What To Do if Your Child is Being Bullied

Erica Moltz, MA, NCC
Clinical Director
Adoptions Together

Bullying is a widespread problem in our schools and neighborhoods.  It can be very harmful to children and is often very difficult for parents to deal with.  Below are some definitions of exactly what bullying is and strategies for helping your child.

What is Bullying:  It is unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance.  Bullying is repeated or has the potential to be repeated over time.  A child is being bullied when another youth is making threats to them, spreading rumors, attacking them physically or verbally and excluding them from a group.  Children who bully use their power, such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or their popularity to control or harm others.  Both children who are bullied and children who bully others may have serious, lasting problems.

Types of BullyingVerbal bullying is when mean things are written or said about a child including teasing, name calling, inappropriate sexual comments, taunting and threatening to cause harm.  Social /relational bullying occurs when a child’s reputation or relationships are hurt, when a child is left out on purpose, when other children are told not be friends with the child, when rumors are spread about a child or a child is embarrassed in public.  Physical bullying involves hurting a person’s body or possessions, including hitting, kicking, pinching, spitting, tripping, pushing, taking or breaking a child’s things, or making mean or rude hand gestures.  Cyberbullying  can happen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  It can be posted anonymously and distributed to a wide audience and is extremely difficult to delete.  It involves using email, social network sites, cell phones, web cams, text messages, Internet sites to send mean messages, spread rumors, and post embarrassing pictures or vides and fake websites or profiles.

When and Where Bulling Occurs: It can happen during or after school.  Although most reported bullying occurs in the school building, a significant percentage happens in places like the playground or school bus.  It can also happen traveling to and from school, in the youth’s neighborhood or on the Internet or on texts when your child is at home. 

Signs that Your Child May Be Dealing with Being Bullied:  It may be going on if your child is reluctant to go to school or get on the computer; if your child’s mood changes after looking at his/her cell phone or going on the computer; if your child is frequently sick, with headaches and sleeping problems and often wants to stay home from school; if  your child is moody, anxious, depressed or withdrawn; if he/she keeps losing money or other valuable items or has a lot of damaged or missing belongings; if there are unexplained bruises or injuries; and if your child doesn’t seem to be eating lunch and comes home unusually hungry or lunch comes back home.

Why your child may not ask for help: Bullying can make a child feel helpless and he/she may want to handle it on his/her own to feel in control again, or the child may fear being seen as weak or a tattletale if they tell an adult.  The child may fear a backlash from whom ever is bullying them.  Bullying can be a humiliating experience and your child may be uncomfortable sharing what is being said about them, whether it is true or false, and may fear that they will be judged. A child who is being bullied may already feel socially isolated and may fear being rejected by their peers who give them support and can protect them from being bullied.  If a child has been exposed to trauma and distressed attachment then they may feel shame, making it even harder to ask for help from adults.

What You Can Do If Your Child is Being Bullied:

Listen with empathy and curiosity to what your child has to say. Be supportive without getting too emotional.  Help your child name the feelings he/she is experiencing.  For example, you can say “I am so sorry this is happening to you and I wonder if you are feeling scared and embarrassed. “

Refrain from blaming your child; it is not his/her fault. Define the bulling as “wrong”, that it has to stop and that you will help.

Be aware of your own Triggers that may be activated when you find out your child is being bullied.  For example, if you were bullied as a child you may have intense feelings and relive some of your anger and helplessness as a child. Remember that if you get too emotional it may make it harder for your child to come to you.

Use the mindful strategyStop, Drop, Roll –  to feel calmer and more emotionally  regulated.  Stop the interaction, Drop into a calm, centered place, and Roll Out with a new thoughtful strategy.

Coach your child on how to avoid bullies at school and whom to go to if he/she feels unsafe. Give you child some control by communicating that he/she may not be able to stop the bullying immediately but could get away from the bullying person and find someone to talk to. Role play short and simple responses and encourage your child to then leave the scene. Have slogans they can say like, “I have had enough or cut it out or it’s not funny”.  Let you child know that fighting back verbally or physically often will often only result in escalating things and fuel the child who is bullying. Encourage your child to find a buddy at school that they can be with for support.

Step in when things escalate to the point when you feel your child isn’t safe and the child cannot handle it on their own. Ask your child what would be the most helpful thing you could do to help.

Find a teacher or administrator in the school who will help. Encourage your child to use them as a safe haven when they need a break or time out to get away from the bully. 

Keep your child talking whether it is to you or to a safe adult at school. 

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Tags: bullying,triggers,mindful
Category: Adoption

Thoughts from a Retiring Adoption Professional

Susan Ogden, Domestic Infant Program Director

I am retiring from Adoptions Together after directing the Domestic Infant Program since 2000. It’s been a privilege to provide assistance to the many hundreds of birth parents and their children who have come to  Adoptions Together these last 14 years. I came to adoption work as an adoptive mother who brought home an infant in an open adoption 21 years ago.

Adoption has changed dramatically in the past 14 years. It’s become more open, less shameful, and more collaborative for birth and adoptive families. We’re gratified to see the positive long term effects on children in open relationships from the beginning of their adoptive placement. At the same time, children adopted several decades ago are now seeking contact through social networking. As an agency established in 1990, we can respond to older children and their birth parents and help them navigate the contact with its challenges and opportunities.

One of the most problematic changes in adoption is matching birth and adoptive families through the internet, with out of state for profit providers seeking expectant parents in Maryland, DC and Virginia for families in other states where laws may not be as protective as our three states. Many expectant parents are at risk of not being provided with all the information they need to keep their children in their family or make an adoption plan that meets their needs. Social workers at licensed adoption agencies and our adoption attorney colleagues will be dedicated to the best interest of children and ensure their biological parents get help while in crisis, whether they choose adoption or not. Not every parent in crisis is given adequate information and sometimes they are at risk of being exploited due to misinformation. The increase in reproductive technology, particularly surrogacy, has also brought ethical and practical issues to medical and adoption professionals.

We were proud to participate in a change in the Maryland law in 2013 (similar to the law in Virginia) which made short term living expenses for parents considering adoption legal in Maryland. Maryland expectant parents can receive financial assistance to address their critical needs, which among other things means they can have less stressful pregnancies and healthier children. They can also benefit from laws in our states that protect them with longer than average revocation periods and binding post adoption contact agreements.

At the core of Adoptions Together’s work is  dedication to client service: we are available 24 hours a day to talk to parents in crisis; we quickly respond to mothers needing counseling after delivery; we  take custody of children regardless of their medical needs; we support and assist parents in creating adoptive homes and we counsel women to ensure they understand their options and choose the best one for themselves and their child. Like any institution, adoption will continue to evolve. Our commitment is to make our practice ethical and respectful to the clients who need us during a challenging time in their lives.

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Pathways to Mindfulness (Even on Snow Days)

The snow days when kids are home from school are a mixed bag for many parents.  On the one hand, it’s always great to break up routines and not have to get children up and out to school on a strict schedule.  On the other hand, several days at home without a routine can be very stressful, especially when parents are using up their precious vacation days and/or may be trying to work from home while managing their bored kids.

We know that children absorb the stress of the adults in their lives so that stressed out parents can unintentionally create stressed out kids. At those times when we are at the “end of our rope”, the last thing we want is for our kids to get more dysregulated.  Mindfulness is a very effective self-care strategy to help us control our stressed out thoughts and responses.

Being mindful does not mean that you have to DO anything or believe in anything.  It means that you simply notice, in each moment, where you are, what is happening and how you are responding. What we learn by cultivating mindfulness is that the actual present moment is often less stressful than focusing on what happened in the past or may happen in the future.  Mindfulness is not about believing in anything, meditating for hours, or blocking out thoughts.  Practicing mindfulness simply involves noticing our thoughts and coming back to the present moment and what is actually happening.

In the book, Child’s Mind, Christopher Willard lists several very helpful images that help keep us from getting stuck on thoughts about the past or the future that cause us anxiety, worry and regret. 

  • Sitting by a stream and watching thoughts carried gently downstream on leaves or boats.
  • Watching a spring or fountain bubble up with our thoughts trickling away.
  • Noticing our thoughts being carried past on a conveyer belt or marked on signs carried by marchers in a parade.
  • Observing our thoughts as autumn leaves landing softly on an empty and accepting blanket.
  • Following the bouncing ball of thoughts or perceptions as in an old TV sing-along.
  • Being aware of our thoughts as clouds, forming and dissolving and reforming in the sky and then blowing away.
  • Sitting on a train looking out the window at what the scenery brings (rather than climbing out each time you see something interesting).
  • Erasing a chalkboard or white board of thoughts and wiping it clean.
  • Imagine shaking a snow globe that then slowly becomes totally still when you stop shaking it.

Willard also reminds us about all the opportunities in our daily lives to practice mindfulness:

  • When we are waiting at red lights or stop signs, or for our computer to boot up, or water to boil, or coffee to brew.
  • When we hear a phone ringing, or walk up or down the stairs.
  • Watching a subway pulling into the station.
  • Picking up an object like a toothbrush or a mug.
  • Turning on a faucet.
  • Noticing the space before checking text messages or email.

The trick is to let thoughts that rush in float past us without getting stuck on any particular thought, and recognizing that the nature of our busy minds means that we will have to remember, over and over again, to come back to the present, to our bodies, to the sounds in the room and to our breath.

Please contact Erica Moltz, Director of the Counseling Center if you are interested in counseling, phone coaching or simply talking more about mindfulness, 301 422 5101 or emoltz@adoptionstogether.org.


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Tags: Mindful Parenting
Category: Foster Care
Category: Adoption

Mindful Parenting Can Help to Repair Difficult Moments With Our Children

It is a myth to think that parenting is a “no brainer”.  Actually, research demonstrates that it takes a huge amount of brain power to be a good parent.   When our parent brain is “hijacked by stress”, it is very difficult to sustain a caring state of mind and remain a sensitive, emotionally responsive, and protective parent. Neuroscience helps explain what happens when a parental brain is overwhelmed by stress and reacts in ways that threaten to rupture their nurturing and empathetic relationship with their child.  Perhaps this scenario will sound familiar: It is way after your four year old son’s bedtime, you have read him a few stories, and fetched many glasses of water for him.  Now he begins to whine and say he is too scared to go to sleep.  You still have some work to finish that you brought home and feel totally exhausted and overwhelmed.  You just want him to go to sleep and you yell loudly that “you can’t stand this for another minute, he does this every night, and you are sick and tired of him being so bad”.  If he doesn’t go to sleep right now, he won’t be able to watch cartoons when he gets home from school tomorrow.  Your son starts crying and you feel awful.

It is a myth to think that parenting is a “no brainer”.  Actually, research demonstrates that it takes a huge amount of brain power to be a good parent.   When our parent brain is “hijacked by stress”, it is very difficult to sustain a caring state of mind and remain a sensitive, emotionally responsive, and protective parent. Neuroscience helps explain what happens when a parental brain is overwhelmed by stress and reacts in ways that threaten to rupture their nurturing and empathetic relationship with their child.  Perhaps this scenario will sound familiar: It is way after your four year old son’s bedtime, you have read him a few stories, and fetched many glasses of water for him.  Now he begins to whine and say he is too scared to go to sleep.  You still have some work to finish that you brought home and feel totally exhausted and overwhelmed.  You just want him to go to sleep and you yell loudly that “you can’t stand this for another minute, he does this every night, and you are sick and tired of him being so bad”.  If he doesn’t go to sleep right now, he won’t be able to watch cartoons when he gets home from school tomorrow.  Your son starts crying and you feel awful.

Though we love our children, it is inevitable that sometimes we won’t like our children or feel positively towards them, especially when they are acting in ways that make parenting more difficult. If these feelings are combined with our own stressful personal issues, our higher cognitive capacity to calm ourselves down and be in control of our emotions may be briefly suppressed.  If this happens, as it does to all of us, we may find ourselves yelling at our children and saying things that we wish we could take back.   At these times, our brains go “limbic”, putting us and our children at the mercy of our more primitive, poorly regulated emotions and actions.  The good news is that many of us are able to recover quickly from these ruptures with our children, get back into our thinking brain, reconnect with our emotions, and repair connections with them. When we are able to mindfully feel our emotions and not act them out in inappropriate ways, or “feel and deal”, we regain the connection with our children.  However, ruptures without repairs can lead to a deepening and more enduring disconnection between us and our children, and can create shame and humiliation that is toxic for a child’s growing sense of self.

Stop, Drop and Roll is an effective mindful technique that helps parents turn their attention to the present moment.  It gives the parent’s brain the opportunity to slow down and take a more thoughtful look at how to repair an interaction with a child which may have inadvertently been seen or felt by their child as unfair, scary and/or shaming. The first step is for the parent to stop and create some distance mentally and perhaps physically so that he/she can gain perspective on the interaction.  Then, the parent can drop inside him/herself, breathe deeply and relax the mind. This will help the parent get out of their limbic system and back in the more rational part of their brain so that they can mindfully be aware of the rupture they may have inadvertently caused with their child.  Once a calmer state of mind and clarity has been achieved, a parent’s thinking brain will be “back on line” and he/she will be able to be roll out an effective repair strategy to re- reconnect with their child.    

Erica Moltz, MA, NCC, Clinical Director

If you are interested in learning more about mindful parenting, Erica Moltz is available for personalized phone coaching sessions.                                                                                                                              

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Why Less is More This Holiday Season

The holidays are a stressful time for everyone.  There is always too much to do and not enough time to do it.  The joy and wonder of the holidays can sometimes be overshadowed by all of the pressures and obligations of travel, entertaining, and gift giving.  The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can leave many of us feeling overwhelmed, drained and stressed out. 

We know as adults that our stress level increases during the holidays, but we often forget that holiday stress and anxiety are common in children too.  Their schedules and routines are turned upside down, and it easy for them to become over-stimulated with all of the excitement and changes.  This can result in physical complaints like headaches and tummy aches, withdrawal from family and friends, regression in behavior such as a return to thumb sucking or bed wetting, or an increase in challenging behaviors.   

For adopted and foster children, the usual stressors associated with the holidays can be exacerbated or intensified due to a history of trauma.  Instead of happiness and joy, the lens through which adopted and foster children see the holidays may be one of fear, disappointment, anxiety and stress.  Perhaps they have memories of living in a home where there was drug and alcohol use, physical/sexual abuse or neglect, or the absence of a parent due to incarceration.  Maybe they spent previous holidays in an orphanage, group home, or multiple foster homes, never knowing what it is like to receive a gift or share the holidays with a forever family.  They may be feeling and grieving the loss of their birth family, country or culture.  Reminders of these past experiences can trigger our children and cause them to behave in ways that are puzzling and upsetting.    

In an effort to stress less and enjoy the holidays more, my family has decided to embrace a “less is more” philosophy this holiday season.  Now that my children are teens, I am realizing how quickly time goes by and how important it is to make the most of every moment.  Our children are not likely to remember how clean the house was or how many gifts they received, but they will remember the quality time we spent with them.        

Here are some steps you can take to make the holidays more peaceful and memorable this year:   

1.       Is it ok to say no.  Know your limits and don’t try to be everything to everyone.  The world will not fall apart if you miss a party.  Pick and choose events and gatherings that are important to your family. 

2.       Accept that you cannot eliminate stress from your life.  When you feel stressed, acknowledge it, learn from it, and move through it.  Model self-regulation and calm for your children. 

3.       Be realistic about what you can accomplish.  Recognize that you are only human and will not be able to do everything on your “to do” list.  Prioritize your list so you can check off the most important items first. 

4.       Make or bake gifts instead of feeling pressured to spend money on the latest and greatest.     

5.       Instead of trying to change the way your children are feeling, acknowledge and honor their difficult feelings, and help them to cope in positive ways.      

6.       If you must run holiday errands with your child, plan ahead and set your child up for success.  For example, try to avoid peak shopping times, make expectations clear in advance, bring snacks and toys, stay focused on your mission, and don’t try to pack too much into one outing. 

7.       Have realistic expectations and remember that challenging behavior is not going to magically disappear just because it is a holiday.  No holiday will be perfect and not every moment will be picture worthy.  Try to focus on what is going right.    

8.       Maintain a sense of humor!  Find reasons to laugh and smile.      

9.       Take care of yourself and ask for help if you need it.      

10.   Remember that your children are only young once.  Take a deep breath, relax, and make the most of this precious time together. 


For more tips on making the holidays more joyful, join us for our monthly webinar on Wednesday, December 4th @ 7:00 pm:  Are we having fun yet?  Holidays, vacations and the challenging child.



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Mindful Parenting on the Go

Erica Moltz, MA, NCC, Clinical Director

As the weather gets colder, the holidays approach and we are more involved in the stress of the school year, it may be a good time to reflect again about the ways in which mindfulness can help us to be more effective parents.  For many of us, parenting is stressful and complicated by all the other things we have on our plates. The good and bad news is that technology makes it easy and inviting to multi-task  so that we can parent while checking things off our long “to-do” lists. We can have a quick conversation, email, text, and/or be on Facebook with work, friends and family when we are with our children.  Even if we are not literally multi-tasking, we may be distracted from being fully present when we are with our children.  If our thoughts are elsewhere, we may be physically with our children, but not really present.  We aren’t present if we are thinking about ordinary daily activities like what we have to do at work the next day,  or what we will cook for dinner, or tomorrow’s car pool challenges.  We aren’t present if we are stuck on habitual thoughts about an unpleasant past experience.  We aren’t present if we are focusing on the future and worrying about how something will turn out that has not yet occurred.  (Mark Twain actually commented about this very frequent tendency – “ I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened” ).  The end result is that we may be in “ auto-pilot mode” when bathing our children, picking them up from school, sharing a meal with them, reading a bedtime story, or having a conversation with them . 

Mindfulness is the remedy for an overactive, distracted and stressed out mind.  It is very portable and goes wherever you go.  Since it is the nature of the mind to be extremely active, mindfulness has to be practiced to get better at it.  You can sit down and practice mindfulness every day for a period of time or you can do it on the run for a minute or two at a time. Mindfulness can be practiced moment by moment as you shower, drive, watch TV, eat dinner, and most importantly spend time with your children.  It is very important to remember that the goal is to be a “good enough parent” not a perfect one and the goal is not to achieve total and perfect mindfulness. Instead, the end game is to be more aware of when our mind is wandering and we are not present, so we can bring ourselves, gently and with compassion, back to our breath, to our body, to the sights, smells and sounds in the room.  The pay off is that when we are truly present and in a mindful state, our thoughts, emotions and bodies are more balanced and regulated.  When we are in a mindful state of awareness, we will more likely be attuned and empathetic parents, able to have fun with our children and take delight in their presence.  When we respond from a place of mindfulness, we are more likely to respond thoughtfully rather than in a reactive, less effective way.  

There are many simple ways to practice mindfulness.  Notice your breath.  On the in-breath imagine taking in lightness and more than enough air.  On the out-breath, feel yourself sink into your body and whatever you are sitting on, feeling grounded.  Notice your breath.  If your thoughts wander, just gently pull them back in this moment to your breath.  Or notice your eating. Taste your food with awareness. Experience the food in your mouth – its texture and consistency. Smell the food.  Taste the food. Eat slowly coordinating with your breath. When you are with your child, really take in their voice, their hair, their eyes, their face, their body.  Remember to notice your breath, invite yourself to be totally present with your child by paying attention with openness and curiosity to the present moment.


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South African Children In Need of Families

Irene Jordan, International Adoption Program Director

Adoptions Together is currently seeking adoptive families for orphaned children in South Africa.  An estimated 3.7 million orphans in South Africa are in need of families. The children most in need of families have been diagnosed with HIV.  While once considered a dire diagnosis, due to recent medical advances, children with HIV can now live full and healthy lives with proper medical treatment and care, www.cdc.gov.

South Africa has a long history of poverty, inequality and hardship. The first cases of HIV/AIDS were diagnosed in South Africa in 1983, and South Africa continues to have more people with HIV/AIDS than any other country in the world.  Children infected with HIV most often contract the disease through mother to child transmission. The majority of children have received excellent medical care in South Africa through South Africa’s Johannesburg Child Welfare (JCW), and with continued proper treatment, can have a nearly normal life expectancy. 

This program is available to couples married at least 3 years, and to single women. Prospective parents must submit a dossier to South Africa prior to their 48th birthdays. South Africa is particularly seeking black families for the children, although families of any race may be considered. 

For the South Africa program, our agency is partnering with Spence-Chapin, an accredited non-profit adoption service provider in New York City. Adoptions Together has worked successfully in partnership with Spence-Chapin to find families for children from several other countries.  Our agency serves as the local agency for families who reside in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Colombia.  Adoptions Together provides the home study, training, support through the process and post adoption services to the families, while Spence-Chapin works directly with the overseas officials, and assists families through the placement process.

Families interested in considering the adoption of a child from South Africa, please call 301-439-2900 and ask to speak to a member of the International Adoption Team for more information.





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Talking About Adoption

Many adoptive parents struggle with how and when to talk with their child about adoption.  Dealing with the challenge of how to tell children their adoption story is a very common one, and something that parents around the world deal with each and every day.  At some point, all children, whether they are adopted or not, become curious and start asking questions about where they came from so that they can better understand who they are.  Because every child is different and every story is unique, there isn’t a definitive “right” time to tell children their adoption story, but it is best to begin the conversation about adoption as early as possible. From the very beginning, even if they are too young to fully understand, make it a point to tell children how wonderful it is that they joined the family through adoption. This will help to reinforce that adoption is a positive event and something to be celebrated, not avoided.

Using the word “adoption” regularly and when it feels natural can also be helpful so that it doesn’t become unmentionable or taboo. Talking openly and honestly about adoption, starting in infancy, makes everyone feel more comfortable and accepting.  Continuing to talk about adoption in developmentally appropriate ways as children grow gives parents practice with what to say and how to say it, especially when their children start asking more pointed and difficult questions.  No parent is perfect, and there may be times when you don’t feel like you said all the right things.  As long as you keep the lines of communication open, your child will feel comfortable coming to you with questions and concerns, and you can be there to provide support and guidance.

Some Helpful Tips:

Read Adoption Books – As children grow, reading books and sharing stories with them may help them understand the fact that they were adopted and what it really means.  There are a multitude of adoption themed children’s books that parents can use as a vehicle for discussion. 

Create a Memory/Life Book – Keeping a memory or life book of pictures, artifacts, and events can be a very helpful tool for facilitating discussion about foster care, adoption, birth family issues, and identity. 

Be Patient – It is important to be patient and understanding as your child begins to grasp what it means to be adopted.  Acting frustrated, defensive, or closed off when your child has questions or expresses concerns will only serve to push him away at a time when you want to draw him closer.  Children usually begin to understand the concept of pregnancy and growing in a mommy’s tummy first, and then begin to ask questions about themselves as they start to develop a more sophisticated understanding of family and adoption. 

Be Open and Hones – Honesty is key. You most definitely want to be truthful, but you also want to make sure that you don’t share more than they can handle, and that the information you do share is developmentally appropriate.  You don’t have to explain everything at once and risk overwhelming or confusing them.  You can slowly introduce them to all the information as they get older and can comprehend and process more.  The most important thing is to start the conversation early, and to be available to continue the dialogue over time. 

For more tips and strategies, join us on Saturday, December 7, 2013 from 9:00 am – 12:00 noon for our parent education seminar on “Talking to Your Child about Adoption”.   



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Tags: Talking About Adoption
Category: Foster Care
Category: Adoption

Taking in Our Children From a Mindful Perspective

Erica Moltz, MA, NCC, Clinical Director

For many parents, one of the most challenging aspects of parenting is having the knowledge that bad things have happened to their children that they don’t have the power to take away. Parents desperately want the best for their children so that they can overcome the effects of their past traumatic experiences. 

Parental experience and wisdom have taught us that a few bad decisions on a child’s part can make life much more difficult for them, and even cause them more problems in their adult lives.  So, when our children don’t get good grades or don’t work hard enough or quit things too easily or are mean to their friends or get in trouble at school, we worry that their futures will be adversely affected by their actions and they won’t turn out to be productive citizens.  We wonder if the disrespectful behavior they sometimes exhibit towards us will predict how they will be in their adult relationships.  And, we may wonder if their behavior is a reflection of poor parenting on our part, compounding our own suffering.


If we get too caught up in worrying about what our children are NOT doing, we may forget to appreciate them for who they are and what they ARE doing that is “right”.  We know that ultimately we are the most important person in our child’s life; the more positive our relationship is with them, the more we will influence their values and choices.  The more attuned we are to them, the more we will be able to co-regulate or influence their reactions and behavior. Our relationship with our children will be stronger if they sense our delight in them and their very essence.


We will also feel less stressed as parents if we focus on taking delight in our children.  One of the most effective ways to do this is to be more mindful of the present moment.  For example, we can delight in their presence by being aware of ordinary moments: the way they breathe peacefully before we wake them for school; the way their eyes light up when they are pleased with something they have done well, or how gently they pet the dog or exuberantly run around the yard.  We can be totally present at those moments when they want to tell us about their day or about the TV program they just watched. If we worry too much about our children’s future or stay stuck on what they did wrong yesterday, these ordinary moments may go unnoticed. Sitting on the floor with our pre-schooler and playing pretend games with dolls or toy trucks may not be the most interesting past time for us.  However, paying that kind of attention to our children in the present moment will help them feel “felt” and understood.   Watching a video or listening to a CD with our teen, even if we find it obnoxious or distasteful, will go a long way to help the teen feel “felt” and valued.


Quieting our minds and remembering to pull our thoughts away from the negative about our children will help us stay in the here and now with them and open up to the richness in the present moment. We can use our breath to still the noisy worry and anxious anticipation that our thoughts create about our children and cherish each moment as it unfolds.  Noticing our own breath, the way our chest rises and falls with the in and out breath, can help us stay anchored in the present moment.   With practice, we can train our thoughts to focus on all that is delightful about our children and help them to heal and overcome any trauma in their lives.

 What are some of the ways that you slow down, take a breath, and delight in your children each day? 

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Tags: Mindful Parenting,Delight,Trauma
Category: Foster Care
Category: Adoption

Safe Haven Laws: Why Adoptions Together Opposes Safe Haven Laws

The Safe Haven law allows for anonymous surrender of a newborn up to 7 days old. These laws were conceived to prevent the abandonment, or worse, of infants by desperate parents. Once these newborns are in state foster care, it can take up to 12 months in an anonymous surrender before the infants are permanently adopted, as opposed to voluntary adoption where an infant can be in a permanent home within days.  If a mother surrenders her newborn under Safe Haven, she will have three days (varies by jurisdiction) to revoke this surrender. If she signs a Voluntary Consent to Adoption, she has 15 days in Washington, DC, 10 days in Virginia, and 30 days in Maryland to revoke her consent.


1.      A biological mother utilizing Safe Haven may not be getting the critical counseling she needs to help her process her relinquishment.

2.      A biological mother using Safe Haven may not be notifying the father of the baby of his rights and responsibilities.

3.      A biological mother using Safe Haven will not have the options a voluntary adoption will give her such as choosing a family or the level of contact she may want with her child over the years.  She may not be able to provide important medical updates to her child’s adoptive family, or be available throughout the years to assist with medical questions.

4.      A biological mother using Safe Haven will not be providing comprehensive and ongoing genetic history, social history, anecdotal or generational details to her child.  The child will literally be starting with a “blank slate”. 

5.      A biological mother using Safe Haven may be depriving her child of the right to grow up in his or her biological family, since other relatives may step forward to raise the child.  This is often the case with our clients who consider adoption.

6.      A biological mother using Safe Haven will not get the counseling, support and resource assistance she needs if she ultimately decides to parent her child, as is the case with the vast majority of women who consider adoption.     


1.      A child will always know her birth mother made a plan for her, and did not simply abandon her.

2.      A child has her background information available, and medical updates throughout her life. This can be life saving for children whose biological relatives develop life threatening genetically-based issues and need their children tested. (As a repository of that information, adoption agencies are routinely contacted by both birth and adoptive families for ongoing medical and psychological information exchange.)

3.      A child can have contact with her biological family, and the benefit of knowing both of her families and their mutually developing a respectful relationship on her behalf.

4.      A mother who is suffering post-partum depression or other mental health challenges can receive referrals to counseling and other resources that may help her.

5.      Agency social workers and counselors are available indefinitely to help mothers cope with their adoption decision which can have lifelong implications.

We want to hear your thoughts.  What is your position on Safe Haven laws? 
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Tags: Safe Haven Laws
Category: Foster Care
Category: Adoption