Family Dinner Night Provides Food for the Body, Mind and Heart

Each month, the Permanency Family Center (PFC) hosts a family dinner night at its Washington, DC, office for families that have come to permanency through the DC Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA). What can you expect during family dinner night? Fun, laughter and food, to start! As the elevator doors open on the third floor, you’ll hear children’s laughter and energetic conversations as the delicious scent of pizza wafts through the air.

Staff and families will ask about your day and your family. As you enjoy your meal, families decompress while discussing their life experiences, challenges and triumphs. You’ll be overwhelmed by the sense of camaraderie, familiarity and comfort in the space.

The dinner provides a night free from meal planning and dishes, as well as valuable time for parents to talk with other parents. Kids will have the chance to play with other kids who have similar experiences.

Following dinner, parents and caregivers participate in a group discussion about their families’ experiences and challenges. While the adults are in their group discussion, children have fun in social skills groups with PFC staff.

Come to family dinner night and for a few hours, you can connect, feel rejuvenated and satisfy your physical and emotional hunger!

Adoptions Together holds monthly family dinner nights at their DC office. To register or learn more, email vrichardson@familyworkstogether.org.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​


Placing a Baby for Adoption and Your Hospital Stay

hospital

 

Some women spend eight months planning an adoption for their baby. Others don’t tell a soul they are pregnant. No matter what your pregnancy has been like or how long you’ve known about it, your labor and delivery experience will always be an integral part of your child’s adoption story – and you have the power to control what it will be like. Below are some decisions you may want to make before your hospital stay.

Who is going to be there with you?

Some birth mothers want to be alone before, during, and after labor and delivery, especially if very few (or no) people know about their pregnancy. On the other hand, some birth moms we’ve worked with have had many people in the room. No matter how many people want to be there, you are the person who decides what happens. If your family or friends are against your adoption decision, then it will be up to you to decide who supports you during your hospital stay. Think about what you know about your family and friends and how you can best take care of yourself if they are around and have strong feelings about the outcome of this pregnancy.

If you are the kind of person who needs to have a little bit of separation from others when you are emotional or who gets stressed out about having a lot of people tell you what to do, then you may need to put up a boundary and decide not to have any visitors. Our adoption counselors have been in a lot of hospital rooms where family members were crying and telling the birth mother what they thought she should do, and in many of these cases, the birth mother ended up changing her mind about her adoption plan and deciding to parent because multiple family members had become attached to the baby. Changing your mind is absolutely okay; our point is that you should think carefully about how you will be feeling and who you will want to have supporting you during this difficult and emotional time.

How much contact will you have with your baby afterward?

This is your decision. A lot of birth mothers decide not to see their baby after delivery because they are trying to protect their hearts; they know themselves and feel certain that if they do see their baby, it will be much more difficult to place their baby for adoption if they hold the baby. These birth mothers sometimes feel ashamed about not having any contact with their baby, and we urge them to remember that they know their own needs better than anyone else does and that they know best how to take care of themselves. We will say that the birth mothers who make the difficult choice to see and hold their baby after delivery tend to be better able to process the adoption later on. Those who do not get that time with their baby often find themselves with unanswered questions.

Many times, birth mothers who change their mind about adoption are the same ones who made the decision not to spend much or any time with their baby while in the hospital. In our experience, because these birth moms did not have the bittersweet experience of seeing, holding, feeding, and taking photos of their baby, they never had the opportunity to process the adoption plan. In these cases, a birth mother’s unanswered questions and feelings can then become so overwhelming that she ends up changing her mind about the entire plan. That said, we have also worked with plenty of women who did not see their baby after delivery and did not revoke. Only you can figure out what will work best for you.

How will you name your baby?

The baby will have to be named in the hospital, even if the adoptive family is going to legally change that name later on.  You will be asked about the name soon after delivery. If you do not want to name your baby, your adoption counselor can choose a name for you; if you do want to name him or her, you can pick a name you like, or a name that is meaningful to you, or the name of a family member. Pick whatever you want, but remember that the adoptive family may change this name later on. If you are thinking of using a name to which you are very much attached and you think you will feel hurt if it is changed, discuss this with your adoption counselor so that she can find out how the adoptive family is planning to go about naming the baby.

Find a middle ground.

This hospital stay should be tailored to your needs. You don’t have to choose between ten visitors or no visitors – you can choose exactly who you want to have with you and when. You don’t have to choose between having no contact at all with your baby or having a huge amount of contact – you can choose to spend one or two hours with your baby or to simply look at your baby through the nursery window. And most importantly, you can always change your mind. If you decided beforehand to allow visitors but end up feeling overwhelmed, you can ask them to leave.If you decided not to see your baby but then realize you want to do so after all, you have every right to ask a nurse to bring your baby in to you or to go to the nursery to visit your baby. Keep your adoption counselor in the loop about how you are feeling and what you need, and she will work with hospital staff to make sure you are as comfortable as possible throughout the experience.

If you are planning for adoption and nearing your due date, let us know in the comments section what you think of these suggestions and what your own plans are! And if you made an adoption plan in the past, we’d love to learn more about what it was like for you. Did you have visitors and/or contact with your baby after delivery? How do you feel about those decisions now? 


How to Explain Your Baby’s Adoption to Your Other Children

“Mommy, Where is the Baby?” What To Say to Your Other Children About Adoption

mommy, what

There is no hiding your baby’s adoption from your other children.

Somehow, while you try to take care of yourself, process your emotions, and return to your daily life, you’ll also need to find a way to talk to your other children about their sibling’s adoption.

This may not be easy, but the good news is that you have more control than you realize over how your children respond. Kids process information based upon how it is presented to them; if you present the adoption as a good thing, then that’s how they’ll process it. Here are four important tips to keep in mind when you talk to your children about their sibling’s adoption.

1. Be honest about placing your baby for adoption.

Children always pick up on our emotions, even when we don’t state them out loud. No matter how hard you try to act normal, your kids will realize that something is going on, and if you don’t talk about it they will become confused and even frightened. Don’t try to cover up your feelings – instead, be honest about them. Let your child know that you are going through a difficult time and are feeling down. Most importantly, don’t try to keep the adoption a secret and pretend that nothing has happened or that the baby died. No matter how careful you are about keeping the secret, your child will almost definitely find out about it one day, and consider this: Would you rather your child hear the news from you, or from your aunt when she’s mad at you or your niece when they’re playing together outside?

2. Use words about placing the baby for adoption that they understand.

Honesty is important, but that doesn’t mean you have to explain everything you’ve been through with this pregnancy and adoption to your toddler or very young child. It’s okay to simply say, “It would be too hard for mommy to take care of the baby right now, so the baby is going to live with another family. Sometimes mommy misses the baby and feels sad about that, but she also feels happy that the baby has a family who loves them very much.”

3. Reassure them that they are safe with you.

It is natural for your child to feel upset or uneasy when they learn about the adoption. They will likely be afraid that if the baby went away, you might go away, or that they, too, will have to go live with another family. They’ll need to hear you say frequently that you are not going anywhere, that they are going to continue to live with you, and that you will always take care of them. Children often believe that they are responsible for unhappy events, so you’ll also want to reassure them that it is not their fault that the baby went to live somewhere else or that you are feeling sad.

4. Help them express their feelings about their sibling’s adoption.

Encourage your child to express his/her feelings by drawing a picture or writing a story or poem. Research has shown that drawing and writing reduce children’s anxiety and can also help parents to understand how their child is feeling. While you’re at it, why not sit down and write or draw with them? You’ll both have an outlet for your feelings, and your presence will reinforce the fact that they don’t have to worry about losing you.

Still worried or uncertain about how to address adoption with your other children? Talk to your adoption counselor! They can help you figure out what to say and can even meet with you and your child together.

How did you talk to your other children about their sibling’s adoption? Share your story in the comments section below.


Reading to Prevent the Summer Slide

young girl sitting outside with her dad reading a book

This post is part was written in collaboration with our FamilyWorks Together team.

Have you heard of the summer slide? It’s not the latest theme park attraction or a type of slip n’ slide, but it may be the most important slide out there when it comes to your child’s summer vacation.

Scholastic defines “summer slide” as the “loss of skills during the time when students are not in school.” Research shows that many students, especially from low-income families, return to school in the fall at a lower reading level than when they left for summer break. Data from a 2016 national study of parents with kids ages 0 – 17 showed that 21 percent of kids from low-income families didn’t read any books during the summer, compared to 8 percent of kids from high-income families.

Fortunately, there is an easy way to prevent the summer slide … and it doesn’t involve getting wet! Encouraging your child to read during the summer months can keep their skills sharp.

We know it’s not always that easy, though. Maybe your child doesn’t consider reading a fun summer activity. Or maybe your kid is a bookworm who has already breezed past the school’s list of assigned summer reading books and you’re out of ideas for what they should read next. In either case, see below for a list of our 10 favorite books that you can read together, as well as a way to motivate children to read during their summer break.

As you head into summer, just remember: Reading or listening can be a great way to get them engaged and help them discover the power of a good book (or audiobook). If they’re old enough to read on their own, just seeing you read may be enough encouragement for them to do the same. Head to the library and let them pick out books they’d like to read on the next rainy day, on that family road trip you’re taking or in a sleeping bag under the stars (flashlight required).

Some of Our Favorites

  1. The Book With No Pictures (Age 5+), by B. J. Novak
  2. Fantastic Mr. Fox (Age 6+), by Roald Dahl
  3. One Crazy Summer (Age 8+), by Rita Williams-Garcia
  4. Harry Potter Series (Age 8+), by J. K. Rowling (if you like British accents, check out the audiobook version!)
  5. The Crossover Series (Age 10+), by Kwame Alexander
  6. Half a World Away (Age 10+), by Cynthia Kadohata*
  7. Eighth-Grade Superzero (Age 11+), by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
  8. Finding Miracles (Age 12+), by Julia Alvarez*
  9. Wonder Woman: Warbringer – DC Icons Series (Age 12+), by Leigh Bardugo
  10. A Lite Too Bright (Age 13+), by Samuel Miller

*These books are extra near to our hearts since they’re about children in adoptive families!

Summer Reading Challenges

A fun way to get children reading during the summer is by appealing to their competitive nature. There are many national and local challenges you can choose from to help do this. Your child’s school might even have its own challenge that they can participate in.

Here are some other go-to places for summer reading challenges to get your child into summer reading:

  • Your local library, which likely has a number of age-appropriate summer reading programs
  • Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge (teachers or librarians can register kids for the challenge, which features free book lists, reading logs to track progress and even short animated book excerpts)
  • Barnes and Noble summer reading (read any eight books on their list and record them in a journal to win a free book)
  • Pizza Hut’s Book It! summer reading activities with Candlewick Press (free downloadable activity kits that correspond with kids’ books)
  • Brightly Summer Reading Challenge for Kids (printable list of 20 creative, interactive ways to engage your child in summer reading)
  • We Need Diverse Books Summer Reading Series (promoting books — and a world — in which “all children can see themselves in the pages of a book”)

How are you engaging your child in summer reading this year? What has worked for you in the past? Tell us in the comments below!


What Happened to Family First? Separating Families at the Border in 2018

toddler crying with border agent at mexico us border

 

In February, 2018, President Trump signed the Family First Preservation Services Act into law. Known as the Family First Act, this sweeping legislation was the biggest change to the structure of federal child welfare funding since 1980.  Aimed at allotting more resources to help vulnerable families remain together and limit the number of children who end up in foster care, the Family First Act is broken into three main parts. Today, we’ll focus on the parts of Family First that help keep families intact and why it’s important in June, 2018.

Family First: Focusing on Services that Help Families Remain Together

The Family First Act changed how states can use Title IV-E funding (entitlement funds that pay for child welfare) to prevent children from entering foster care systems across the United States. Before its passage, Title IV-E funds could only be spent on foster care or adoptive placements.  Under Family First, Title IV-E funds can be used to prevent children from entering foster care.  Here’s how this works:

Time-Limited Services:

  • Mental health services to help families identified as “at-risk” of being separated by foster care.
  • Substance abuse treatment services to help caregivers identified as being “at-risk” of having children removed by child welfare systems.
  • In-home parent skills programs to help parents identified as “at-risk” of having children removed by child welfare systems.

Individuals for Services Under Family First:

  • Parents or relative caregivers of youth identified as “at-risk” for foster care.
  • Youth in foster care who are currently parenting or who are pregnant.

In addition to adding time-limited services for families and youth at-risk of entering foster care, the Family First Act also removes time limits on funding for reunification services.  Under Family First, there is no limit on how long a child can receive reunification-based services once they enter foster care.  This means that a child in foster care whose goal is to return home to their family can use Title IV-E-approved services to meet that goal for as long as it remains feasible. Title IV-E funds can also be used for an additional 15 months to support a family once reunification has occurred.

In order to receive services under Family First, a formal prevention plan must be initiated with a foster care candidate that includes how the child will remain safely in the home and outline which services the family will use to achieve success under the prevention plan.  The Family First Act has invited the Department of Health and Human Services to oversee prevention planning as states begin to participate.

The Family First Act formally begins in October, 2019.  The Federal government is matching fifty percent of funds between 2019 and 2026 under Family First to approved providers.

A Cause Célèbre for Child Welfare Organizations

Research shows us that remaining with biological family is what’s best for children. Being separated for long periods of time from parents or relatives has permanent and irreversible impacts on children that can last a lifetime.  The goal of foster care should always be reunification with parents or biological caregivers, but the goal of child welfare should always be to avoid removal from family whenever possible.  When birth-families cannot remain intact and where reunification is not possible, it is the duty of ethical child welfare agencies to act responsibly to ensure children are settled with qualified, loving parents who can support them over a lifetime within the fabric of a permanent family system.

The Family First Act addresses some of the most pressing issues in foster care and family health today.  By allowing organizations to use Title IV-E funding to assist at-risk families before separation occurs, and to provide them continued support after reunification, the Family First Act has the potential to prevent the unnecessary division of otherwise healthy but vulnerable families. By expanding access to difficult-to-obtain services like mental healthcare and substance abuse treatment to parents seeking help, Family First can break the cycle of abuse and substance dependency when we desperately need it.

On February 9th, when President Donald Trump signed the Family First Act into law, the bill’s key sponsor Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) said, “This bill makes sure that children are protected and families are not split up unnecessarily.  Our current system creates a perverse incentive to place children in foster care. Breaking up families should be a last resort.”

What Happened to Family First on the Border?

Beginning in mid-April, 2018, the Trump Administration began separating migrant children from their parents as they entered the United States at the US-Mexico border, citing a “zero-tolerance policy for illegal entry” into the country.  Reports are growing that children as young as 8 months are being housed in encampments behind chainlink fences in border states, grouped in cells under thermal blankets without toys, age-appropriate stimuli and other items critical to the developing brains of children.  The administration and proponents of family separation claim children cannot be housed together in detention with their parents, who’ve been arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, despite this being an ongoing practice over the past two administrations.

When children arrive at encampments, The Department of Health and Human Services process their intakes through the Office of Refugee Resettlement.  HHS facilities along the border have been rapidly reconverted to house children (including a Wal-Mart Supercenter), and little is known about where they will be placed after they are released from detention. Congressman Joaquin Castro (D-TX) reported witnessing an 8 month old infant at such a facility in Texas who’d been living at the detention facility for several weeks.

The dichotomy between what is happening on our border and the intent behind The Family First Act is shocking. After forcibly separating a child from their parent, the immediate effects are physical. The child begins crying, his heart rate elevates, and increased stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline can be observed. Blood pressure rises. Often, verbal children will report physical symptoms like headache and stomach discomfort.

As separation time increases, the untrained caregiver may note that the child is calming down and assume he has recovered.  This is when silent stress begins.  Particularly if a child cannot communicate with a caregiver (if the child is pre-verbal, or when a language barrier is present), depression and anxiety begin to develop. A dramatic reduction in the brain’s electrical activity can be noted. Over time, the brain’s grey matter is reduced. Conditions like PTSD, separation anxiety, panic attack disorders and impulse control may begin. Children who’ve experienced long-term separation from their primary early caregivers face an increased risk of comorbidities like heart disease, diabetes, cancer and substance abuse disorder.  On June 14th, the President of the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a Press Release calling the separation of families at the border “child abuse” and “everything we stand against as pediatricians”.  Learn more about the physical impact of family separation here.

What Can You Do to Make a Difference?

Remember that this is not a political issue- people across the political spectrum are voicing their dissent against this policy.  Protecting our borders is possible without traumatizing children. Children are being targeted and time is of the essence. Speaking out against this inhumane treatment at our country’s own borders is imperative, and your voice is a critical tool. Reminding your friends and family that how we navigate shameful spots in history is remembered individually and as groups. Adoptions Together has always stood against the separation of families within our borders, and today, we stand against the separation of families at our borders. Your stand against family separation is what is best for children and it’s what’s best for families. 

Contact your elected representative and voice your dissent against the inhumane treatment of children and their families at our borders today.

 


Kinship Care: Is It for You?

grandparents walking with two young children

As you think about your pregnancy options, have you considered kinship care, or family placement?

Many expecting parents prefer to place their child in the care of someone they already know. While only you can decide what’s right for your family, we’re here to help you explore this option.

Kinship Care — More Than Free Babysitting

The tradition of relatives helping raise a child has been around much longer than child welfare agencies. Kinship arrangements mean more than having an extra pair of hands to help with diaper changes or grocery trips, however. State and federal laws recognize kinship care as an official type of foster care.

Ever since the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, relatives are the first to be given the choice of raising children whose parents cannot be the primary caregivers. As of September 2016, 32 percent of children in the foster care system were placed in foster homes with relatives.

What some expecting parents don’t realize is that they can explore the option of kinship care before their baby is born, similar to the adoption process.

All in the Family

Like adoption, kinship care can take many forms. Although the kinship care model typically means literal “kin” or family, it also can include a close friend who cares for your child.

In some arrangements, the birth parents maintain legal custody of their child, with the kinship foster parents assuming physical custody and day-to-day parenting responsibilities. This type of agreement allows birth parents to still make decisions concerning their child. In other arrangements, kinship parents receive both legal and physical custody of the child.

Kinship care is a common type of adoption for teenage birth parents. Often, it starts out as a temporary arrangement and becomes permanent if the relative chooses to adopt the child.

Because some kinship arrangements start out informally, kinship parents don’t always receive the same recognition or support as other adoptive or foster parents. The needs and demands of kinship parenting are just as real, however. We encourage kinship parents to seek counseling and support services from experts who can help them care for themselves and their loved ones. Kinship caregivers may also find assistance through national resources and state programs like the DC Child and Family Services Agency’s Grandparent Subsidy Program.

Family Matters

Families can be complicated and messy, and they come with their own set of challenges. Similarly, placement of a child within a family comes with many special considerations.

One of the most unique parts of kinship care is that the child’s kinship parent also has a personal connection with the birth parent. This can be comforting for older children entering kinship care, since they are going to live with someone they already know.

On the other hand, these same ties can make it difficult for kinship caregivers to “own” the role of parent from the start. While it takes time, it is important for kinship parents to model stability around roles, routines and a sense of home to the children in their care.

Another hurdle that kinship parents might not expect is the foster care system and its many policies and requirements — many have only the experience of raising their own children to guide them. And when kinship parents are the child’s grandparents, just the thought of raising a child in today’s era may be overwhelming.

Support from experts and other families bonded by this unique type of arrangement can help kinship parents provide a stable home for the children they already know and love. If you’re thinking about placing your child permanently or temporarily with a relative and want to chat with a counselor, contact us anytime via email, text message, phone or by chatting with us online.


Can I get paid to give my baby up for adoption?

“Can I get paid to put my baby up for adoption?”. We get asked this question a lot, and it’s time to talk about it.

In Maryland, it is legal for adoptive parents and licensed adoption agencies to pay “reasonable expenses” for women considering adoption for their babies. The payment of “reasonable expenses,” which generally includes necessities such as housing, food, and clothing, was already legal in 37 states, and until Maryland passed a law allowing adoption agencies and adoptive parents to help birth mothers with these costs, Maryland families and agencies were only allowed to help cover birth mothers’ medical and legal bills. As a result, some birth mothers were choosing to make adoption plans with families out-of-state so that they could receive financial assistance with living expenses while pregnant.

Help During a Tough Time

Birth mothers who were going out of state in order to receive financial assistance were not always able to find an ethical adoption agency or attorney who ensured that they received thorough counseling and legal representation. Legalizing the payment of birth mother expenses in Maryland was good news in terms of protecting the rights of birth parents. It was also good news because most birth parents are already struggling in some way, and those struggles only increase once they become pregnant. Many women who are considering adoption do not have stable housing; they live with family members, rent rooms, or stay in shelters. They are often either unemployed or underemployed, and those who have been able to find work risk losing their job once their employer finds out about the pregnancy. If you’ve ever been in this boat, then you are well aware that even a small amount of financial assistance with paying rent or buying food can make a big difference to the physical and emotional health of a pregnant woman.

Under Pressure

We also need to acknowledge, however, that financial assistance can add pressure to an already emotionally difficult situation. Even when we do a lot of counseling with birth mothers and they understand that legally they can change their minds about their adoption plan at any point until their parental rights expire, they usually still feel a deeper sense of obligation to make an adoption plan if they have received financial assistance during their pregnancy. We never want a woman to go through with an adoption simply because she feels she can’t change her mind, so the fact that Maryland women can now receive financial assistance makes providing emotional support and counseling for birth parents during their decision-making period more crucial than ever.

A Temporary Solution

And of course, whatever financial assistance a birth parent receives during her pregnancy is only temporary, which is why birth parents should always work with an adoption counselor to come up with a reasonable amount to request. For example, it probably isn’t wise for a birth mother to ask for assistance in paying rent for an especially expensive apartment that she will no longer be able to afford after her pregnancy.

If you’re considering adoption and need to chat with a counselor about financial assistance, contact us anytime.  You can reach us via email, text message, by phone, or by chatting with us online. 


How Will I Know If Adoption is Right for My Baby?

Birth mothers often ask us how they can know for sure whether their decision to place a baby for adoption was the right choice to make. We wish we could give them an answer so they wouldn’t have to wonder, but unfortunately we can’t.

No matter how well we’ve gotten to know a birth mother, we only see tidbits of her life. We don’t understand what it feels like to be in her shoes every day, what she is ready for, or what will be too difficult for her. No one but a birth parent can know whether adoption was the right choice for them.

The question is normal, though. When we make difficult decisions, we often look for signs that might tell us whether we’ve made the right one. Sometimes we find them, but other times we don’t. Trying to find meaning, to find lessons, is part of the cycle of grief, loss and healing.

But what if we stopped looking for signs, and just made them ourselves? What if, instead of waiting for them, we made meaning from our choices?

People choose adoption for all sorts of different reasons. The circumstances that led you to choose adoption for your baby might or might not have been in your control. What you definitely can control, right here and right now, is what you decide to do now that you’ve made the choice. Did you choose adoption so you could pursue your education? Use this experience to help you stay dedicated to that goal. Did you choose adoption in order to better provide for your other children? Spend extra time playing with them and nurturing them (they grow up fast!). Did you choose adoption so you could try to make some changes in your life? Remind yourself what those changes were, and reprioritize them if you need to.  Remember that we are here for you when you need us.

You won’t necessarily get a sign that adoption was the right choice for you to make. The only way to be sure is to create it yourself. There will be times when you doubt yourself, but you can use those painful moments to propel you forward. Your adoption story is a part of your life, and every step you take is a chance to write that story yourself.

Have you ever doubted your adoption decision? How have you determined whether you made the right choice?


Use PACE to Help Adopted Children Feel Safe and Supported

This post was written by the Director of FamilyWorks Together, Alisha Wolf, LGSW, MPH.  Alisha oversees the counseling, training, education, and special projects teams at Adoptions Together & FamilyWorks Together.  She received her bachelors from Skidmore College in English and Spanish and her Masters in Social Work and Maternal and Child Health from UNC Chapel Hill.  During her graduate studies, Alisha focused on issues surrounding adoption, foster care, and early childhood mental health.

As a follow-up to my blog post about playfulness, I wanted to explain in more depth each part of the PACE model: Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy.

PACE is a way of thinking, feeling and interacting with a child that helps the child feel safe. Children with a trauma history have learned that the world is an unpredictable and dangerous place. The adults caring for these children can send messages of safety by utilizing PACE.

PACE is based on how parents connect with infants, and the model holds true for connecting to children of all ages. Creating safety gives your child the opportunity to explore the world, their family and themselves.

Below are ways you can use PACE to make your child feel safe and supported, and in turn, help maintain your relationship:

Playfulness

Read my Playfulness blog post to learn how to bring out your sillies this week—even when it’s hard!

Acceptance

The Acceptance component of PACE asks parents to accept their child’s thoughts, feelings and choices. It does not mean accepting bad behavior, but instead accepting the fundamental characteristics and traits that make your child unique and special. Acceptance can help your child’s self-confidence and understand that bad behavior does not equate to a bad self.

For example, if your child says they do not like where they live, accept that the feeling is valid and then challenge it with follow-up questions like, “Why do you say that?”

Curiosity

Showing your child that you want to get to know them and are interested in their thoughts and feelings is critical. It may be difficult to have discussions with your child in instances when you do not understand their behavior (i.e., they may not want to go to school that day), but asking questions to ascertain what they are thinking and feeling will help build and maintain trust. Combined with the concept of Acceptance, Curiosity can ensure your child feels heard and understood in a judgement-free zone.

Empathy

Empathy with all children is important. However, showing Empathy to a child who has a history of trauma is necessary to build a strong relationship. One way to practice empathy is to put yourself in your child’s shoes and try to imagine the world from their point of view, then act and speak to them with that in mind.

How have you incorporated the PACE model in your parenting? What advice would you give to new parents who want to start practicing this model of parenting? Let me know in the comments!


Adoption vs. Safe Haven Laws: What You Should Know

pregnant woman wearing white shirt cradling her belly

Adoption vs. Safe Haven Laws: The Important Differences

In the 1990s, there was a surge in the number of babies being abandoned by their birth parents. Because they were left in unsafe places, many of them died. If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by pregnancy or parenthood, it’s easy to imagine how these parents felt when they left their babies alone: frightened, uncertain, and desperate.

In response to these deaths, many states enacted what are known as Safe Haven Laws. Safe Haven Laws allow parents to leave an infant at a designated location – usually a hospital, police station, or fire station – and as long as the baby has not been harmed, the parent will not be punished for leaving them. Proponents of the laws hoped that they would encourage birth parents who felt they couldn’t care for their children to leave them in a place where the baby could be found and cared for, instead of abandoning them unsafely where they might not be found.

The well-being of children is our top priority at Adoptions Together. We believe that Safe Haven laws work well when they keep babies from being harmed. However, we feel that it is crucial for birth parents to know that Safe Haven is very different from choosing adoption for your baby through a non-profit agency.

If you are pregnant or a new parent and feel like you need someone else to take custody of your baby, take a moment to learn about the differences between using Safe Haven laws and choosing adoption.

Difference #1: Adoption gives you time to be certain about your decision.

Everyone feels overwhelmed at times. Some problems seem too hard to solve. But most of the time help is available, even if it seems difficult to find. An ethical adoption agency will help you access resources that can help you decide whether parenting is the right choice for you.  And adoption agency’s job is to help support you and help make a plan that’s right for your family. Safe Haven placements are designed to be anonymous- you don’t get that type of support, and you can’t just change your mind once you’re feeling better; you’ve already given up custody of your child. Plus, if you decide one day that you want to know how your child is doing, you won’t necessarily have the right to get in touch the way you would if you arranged for an open adoption through an agency.

Difference #2: With adoption, you are in control.

Ethical adoption agencies like Adoptions Together put you in control of your baby’s adoption process. This means that you can choose the adoptive family you want to raise your child and that you can determine what kind of adoption relationship you’d like to have with your child’s family, whether that means yearly letter-and-picture updates, in-person meetings, or other arrangements. If you give up custody of your baby under a Safe Haven law, the baby will go into the social services foster care system and their future will be determined from there. Not only can this take up to a year – which is a long time for a baby not to have a permanent family – but you don’t have any control over who eventually adopts your baby. Nor can you specify what type of contact you’d like to have with them and with your child in the future.

Ultimately, we all want children to be safe. If leaving your child at a Safe Haven location is the best way for you to keep them out of harm’s way, then we trust you to make that choice. But we also want you to stay safe, both physically and emotionally, and we don’t want you to give up your right to be a part of your child’s life if there might be another way. If you’re in crisis and worried about caring for your baby, we hope you’ll call us or another licensed agency so we can figure out a plan – together.