“What Happens When They Start Asking Questions?”

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Many birth mothers tell us that they worry about the day their child will ask them the tough questions about being adopted, like why they were placed or who their birth father was (if he’s not involved in their life).

Sometimes, the answers to those questions are straightforward, but other times the subject is touchy. There may be aspects of your adoption journey that you don’t necessarily want your child to associate with you, like drug use or casual sex, or that were upsetting and traumatic, like sexual assault. What happens when your child starts asking questions whose answers are difficult to talk about?

The Need for Trust

When your child’s parents adopted, they signed on for both the fun parts of parenting and the difficult parts, including having tough conversations. They will hear your child’s questions before you do, which is one of the reasons why trust is so important in any adoptive relationship. Choosing adoption means taking a leap of faith and trusting your child’s family to talk openly and appropriately about the adoption story you all share. Trusting them to raise your child also means trusting them to have the tough conversations that come with parenting.

What Will They Say?

Adoptions Together encourages birth mothers and adoptive parents to talk to their child about adoption from a very early age in a way they can understand, and we strongly discourage them from lying to their children, even about difficult topics. For example, if your pregnancy was the result of sexual assault, we might suggest to your child’s adoptive parents that they simply say “We only know a little bit about your birth daddy because he and your birth mommy were not close friends.” If you were struggling with substance use during your pregnancy, they could explain, “Your birth mommy was sick when she was pregnant with you and wanted you to have parents who could take care of you when she couldn’t.”

Your child’s parents will decide, as your child grows older, when and how to share additional information based on your child’s personality, maturity, and overall development. Remember, by the time your child is old enough to hear about the more upsetting parts of your adoption journey, their family will know them inside and out. This won’t be the first difficult topic they’ve ever discussed, so they’ll already understand how your child processes information and will be able to choose the right time, place, and environment for sharing the tougher aspects of their adoption story.

What’s the Agency Got to Do With It?

After your child is placed with an adoptive family, we send a social worker to visit with them every couple of months for six months. During those conversations, the social worker discusses with the family how they plan to talk to their child about adoption. We feel it is important for families to be extremely open with their children and not to leave out details even if the prospect of sharing them seems upsetting, and we address this subject in the mandatory seminar-style training we hold for parents to attend after placement. We also offer specialized training, coaching, counseling, and support for adoptive families who need extra help in this area. If you’re still in the process of choosing an adoption agency, you may want to ask how the agency prepares its adoptive families for tackling the difficult topics that often come with adoption.

How did your child’s adoptive parents explain the “tough stuff” to them? Have you talked to your child about the more painful aspects of your adoption story?

How Much Should You Tell Your Child and their Family?

Birth parents often ask us how much information they should share with their child or their child’s adoptive family. Let’s talk about how sharing personal information before, during, and after planning to place a child for adoption can help relieve pressure on birth parents, help children form positive adoption identities, and form trusting relationships with adoptive families.

birth mother

Personal information is….well…personal. Especially for birth parents.

Whether you consider yourself a private person or someone who is pretty open with others about who you are, it can be hard to decide how much information to give your child and their adoptive family about your personal life. After all, when you place your child for adoption, you still don’t know their adoptive family as well as you do your friends and family members, and there might be aspects of your life and adoption story that you’re not sure you want to share.

We ask all of the birth parents who decide to work with us to fill out a “Social and Medical History,” which is basically just a packet with lots of questions about you. We used to ask only for basic information about your health, like whether you had any pregnancy complications or a history of any type of illness in your family. We still ask those questions, because they help the adoptive family and your child stay healthy; but now, we also ask many other questions that are just about you, like your hobbies, your favorite food, and what type of music you like.

It might seem too personal or even just silly to share information like where you grew up or what style of clothing you wear, but we know from experience that adoptees are grateful to have it. Adoption is a big part of your child’s life story, and no matter what kind of relationship you have, you’ll always be important to them. The more they know about you, the more secure they can feel in knowing where they came from.

And don’t worry – knowing about your life won’t make your child upset or confused about why they were adopted. Kids are capable of understanding adoption from a very young age. If there are aspects of your adoption journey that were particularly upsetting, like drug use or violence, your child’s family will simply wait to share that information with them until the time is right, and will talk to them about it in a way they can understand. Also, if your relationship with your child’s other birth parent has been difficult, you might be tempted to leave out information that you have about them, but think about it this way: wondering who their other birth parent was, and what they were like, will be much more emotionally difficult for your child than realizing that they weren’t perfect.

Laurie Elliott, who works with adoption courts in Pittsburgh, asked the teenage adoptees with whom she worked what questions they wanted to have answered about their birth parents. Some of those questions included what kind of students their birth parents were, what religion(s) their birth parents practiced, whether anyone else in their birth family knew about them, and what hobbies, special talents, or abilities their birth parents had. What type of information did you share with your child and their adoptive family? How did you feel about sharing it?

One Thing You MUST Tell Your Adoption Agency

pregnant woman meeting with adoption counselor

As a birth parent, what do you expect from your adoption agency?

The birth parent counselors at Adoptions Together have learned that every birth mother and father has a different idea of what they want from their relationship with the agency that places their child.

Once, a social worker had two experiences on the same day that pointed out how different those expectations could be. The first was a phone call with a birth parent who said she felt forgotten because her child’s family was a little bit late in sending her an update and her counselor wasn’t at her desk when she called about it, so she had to leave a voicemail. The second was an e-mail from a birth parent who had never answered any of the counselor’s phone calls or e-mails in the year since her baby’s adoption; now she had written to say how much she appreciated the agency’s support.

Both clients had the same birth parent counselor. She didn’t favor one over the other or use radically different approaches in her interactions with them. The difference was in their expectations. The birth parent who expected her updates to arrive on the exact same day every year was disappointed when one was a little late, and the birth parent who hadn’t even intended to be in touch with our agency again was pleasantly surprised by the amount of post-placement support we offer.

The point here is not that you should lower your expectations. In fact, it’s the opposite. If your expectations aren’t being met, it’s very important for you to let your adoption agency know. At Adoptions Together, we want to make sure each of our birth parents feels comfortable and cared for every step of the way, but the things that make you feel cared for might be different from what we need to do for another client.

In order for us to meet your expectations, we have to know what they are. We won’t necessarily be able to meet them every time; for example, we couldn’t magically make the first birth parent’s letters appear right away. However, we were able to talk to her about her feelings and communicate to the adoptive family how much those updates mean to her so that they could get better about sending them promptly in the future.

What do you expect from your adoption agency? Do they, or did they, meet your expectations?

Considering Adoption for an Older Baby or Toddler

Mother holding toddler while pointing at something in the distance

Most of the phone calls we get are from women who are pregnant or who recently delivered a baby.  Occasionally, we hear from mothers whose babies are already a few months – or even a year or two – old.  Usually, the women who call us about placing an older baby or child actually considered adoption early on but ended up deciding to parent instead. Often, their change of heart involved promises of help from family members and friends. If those promises don’t work out as planned, these mothers sometimes end up calling us again a few weeks or months later when they are not getting the support they need and they’re feeling overwhelmed. They are often so panicked that they will ask us on the phone whether we can come take the baby that very day.

As we start working with these clients, many of them realize that they might actually want help figuring out how to get some support so they can continue parenting. Sometimes it’s enough just to show their family members how desperate they are feeling by letting them know they’ve scheduled a meeting with an adoption counselor. Other times they need us to meet with them so they can figure out how explain to others that they’re at the end of their rope and need help.

After all, parenting is hard, especially without support from family members or friends. In a moment of crisis, adoption might seem like the only way to go.  Adoptions Together counselors are happy to talk to you about whether adoption is right for you, and you may find in working with us that what you actually need is help exploring resources. Making an adoption plan when your baby is older is much more difficult than placing them as a newborn (and infant placement is hard enough already!). Not only have you already been nurturing your baby for weeks or months, but your family members also know and love the baby, and often the birth father does, too. If you decide in the end that adoption is just too difficult, that’s okay.

And if adoption is ultimately what you want, then of course we will help guide you through that process. We trust all women to know what’s best for them and clients whose babies are a little bit older are no exception. We also understand how difficult it is to realize that the path you chose isn’t working for you, and we take that very seriously.

Please note that if you are feeling so desperate and/or out of control that you fear you may hurt yourself or your baby, help is available right away. Call 911 so that someone can make sure you and your baby remain safe.

What Adoptees Want Their Birth Parents To Know

Mother holding toddler while pointing at something in the distance

Did you get a chance to watch the video for Mark Schultz’s song to his birth mother?

Many birth parents worry that their child will be angry at them for making their adoption decision, but the song and its lyrics (which include lines like “You gave life to me, a chance to find my dreams”) remind us that adoptees are capable of understanding the difficult decisions their birth parents made. That is one of the reasons we encourage the birth parents we work with to consider open adoption, where they can maintain a relationship with their child and personally explain their adoption decision to them when the time is right.

Not all adoptee experiences are the same, but the stories we hear about adoption in the media are often the ones that are most dramatic and sensationalized. Rarely do we hear about the millions of adoptees who are living happy, healthy lives, because the news outlets don’t find their stories to be nearly as juicy! The stories below probably wouldn’t make it into the news, but they are much more common than any of the ones you see on TV or read about in the newspaper.

“Forever Grateful”

Heidi Sprouse was adopted back in 1971, when closed adoption was still common, but she feels similarly to Mark Schultz about her birth mother’s placement decision. In her recent blog post over at America Adopts, she explains, “I will be forever grateful to her. She gave me life and by allowing me to be adopted, she gave me a family.” Sprouse also urges birth parents to let go of the shame and guilt that they often feel: “To anyone considering sharing your child for adoption, it is the most selfless act that you could ever do. There is no shame in it.”

“I Am Happy”

In a lovely essay in Elite Daily, fellow adoptee Tori Lyn, whose adoption was also closed, wrote in an open letter to her birth mother, “Wherever you are in the world, I hope you know I am okay. I’m more than okay, in fact; I am happy.” Like Sprouse, Lyn says she feels gratitude toward the woman who gave birth to her: “I am grateful you chose to give me a life, and I feel that way each day, as I try and become a better person.”

All three of these adult adoptees talk about how grateful they are for their adoptive families and for the lives they’ve been able to lead – that’s a far cry from the stereotype of adopted children being bitter and angry!

For those of you whose children are old enough to express themselves, have you talked to them about your adoption decision? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

Talking to Your Children About Charlottesville and Beyond: What They See, Hear, and Feel- and How You Can Help.

This post was written by Tony Hynes, an author and adoptee.  His life story includes his birth mother’s mental illness, a tumultuous battle in the court system when his adoption was challenged by his birth family, and the unique perspective of being raised by two moms in a transracial household.  His book “The Son with Two Moms” is available on Amazon in print and electronic editions.  Check out Tony on Facebook.


It is amazing how quickly our news cycle works. One month ago I wrote about the events in Charlottesville. Today, fresh news stories dominate our focus. Charlottesville has already begun to fade in memory, and perhaps in importance, in our minds — but it shouldn’t, and for that reason, I will hearken back to what I wrote on that day.

Sometimes white parents of minority children ask me how they can engage in productive conversations centered around race with their children. Essentially, what some are really asking is “How can I show my child that I will fight for them? How can I show them I am an ally?”

Today is one of the many days you can show them. Have a real dialogue with them about the events leading up to the White Supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Speak to them about how we got here: to a place where statues of confederate soldiers could represent symbols of pride for individuals miffed at the notion of a non-Aryan majority country. Speak to them about the difference between the Black Lives Matter movement and a hate group.

Most importantly, tell them that you will not stand for hate, and that you will speak out on it in your own community — no race, religion, or sexuality excluded. Affirm how much you love them and tell them that if hatred is cast upon them, the whole family will rally around them and fight as hard as they can to ensure justice is served.

Kids do not need to have conversations about race every day. However, if you are silent today, and on days like it, you are sending an equally powerful message.

If you are silent when race-based incidents appear on your television screens and in your communities, how can your child expect you to speak up for them when they are called a racial epithet? Many adoptees are people pleasers by nature. They may feel that talking about a racial incident places a burden on you, and may decide that in order to protect you, it is best for them to remain silent. It is up to us to show our children that listening and engaging in an open dialogue about any topic that is bothering them is one of the privileges of raising them.

However, in order to better assist our children, it is important that we recognize how to engage in racially positive dialogue. For instance, we teach our children to be advocates for themselves when they are called something sexually derogatory. Are we teaching them to advocate for themselves when they are called something racially derogatory? We teach our young children to tell an adult when someone makes a comment that makes them feel threatened or uncomfortable in their own skin. Are we expanding our conversations to include discussions about when to talk to an adult when another child makes our child feel threatened or uncomfortable because of the color of his or her skin?

Finally, we teach our children to speak up for themselves when their peers practice microaggressions. When a peer says “her actions are not ladylike,” in reference to an outspoken women, we teach our children to correct the speaker, either in public or in private. We teach them to remind the speaker that the concept that women should be seen and not heard, and that women should be soft spoken, is an outdated, sexist, incorrect notion. Are we telling our children to speak out on racial microaggressions in the same way? When our black son is told by his peer that “black people are always great athletes,” do we encourage him to speak up in the same way?

What is important to remember when thinking about these interactions is that we will not always be able to be there for our children. When they are mistreated, we may be at work, or home sick.  Many parents think we should arm our children with the tools to stay out of harm’s way when we are not around — and they are correct. However, we must also arm our children with the power they already possess within themselves — the power to lift themselves up. True, they should feel comfortable turning to us after a trying experience. However, do not let them perceive you as their first white savior. Let them perceive you as their first — and their best — ally.

Adoptions Together Supports the Rights of Transgender Families and Children

Adoptions Together Supports Transgender Families and Children

pride flag LGBT families

Adoptions Together staff, its Board of Directors, and its network of volunteers believe that transgender children and families have the right to access services of all kinds- particularly those intended to strengthen bonds and make relationships stronger.  Under normal circumstances, we complete this work quietly as part of our mission and vision to ensure every child will grow up in a permanent family.  These are not normal circumstances for many of the families we serve.  Our team is committed to providing comprehensive adoption and family counseling, education, and training services to all people, regardless of their race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or gender expression.

Now, more than ever, it is critical for Adoptions Together to focus our resources and dedicate our efforts to serving all families and all children.  As an agency that has helped same-sex and transgender families for decades, our staff is humbled to stand as allies with the LGBTQ community and to be a part of the LGBTQ’s diverse community.  Founded 27 years ago in response to the growing need for an adoption agency to serve families from all backgrounds, Adoptions Together is here for everyone.   By serving on the advisory committee for the Human Rights Campaign’s All Children All Families Initiative and maintaining our Seal of Recognition each year since its inception, we are fully committed to LGBTQ families across our region and the United States.

The need for services like ours is not shrinking.  Over 400,000 young people are currently living in foster care across the United States, and more than 25% of those children are awaiting adoption.  Of these children, LGBTQ youth are considered an over-represented minority, which means that the percentage of youth in foster care who identify as LGBTQ is larger than the general population. Passage of state laws like Texas’ HB3859, which allows child welfare agencies to discriminate against on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, and religion force us to stand up against injustices we see being committed against the children and families we serve every day, and those who embody our mission.

Supporting families is what we do.  We promise to continue serving every family, every child, every step of the way with every resource at our disposal in order to make our community a stronger and more vibrant place.  We stand with you in opposition to the discriminatory and unconstitutional rhetoric being harmfully unleashed against our families, friends and colleagues.  We are members of the LGBTQ community, your allies, and we are always here for you.

Yours in support,

Adoptions Together Team

Looking at Adverse Childhood Experiences Through a Trauma-Informed Lens

Looking at Adverse Childhood Experiences Through a Trauma-Informed Lens


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What Most of Us Already Know About Trauma

It’s not surprising to most of us that traumatic experiences during childhood can have long-term impacts on our lives as adults.  The more we learn about the far-reaching consequences of mental health challenges like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, attachment disorders, and other life changing diagnoses that can be caused by traumatic events, the more we understand the need to address and treat trauma victims with respect and regard for their past experiences.  This approach is called Trauma Informed Care.


But what many of us don’t know about trauma is that its impact on childhood is quantifiable in far more impactful ways as traumatized children reach adulthood.  Beyond the challenging and varied types of mental health diagnoses that traumatic events can cause for their victims, studies on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) have demonstrated that trauma correlates with an increased risk of physical health comorbidities like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and COPD in adulthood.

Adverse Childhood Experiences and How They Impact Us Throughout Our Lives

What is an Adverse Childhood Experience, and how are they measured? An Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) is a type of stressful traumatic experience that occurs during childhood. ACEs can include abuse, neglect, witnessing domestic or other kinds of violence, living with a family member that suffers from a substance abuse problem, living with someone struggling with mental illness, experiencing the separation or divorce of parents or parental figures, or having an incarcerated parent or family member.  The more ACEs a child experiences is directly related to an increased risk for physical and mental health challenges as they grow older.


But why measure ACEs? ACE scoring became prevalent in the mid 1990s when a landmark study conducted by the Center for Disease Control revealed that 12.5% of individuals who experienced 4 or more ACEs before their 18th birthday had a 390% increased risk of COPD, a 240% increased risk of hepatitis, a 460% increased risk of depression, and a shocking 1,220% increased risk of suicide.  Even for individuals reporting just 2 ACEs, the increased risk for adult alcoholism is more than double that of the control group. (https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/index.html).

So What Can We do About It?

So what does this mean for our community and what can we do about it?  In Baltimore City, the prevalence of ACEs is well above the national average with more than 30% of children reporting two or more Adverse Childhood Experiences (vs. 22% nationwide).  In a city where the leading causes of death are cancer and heart disease, and where life expectancies vary more than 20 years from one neighborhood to the next, it is critical to look at how ACEs impact overall well-being.  Here is where our agency comes in: we provide a holistic Intervention to our community’s residents through a trauma informed lens.

Trauma Informed Care (TIC) in the human service field that assumes that an individual is more likely than not to have a history of trauma. Trauma Informed Care recognizes the presence of trauma symptoms and acknowledges the role that trauma may play in an individual’s life.  Critical elements involved in providing TIC consider the widespread impact of trauma and understand potential paths for recovery; recognize signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved in the system; respond by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices; and seek to actively resist re-traumatization (https://socialwork.buffalo.edu/content/dam/socialwork/social-research/ITTIC/TIC-whitepaper.pdf).

The Successful Family Permanency Model and Trauma Informed Care

In 2015, FamilyWorks Together launched the Successful Family Permanency Model, a 36-hour, 6-week intensive training for mental health workers in Baltimore City designed to provide clinicians, administrators, and organizational directors with a tool-kit to approach caring for their clients through a trauma-informed lens.  Participants gain a range of understanding surrounding the prevalence of childhood trauma in Baltimore City; the short and long-term effects of childhood trauma on children and adults, including substance abuse disorders, depression and anxiety, self-harm and suicide, as well as PTSD and more; cultural differences in how families respond to trauma, providing professionals with a more complex understanding of how trauma impacts families; the risk factors for vicarious trauma and burn-out in staff and professional providers; and best practices for implementing  a trauma-informed model that utilizes valid assessments that guide planning for treatment and intentional organizational approaches to trauma.  Attendees come from a diverse care background. Last year participants included staff from homeless intervention efforts, substance abuse treatment clinics, domestic violence shelters, AIDS/HIV assistance programs, low-income housing associations, hunger relief services, women’s shelters, were trained to approach clients using trauma-informed methods.


We believe that providing practitioners in Baltimore with the tools to address trauma is an essential key to addressing the morbid impacts of Adverse Childhood Experiences as our population grows.  The cyclical nature of many ACEs (abuse, neglect, poverty, substance abuse, etc) demands that we recognize that intervening in the underlying causes of these challenges is paramount in treatment planning.  The foundation of Trauma Informed Care is to first provide a safe environment for clients and caregivers, based on a collaborative and trusting therapeutic relationship.  The result is increased resilience and empowerment where skill-building can take place and where triggers and re-traumatization can be controlled.  Providing these crucial therapeutics skills to practitioners in Baltimore is one of FamilyWorks Together’s most important and meaningful ongoing missions as we move into the second half of 2017.


Learn more about ACEs and TIC here:


Got Your ACE Score?

Institute for Families: The Philadelphia Urban ACE Study

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: Trauma-Informed Approach and Trauma-Specific Interventions

The National Council: Trauma-Informed Care

Become an Interim Care Provider at Adoptions Together!

Become an Interim Care Provider for an Adoptions Together Family!

Adoptions Together is in search of loving, qualified interim care providers in Northern Virginia and Washington, DC for infants transitioning into their forever families.  Interim care families provide nurturing home environments for infants while their adoption plans are finalized.  If you live in Northern Virginia or Washington, DC and are interested in providing short-term foster care for infants  please read the information below, then fill out this form to get in touch with our team.

What is Interim Care?

Interim Care is short term foster care provided by qualified, loving families that have been approved to care for infants whose adoption plans are still being finalized.  An interim care provider cares for the infant 24 hours per day (no daycare permitted).  The average length of a stay in interim care is 2-24 days.

Responsibilities of Interim Care Providers

Interim Care Providers are responsible for meeting the needs of these fragile, brand new babies while their permanency plans are being decided.  An interim care provider takes the baby to his or her pediatrician appointments, might meet with birth and adoptive families, communicates with social workers about the baby’s development, meets federal and local background checks required for childcare providers, and completes a home study (paid for by Adoptions Together).  Interim Care Providers are flexible, caring, compassionate, and understanding.

Compensation for Interim Care Providers

All home study and training fees will be provided.  All transportation costs related to the infant’s care will be covered.  All infants in interim care are eligible for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) formula benefits.  Interim Care providers are reimbursed at $30/day for each day the infant is in care.

Considerations and Eligibility Requirements for Interim Care Providers

The infants cared for in interim care settings are not available for adoption by interim care families. It is important for interim care providers to remember that infants in interim care may be returned to their birth families or placed with an adoptive family when interim care is complete.  All interim care providers must live in the Northern Virginia or Washington, DC regions.  All members of the household must participate in the home study and training process.

Still Interested?  Fill out our Interim Care Provider Inquiry Form!


Adoptions Together welcomes all applicants regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, citizenship, marital status, creed, sexual orientation, gender expression or gender identity.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting…an Older Child?

What to Expect When You’re Expecting…an Older Child?

This post was written by AdoptionWorks Family Specialist, Pam Hoehler, LCSW-C. Pam’s work with the AdoptionWorks program sees dozens of families each year go through the complex steps of the older child adoption process.  Pam has been a vital part of the Adoptions Together family for many years.  To ask Pam a question about the older child adoption process, send her an email at phoehler@adoptionstogether.org.

Resources and information for new parents of infants are everywhere. There are countless books, blogs, magazines, even a Bravo TV show, focusing on the latest research and trends to make the first few months of baby’s life with you meaningful and healthy. But what if you are adopting an older child from foster care? Your child will also have needs that must be nurtured and shaped to help him/her adjust to the new world around them. Undoubtedly, your child will have experienced loss, trauma, and multiple transitions, causing emotional dysregulation and behavioral challenges. These can make for a rough transition. So, what exactly can you expect when you child first comes home, and what can you do to do to ease the transition for everyone?

1. It’s OK to say No.

During the first few weeks, you may have friends and family who want to meet your child and welcome them into the fold. While this is endearing, the first few weeks are a time for you and your nuclear family to lay the foundation for bonding. Allow the child time to calmly adjust to his/her new home and routine, without the added stimulation of greetings and parties. Define family schedules and expectations, and keep outside events to a minimum. Enjoy simple activities together, such as taking the dog for a walk, playing board games or puzzles, and preparing meals. It’s OK to tell your friends and family that these early days for needed to bond as a nuclear family, and you look forward to introducing your child in the coming weeks.

2. It’s OK to also say Yes.

Your primary focus during these early weeks will be on your child and his/her adjustment. You may feel physically and emotionally drained tending to your child’s constant needs. Because of this, ask for and accept help when it’s offered, for daily tasks. When a friend or family member suggests, “Just let me know what you need,” respond with a request for a cooked meal that can be easily reheated. Or, ask for an errand to be run, such as a trip to the post office or dry cleaner. This may also be a time to splurge on a cleaning service or grocery delivery. Your primary responsibility during this time is to bond with your child, who might be rejecting that notion. Only you can complete this task, so use your support system to help care for you.

3. Structure and Routine is a Must….

It might be tempting, during this time of family hibernation, to clear your calendar and dream of days lounging around the house with your child. Your child is in a new, uncertain environment, and his/her anxiety will be running high. To help your child develop a feeling of safety, provide a predictable, visible schedule for each day. List your expectations for routines, such as brushing teeth, washing face, and getting dressed before come downstairs in the morning. Keep schedules simple, possibly using pictures to represent each activity. Display the schedule in a central location so that your child can refer to it throughout the day. Your child will find comfort in the consistency of this routine as they acclimate to their new home.

4. …Flexibility is Key.

Use your schedule as scaffolding for the family’s basic routine. There are times when your child will test your will and love for them, possibly through their refusal to brush teeth or wash his/her face. When these conflicts emerge, do not engage in power struggles. Know when to flexibly alter the schedule to keep your relationship-building the focus of the interaction. Use humor and patience to acknowledge the refusal while continuing your efforts to bond.

5. Kids are Weird and Parenting is Tough

No one said this would be easy. Children often engage in behaviors that appear strange to adults, but are developmentally appropriate for the child. I could not imagine leaving the house in the morning without brushing my teeth, but my children need several reminders to do this every day! Eating crusts on my sandwich is not a big deal, but to my children, this might evolve into World War III. It is important to remember that children act in ways different from adults, and while you are getting to know your child, it is helpful to reflect on their developmental stage to find meaning in their behavior. Are they asserting control in an otherwise uncertain time? Are sensory issues interfering with their desire to eat? All behaviors have meaning, and are linked to a developmental task. Keep your handouts from training close by and refer to them often!

All families will have bumps in the road when their child first comes home. Building a secure, trusting relationship is not easy, but necessary, for your child to thrive in your care. Maintain this as your focus, and seek help when needed. In a few years, you’ll be able to write the book, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting an Older Child!”