Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Couple Uses Own Money To Assist Families Looking to Adopt

The cost of adopting can be discourage many couples looking to adopt an infant domestically. Whether using an adoption agency or adopting privately, the expenses are still relatively high for most low income families.

A New York couple has set out to bring low income families looking to adopt the hope they're searching for. After experiencing the costs of adoption first hand and realizing that these costs would likely be out of reach for many families, Becky Fawcett and her husband determined they would use their own personal savings to assist other families with adoption expenses. In 2007, they founded Help Us Adopt, a non profit organization that has assisted with more than $300,000 in adoption expenses for low income families. Read The story here

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Birth Mom - Missing Your Own High Expectations Is Not Failure!

Every parent wants the best for their child. Mother's who have placed their child in an open adoption often have an unattainable dream of what she is going to do to have the best relationship with her child.

Rebekah, a 39 year old birth mother of a now 5 year old reflects on the high expectations that she set. Her reflections find her falling short of the goals that had, but her conversation with her son's adoptive mom helped her to see that what she thinks is a list of failures over the years, are actually a list of highlights in her son's life.

Read the full story here

Friday, October 31, 2014

Birth Mothers - Explaining to Your Children That You Placed One of Their Siblings for Adoption

A birth mother's plight is arguably one of the toughest situations a young mother can face. Placing your child in the care of parents that you may have only met a few months before brings sleepless nights, endless worrying, and grief that can take a lifetime to overcome. The difficult decision to place a child for adoption is the first experience with motherhood for most birth mothers.

This is the story of Rebekah, a birth mother who was already parenting four children. With siblings already in the picture, the pain and anguish that a birth mom typically experiences is multiplied. Rebekah herself not only has to deal with the emotions of relinquishing her child, but she has to help her children through some of the very same trials that she has. Read her story about how she had to explain to her children that she was placing her son for adoption

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Call. You Know The One...THE Call.

Are there certain things you wish you'd known before you received The Call?

No matter how long a family has been waiting, when they finally receive The Call, their homes inevitably look like the departure scene in one of our favorite movies, "Home Alone".  Most people are usually rushing around, missing things, but usually not people. So if your journey begins early,  consider having a plan!

Sometimes it is difficult to believe that, after waiting for some time to start a family, The Call actually comes! Some families have not previously been matched with a birth mother, so the call can indeed be a surprise. Often, couples feel the emotional and psychological risk of having too much ready may put a "curse" on things. And for even other couples, they expect to be matched with a baby locally, so they don't think to plan to be away from home - for any length of time. And, if you're anything like me, my basic human tendency is to procrastinate!

As an agency, and with input from those of us (most of us) who are adoptive are a few suggestions:

You can't ever be too prepared.
If you can handle seeing constant reminders - the nursery just waiting to be occupied, a packed diaper bag - try to have a few of these things ready. Some people may not want lots of "baby stuff" in the house, but in retrospect, most wish they had left at least a few items with a loving family member or understanding friend, so that what you need is accessible when you need it. (You're never really prepared "enough," so don’t worry about it. And as always...remember that adoption is not a's a journey!

Expect it - Surprise!
Try to relax and remain flexible, as plans do change - whether due to birthparent's situation,  baby’s needs, even weather, and many other factors well out of your control. (Think Hurricane Irene...etc...)  Sometimes unpredictability leads to a more positive experience. (and certainly prepares you for parenthood - the most unpredictable adventure in life!)  While a few parents are annoyed by things like ICPC taking longer than expected, others find the great joy in having a little extra time with baby all to themselves before coming home and sharing baby with everyone for the rest of their lives.  Little attitude adjustments along the way make all the difference in the world. 

You're not alone.
Even if you're adopting for a second or third time, the process, no matter how prepared you are,  isn't always familiar. As time goes along, ask for details and ask any questions. Be assertive. Clarify with the case manager or social worker different instructions as they come your way.  When should you go to the hospital? And when you arrive, where and whom will you be meeting? These are questions you may need answered more than once, as it's sometimes hard for excited new parents to retain all the information that comes throughout the journey. 

Set up a "family and friends plan".
Who will you will tell what - and when - as the time comes. There are lots of emotions that will surface, but think about if you want an e-mail blast to everyone in your contacts or a mass text...or maybe just one phone call to a specific person who will spread the word.  Facebook posts usually aren’t the best idea. (My husband and I opted to call only our parents and siblings.

Be logical.
If you do end up going outside your home state, how will you handle things that can happen when you are away from home. Sometimes a quick e-mail to a neighbor can make sure your mail will be picked up and newspaper brought in. Grandparents love to be needed, especially for important tasks like getting the house ready for your arrival home, shoveling snow, or washing baby clothes

What about the big homecoming?
Who will you want there? What is the smoothest transition for you and your new baby? The day we bring your new little one home will be joyful, and probably a little anxious. Maybe get a bite to eat and do a little final shopping while birthparents finish up paperwork. When the time comes, you will not want to waste a moment of time in getting home.  And when you do, you will want to know who will be there excitedly waiting for you!

And finally....
I can think of nothing more fulfilling than knowing someone chose us to parent her child. No matter how much stress there may be through the journey, and even surrounding The Call itself, remember what is most important!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Same Family...Different Stories

Families with more than one adopted child obviously have children with different stories about how they joined the family. There are families who have of both biological children in the family and children who became part of the family through adoption. And of course, all families have children adopted through different adoption processes – domestic, international, perhaps all international but from different countries, public or private domestic adoption, and the list goes on and on. Even children who are adopted through the same process, e.g. private domestic (agency or independent adoptions) will certainly have their own unique story.  

The various differences create both enriching experiences as well as some interesting challenges.

One of the most important challenges for parents usually relates to concerns about siblings relationships and the perception each child has of his place in the family: “Was it better to be born or adopted into my family?” “Are we real sisters?” or “Do Mom (or Dad)  like you the most because you are the same color as they are?” In addition, they may worry about how outsiders’ comments about the family.  Most parents hope for wonderful, peaceful, and close relationships between their children, but as parents, we know that realistically this is not always be the case. No matter how we all grew up, parents can't predict how sibling relationships turn it becomes important for adoptive parents to understand that when there is sibling friction or rivalry, it is not likely that it is due to how the child(ren) joined the family.  In fact, it's probably just very normal!  We must remember that sibling relationships are so complex – so much is dependent on each child’s unique personality and temperament ... so sibling relationships are not always easy to influence--or control.
That being said, there are many ways for parents to help to influence sibling relationships in a positive way.

Comparisons (ick!)
For adoptive parents with more than one child, an important task is to diminish comparisons that might imply there's a difference in children’s role or "status" in the family because of the route they joined the family. For example: parents need to be free to express their positive feelings about giving birth to a child as well as the joy they have experienced through the adoption of another child. We can't deny our feelings in an attempt to protect children from the realities of these wonderful differences. A family who was there for one child’s birth can be glad for that experience as well as the excitement of flying to Texas to pick up their daughter. Through both indirect and direct ways, parents must continually send the message to their children that how each child joined the family is different - and wonderful - not better or worse.

Unfortunately, despite our repeated attempts at sending this message, children may reach their own conclusions about the differences and decide that their story was the "best" way or the "worst" way compared to a sibling’s. Sometimes a biological child may think it’s better to have been born to parents than adopted, but he just might also think that his sibling’s adoption story is so interesting and exciting that maybe adoption is better. (I'm pretty sure my biological children think adoption is the "best".  We gotta work on that!) When adopted children compare their stories, they may decide that one is “better” than the other - “He came as a baby so Mom and Dad love him more.” or  “She’s the luckiest. She gets presents from her birth mother and gets to visit her, and I don’t know my birth mother at all.”) Sometimes one child may have more information about his birth family than his sibling(s); one child has a picture, another doesn’t; one knows about both birth parents, another only about his birthmother, etc., all of which can potentially create feelings of confusion and jealousy.

Some parents try to minimize their children’s pain by denying one child something to try to protect another. For example, they may want to limit contact with one child’s birthmother because there is no possibility of contact for another child. This would be a big mistake because the child without contact could benefit enormously from contact with his siblings’ birth parent despite the possible jealousy or pain it may cause. We have no contact with our 10 year old's birthmother (the birthmother wanted a closed adoption once she placed). We have an open adoption with our 3 year old's birthmother. When her birthmother came to town several months ago, having her visit with our family, even though our 3 year old didn't understand that this was her birthmother, I feel our 10 year old really enjoyed visiting with this birthmother and asking her questions.

In another example, I heard a story heard recently of an adoptive mother of two children who are now adults.  The adoptive mother never gave her first child a blanket that had been knitted for him by his birthmother because she didn't have anything to give the other adopted child. It seems it would be better to not deprive one child of something meaningful and special, and instead, try to help the other child develop coping skills for sadness, disappointment, and even anger.

Comparisons are rarely a good thing, especially in adoption.  Parents may want to consider making a family policy that differences are not to be used to hurt each other... but again, as parents, we know we can't control what goes on all the time. If parents try pick up on hurt feelings from their child, they can be more ready to provide reassurance and comfort to the child. They will be able to offer reassurance that what the child has heard (or maybe feels) from a sibling does not match the parents’ feelings and attitude. It is crucial, however, to never discount the feelings of the child. Perhaps the parent could say, “I know you wish you had been with us when you were a baby, like your sister was. It seems that you're worried we might favor him because of that, but that’s not at all how Dad and I feel. We love you. But I certainly understand how you might feel this way.” Providing reassurance and validating feelings leaves the door of communication wide open for a child to express more feelings...ahh...every parent's goal!

Regardless of the route in which children entered the family, it is crucial for them to have a clear understanding of the reasons the family decided to adopt each child. As Holly van Gulden points out in Real Parents, Real Children, "it is important for children to believe the parents’ motivation was based on love for a child, not a cause or some need the child would fulfill. Adopted children do not want to grow up believing that they were, in effect, a project for the parents. In bio/adopt families, if a child was adopted first into the family, they may also think they are no longer needed when the parents become pregnant. Birth children may think their parents adopted because they were not the right gender (or race). These thoughts may seem absurd or irrational to adoptive parents, but they may make perfect sense to their children. With this realization, parents can proactively make statements to help defuse the power of these musings." Read that again.  It's beautiful.

Promote Your Children’s Individual Strengths
A great way to ensure that children feel equally valued is to be very clear about the each unique and special characteristics each child brings to the family. As parents, we often connect to our children for different reasons, and sometimes it's easier to connect with one child than to another. (And siblings, too, may connect for reasons having nothing to do with how they came into the family.) When families embrace a shared family culture that is based on differences as well as similarities that are valued by everyone, they are able to weather doubts about their connections to their parents. For example, a family who has been more geared toward academics can celebrate the uniqueness of a child who is athletic and recognize in a positive way that this talent is definitely a gift from the child's birth parents!

Providing Children With Individual Attention
Can we ever do this enough? It seems so obvious, but it's is not always easy for parents to give each child in the family individual quality time. Different amounts of attention may be based on the child’s particular needs (a child who has learning disabilities certainly needs more help with homework) or stage of development – (a toddler definitely requires more help.) But children can perceive these differences incorrectly, and despite our reasonable and lengthy explanations, they still worry that attention differences are favoritism. Given this reality, as parents, let's be aware of our children’s feelings and acknowledge them. And of course, children can also try to manipulate parents into paying attention- or even get certain privileges– by charging that they are being treated unfairly: “You let him go with his friends, why can’t I?”) Try to not overreact when children try to use adoption as a hook - like, “You aren’t my real mother!” or “You love him more because he’s white like you!"and the list goes on and on...again...'normal' childhood behavior.

If we are consistent with our love and reassurance, and open and honest when questions come up, we are creating a family that is able to celebrate differences - and similarities - appropriately, and hopefully create love and harmony in our homes.  And isn't that ultimately the goal of all parents...adoptive or otherwise? 

Monday, August 15, 2011

It Happened. Again.

Ok Parents: Gear up.  It happened again.

As parents of adopted children, we are aware that eventually questions will arise with our children regarding where they came from and why.  I guess I am lucky that the detailed questions haven't happened for 10 years. But it's happening now. And no matter how prepared we are for it, it's still a challenge. And it is painful.

This week my 10 year old, Meg, (our first adoption) has been very introverted, quiet, and emotional.  One night as we lay snuggling in my bed, (admit it---it's the favorite thing for any parent!) she just started sobbing. Not the "I-want-something-you're-not-giving-me" or the "I-didn't-get-my-way" or "I'm-so-tired-I-can't-function" cry, but the "My-heart-hurts-and-I-can't-articulate-why" cry. So I asked her: "Please tell me what's bothering you so I can help you."  And she answered.

"Why didn't T. [her birth mom] want me? Why did she give me away?"

Ouch. Again. Oh my heart hurt. Almost as much as hers, I'm sure.

No matter how loving a placement is, the thing that has to occur before the loving placement is rejection by the most important person in any child's life: their birth mother. And no matter how much they are loved in their adoptive family, no matter how much we use the adoption-friendly vocabulary, they still have those questions that their little brains ask but aren't mature enough to process the answers.  So we have to try to answer those questions the best way possible.

As Meg and I talked, she kept wanting to know where T. is. I told her truthfully that I have no idea. In the past, we have encouraged Meg to journal as best she can, her feelings. Sometimes they are phonetically spelled entries, sometimes they are pictures she draws. But at this point, journaling doesn't seem to be enough.  After a lengthy and tearful discussion, I suggested we write letters to T. and make a special "mailbox" to put them in until we "find" her.  Will we find her? Probably not.  But until then, Meg can write letters to her anytime she wants and place them in this special box.  We had a great time Mod Podge-ing an empty graham cracker box and cutting a slit in the top to place her letters to T.  (The good news is that making this box was far less pressure filled than the Valentine Day boxes we all hate so much!)

Meg's first letter was this:

"Dear T.,
I Miss you sooo Much. Wiy DiD you Give Me away Wiy Did you not want Me I Loved You so Much. Did I have a DaD/ and DiD i have sisters and berthrs to? DiD you Smok or Drec? I am 10 Naw.
I love you sooo Much. Please com Find Me.
Love MEG"

And we put it in the box.  Meg asked if I wanted to write to T. too. Uh...ok.  So I did.  My letter - which I let Meg read before it went in our special box - was mostly letting T. know how much we love Meg. I told her how amazing and smart and wonderful Meg is. And how grateful we are that she is ours.

We will work this through.  We have to.  And we will.  We are letting Meg process this as she is able and "allowing" her to have whatever feelings she has. 

As all adoptive families will share, the decision to adopt brings with it countless issues and challenges as well as amazing pleasure and joy. Adopting a child of another race or culture adds additional elements to prepare for and consider. Not only is it an examination of personal beliefs regarding race and ethnicity before adopting a child of another race or culture necessary, but parents really need to explore their ability to tolerate being considered "different".  And the child's struggles to be considered "different".  Many families comfortably embrace being atypical. Their friends and countless others will support their choice, them, and the adopted child. Others need to be honest and realistic; they, their friends and family members, may be uncomfortable with standing out from the norm and not provide much support for the family or adopted child.  
As we say frequently at Heart to Heart: "IT IS WHAT IT IS."  Adopting transracially is difficult as the child grows up.  As they grow and mature, their questions grow as well. And often, their little brains and hearts cannot process the questions they have.  So again, we do the very best we can to keep our children loved, secure, and safe in knowing they are treasured.

Adoption authorities foresee the number and need for transracial adoptions will continue to increase over the coming years.  As in marriage, true love is not enough to make any adoptive placement successful. However, with unconditional commitment, dedication, and LOTS of love, the likelihood success dramatically increases. Whether of differing cultures or ethnic backgrounds, one of the best things adoptive parents can do for their adoptive child and themselves is simply to enjoy them, to treasure and celebrate likenesses and difference,s and to let the child know they are a special and wanted child.  In the meantime, there are many letters going in Meg's special box. She seems happy and content.  Just getting those feelings out sometimes is enough. And through it all, Meg knows she is adored by her family.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Where's the Handbook? Manual of Directions? Guidelines?

There isn't one! There aren't guidelines for learning how to instill pride in a child who has been adopted transracially.

When my husband, Mat, and I first looked into adoption, we were laser focused on how to adopt a baby rather than how to parent a child who would create our transracial family. We read everything we could find about successfully adopting, and spoke to anyone we could on the subject.  We had dear friends who had adopted transracially, and were aware of some of the challenges that would arise, but less aware on how to tackle them.

When we became the proud adoptive parents of our sweet Meg, we dove right back into studying once again; trying to learn all we could from our favorite experts: Beth Hall, Amy Ford, Rhonda Roorda and Rita Simon, as well as the good old experts -  Dr. Spock;, T. Berry Brazelton, Penelope Leach, etc.

This year, Meg turned 10.  TEN!  And now our focus has shifted again - this time to a something that's a bit harder to master through the books. As white parents of a black daughter, we are now rushing to stay ahead of our Meg's growing sense of identity, her sense of self as a unique individual.  I find myself proactively looking for answers to questions she may ask, while at the same time trying to give her a solid sense of who she is even before she even asks.

When we experienced our first adoption 10+ years ago,  the amazing resources available today did not exist. Sometimes I'm grateful it didn't - I wonder if so much knowledge at the very beginning of the process would have scared us too much to proceed with a transracial adoption. Still, I am very grateful for the education now; at least we know what's ahead and how to proceed.  With our last adoption three years ago, I feel we were much more prepared and educated.  With a transracially adopted child, we have a responsibility to educate these children every day and help them feel secure, grounded, and proud of their race and place in this society, family, and world.

To fulfill that responsibility, some experts recommend:
o interacting with people of your child's race
o living in diverse neighborhoods
o finding same race mentors and role models for your child
o advocating for unbiased learning materials in the commnity - the library, school, etc.
o confronting racism openly and proactively 
o understanding and providing special maintenance to hair and skin
o celebrating all cultures
o creating a positive cultural environment at home

Unfortunately, there is no formula to assure that a child will grow up feeling proud of his or her ethnic heritage. We are the kind of people who like making lists and checking things off - especially my husband.  I like to see that plan and follow it through; Mat, like most men, just want to "fix" everything. We have many friends who have adopted transracially, joined diversity groups, read books and gone to workshops, attended cultural festivals as a family. In fact - most parents involved in transracial adoptions make similar efforts. The majority of we who adopt are deliberate parents; we want to do right by our kids - especially because we have worked so hard and waited so long to get them.

Facing Challenges

Ultimately, we have had to come to terms with an inescapable reality: we cannot master transracial parenting. No matter how many things on the list we do, no matter how exemplary we ourselves might be as role models, no matter how much we love our sons and daughters, we cannot be our child's color and part of his or her cultural heritage.  No matter how much I'd like to "be brown" (as Meg says) for a day - or a week, month, or year - it just isn't going to happen.

It's taken years  - YEARS - for me to accept that I'm never going to parent our children perfectly.  However, this news that could be quite discouraging,  was actually quite liberating for me - us. Once we acknowledged the challenges facing us, we could break things down into manageable tasks. Then we did what all parents do: try hard, do our best every single day,  and hope for the best.  HOPE.  It's a great word and a great emotion.

Acknowledging that transracial parenting is not a perfect science, we've learned some valuable lessons along the way...

Diversity is not enough. Diversity is good, but it's just not enough.

We live in a pretty diverse community, with neighbors from Japan, Samoa, New Zealand, Hawaii, and Korea, but our daughter does not find herself reflected in any one of them. Being with "not white" is not enough; transracially adopted kids need people like themselves in their lives. Choosing a certain babysitter, Cub Scout troop, or even hairdresser can influence a child's sense of self.


Years ago, in our blind enthusiam to meet people of Meg's race, we acted as though economic circumstances did not matter, and inadvertently accentuated differences more than similarities. Our family talked a lot about friends who had gone to Africa on service missions.  Yes, it was amazing to hear of the service provided to these people who live a completely different life than us. Their villages were a far cry from our middle class neighborhood at home. It was a wonderful experience, but we learned that we have to seek out more than just race as a common ground.

Trans-racial parenting has been both harder than we imagined, and not so hard at all. While these additional efforts might seem to make things harder, none is really a hardship.Transracial parenting requires different deliberate efforts than same race parenting, but it is so rewarding and so worthwhile. Interestingly enough, what feels difficult about transracial parenting is building a feeling of "ordinariness" into extraordinary days; making experiences into more than just a series of field trips and meeting people, but  creating for our daughters a secure and unified life.

The range of transracial parenting experiences has forced our family out of our comfort zone, and developed an extra measure of  unity and courage in us all. Being part of a mixed race family has challenged us at times, but mostly enlightened us and altered our individual personalities by bringing out great qualities and characteristics we may have never realized. We've had to become more boldly public as a transracial family. We look to proud and successful women of various races for clues on how to raise our daughter. Asking strangers to help in this way can be scary, and we've been rejected before,  but we've also been amazed at openness at time and the value of these discussions. The more we have reached out to people unlike ourselves, the easier it's been building a good rapport with strangers. We've realized that people aren't so different after all. Beyond all its other benefits, transracial parenting inevitably boosted our  family's unity.

We also realized that Meg and Halle might not care as much as we do about all this. Parents are sometimes more motivated to learn about their children's 'culture' than the children are. After we went to great lengths to find and attend a family night with other transracial families, all Meg seems to remember is the  swimming pool and the cotton candy we had at the barbeque.

Transracially adopted children aren't necessarily motivated to learn all they can about their birth cultures, any more than same race children are, but we still feel it's important for our family to be educated. This continuous effort at making ourselves more racially sensitive and aware, however, pushed us toward extremes at times. Once my racial radar goes on, I seem to notice racism everywhere. In our enthusiasm to "do the right things" with Meg, we moved a bit too close to the zealot zone; overdoing our quest for racial enlightenment. In our quest to educate ourselves about Meg's ethnicities, we lost sight of the main goal of enhancing her pride, not ours, in her heritage - while maintaining her secutiry in our family.

Sometimes when I think about the challenges ahead of us, navigating the parental waters with Meg and guiding her from a little girl to a teenager and then to a woman, I get completely exhausted. Fortunately, parenting brings so many rewards to make the journey amazing and worthwhile, and parenting Meg and Halle does seem extra measure special. I do try to remember what Meg's birthmom's parting words to me were: "I am black. You are white. You raise her to be a strong, black woman."   

Our hope is that one day Meg and Halle will make this quest to know whatever they want to know about their heritage. We hope that if that time of searching comes, Meg's early experiences will resonate with a deep feeling of secutiry and confidence. We also want our children - all of them - to know how much we care about who they are, as unique individuals.

We do have fun; serious issues don't have to be somber. We get a  kick out of the interesting reactions our mixed family elicits in some people. We laugh - a lot - at the ignorance we encounter. But we are a more united family for being on this journey together. Transracial families usually feel that they see the world more clearly than others, because we've experienced it from so many different angles than our plain vanilla counterparts.

When all is said and done, I suspect that it's more difficult to be a transracial family; harder for parents and harder for children. Like most things in life, though, the greater the challenge, the greater the reward. For us, the challenge of raising a child with a strong and uplifting sense of self has been frustrating and demanding, as well as enriching and enlightening.

And our journey has barely begun. We find joy in our journey...bring it on! 

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Dreaded False Start

This is one of those delicate and uncomfortable subjects to address: a failed placement.  Those of us who are adoptive parents know - the light at the end of the tunnel is totally worth it - parenthood! But the journey is filled with twists and turns, and, possibly, a major detour.  The bad news: sometimes a family is matched with a birthmother who decides not to place her baby with them  - or even not at all. The good news: almost every prospective parent who faces such challenges goes on to adopt. And these parents say they ended up with the child who was “meant to be” theirs. Here are a few ideas about what you might expect and how you might lessen your risk of an unsuccessful adoption and how to move toward your ultimate goal - parenthood.

When a prospective adoptive family starts the adoption process, you begin with paperwork - lots of it - and then the home study and subseqent approval process.  Once this is complete, your profile is shown to prospective birthmother(s) and then’re matched with a birthmother, not with a child. Many pregnant women explore adoption options, and many change their minds along the way—choosing to parent or selecting a different family to adopt the child. Thus, some adoptive parents may begin working with an birthmother who later changes her mind. Most of these "false starts" happen soon after the match is made, before it’s progressed beyond a single, casual conversation. And at Heart to Heart, we minimize the risk of this by requiring birthmothers to participate in regular counseling, both individual and group therapy sessions.

Unfortunately, there are no surefire ways to avoid a false start, but at Heart to Heart we are able to mitigate the risk because you, as an adoptive family, will be working with our experienced professionals. There are also 'red flags' that sometimes occur when a birthother is unsure of her decision, and the counselors at Heart to Heart are very aware of this, and are able to address those as they arise. Again, there are no surefire ways to avoid a birthmother changing her mind, but at Heart, we put those risks at a minimum.

Good communication between all the parties is a must.  As one of our adoptive mothers stated, "I'd much rather know the risks up front and along the way than turn a blind eye and hope that everything just turns out fine..." The open communication we encourage at Heart, as well as the appropriate counseling we offer, helps the birthmother feel sure about the decision she makes as well as keep the family 'in the loop' and aware of what's going on along the way.

Acceptance of a setback is not easy. Our adoptive family workers help parents understand that what happened was specific to their individual situation. It does not happen every time, and there will be a successful placement in the future. If you stick with the process, you will adopt.  We encourage parents to work through the loss, accept what is not to be, and then keep going down the path. The way you process the loss is a matter of personal preference. Some families jump right back in, seeing no advantage in pulling their name off the list.  Most believe they'd heal best by believing they'd be a family before too long. A few families, on the other hand, prefer to take some time after a false start. The decision is very personal and our experienced counselors and adoptive family workers will help you work through the decision that is best for you.

When a prospective placement doesn’t end in adoption, do not see it as a failure. In the end, the bumps in the road to adoption build great resiliency - something that is very helpful during parenthood!  In fact, the feeling of finally adopting the child who was so clearly “meant to be” is shared by nearly every parent who has gone through such difficult challenges. As difficult as it is to hear "maybe it just wasn’t meant to be,"  it's the truth!  Another adoptive mother shared the following: “I'd always wanted a good relationship with our birthmom  - and I do. I cannot fathom having this relationship with the other birthmom we were matched with. And, of course, I cannot fathom having any other baby! If our previous match had been successful, I wouldn’t have my Elizabeth.”

Bottom line? Hang in there! Although the heartbreak of a failed placement can be great, the desire to be a parent will far outweigh the heartbreak of a placement that wasn't meant to be.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The PLAY Room!

IMG00142-20110316-1622.jpgWe recently moved into a new home. (new to us anyway)  And lucky Halle, our 3 year old, even gets her own play room.I'm  pretty sure I am more excited than her, but I'm admitting it - proudly!  So as I set up the play room, I have big plans:  a dress up area, a 'book nook',  a kitchen area, and a place to play with dolls, Barbies, and the Little Tykes doll house and figures. 


That's where we ran into our first challenge.  We went to pull out the Little Tikes play house and have lost all the "guys"* that go to it. (*the kids call them "guys")  So off we head to Toys R Us to get figures to go with it.  We saw the Fisher Price Loving Family Dollhouse and the figures that go with that.  We found the Little Tikes figures to go with the house we have. 

Here's the thing: have you noticed they don't sell the transracial family pack?  Yeah.  They don't.  They have the Caucasian family and the African American family.  I heard they have an Asian family, although it must have been sold out or something because we didn't see it on the rack.  Anyway, we decided to buy several Caucasian families to represent everyone in our family, and then two Afrcian American families to represent us accurately there.

We brought them home and play time was awesome.  In fact, we have assigned the "extra" figures different roles...people in our lives. And they change every day...different friends or family members.

I understand why Fisher Price, Little Tykes, and every company probably cannot accomodate representing transracial families - or any other kind of "different" family.  But it's yet another reminder that our family is different.  But guess what?

It's ok.

It provided us another open dialogue - again - and let us decide how to view this.  It let us decide to be positive about it - and even laugh about it a little - as we assigned each new figure a name and role. 

I was reminded again that we decide how to handle these seemingly small issues that can be big issues to a child.  But we can make it a fun, positive thing.  And we will!

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Good News!

First, I apologze that so much time has passed since the last blog.  And I appreciate the people I work with at Heart to Heart for being so understanding.  I have had a few personal challenges this month and was unable to blog.  Thank you for hanging in there, dear readers, and thank you to the amazing women at Heart to Heart - especially Donna - for your patience and understanding. 

Now back to business!

We have been working hard with Meg, our 10 year old (and first adoption in our family) to express her feelings.  She has had a hard time with identifying feelings and then she stifles til she blows a gasket.  So we have made a concerted effort to encourage her to stop and think about what she's feeling, put a label on the feeling(s), and TALK about them.  She can get/be as mad and angry and sad and frustrated as she wants.  She can do whatever she needs to to blow of steam, But she has to identify her feelings first.

It's been a work in progress. But we are making baby steps.A few days ago Meg called me and said, "Mom, Mati* (*my 9 yr old) hurt my feelings."

She did it! She put a label to her feelings!! Wahoo!!

So I said, "Meg, I'm so sorry your feelings were hurt.  What happened?"  Apparently my three daughters, Chloe age 11, Meg age 10, and Mati age 9, were all on the bus coming home from school when the incident occurred.  Meg said:
"We were on the bus and some girl said to Mati, 'Are those your sisters?' And Mati said yes.  The girl said, 'Those two?" pointing to Chloe (Caucasian) and Meg (AA).  And Mati said yes.  Then the girl said 'Why is one brown and one white?' And Mati got to say, 'Because Meg is adopted.'  And that hurt my feelings because she said it first! And I wanted to say I'm adopted - first!"

Did I hear this right? Meg had her feelings hurt because Mati said it first.

I said, "Oh Meg. I'm so sorry Mati shared your good news before you could.  I'll talk to her about that.  Mati may just be jealous that you're adopted and she's not."

  Let me just insert here that we have had some funny conversations with Mati regarding adoption.  She went through about a year of asking, "Who's my birth mom?"  and I had to just say, "Me! I'm your birthmom.  Sorry...."  Every time she'd ask it was as if she was hoping the answer would change.  I feel good about that because adoption is such a positive thing in our home that everyone wants to be part of it!

OK back to the conversation about the bus ride home. Then Meg said, "Why did the girl say, 'both of them?' Why would she think we aren't all sisters?"  Big pause.  "Is it because Chloe and Mati are white?"

I said, "Yes."

Meg: "So she didn't understand just because we don't look alike?"

Arrrggghhhhh! It was so sweet and innocent.  She did not undertsand why that girl would question their sisterhood. And then...she assumed it was because Chloe and Mati are white - not because she is brown.

Again, in a way, I was proud.  Because Meg is proud to be brown.  And here's how I know that:
  • Meg is convinced anyone who goes tanning just wants to look like her.
  • She will often take my face in her hands and say, "Mom, I bet you wish you were brown like me, don't you?" And believe me, people, the answer is always yes. 
  • She takes great satisfaction during the summer in always having the best 'tan'.
  • She is convinced every boy in her class has a crush on her.  And she'll say things like, "Tyler has a crush on me - probably because I'm so good at soccer." Or, "Brayden says I'm beautiful - probably because I'm brown." Or, "Marcus wants me to be his girlfriend, probably because I am the best skateboarder and he likes my braids."
Now don't get me wrong here - remember that I'm not sharing all aspects of life - and in our family we work as hard on her feeling beautiful on  the inside as the outside.  But admit it, my Adoptive Parent Friends, we do have to address the brown-ness and make sure our kids are secure in it being a wonderfully positive thing.  And we do it often. Because as I've mentioned in other posts, there are already those who make negative comments - even though it usually isn't intended to hurt.

So when she questioned why someone would questions their sisterhood just because they are different skin color, it was interesting to me that she didn't say "...because I'm black...", she thought it was because Chloe and Mati are white. So my husband said, "Meg, people often notice only what people look like and make judgments. I wonder how many people think, 'Wow, look at all those pasty people in that family!' " And Meg lost it.  She was laughing so hard she couldn't breathe! Then he went on:
"Or maybe they say, 'Hey look at that bald, chubby dad..." or "Look! That mom is in a wheelchair." or "Hey, that baby wears glasses!"

Meg just giggled and giggled.  Because we just got it out there.  No, it wasn't politically correct.  But it was true.  People do think those things when our family walks into a room.  And they think other things about other families. Is it 'right'? Probably not.  Is it human nature? Probably so.  But my husband and I feel like if we acknowledge what's out there - no matter how uncomfortable it may seem - we empower the children - especially Meg - to handle what comes their way.  And we feel like if we can put a positive - or even humorous spin on it - we can empower her, as well as our other children, to respond to things, come what may.

Maybe we aren't handling it the way Dr. Phil would say is appropriate. But again, we all have to find what works in our homes; we have to work with our family dynamic, the child's personality, the child's developmental level and emotional capability, etc.

But bottom line? Meg just wanted to share her own good news:  SHE'S ADOPTED.  AND PROUD OF IT.

You go, girl!