How Much Does It Cost to Adopt from Foster Care?

How Much Does It Cost to Adopt from Foster Care?

If you’re considering adoption from foster care, the first question on your mind is probably “how much does it cost to adopt from foster care?”  Misinformation about the cost of adoption makes potential adoptive parents hesitate to explore foster care adoption, so let’s talk about actual costs to adopt a child from public foster care.

How You Pursue Adoption from Foster Care Makes a Difference

There are two main ways to adopt a child from public foster care in the United States. Many families pursue adoption from foster care through their local Department of Social Services. Typically, a family becomes foster parents to a child before adopting.  Working with your Department of Social Services to pursue this type of foster care adoption can cost very little or nothing.  This process includes the cost of the home study and training that is required to foster children.

The second way families pursue adoption from foster care is through a private adoption agency who can help them to complete their foster-to-adoption home study, training, and match with a child (or sibling group) who is ready to be adopted from foster care. This method can be more expensive for families, as there are fees paid to the agency for services rendered, but some families may prefer working with an agency to adopt from foster care, as the process may run more smoothly and the family may receive more individualized attention. Adoptions Together’s current total fee for foster care adoption is $10,970.  Read more about how to offset the costs of adoption.

Many children adopted from foster care are eligible to receive financial assistance under the federal Title IX-E Adoption Assistance Program. This type of financial assistance takes many forms, including a one-time payment, ongoing monthly support, or programs like Medicare and Medicaid.  It is important to discuss the individual eligibility of Adoption Assistance with your adoption provider in detail.

What to Do Next

If you’re considering foster care adoption to grow your family, financial considerations are an important part of the picture. We believe that stable, loving parents come from all financial backgrounds, and that children have the best chance to thrive in permanent homes. Our team is here to discuss the option of foster care adoption, as well as which options are best for you as you begin your adoption journey.


What are the Age Requirements to Adopt from Foster Care?

What Are the Age Requirements to Adopt from Foster Care?

Have you considered adopting from foster care, but worried “I’m too old to adopt”, or even, “I’m too young to adopt”? You’re not alone- one of the most common questions we get from prospective adoptive parents interested in growing their families through foster care adoption is whether they are too old (or too young) to adopt a child from foster care.  The truth is, there are very few age requirements in place when it comes to foster care adoption. The most important thing is that your family is prepared to meet the needs of the child you’re adopting.

Am I too old to adopt from foster care?

There is no upper age limit for parents interested in adopting from foster care. In fact, many “older” parents decide that foster care adoption is an excellent way to grow their families after raising other children or fulfilling other parts of their lives’ journeys.  Each prospective adoptive family’s age is taken into consideration on a case-by-case basis with the child’s specific needs and situation in mind. If you think you’re too old to adopt from foster care, contact us and we’ll talk about whether foster care adoption is an option for you!

Am I too young to adopt from foster care?

This question is more complex for a few reasons. First, the most important thing for a child (regardless of his or her background) is that their adoptive parent can provide a stable, supportive family environment where their physical, emotional and financial needs are met.  For this reason, many states (like Maryland) require parents adopting from foster care to be at least 21 years old before applying.

Private adoption agencies may have additional policies in place to ensure your family is prepared to meet the needs of a child who has experienced life in foster care. Adoptions Together requires all parents adopting from foster care to be a minimum of 25 years old before applying in order to ensure they are stable and prepared for the challenge of growing their family through foster care adoption.

How old are the children eligible for adoption from foster care?

This is a great question. Although it is uncommon, it is possible to adopt an infant from foster care. Most often, children adopted from foster care are school-aged.  This is due to a variety of factors. but the primary goal of foster care is to help biological parents remedy the challenges which caused their child to be removed from their care, and help the parents gain stable ground in their lives.  There is a lengthy legal process to assist families, and when the parents are unable to reach stability, parental rights are terminated.  Typically, this process takes several years and may not occur until a child is old enough to enter school.  Most of the children Adoptions Together works with are school-aged children and teenagers.

What are the next steps to adopt from foster care?

If you are interested in learning more about the age requirements of adopting from foster care, feel free to contact us at any time. Our team can help you discuss the options that are best for you, and how you can begin the foster care adoption process.


Adoption and the Teen Years: Understanding Adoption and Adolescence

The teen years are defined by growth- your child is forming an identity that is separate from yours and building skills that will help guide them through the joys and challenges that lie ahead. As a parent, your job is changing, too. You may find yourself coaching from the sidelines more frequently, or even struggling with your new role. As the parent of an adopted teen, some of the complexities can feel harder to address. We are here to help you navigate the unique joys, experiences and issues faces by many adoptive families during the teen years so that you are prepared to navigate them head on.

Adoption and Teenage Development

You’ve probably noticed some of the developmental changes in your adopted teenager. Things like hormonal changes, physical changes and emotional shifts that occur during the teenage years can impact how our teens relate to one another and to us. We know that many of these changes are developmentally normal for all children, regardless of their background. Brain development during the teen years also undergoes a unique shift that regulates behavior. For example, chemical changes in the pre-frontal cortex of teenage brains can encourage youth to seek out risky behaviors without considering consequences.

These changes are not unique to adoptees. However; their early experiences and family structure is. How can we be mindful of our backgrounds during this time? Let’s start by considering our child’s early experiences and how they can impact physical, emotional and brain developmental during this stage. Did your adopted teen experience trauma as an infant or child? Being mindful of how traumatic experiences can impact emotional experience as a teenager and young adult can have a positive impact on your relationship today. Helping your adopted teen to understand that you are present, caring and supportive when they are expressing fear, anxiety or other difficult emotions is a useful way to remain connected to your child. It is also important to consider whether your child’s medical history may impact their development so that you can best assist them throughout adolescence. Teens with a history of prenatal alcohol and drug exposure may have different needs from family members, teachers and therapeutic support teams.

Adoption and the Teen Identity

During adolescence, your teenager is learning more about their own identity, what it means to them, and how they can use their identity to help guide them through the world. For adopted teens, their unique background is a crucial part of this identity formation. Teens begin to grapple with questions like “Who am I?”, “Where do I come from?”, “What do I want to become?” and they must learn how they are connected to, and different from their parents, siblings and communities as a whole.

You might notice that your teen is beginning to connect more with friends than with you. You might also notice your teen is focusing more on things like his or her appearance or identifying with a particular music group during this time. These normal developmental processes are part of your teen’s expanding identity. For adopted teens, learning about identity can be more challenging because they have a more complex story. They may begin to ask more questions about their birth family, or their questions may be more complex. They may have an increased understanding of the complex concepts that touch some adoption stories, such as poverty or addiction, leading to more nuanced questions about their birth parents’ experience. Even if your teen has met members of their birth family, they may have new questions about their birth relatives that help them to understand their identity. Some teens may express interest in spending more time with birth relatives than they did during childhood- remember that this is a normal part of adolescence and supporting your teen during this time is an open demonstration of love and commitment to your family.
As adoptive parents, it can be difficult to navigate adolescence as your teen begins to form this kind of independent identity. Remember that it is normal to feel sadness, anxiety and even anger when your child wants to learn more about their birth family or expresses a desire to spend more time with biological relatives. Processing these emotions fully and safely with the right kind of support is important so that you can continue supporting your adopted teen. In the same way you successfully parented your adopted child, successfully parenting your adopted teen comes with new challenges you can prepare for. Building a community of support for your family is a good way to ensure you have help when you need it. Reaching out for additional support through adoption competent therapists is another way to bolster your support system.

Talking with Your Teen About Adoption

If you’re still reading this, you probably know adoption needs to be a safe subject. Adopted teens think about their birth parents and adoption more than most parents realize. Finding ways to reassure your child that they can broach the subject of adoption with you is more important now than ever. We know that children whose parents talk about adoption from the very start have an easier time talking about adoption throughout their lives. If you think your teen has adoption on their mind, don’t wait for them to bring it up- raise the topic with them so they know you’re thinking about it, too. One way to introduce the topic is to share you’re thinking about their adoption or their birth parents’, and inviting your teen to add what they may be thinking about. Showing your child that talking about adoption is okay can help them understand that talking about their birth family and asking questions won’t hurt your feelings or offend you.

Some adoptive parents struggle with what kind of information they should share with their adopted teen now that their child is older. Parts of their child’s adoption story that may be difficult or painful might seem tempting to conceal during your child’s teen years, especially if your adopted teen is dealing with other challenges. For example, if your child’s birth parent has a criminal history or dealt with substance abuse, it may be tempting to keep that part of the adoption story hidden. Consider that this may be the right time to share your child’s story so that he or she is able to understand their own identity fully, without imagining another version of the truth (that may be worse). This conversation can be intimidating for parents, and seeking the support of a professional adoption counselor can help you navigate discussing the complexities of your child’s adoption story so that it can be a positive, affirming part of your relationship.

Maintaining, Building and Growing Relationships with Birth Family Members

The teen years may not be the first time your child has expressed interest in their birth family. Or perhaps your child has never met his or her birth parents. But we all have a deep desire to understand our roots. Many adopted teens feel a need to connect or reconnect with their birth family during adolescence. It is important to be prepared to navigate this contact thoughtfully.

If your child’s adoption is open and you’ve maintained contact with birth family members, that’s great! Continue the conversation within the framework of your open adoption relationship so that your child knows they have support to continue building healthy relationships. Be mindful that your maturing child may have new questions that you can help them explore before reaching out to their birth family.

An important reminder if your child has an open relationship with birth relatives during their teen years: be familiar with social media use. It has become increasingly common for adoptees to connect with birth family members through social media. When teens know the names and locations of birth relatives, connecting with them online is relatively simple. Continuing open, safe discussions about supporting your child’s ongoing connection with their birth family is one way to avoid surprise contact with birth relatives that can cause confusion for your child.

If your child has never met their birth family, they may express a desire to do so during adolescence. This process is often referred to as “Search and Reunion”. One important thing to remember is that the “search” does not always go together with the “reunion”. If your adopted teen expresses a desire to learn more about their birth family for the first time, it’s important to listen to what they’d like to discover. Do they want to know the name of their birth parents? Find out where they were born? Discover more about their family tree? Or would they like to contact their birth family? Connecting with an adoption professional to begin the Search and Reunion process can be helpful in supporting your teen through this stage.

Giving Your Adopted Teen the Tools

Your role as a parent is to provide your child with the skills and tools they need to succeed. As an adoptive parent, providing your child with unique skills to face the world as an adoptee is equally important. During the teen years, it’s important for your child to feel secure as an adoptee. You can help your child feel more secure and confident in many ways. Prepare them to discuss adoption openly when it comes up in conversation. Help them to anticipate questions about your family, their background and to help their friends discuss adoption in ways that make them comfortable. Reassure your teen that they don’t have to share personal details, and that they are in charge of what information they would like to discuss about their adoption story. Teaching your teen that setting boundaries in discussions about adoptions is okay is a good way to show them they have autonomy. Finally, avoid using your child as an “example” for adoption in social interactions so that he or she understands adoption is a part of their story, not the defining characteristic. Reassure your child that it is okay to say “I don’t know” or “that’s not something I share about” if someone asks a question about adoption, and always ask before sharing part of their story with others.

Want to Continue the Conversation? Join Us!

Are you a teen adoptee? Parenting an adopted teen? Working with teen adoptees and their families? Join us for “Adoption and the Teen Years: A Conference for Teens, Parents and Professionals” on April 27th at the McLean School to help build your toolkit!


Convinced You Can’t Afford Adoption? 6 Ways to Offset Adoption Costs

How Can I Afford to Adopt a Child?

There are several ways to offset the cost of adopting a child.  Whether you adopt an infant or you adopt from public foster care, assistance is available to help families like yours afford the cost of adoption. We’ve outlined some of the ways to make adoption more affordable. Check them out!

1. Choose an Adoption Agency with Sliding Scale Fees

Adoption agency fees vary widely.  Adoption agencies with sliding scale fees charge families based on their income. Choosing an adoption agency with sliding scale fees helps ensure you’re not paying more than you can afford in total adoption placement fees.

2. Adoption Assistance Programs Through Your Employer

Does your employer offer adoption assistance? You might be surprised. Many employers offer assistance to adoptive families.  Here are some examples of adoption-friendly workplaces who are helping their employers afford the cost of adoption:

In addition to offering generous reimbursement packages that help offset the costs of adopting a child, many companies offer paid parental leave to help new adoptive families bond.  The law firm Latham & Watkins, LLP offers at least 22 weeks of paid leave to adoptive parents. Like paid maternity leave packages, parental leave packages for adoptive families are becoming more common.

Read more about the most adoption-friendly workplaces in the United States.

To find out if your employer offers adoption assistance, contact your benefits department.

3. Adoption Loans

Adoption have become a popular way to offset or cover the cost of adoption.  Despite being financially secure, some families find the upfront cost of adopting is too high.  Here is how many families are borrowing money to finance an adoption:

  • Home equity loans: Some families choose to open a home equity loan in order to finance an adoption. This option provides access to a low-interest line of credit with tax-deductible interest.
  • Personal Loans: There are many companies that offer fixed-interest loans for the purpose of adoption. Some families select this option in order to avoid payments from becoming more expensive than anticipated.
  • Credit Cards: While most financial planners advise against paying for large purchases with credit cards, some families who qualify for reimbursements through their employers choose to pay for adoption-related expenses with a credit card because they know they will be able to quickly pay off the balance.

4. The Adoption Tax Credit

The 2018 Adoption Tax Credit is $13,810 per child.  In order to be eligible for the tax credit, you must have a federal tax liability, and you have 5 years to use the full amount of the credit.  There are limitations on gross income for claiming the full amount of the Adoption Tax Credit, so it is important to discuss filing for this credit with your tax professional.

5. Crowdfunding an Adoption

More families are turning to fundraising platforms like GoFundMe to raise money to finance their adoption plans.  While this method of peer-to-peer fundraising (known as “crowdfunding”) is appealing and often generates substantial income for hopeful adoptive parents, we encourage parents to be thoughtful about this approach.

This type of fundraising can expose very personal details of a child’s life, asking donors to provide financial support based on trauma or loss the child experienced before they found a family.  While this type of adoption funding is well-intentioned, we encourage families considering crowdfunding platforms to think about how they will discuss these fundraisers with their child as they grow older.  If you decide to move forward with adoption crowdfunding to finance your adoption, we encourage you to be mindful of the information you share online about your adoption plan, your agency and the child you plan to adopt.

6. Subsidies from Local Government Agencies

If you adopt a child with special needs from foster care, you may be eligible to receive a subsidy to help offset the costs of providing long term care for your child.  The amount of your adoption subsidy will vary depending on the jurisdiction you adopt from and the needs of your child.  Adoption subsidies are intended to ensure costs of caring for special needs children are not an undue burned on adoptive families and that your adopted child is able to receive the care he or she needs.  If you decide to adopt a child from foster care, your adoption agency or social worker can help you navigate the process of receiving an adoption subsidy.

Need more information about the cost of adoption? Contact us today!


Single Parent Adoption 101

Single Parent Adoption – Can You Adopt as a Single Parent?

single parent adoption

Single parent adoption has become more popular over the past 3 decades. Within the adoption community, single parent adoption can mean several things.  In most states, single parent adoption is defined as an unmarried individual petitioning a court to be the legal parent of a child.  Single parent adoption is legal in all 50 states.  In some cases, single parent adoption is more complicated.

How can I adopt as a single parent?

Both single moms and single dads can adopt in several ways. Domestic infant adoption, or the adoption of infants born within the United States by a parent living in the United States is a common way for single parents to adopt. Single parents can also adopt from public foster care systems.  Some countries permit international adoption by single parents.  If you are considering international adoption as a single parent, it is important to work with a Hague-accredited adoption agency to help you navigate the adoption process to ensure you choose a country that permits single parent adoption.

Important considerations in single parent adoption

Like most single parents growing families, it is important to consider many things before growing your family through adoption. Having a strong network of friends and family who can provide support to you as you begin your parenting journey will help you adjust to the joys and challenges of parenting.  Financial considerations are also important to take into account. Most single parents only have one source of income. Discussing your family’s financial health prior to adoption, and ensuring that you are prepared to raise a child is a good idea.  Additionally, discussion your adoption plan with your employer will help you plan for the time you spend away from work when your new baby or child comes home.

Despite the increasing number of children raised in single-parent households today, the public perception that it takes two parents to raise a well-adjusted child can be stressful for those considering single parent adoption. Many single adoptive parents find it helpful to connect with other single parent households in order to foster a level of understanding a support surrounding their family structure.

Resources for single parent adoption

Flying Solo As a Single Parent (On-Demand Video Training)

Adopting and raising a child as a single parent has become more common and widely accepted over the last decade.  Yet, it can be a complex and challenging endeavor that requires careful thought and preparation.  Singles who are contemplating adoption often have many questions, and possibly even concerns about the process.  They may be filled with anticipation and excitement, or they may be unsure if parenting on their own is the right choice.  This seminar will cover BOTH the process of single parent adoption as well as the joys and challenges after a child is home.  Some of the issues addressed include going it alone, answering questions from nosy outsiders, helping the child make sense of his/her family, dating as a single adoptive parent, and the heightened sensitivity your adopted child has regarding loss and change.

Apply to Adopt as a Single Parent 

Complete our online adoption application and begin your single parent adoption journey!


LGBTQ Adoption 101

Adoption for LGBTQ Couples: Navigating the LGBTQ Adoption Process

LGBTQ adoption

Over the past several decades, more same LGBT couples are choosing adoption to grow their families.  The United States Census reports that between 2 and 3.7 million children under the age of 18 have an LGBTQ parent, that same-sex parents are more than 6 times as likely to become foster parents and more than 4 times more likely to pursue adoption as a path to parenthood.   So how can adoption professionals and LGBTQ families navigate the adoption process thoughtfully?

Choosing the type of adoption that’s right for your family

When it’s time to decide what kind of adoption is right for your family, LGBTQ couples have a lot to consider.  There are three main types of adoption to pursue: domestic infant adoption, international adoption, and foster care adoption. Let’s explore all three.

Domestic Infant Adoption for LGBTQ Families

In the United States, LGBTQ couples may pursue domestic infant adoptions in all 50 states.  However, some states have recently passed faith-based adoption legislation which makes adoption more challenging for LGBTQ individuals.  If you are considering a domestic infant adoption, it is important to choose an adoption agency or professional who is welcoming to LGBTQ families and understands the legal framework in your state.

International Adoption for LGBTQ Families

Once considered the most convenient type of adoption available to American families, international adoptions have become more complex in recent years.  Adoption agencies completing international adoptions are bound by the Hague Adoption Convention, which guides adoption ethics and principles. Under these conventions, agencies must respect laws and standards put into place by the countries in which children are born. For LGBTQ couples pursuing international adoption, this can present unique challenges.  LGBTQ couples and individuals interested in pursuing an international adoption should inquire with their placement agency about specific country restrictions related to LGBTQ adoption because guidelines vary greatly. Adoptions Together welcomes to opportunity to complete international home studies for LGBTQ couples and individuals if you meet inter-country eligibility requirements.

Foster Care Adoption for LGBTQ Families

Adopting from foster care has many benefits.  It is one of the most affordable ways to adopt a child, and local departments of social services make adoption through foster care readily accessible for families from all backgrounds.  LGBTQ families may adopt children from foster care as long as they pass the required home study and training.  At Adoptions Together, we work with dozens of LGBTQ couples each year who choose adoption from foster care to expand their families.

Choosing an LGBTQ-Friendly Adoption Agency

Choosing an agency with a proven track record is important for any family pursuing adoption. For LGBTQ couples who want to adopt, finding an LGBTQ-friendly adoption agency is paramount.  Since its inception, Adoptions Together has served on the advisory board of the Human Rights Campaign’s All Children, All Families project, which connects LGBTQ families with agencies seeking to provide comprehensive adoption services to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender adoptive families.  As a Gold Seal-recognized agency, we are well-prepared to serve all families, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender with compassionate adoption service.

To find an All Children, All Families approved agency near you, visit the HRC’s website.


How Much Does Adoption Really Cost?

How Much Does It REALLY Cost to Adopt?

 

how much does it cost to adopt an infant

 

How much does it cost to adopt? We get this question more than most, so don’t be embarrassed if you’re asking it, too. The answer is not as straightforward as you might think. Today, adoptive families are as diverse as others.  So let’s talk about the bottom line: how much does it REALLY cost to adopt?

The Type of Adoption You Choose Will Determine How Much You Pay

When you decide to grow your family through adoption, you have to decide what kind of adoption is right for you.  There are several different kinds of adoption to pursue.  You can choose domestic infant adoption, which connects adoptive families with infants born in the United States.  You can pursue a foster-to-adopt program through your local Department of Social Services, which helps families interested in adopting children living in foster care.  Or, you can choose to adopt internationally.  All of these choices are different, and costs related to each will vary.

Domestic Infant Adoption

The average cost of a domestic infant adoption in 2016 was about $28,000.  The cost of domestic infant adoption will vary depending on many factors unique to your adoption and family situation, including things like whether you choose to pay for birthparent expenses, whether you elect to work with a licensed non-profit adoption agency or an adoption facilitator, and how far you need to travel during your adoption journey.  The cost of your adoption should include your home study and most of your legal fees, but this might vary as well.

Adoptions Together charges fees for domestic infant placements on a sliding scale based on your family’s income.  To learn more about the cost of adopting an infant, click here.

Foster Care Adoption

Foster care adoption connects children living in public foster care systems with families hoping to expand through adoption.  There are two ways to adopt from foster care: by pursuing foster-to-adopt services through a local Department of Social Services (DSS), or by working directly with a licensed agency that provides foster care adoption services. In each case, the cost will vary. For families that choose to pursue foster-to-adopt services through a local DSS, most adoption-related costs will be covered by the jurisdiction the adoptive child lives in.  This makes foster-to-adopt one of the most cost-effective means of pursuing adoption.  If a family wishes to pursue foster care adoption while working with a licensed, private agency, many costs will be underwritten by local jurisdictions, but some fees must be paid by the adoptive family.

Some families choose to pursue foster-to-adopt because of the cost benefits, however, children living in foster-to-adopt scenarios are often still working with courts to be reunified with their families of origin and the process to adopt a child through foster-to-adopt programs can be long and emotional.  Some families find that working with a private agency to pursue foster care adoption is more direct, despite the slightly increased costs.

You can learn more about the cost of foster care adoption here.

International Adoption

The cost of international adoption varies widely by country, and is the most expensive type of adoption for families. Once considered the most convenient type of adoption by timeline, international adoption has become more complex in recent years. Today, international adoptions can cost as much as $40,000.  If you are interested in pursuing an international adoption, it is important to work with an agency that is Hague Accredited and one that can connect you with a Primary Provider to serve as your representative in the country from which you hope to adopt.

To learn more about international adoption, click here.

The Adoption Tax Credit

The Adoption Tax Credit is a federal tax credit for families who adopt a child or children.  It is designed to offset adoption costs in the form of a tax credit.  The current credit is $13,810 per child adopted in 2018.  To learn more about the Adoption Tax Credit and whether you qualify, head to the IRS website.

Working with an Agency vs. Facilitator

Once you’ve done some research about the cost of adopting, it’s time to make some important decisions about who to work with.  A licensed adoption agency is legally required to provide services outlined by the state you live in, and reports to multiple bureaus to maintain accreditation.  While many adoption facilitators provide quality services to families hoping to grow through adoption, they are not bound by the same licensing guidelines.  As a licensed adoption agency, we highly recommend researching the licensed agencies in your area to make an informed decision about this major decision before you begin to grow your family.  An adoption agency should respond to your needs, make you feel safe, and provide lifelong support to you as your family expands.


Kinship Care: Is It for You?

grandparents walking with two young children Kinship Care

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.


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!


Inspiration is in the Heart of the Beholder: An Adoptee’s Work Exploring Her Identity

This post was written by Laura X. Williams, an international transracial adoptee, who was adopted from Yiwu, China at 7 months old. Laura researches adoption and is the Special Programs Coordinator for 2018 Holt Adoptee Summer camp. She will be speaking at Adoptions Together’s annual conference, Voices of Transracial Adoptees on April 21, 2018.

 

Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” –Fred Rogers

Mister Rogers always puts the struggle in perspective for me. Did you know his sister was adopted? As the movie theaters and nostalgic adults prepare for the release of Won’t You Be My Neighbor? on June 8th, I have been doing some deep thinking around the meaning of community, belonging, and what neighborhood looks like for internationally adopted, transracial adoptees.

Run-down on who I am and how I know what I know: I am an adoptee from Yiwu, China, adopted when I was 7-months old in 1995. My family’s labour pains began in the Hangzhou airport, the plane was the delivery canal through which I was rebirthed into my forever world, the Newark air-port solidified my delivery. “Welcome!” said America, “You are now the proud daughter of two Jersey born-and-raised white parents.”  We stayed in New Jersey for 19 years since then and have always had a cat around. Now, I’m 5-foot 5-inches college graduate who has made it her mission in life to foster collaborative adoption reform in the name of a more livable world for all.

What inspires you?

What initially inspired me or what inspires me to do what I do on a daily basis?

Pursuing the inquiry of adoption occurred to me as an innate, almost atavistic curiosity once society enlisted me into a future of higher education. Growing up being different in ways I had not chosen for myself, never felt troublesome. It just was. This was partly my attitude and partly my parents extremely proactive attempts to connect me with Chinese people in the United States. The spheres of Chinese dance, Families with Children from China, Chinese school, Also Known As, Inc., Chinatown NYC all became the interwoven fibers of who I was becoming. My parents tell me they would high-five ‘behind-the-scenes’ when I voiced a difficult adoption question:  “why was I given up?” “where are my birth parents?”, “what is wrong with me?”  They were just so happy I felt comfortable enough from a young age to talk to them about adoption things. It inspired my subconscious.

I’ve always wanted to help people. Once I learned to fold fortune tellers, I went on an 8-year-old’s campaign selling them for money I intended to send to my orphanage (update: the campaign didn’t last past my family during Thanksgiving dinner). I understood there were people somewhere (China) who somehow (orphanage) sustained me for the first 5,110 hours of my life. But is and has been a process for me to hold them in my heart as human instead of just a concept out in space. I may never meet them or be able to directly thank them for my salvation who felt me when I couldn’t feel myself? I need to understand myself, for something deep within me sings a melody of transgression. And I never wanted to land in a meaningless desk job. So, I used the tool around me of education to struggle through the lack of choice, disconnection because of it, and  a humanizing gratitude while meeting other adoptees who may be seeking the same social validation I was looking for.

Now what?

I remember in high school, sitting under dimmed spotlights, behind a microphone, in front of an audience of my first-generation Asian-American peers to tell them, “Tonight we heard raw stories of our strength and courage as Asian-Americans. I feel so connected to both the Asian-American community and the Adoptee community, I draw on the strength of both communities. I am double supported and feel empowered because I am of both.” I recurrently have to check my privilege.  When identity exploration informs each element of how we live our lives, and when part of that identity is a big question mark, no wonder it gets complex fast.

My mentor who is a transnational, transracial adoptee herself gives a great metaphor “It’s like, Bill Nye loves touching the slimy bacteria for science, while other people would rather not. It is the same in our pursuit of understanding adoption, some people would rather not go there while others like us, like to sit in the muck.” There’s something about complex “muck” of adoption that attracts people like me to interrogate and encourage myself to create meaning in our complex web of inter-connected relationships. I think we are all in a constant state of love- having to adjust our worldviews in order to love the most. That constant adjustment is my survival, my sustenance.

When I feel drained by the amount of intellectual and emotional energy I exert as an adoptee working in adoption, talking with other Chinese adoptees reminds me I am doing meaningful work. Giving the gift of validation for someone ungrounded is only the beginning of a deeper exchange. I’ve come to believe, no matter how micro a conversation may be, in the grand scheme of things, it holds the power to transform our social world. Even if it just transforms you.

Mister Rogers inspires me, my friendships guide me, my presence grounds me and I look forward to spreading the love in the neighborhood!