Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Families Grown through Adoption; Foreign Adoption

Two weeks ago I re-posted the first part of an article I wrote for Regarding Nannies sharing some favorite books about adoption for children.  Today I am continuing to re-post that series.  I highly recommend checking out Regarding Nannies web site for great tips and ideas for nannies and parents.  

Over the next few weeks I hope to give you a better understanding of why families choose adoption, an explanation of the types of adoption, some real life stories and tips to help nannies support the families of adoption better.  

There are many reasons a family might choose adoption.   Some families have spent years trying to conceive and found adoption a last effort to have children.  For some families biological conception was never an option.  Some families are able to conceive, may even have biological children but found adoption as another way to grow their family and fill a need.  Whatever the motivation for adoption, when the family makes the decision to adopt, they then need to decide what method and form of adoption they will choose.

There are three basic “methods” of adoption; foreign, private and public.  There are also a three “forms” adoption can take; open, semi-open and closed.  Before we discuss the method it is important to understand the forms adoption can take.  

When a family has an open adoption it means that the child has regular contact with someone in his or her birth family.  If a family has a semi-open adoption the child does not have direct contact with the birth family however pictures, updates and sometimes even letters are sent to the birth family through a third party like the adoption agency.  This is intended to continue contact between parties so if the child and birth family choose at some point, a reconnection can occur.  In most places this legally cannot happen until the child is 18 and the birth parent must also be willing to meet.  Often times in semi-open adoptions the connection is lost at some point due to moving or change of heart.  

Closed adoptions occur when the adoptive family has no contact with the birth family.  This normally happens by choice of the birth parents.  It is important to note that in most states once a child is officially adopted, it is up the discretion of the adoptive family to make the choice whether the “open” status will continue and to what degree.  If an adoptive family notes that it is harming the child to have contact with his or her birth family, they can pull back the amount of visitation or cancel it all together.  However, if possible it is often in the best interest of the child to continue some form of openness.  

The first method of adoption we will talk about is foreign adoptions.  These are families that adopt from somewhere outside of the USA.  Every family making the decision to adopt from outside the country does so for different reasons.  Often times families want to know that once the child is here in the states with them, there is no way he or she can be taken away.  Adoptive parents may also not want the stress that can come from dealing with birth families.  

Though be benefits are great, there are also disadvantages to foreign adoption.  First is the cost.  It can be upwards of $40,000.  The US government offers a nice incentive to adopt, about $12,000 in tax rebates over the following 3 years after the adoption is finalized, but that still leaves the family with a $20,000 + bill.  This option is out of reach for many families.  

Another drawback is lack of information, like birth families' medical histories.  Of course this can occur in any type of adoption where the birth parents are unknown but is more likely to happen in a foreign adoption.  The lack of a medical history can prove to be challenging when trying to diagnose sickness, allergies or diseases.  Often adoptive families have to assume their child has everything in his or her family medical history.  

Adoption is a long process, but foreign adoption can seem like an eternity.  Often times a family will take months to go through the application, home study and be chosen to adopt a child, only to wait again to get to see the child.  Issues can arise like a particular country suddenly being closed to adoption.  This is what happened with Chris and Mike.  After they learned they had been chosen to adopt twin boys from Russia and had seen pictures of them.  Suddenly Russia put all adoptions on hold.  With no idea whether or not they would open anytime soon, Chris and Mike needed to make a difficult decision.  Would they stay the course and pray that Russia opened soon or would they move on and try to adopt from another country.  Chris and Mike chose to stay the course and their boys; Caleb and Josh, are now 12 years old!

Another downside to foreign adoption is that teens go through a period of “finding themselves.”  Adopted teens may want to know more about their heritage, roots and birth families.  There are many programs that can help children learn about the culture of their birth land, but often learning anything about birth families is difficult if not impossible.  This could add to the teenage nature of “rebelling.”  For Sherri and Stacy this is a real concern for her now 8 year old daughter adopted from China. Elizabeth was left on the steps of the orphanage when she was just a day old.  They have no information to console her with but the clothes she was left in and their understanding of the social climate that led to her surrender.  Sherri feels it is a double edged sword and she wonders how her daughter will deal with when she is older.  

Check out the other articles on adoptions:


Families grown through adoption: BOOKS

Families grown through private adoption

Families grown through public adoption

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Should I lie down in my child's bed at night?

Every family is unique.  This is never more true than when it come to sleeping arrangements.  While some of your families have no issue with what is called a “family bed” (children sleeping in the same bed with their parents while they are young) it will just not work for others.  For those that find it difficult to get a good night of rest with their children in the bed or for parents that simply need their own space, bed time can be a nightmare when your child refuses to go to sleep. The pleading “Snuggle with me mommy” can be hard to refuse.  When it happens, the last thing you want to do is ignore the request for love and positive attention.  Beware, it is very easy to fall into the habit of sleeping in your child’s bed and is one of the more difficult habits to break your child of.  Once your child becomes accustomed to falling asleep with you next to her, she will have a hard time going to bed without you.  

Unless you are okay with this becoming a long term event, I strongly advise parents to not ever fall asleep with your child in bed.  There are authentic needs your child might have (fear, sickness, overwhelmed or sadness) so don’t disregard your child’s desire for connection with your through these means.  However, there are many alternatives to sleeping with your child in those moments where she needs you. 

You could put a chair next to her bed and sing songs, read a book or be silent as she starts to drift off to sleep.  I like to keep a reclining chair in my children’s bedroom so that we can snuggle together without being in her bed.  For a short period of time, you could snuggle with your child in YOUR bed.  Snuggling in mommy or daddy’s bed is a very special treat at our house but also needs to be used with caution. 

Whichever technique you use, it is important that you leave the room before your child falls asleep.  This is important because if you leave the room after she is asleep, she most likely wake in the middle of the night expecting you to be there.  Even if you verbally tell her you plan to leave the room when she falls asleep, she will be looking for you.  In most children this will cause an alarmed feeling.  She may eventually remember that you told her you would leave when she fell asleep but the damage is done.  She is now awake and will remember only the panicked feeling she had about it.  So the next night when you go to put her to bed she will be even more insistent that you stay in her room.  You now have a bad night time cycle.  She wants you to stay with her, you stay until she is asleep, you leave when she falls asleep, she wakes to find you gone and then next night remembers the feeling of you not being there with her, so she wants you to say with her……..

By giving your child extra night time attention before she is asleep without sleeping in her bed  you are meeting her need to connect with you and making her feel safe.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Families Grown through Adoption: Books

From “Bragelina” to the family next door, adoption is everywhere these days.  I recently wrote a series of articles for Regarding Nannies on the topic.  These blog posts are reprinted from there.  I highly encourage you to check out their website.  It is chock-full of great tips for not only nannies but any parent!!  

It is very common for a nanny to work for a family that has adopted or is in the process of adopting a child.  Being a nanny and adoptive mom myself, I have a unique view of it.  In the next few weeks I will be sharing a little of my experience as well as the experience of a few other nannies, hoping to help you – my nanny friends understand the motivation behind adoption and learn some ways you can better support the adoptive families you might work for.  

Books are a great way to introduce children to new ideas and events without ever having to experience them.  I love to take a trip to the library every time my children and charges begin to explore something and pick up a few books on the topic.  It has helped many children in my charge transition to new things.  

Naturally I find books are a fantastic way to help children understand adoption to be both normal and wonderful.  Very young children will not understand there is anything different or unique about being adopted but as he or she grows and sees other families, they might start to wonder and ask questions.   Children’s books range from helping with single families, multiracial families, same-sex parents, international and foster families.  The books listed below are just a few of my personal favorites and the favorites of a few adoptive parents and nannies I talked with.  I hope you find them helpful.  

A Mother for Choco

God Found us You by Lisa Tawn Bergren and Laura J. Bryant  - good for closed adoptions and religious - another favorite of mine (ages 4-8)

Over the Moon by Karen Katz good for foreign adoptions (ages 2-4)

I Love You Like Crazy Cakes by Rose A Lewis and Jane Dyer – good for foreign adoption (ages 2-4)

Just in Case You Ever Wonder by Max Lucado – not specifically for adoption but is universal and religious (ages 4-8)

You are My I Love You by Maryann K. Cusimano- not specifically for adoption but is universal (ages 4-8)

Did My First Mother Love Me by Kathryn Ann Miller- good for children that begin to ask questions about adoption (ages 5-10)  

Shaoey and Dot by Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman – good for foreign adoption and religious (ages 4-8)

Shades of Black by Sandra L. and Myles C Pinkney- not about adoption but good for white parents with children with darker skin (ages 4-10)

Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis – not specifically for aboption but works well (ages 2 -4)

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by by Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury – not specifically about adoption but works well (ages 4-8)

A Personal Touch of Adoption collected by Berlin Peter - collection of stories about real adoptions (ages 4-12)

Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell good for same sex couples (ages 3-8)
Wherever You Are, My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman – good for children in foster care (ages 4-8)
I don’t have many suggestions of books for teens and young adults about dealing with the stress they have so please feel free to comment on the post if you do!!!

Even if you don’t work for or have a family grown through adoption these are great books to check out. All children would do well to understand adoption a little better.  I hope you take a trip to the library and find some of your favorites.  

Check out the next posts about Adoption

Families grown through foreign adoption

Families grown through private adoption

Families grown through public adoption

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Why does my child throw a temper tantrum at the worst possible moment?

You are having a great day.  Your child is using her listening ears and making good choices.  Then you have to go to the grocery store.  When she momentarily diverts from the good choices she has been making you gently remind her what the consequence will be if she chooses to not pay attention.  Right there in the middle of the dairy section she loses it; full blown temper tantrum. 

Children seem to pick the very worst time to have a temper tantrum.  Maybe that is just our perspective but they seem to.  There are a few reasons for this. 

The first is that it works.  Even if you are the most focused parent there are going to be moments in the day when you are distracted.  Your child knows that when something else takes your attention, that is their best opportunity to get away with something they have wanted to do all day.   To some degree parents need to expect and accept this.  We adults do this too--try to get away with little indiscretions here and there when no one is looking.    

If this meltdown is at the end (or middle) of a long day that could mean your child is hungry or tired.  You can greatly reduce these public meltdowns by making these needed trips at the beginning of the day or after naps.  You can also be sure to keep healthy snacks close by to cut down on hunger tantrums.    

Allowing your child to have some choice about when these trips take place can go a long way too.  Options empower children and will often help your child follow directions better.   “Do you want to play with the trucks for 10 min before we go to the store or after,” “Do you want to go to the bank or the store first?” 

I think the most effective method in ending these public temper-tantrums is to giving your child the opportunity to let out any frustration he might have before going on your errand.   If your child needs to be reminded several times of a rule, that is a good indication he is reaching a “boiling" point, meaning that his temper-tantrum is close to happening.  Heading out to do errands when he is on edge  is not a good idea on your part.  Instead try setting a limit that you know will put him over the edge about 30 min before you leave.  Then let him have his meltdown in the comfort (and privacy) of your home.  Sometimes children just need to let out all the frustration they have felt from the last week of following us around. 

Put yourself in his shoes.  If my spouse dictated when I went to the store, what I played with and when I had to stop, I would not be half as “compliant” as most children are.  There are very few choices children have in this world.  Let’s give them more credit for all they do.