauma, and are cared for by loving parents, but you can view this as something that will benefit them in the future.

As your child heals, they will have times of regression. Triggers will send them back to what they experienced before joining your family. Triggers are moments, experiences, memories, or events that remind them of a part of their traumatic experience. Your child will also exhibit negative behaviors and emotional regression when they feel out of control, which reminds them of their past.

In Dr. Bruce Perry’s book he shares the story of Sandy who witnessed her mother’s murder. When Sandy went to her foster home, she would loss it completely at certain times during the day. It took the family a while to figure out what the trigger was, but finally, after paying very close attention, they found Sandy had a meltdown every time she saw milk. The milk was a trigger because when her mother lay on the floor after being stabbed, Sandy tried giving her milk. That wasn’t the only trigger for her, but it gives you an idea of why our hurting children regress and in turn their emotional state deteriorates.

A child who experiences trauma such as Sandy did may be able to communicate well, and function fairly well within the family, but her emotional state will be compromised greatly when a trigger presents itself. She may start blubbering, not be understood, unable to communicate any feelings or thoughts.

In the beginning of this post Talia asked questions pertaining to how much they’d given Evan, how long it was taking him to bond, and how long it would take his behavior to be permanently changed. Here are some posts relating to those issues Talia is struggling with, and maybe the same questions you are asking about your child:

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our semi-open adoption

our semi-open adoption
There are all kinds of open adoptions. I know several families who’ve adopted and none of them have the same relationship with the birth families. Last week in the post, Birth Family Relationships, I talked about how different contact can look for each family. Connections with birth family can be done through the exchange of letters and pictures (although you will hear others say this isn’t an open adoption, I consider it a semi-open adoption), meeting at the park for play dates, having the birth family over for holidays or a fun day, phone calls between the birth parent and the child. (I would suggest reading the post I linked to above, as it gives tips on how to know what type of birth parent interaction is best for your family.)

Our daughter, Payton, came to us through foster care. Her bio mom, Susan* was homeless most of the time Payton was in our care. Part of Susan’s parenting plan (set of requirements she had to fulfill before getting custody of Payton) was that she gain safe housing, a job, write a letter to Payton, and show in supervised visits that she could care for Payton. She wasn’t able to complete any of these requirements.

Towards the end of Payton’s time in foster care we sat down with case workers and made a plan for future contact with Payton’s bio family. In her case it included extended family members as well as her birth mom. Because Susan hadn’t been able to stay in one place, the case workers set it up so that we would correspond with Payton’s bio aunt Jana* through the Department. We agreed (as did they) to send letters and pictures twice a year to the Department of Human Services (DHS) and DHS would then forward those to the aunt, Jana, who would share them with the birth mom, Susan. The bio family was also welcome to send gifts to Payton whenever they wanted.

We heard from Payton’s bio family on her first birthday after her adoption. The family included a photo, gift, and card, in which her cousins wrote, “I hope you have toys to play with.” I kinda felt like taking a picture of Payton’s room and sending it to them. Her bio mom had included a short note in the card.

We didn’t hear from them again for three years. Yeah, three years! I had been sending photos and letters (although I’ll admit I would sometimes go a few months off the target date). Then in January of 2013 I got a call from Payton’s post adoption worker, Marge*, who I barely have any contact with. She said another case worker came to her, saying she was Payton’s bio aunt and she had a gift for Payton. WOW!

So, Jana had got a job at DHS working on children’s cases. For those of you who are looking into doing foster care, please don’t let this deter you, this is an extremely odd case.

When Marge called, she was at work and whispering over the phone. It was weird, and I felt very unsettled. Jana knew our names, which had been intentionally kept private through the process and afterwards (hence the reason why correspondence was done through DHS), and knew Marge was our post adoption worker. More unsettling.
what open adoptions look like

A little backstory. When Payton was place in foster care (she was in five homes, including one failed attempt at placing her back with bio mom within her first nine months of life) this bio aunt, Jana, had been contacted and asked if she wanted to take Payton. She declined, she was pregnant and couldn’t do it.

After Payton was in our home for a few months we were notified that Jana wanted custody of Payton. At the time our county had their brain screwed on, and they denied the transfer, saying that Payton was bonding with us and another move wouldn’t be good for her. (Payton had also been tossed around, living in different homes constantly, and dropped off with strangers while with her bio mom.)

Of course Jana wasn’t happy about the decision, and when she showed up, knowing our names, and talking about us at DHS I was shocked, and worried. I was put on edge and looking around every corner, wondering if someone was going to show up and try to take Payton. Unfounded fear, but it was there.

Marge called again from her cell after work and asked if she could bring the present Jana had left with her. I said she could. Marge was floored that Jana knew our names, who she was, and felt it wasn’t right that Jana had approached her the way she did.

Because there was so much trauma prior to Payton coming into foster care and then through the time DHS worked on reunification, we chose not to tell her where the gift came from, nor the cards and pictures. (Her diagnoses are listed below.) It ended up being a good thing we didn’t because there were three years between the correspondence. In the end it would have caused more trauma for Payton if she’d known.

When Marge brought the gifts in January 2013 she said that bio mom had another baby. The baby had just turned one. This just might have something to do with the reason the family was reaching out to Payton. But, I wish it wasn’t only because of the arrival of another baby that has a birthday very close to my daughters.

In those years when we didn’t hear from the bio family, there was some relief for me. When your child has PTSD, what was diagnosed as Reactive Attachment Disorder (you can read about that here), Oppositional Defiance Disorder, and a mood disorder, all because of her former life, it’s scary to keep that door open. At least for us. It was even scarier and upsetting when the door had been closed (their choice) and they opened it again. Lots of emotions circled, and circled that January right before Payton’s birthday (January 31). Not something I wanted to deal with days before my daughter’s fifth birthday.

When I opened the cards from the bio aunt, Jana, I was put at ease a little. The fear about her showing up faded quickly with the words she wrote, it conveyed that she wanted the best for Payton and she knew she was with a good family who cared about her. She gave me her phone number in case I ever had any questions about their family. She was kind. The note from Payton’s birth mom, Susan, was short and nice, telling Payton about her new bio sister.

But, what if Payton had contact with them before? What happens when they drop off into oblivion? How does the hurting child feel? Those memories of neglect come back. Those feelings of not being important come roaring in.

This year I was certain we would receive another gift and card from them. We didn’t. It’s now May, and it’s been sixteen months since we’ve heard from Payton’s bio family.

My husband happened to run into Payton’s birth mom, Susan, at the grocery store last week as I was working on these posts about birth families. It’s the first time we’ve seen her outside of DHS in 2009. She now lives in our area, and had her daughter with her. Susan called out to Justin in the store, and they chatted. I was concerned about how her and her daughter were doing, but Justin said both looked good. I’m really glad.

Each adoptive family makes their own choices as to what the openness will look like. Your open adoption may not look like your friends and that’s okay. Ours is a story of how there can be ups and downs in open adoption, but that you always need to take into consideration your child and your family.

*Names changed to protect privacy.

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sharing Lovin’ Adoptin’ helps families thrive

Last week I received a comment on my blog saying, “I was suggested this website by my cousin. I’m not sure whether this post is
written by him as nobody else knows such details about my trouble…”

I replied that I’m not her cousin, but I hope that what I’ve written helps her.

I share this because this is why I write, to help families thrive, I don’t just want them to simply survive. Nor do I want families broken because they don’t feel they can handle their children’s behaviors and attitudes.

It’s so exciting when someone shares what they read here and in turn it helps another family, bringing joy, peace, connectedness to what was only strife before. I encourage you to share with others what you feel is helpful here. It’s wonderful when people can support each other and make life better.
%22We are all responsible for everyone in our community

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birth family relationships (adoption/foster)

birth family relationships
My cousin, Dawn*, and I were teenagers when we sat on her living room floor flipping through a photo album. On the first page my Aunt Deidre* was pictured with a big smile, holding a precious baby with an adorable beauty mark on her forehead.

That day, Dawn shared with me that her mom had offered to give her birth mom’s information to her when she turned eighteen. My Aunt had told Dawn she could contact her if she wanted.

Like most families with adopted kids, I never saw Dawn as being adopted, although I knew she was, it never stuck out in my mind. So, when she brought this up I was a little surprised, and many questions surfaced in my mind about how her mom must feel, about how difficult it would be to say, “Here’s your birth mom’s name, if you’d like to contact her.”

Then Dawn expressed that she didn’t want to search out her birth mom. She said she didn’t need to talk to her or go looking for her because, as she said,

“My parents are right here.”

Dawn is now in her early thirties, and her love for her adoptive mom shines. She still has not searched out her birth mother, and doesn’t have the desire to.

I share this because these aren’t the stories that are circulated, the ones we hear about are those who go searching for their birth parents because they feel a void in their life, they feel there are unanswered questions, they don’t feel their life is complete. It’s great to hear those stories, but we miss out on the ones where adoptees are content and don’t feel the need to have a close relationship with their birth mom.

I came across another similar story last year. Justin and I shared our foster/adoption story at church for National Adoption Awareness Month and afterwards we welcomed any questions. I met Jessica* and later talked at length with her on the phone. She was adopted and is considering adopting.

Jessica asked questions and told me about her search for her bio mom, only because she wanted medical information. After traveling across states, trying to get records which are sealed, and hiring lawyers, she has yet to get access to her birth family information.

As we talked she came to a realization that hadn’t hit her until that moment on the phone, which was how much her adoptive mom went through emotionally. She said, “My mom is very sensitive, and I never realized until now how hard so much of this has been for her.” Jessica was referring to the beginning stages of her parents adopting her, to the pain her mother must have felt when Jessica expressed she want to look for her birth mother, even if the only reason was for medical purposes.

She cried and she told me over and over how close her and her mother are, how much she loves her, and how much our conversation showed her the sacrifices her adoptive mother had made. It wasn’t my goal in the conversation at all, but it’s what she saw, and really seemed to be what she needed.

Her love for her mom was enviable in a way, just as my cousins love for my Aunt Deidre.

I think both of these stories show that not everyone has a deep desire to be connected to their birth mom. If someones does, it’s perfectly fine, but those are the majority of stories we hear. Jessica’s and Dawn’s aren’t talked about, and it seems it’s becoming taboo to do so. Their stories are beautiful to me because I see deep love and a bond that doesn’t need replaced nor added to. It’s enough for these two women. We don’t hear these stories in the adoption community.
5 factors to consider in open adoption

I struggled for months about writing on this topic. I’ve seen open adoptions worked out in many ways. Some are extremely involved, with the kids spending the night with birth parents, and birth parents visiting for holidays and weekends. Some families allow the kids to talk to their birth parents on the phone, some meet at parks.

When considering what an open or semi-open adoption will look like, consideration must be made for how the child came to adoption, for it happens through many different avenues. Infants are adopted domestically, children are adopted from Russia where they may have been homeless for a time, starved, or abused. Foster children in the US have either been neglected, abandoned, or abused by their bio parents. Each situation need to be weighed individually to assess what involvement the child can handle with their biological parent.

I’ve seen families involve bio parents in their lives with weekly phone calls and monthly visits with the parent who abused the child. I don’t think enough consideration is given to the child when involving bio parents in these situations. I believe so much more harm is done and healing is halted when a child is confused as to where their loyalty lies. Likewise, sometimes children and teens can’t figure out a relationship where their bio parent abused them and yet they’re in constant contact with that parent.

Parents will complain about their child’s behaviors, wetting the bed, sneaking food, aggressive behaviors at school, manipulation, and yet they don’t look at the relationship the child has with their birth parent. These behaviors can definitely exist in hurting kids who don’t have a birth parents constant presence, but if adoptive parents don’t give the child time to heal and put the child first, they are fighting an uphill battle.

So much emphasis has been placed on the birth parents today that I feel strongly that children’s needs and desires aren’t being met.

We have a semi-open adoption with our daughter, Payton’s, bio mom and Aunt, and I’m glad for the way we’ve handled it. If it would’ve been done differently, Payton would’ve been damaged even more emotionally, and she already had a hard enough time as it was. Next week I will share what our semi-open adoption looks like.

Each family involvement with birth families will look different, and in all cases, there needs to be balance. Involvement with birth families will also look different depending on your child’s chronological and developmental age. What is your child saying to you (verbally and through actions) they want?

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

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why Grandma & Grandpa’s parenting techniques don’t work with adopted/foster kids

In March, Rebecca Vahle of the Adoption Perspectives radio show interviewed me. In the interview below, we discuss why “normal” parenting techniques don’t work with adopted and foster children. We went over things such as:

  • why it’s okay to give a child attention when they’re acting out
  • why people want us to parent differently, and why it doesn’t work
  • why time-in is better than time-out
  • where our children come from and why time-out is harmful
  • why raising a traumatized child looks different than raising a biological child

Get out your iPod, iPhone, Android and listen in the car, while you’re doing laundry, or listen on the web:

Have you used time-out with your foster or adopted child? How did it work? Have you tried time-in? How did it work?

You can receive every post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. You can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter for more helpful information and links. Be sure to share with anyone who would benefit!

is love enough? (adoption/foster)

Is love enough?
Pam Parish, a woman who writes insightful words over at www.pamparish.com,  asked for input on the “love is not enough” idea in a Facebook adoption group. I had quite a lot to say about the subject since I’d heard Nancy Thomas speak on “Love is Not Enough.” I had disagreed with Nancy to a point, and I constantly hear other parents use those words, “Love is not enough.”

Here’s what I shared with Pam (with a few additions), which she posted on her blog: I think it all depends on what a persons definition of LOVE is. Is love putting a roof over a child’s head, providing clothing, toys, entertainment, taking them on vacation, being there for them when they need it?

Or, is it much more than that?

Is it providing consequences to teach them how to live life? Is it holding them when all they’ve done is push you away? Is it living through the ugly and dirty moments when we feel such hate being slung our way? Is it moving on with each day even though we don’t have strength to even look at the dirty dishes in the sink?

I feel it’s all of the above and more.

This is HARD because our children came from HARD. I believe the knowledge of this begins with the original training foster and adoptive parents receive before a child is placed with them. Although we never truly understand what it takes to raise a hurting child until we are living with them day to day, I feel I had a better starting place than many. Because of our training, I was able to empathize with my children and I knew it was going to be HARD.

My love has been enough, but then my definition is probably different than most.

I see where some adoptive parents are coming from, we hear others say, “I would love to adopt, children just need love,” and maybe they don’t realize the amount of “love” a hurting child needs. One mom on the Facebook page said, “Those who look at our family think, ‘Look, all they needed was a family to love them.’ ” But, that family knows how much “love” it has taken to heal their child.

original photo by joeymc86 via freeimages.com

Is love enough? Some might say, no. But does your love include educating yourself and learning about trauma? Love should be all inclusive. As I was working on this post, I received an email from my dad. He had listened to my radio interview, and said, “I know you have developed a relationship with Payton and the two of you are very close. One thing to remember is it is a continual learning process.” I think that process entails love, a love that is willing to try to do the best, and be the best for a child. It includes loving through the process and in the process.

Love is a big word. Our children need a big love and we can do it.

I am rewarded daily for the immense amount of love I’ve poured into both my children. When Payton runs to me after school, yelling, “Mommy!!!” and gives me a big hug, my heart is filled. It used to be that I showed up at her school and she wanted me to leave and didn’t want me to help her with her craft. Now, she WANTS me to sit with her on her classroom floor and read with her. Now she gets slightly jealous if I help other kids in her class, whereas before, she couldn’t care less where I was or what I was doing.

Love is a big word. When children come from trauma, they need a big love to carry them through.


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keep it simple: simple language = understanding (adoption/foster)

keep it simple-understanding
Do you have a young child who doesn’t obey when you ask her to do something? Does your child smile at your from the top of the table when you’ve asked him to get down? Do you have a newly (within the last year) foster or adopted child who is older but doesn’t do what you ask?

It’s definitely possible that your child is ignoring you,

but it also may be that they don’t understand what you want them to do. Today I will give you some steps to help your child understand you, and after you’ve tried this for a few weeks you’ll know if his behavior is stemming from something else. (All behavior is communication so it’s important to get to the bottom of the actual problem.)

When we were working with speech and developmental therapists to help our son, Jeremiah, they suggested I say, “Get down,” instead of, “Get off the table.” The therapists point was first, to keep it short, and second, to end the sentence with the action I wanted to take place. If we say, “Don’t throw sticks,” the child may only hear the last word or two, “throw sticks.”

At first, I didn’t really like the advice. I come from a background in education and I talked to kids in full sentences. I believe children are much smarter than we give them credit for, and I noticed it first in the children I worked with in an educational setting. I had also talked to my daughter, Payton, in full sentences and it worked well. Even though she was in multiple homes while in foster care before coming to us, she still understood.

But each child is different, and although children from similar backgrounds can have comparable behaviors, they can also have some that vary.

While I’ve talked before about how intelligent our hurting children can be, some can have cognitive delays, and most have developmental delays.

A child who comes from multiple homes (multiple foster care placements, biological homes that are unstable) or even a couple, may not have a language foundation for understanding guidelines, in fact, there probably were no set guidelines. Some days they did whatever they wanted and other days parents and caregivers came down with a vengeance, expecting perfection.

So, with this basis of understanding we can give our children a foundation to start on. When telling your child to do something:

  • Keep your sentences short: “Hands off.” “Be gentle.”
  • If your child is young you can do hand-over-hand motions to teach them. For example, if your child is hitting, you can gently take their hand and touch your arm softly with it while saying what you deem appropriate, “Soft hands.” “Be gentle.” You can also show them how to be gentle with an animal in the same way. When children haven’t been taught how to be kind, they don’t know how, when children have been dealt with roughly, they will do the same to others. But they can learn.
  • Try to end your short statement with the action you want to take place. If your child is jumping on the couch and you want him to sit, it’s counterintuitive to say, “Please sit down on the couch.” Saying, “Sit down,” will communicate exactly what you want your child to do. Your child may be hearing only the last word of your sentence, if you’re saying, “Don’t hit,” they only hear the word “hit.” More examples to use are “Get off,” “Get down,” “Hands off.” (It’s great to teach your child how to be polite through the words you use, but you can teach manners in other areas, not when you want an immediate response, and not until they understand what you’re wanting.)
  • Be consistent. If you have a rule like: No Jumping on the Couch, be sure to follow through with keeping your child from jumping on the couch.
  • Move. Your child will know you mean what you’re saying when you walk over to them. This doesn’t mean stand over them authoritatively and have power over them, but they do need to know you’re in charge. They need to know that you feel it’s important they follow the rules of the house. If you don’t participate in helping them follow through and you only yell across the room, they don’t take you seriously.
  • Praise specifically, genuinely, and often when your child does what you ask. You can say things like, “Thank you for sitting.” “That was great listening.” “You were so gentle with your sister.” Praise when you see your child doing positive things, even when they aren’t asked, to reinforce what good behavior is: “I like how you and your brother are playing together.” “You’re sitting at the table so nicely.” “That’s exactly how to use that toy.”


keep it simple
When you have a child who isn’t obeying, you may want to consider their past experiences. Many times you won’t know what that experience was like. Often I hear parents saying, “Their birth parents weren’t abusive, they just didn’t take good care of the kids,” and other such statements. Really, we don’t know what happened in our child’s previous home(s). We don’t know if our child was screamed at, hit, expected to carry far more responsibility than they should, if expectations of behavior existed, whether those expectations varied. And, for a child who speaks a different language, even after learning your language, there can be a communication breakdown, especially with English, as it’s complicated.

We don’t want to belittle our child’s intelligence, so use full sentences when you aren’t asking your child to do something. Simple directions can go a long ways and you can build on them as your child begins to follow those directions.


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