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

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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!”

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What Does A Therapist or Caseworker Do when Parents’ Have “Blocked Care”?

Working Through “Blocked Care”

This post was written by FamilyWorks Together Master Clinical Trainer, Erica Moltz, MA, NCC.

Being a parent is hard work and it is especially hard if a child is challenging and exhibits oppositional behavior.  The reason that some children are so challenging is because of what has happened to them in abusive or neglectful relationships with other adults.  The result is that they often have “blocked trust” that prevents them from feeling safe with a foster or adoptive parent.

If a parent is struggling, they will often feel guilty, carry a sense of shame and fear, and worry that they may be harshly judged by professionals.   For a parent to hang in there with an extremely difficult child and teach the child to trust them, then the parent has to trust the professional and believe that that things will get better.  For the parent to get through their own “blocked care”, they have to feel safe enough with the professional to talk with them about their vulnerable parent feelings of sadness, anger, exhaustion, incompetence and worry.  The parent needs to trust that the professional understands that they are good parents who are doing the best they can, and are deeply committed to their children.  If the parent can learn to engage with a professional in an open way without feeling shame, then they will be more open to exploring new strategies to engage with their child and help their child learn to trust the. .

On May 5th in Silver Spring, Dr. Jon Baylin will be presenting an all-day conference, “Building Attachment through Trust: Brain-Based Interventions for Connecting with Mistrustful Children”.  He will be teaching professionals and parents about the core therapeutic attitude called PACE.   Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy are effective  strategies that professionals can convey to parents to build a trusting relationship between them. At times, parents need professionals to be playful, to generate laughter and lightness, and a sense of hope that things will get better. Parents need for professionals to accept that they have good intentions, wishes and goals for their child, so the parent will be open to the professional’s interventions.  When a professional expresses an attitude of curiosity with a parent, it will help the parent cultivate their own curiosity about what is behind their child’s behavior.  For example, a therapist could convey curiosity by asking a parent, “How do you feel the strength to keep hanging in there with your child?”  Empathetic professionals will give more than information and advice, they will be a supportive presence so the parent will feel alone in the hard work of teaching a child to trust them.

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Creating Attachment: Using PACE to Connect with Your Child

The Importance of Playfulness: An Introduction to PACE

This blog was written by Director of FamilyWorks Together, Alisha Wolf, MPH, LGSW.  Join Alisha at the 2017 Professional Conference

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 stands for Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy.  It is based on how parents connect with infants, and the model holds true for connecting to children of all ages.  Creating safety for our child allows the opportunity for that child to explore the world, their family, and themselves.

Dr. Jon Baylin is a psychologist, writer, and internationally renowned expert in the field of attachment.  He will be discussing PACE, as well as many other ways to connect with children (for parents), and how to coach families towards connection (for professionals) at our 2017 Conference on Friday, May 5th.  For more information on the conference, click HERE.

This week we will discuss the importance of playfulness.

Playfulness

When we are interacting with an infant, we are naturally playful.  We smile at them, sing them silly songs, and laugh when they sneeze or make a funny face.  This playful interaction creates mutual positive feelings and a sense of connection.  Both parties think, “I like being around this person because we are playful together!”  Playfulness reminds us that disagreements and arguments are temporary, and that we have a positive, solid foundation to return to.

Being playful with an older child can sometimes prove more difficult. Some older children are not used to being playful with adults.  However, mistrustful children often have trouble connecting physically with adults—hugs or snuggles can feel overwhelming or too intimate.  Developing a sense of playfulness can create connection from a safe distance.  You can create an opportunity for playfulness by making cookies with silly faces, having a hula hoop context, drawing with chalk in your driveway, or building a fort together. But you can also be playful in how you respond to tough situations. Pushing yourself to be playful when you’re frustrated can provide an unexpected opportunity to connect with your child. Laughing when you want to scream may just make your child laugh too—and it will also lighten your load!

I encourage you to bring out your sillies this week—even when it’s hard!  Because being playful may not be easy, but it certainly is fun.

Let us know!  How were you playful with your child this week?

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Our Commitment to LGBTQ Families on January 30th, 2017

Adoptions Together and its staff are committed to standing in solidarity with all our LGBTQ clients, family members and fellow Americans during these tumultuous and terrifying times.  Fears of an imminent Executive Order from the Trump Administration that is harmful to the basic rights of LGBTQ individuals have compelled us to voice our support for our friends and community, as well as our reassurance that we will continue to provide comprehensive adoption services to LGBTQ families now and in the future.  This is our duty as ethical adoption professionals, and compassionate human beings.

 

Adoptions Together was founded twenty-six years ago in response to a lack of secular adoption agencies focused on making adoption and related counseling available to all women and families of every race, ethnicity, faith, culture, and sexual orientation.  We remain fervently committed to that mission in 2017, and stand beside our clients both as members of the LGBTQ community ourselves, and as allies dedicated to preserving the highest quality adoption and family placement services to LGBTQ individuals and families regardless of threats or attempts to encroach upon their human rights.

 

Adoptions Together believes that every child has the right to a loving and stable family.  In more than two decades placing over 6,000 children with permanent families, we have advocated for same-sex parents through our work with the Human Rights Campaign’s All Children All Families National Advisory Council, which created the groundwork for evaluating and strengthening adoption agencies’ competency to serve LGBTQ families nationwide.  Working with the HRC has taught us that we must constantly work toward improving inclusivity for all people. 

 

We maintain a strong network of adoption and family lawyers in all regions of the country to whom we refer same-sex parents when they have questions about topics like second parent adoption, step-parent adoptions, surrogacy, and other family issues.   Our work for the LGBTQ community is made stronger by our deep commitment to working with the most qualified professionals in family law and public policy.  More than ever, we are strengthening and continuing to cultivate these relationships.

 

As 2017 unfolds, we remain dedicated to your families’ safety in all spaces.  We encourage members of all communities- LGBTQ, cisgender, faith-based, and otherwise- to reach out to your congress-people to express the concern we all share for the targeted discrimination that is currently taking place in our country.  Through unity and strength of shared support, we will protect those who need it most and overcome the barriers being erected before our neighbors, family and friends.  

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An Interview with Adoptions Together’s 2016 Heart Gallery Ambassadors!

This post is an interview with our 2016 Heart Gallery Ambassadors.  Adoptions Together’s Heart Gallery is a traveling and online portrait exhibit of adoptable children in foster care living in the Maryland, District of Columbia, and Virginia region.  As Heart Gallery Ambassadors, Joe, Wes, and Jake are advocates for foster care adoption in our community and do everything in their power to support the mission of older child adoption.  Read about how they’ve grown the Heart Gallery here!

 

Jake and the Heart Gallery, 2016.

 

Liberty:  As 2016 comes to an end, it’s time to check in with our Heart Gallery Ambassadors Joe, Wes, and their 11 year old son, Jake.  Hi guys, and Happy New Year!

 

Joe, Wes, & Jake:  Happy New Year, Libby.

 

Liberty:  So, Jake.  You have participated in a lot of Heart Gallery events this past year.  Which one was your favorite and what did you like most about being a Heart Gallery Ambassador?

 

Jake:  I would have to say that my favorite part was welcoming people at the Taste in Potomac event.  I shook almost everyone’s hand.  Since they were coming to support the Heart Gallery and Adoptions Together, I wanted to let them know how much I appreciated them coming.

 

Liberty:  That was a fun night, and you did a great job greeting folks.

 

Jake:  I think that my second favorite part was riding the Zamboni at a Washington Capitals game as the Heart Gallery Ambassador.  People waved at me and cheered, and I waved back.

 

Liberty:  That sound cool.  Do you like hockey?

 

Jake:  I like hockey and my favorite player is Alex Ovechkin – I have a home team bias.  But, I really like soccer and American football.  My favorite soccer player in Lionel Messi; and my favorite American football player is Bronco’s Von Miller – by birthfather lives in Denver.

 

Liberty:  Have you met your birthfather?

 

Jake:  Yes, we have an open adoption so I know both my birthfather and birthmother.  I even know my birth-grandfather and cousins.  They recently came to visit me, and I showed them around the city.  Between my birthparents and my adopted parents, I have the largest family tree of any one of my friends!

 

Liberty:  Wow!  Do you ever talk to your friends about being adopted?

 

Jake:   Yes, at the end of our school soccer season, we played a kids vs. parents match.  The kids wore t-shirts with the Heart Gallery logo, and we handed out Heart Gallery knapsacks and water bottles.

 

Liberty:  Did your friends ask you about the Heart Gallery?  And what did you say?

 

Jake:  I told them that it is a special place where children who don’t yet have forever families still have a chance to go all out and hopefully get adopted.

 

Liberty:  That sounds great!  Other than riding the Zamboni and hosting a soccer game, what are some ways that people can follow your lead and bring awareness to the Heart Gallery?

 

Jake:  For me, whenever I get into a conversation with a friend or their parents or my teachers about families, I always talk about the Heart Gallery.  My advice is to keep talking about it.   Because every kid needs someone to love you; to take care of you; to look out for you; and to have fun with you.

 

Liberty:  Joe and Wes, your family decided to start sponsoring the Heart Gallery in 2015. Why are you choosing to continue your support in 2017?

 

Joe:  We are really inspired by the number of children that were placed in forever families this past year because of the Heart Gallery.  A total of fourteen children were placed in homes, and an additional twenty-one new children were placed onto the gallery.  To answer your question, we support the Heart Gallery because we know how important it is to have a family.

 

Liberty: Can you share with us some of the exciting things that will be happening with the gallery in 2017?

 

Joe:  Absolutely.  In 2017, the Heart Gallery will begin using new mediums to reach the public.  For example, we will be introducing two digital displays in DC which will show the photos of Heart Gallery children – and provide information about how to adopt them.  We are hoping these displays can be located in high foot traffic areas, such as a children’s hospital or outside a family court.  Later in the year, we are hoping to install similar displays in Baltimore and Northern Virginia.

 

Wes:  Folks can also still see the actual gallery, in person, next year.  It will be at several locations, including the Metropolitan Council of Governments in January and at the Annapolis Public Library in February, as well as the Crofton Public Library in April, with more locations to be announced.

 

Liberty:  What is your hope for the Heart Gallery going forward into 2017?

 

Wes:  We’d love to see an increase in the number of Heart Gallery children placed with families.  In 2016, the Heart Gallery prompted ninety-nine inquiries from potential families, up from fifty-three in 2015.  For us, the sad part is when a child is removed from the gallery but doesn’t end up in a home.  Some of these children are removed because they have aged out of foster care.  This is heartbreaking because they still need a family.

 

Liberty: What is everyone’s New Year Wish?

 

Joe:  I wish for a record number of children adopted from the Heart Gallery.

 

Jake:  I’d like to see the Broncos or the Ravens make it to the Super Bowl!

 

Joe, Wes, & Jake:  Happy New Year to everyone, and thank you for supporting the Heart Gallery in 2016.

 

Just a few of the children who’ve found permanent, loving homes with the help of the Gallery this year.

 

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The Son with Two Moms: A Guest Post by Tony Hynes

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.

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I’ve been asked about my family before. I understand why. People want to know about a family that isn’t like theirs (or is like theirs). They want to know what it’s like to grow up with two white moms. They want to know how I, a black man, see the world today after being raised by two white women. They want to know why I speak the way I do, why I am careful with my words, and why I decided to write a book. I never know exactly what to say, or exactly how to address every question they ask me. No answer seems full enough to address every point they raise. I try to search for the right balance. The answer has to be truthful, but educational, respectful, but confident.  It’s a line I straddle every time I tell my story and a line that many individuals from transracial families are familiar with.

I am college educated and am currently pursuing my PhD. I love to read. I love to play soccer and listen to music. I went camping almost every summer as a kid. I share much in common with some of the families who ask me questions about my upbringing. However, sometimes I sense they don’t feel the same connection. After a panel discussion a few months ago, for instance, a white father said to me “I have two adopted black sons. If they grow up to be like you that would be incredible.” Nothing about his statement was particularly alarming. However, the way in which he said it, with wonderment and an air of impossibility, was. It was as if he didn’t believe he could be a good enough parent to raise a black child as “healthy” as me. It was as if he thought I was an anomaly, a glitch in an otherwise flawed system that didn’t allow black boys to achieve greatness. One week later, a woman asked me if I had had any help writing “The Son With Two Moms.” When I replied that I did not her puzzled expression turned into a toothy grin. “Wooooow!” She said. “That’s so amazing.” I thanked her as she continued to glow. “So no one helped you write any part of it?” She said. “Nope.” I said. “Just me.” “Wow,” she said.

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Kind Words from an AT Grandfather

At 95 years, I must confess, that I have a sentimental side and an analytical side, both of which influence the decisions I make in my daily life. Keeping these two variables in balance is, for me, truly the key to contentment. Happily, supporting Adoptions Together satisfies both realms.

Mr. Feffer
Richard Feffer with his grandchildren.

My sentimental side thanks Adoption Together for giving my daughter and her husband the chance to have a complete and beautiful family and, by extension, giving me and my wife the happiness of loving and enjoying the love of two exceptional grandchildren. Matthew and Elena have brought me much joy and fulfillment.  I cherish the memories of summer vacations on Cape Cod, birthday parties, visiting days at summer camp, high school and college graduations, horse shows, holiday celebrations, and family travels abroad.  One of the highlights was a weekend college visit with my grandson. Just the two of us; college basketball, student opera and dorm fare!

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My analytical side demands that I only donate to efforts where the need is great and the issues are difficult to solve.  Adoptions Together more than meets these criteria. They don’t just create a “win/win” solution; but a “win/win/win” solution.  They help resolve the pain and difficulty suffered by a birthmother who places her child for adoption. They provide counseling services for families in need of specialized support services. They provide assistance for all children, whether in foster care, or on the verge of aging out of the foster care system. ATI’s mission is to provide every child with an opportunity for a loving and nurturing environment.  They are the answer to those seeking the joy and fulfillment of a family life.

When I celebrated my birthday in March, I admit that I did not want or expect lavish gifts but I was delighted to learn that so many of my close friends and family chose to make donations to Adoptions Together in my honor.   For this I am truly grateful.

Bravo Adoptions Together. You will always have my support!


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Introducing our first Youth Ambassador, Jake!

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Jake points to his photo on the wall at the Adoptions Together office in Calverton.

Adoptions Together is very excited to announce our very first Youth Ambassador! Jake is ten years old, loves soccer, and was adopted as a baby. Now, he and his family have decided to sponsor the Heart Gallery to make sure that every child gets a chance at a loving forever family.

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Books on Adoption and Interview with Maggie Mei Lewis

AdoptionBooks

As a topic, adoption has many different facets. Some people adopt infants and need help figuring the best way to explain adoption. Others bring home older kids who already know what it means to be adopted, but whose communities still have some things to learn.

We tried to put together a list of books that would reach everyone in the adoption community, and know there are plenty more wonderful books out there! Don’t see one of your favorites on our list? Make sure to leave your recommendations in the comments to this post!

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