Beyond GPS and Jumper Cables: Developing the Tool Kit for the Lifelong Journey of Adoption

Beyond GPS and Jumper Cables: Developing the Tool Kit for the Lifelong Journey of AdoptionHave you ever had a flat tire and discovered that you have the wrong size spare, no tire iron nor drinking water in your car, the temperature is 16 degrees and dropping, while Triple A is at least 2 hours away? Sometimes parenting children and youth who have experienced trauma, upheaval, and the loss of their birth family, whether at birth or after years in the child welfare system, can feel like this.

In this interactive day of training, we will focus on what foster, adoptive, and kinship parents can realistically expect, not only within the first few months after placement, but over the entire parenting journey. As children grow and develop, their difficult behaviors, stresses, and daily challenges will change, requiring an informed, adaptive, and flexible approach to parenting. Parents and caregivers need parenting and advocacy strategies to fill their tool kit for this journey of a lifetime.

This training is informed by the latest research and evidence-based practices related to the impact of trauma on developing children and adolescents; building, restoring, and sustaining healthy attachments; and the role of culture and history on development and resilience. Participants will learn how to better understand the challenges they face and will gain practical tools particularly in the areas of:

  • Trauma-informed parenting across stages of development
  • Self-care for the caregiver
  • Advocacy across multiple systems

About the Presenter
Sue photo 2Sue Badeau, is a nationally known speaker, writer, and consultant. She has worked for many years in child welfare, juvenile justice, children’s mental health, and education and serves on several national boards. Sue writes and speaks extensively on topics related permanency, trauma, children with special needs, and family engagement. Sue and her husband, Hector, are the lifetime parents of 22 children, two by birth and 20 adopted (three, with terminal illnesses, are now deceased). They have also served as foster parents for more than 50 children in three states. They have authored a book about their family’s parenting journey, Are We There Yet: The Ultimate Road Trip Adopting and Raising 22 Kids.

Hotel Accommodations 
Glacier Canyon Lodge at the Wilderness
HWY 12 & Hillman Road, Wisconsin Dells

A block of rooms has been reserved. Please call 1-800-867-WILD (9453) to make your reservations. Ask for block #475870 for the Coalition for Children, Youth & Families at Glacier Canyon Lodge.

$99 for Double Queen with Sleeper couch at Glacier Canyon Lodge or $139 for 2 bedroom Deluxe Condo

Please note: a limited number of rooms are reserved for the above rates on Friday, November 6th as well as Saturday, November 7th. Rooms must be reserved by October 7th, 2015.

Cost: $50 per person/$80 per twosome
Registration Deadline: October 27th, 2015
Register online or call 414-475-1246 for more information

Note: Due to the sensitive nature of the material being discussed, children (including babies) will not be admitted to the conference. Please arrange for childcare.

World Wide Wednesday: September 2, 2015

iStock_000003621765_LargeIt’s World Wide Wednesday! Here’s what’s news in the world of foster care and adoption around the web:

  • International Adoption: The Marshall Islands

  • How Foster Care Wrecked My Life: “Yes. I said it. It wrecked. My. Life. I’ve never said it before because foster parenting is viewed as such a great thing and any time you mention your family dynamics (that your parents are foster parents) people gush over how wonderful that is and how they are doing something just amazing. So you can do nothing but smile and agree. But in your heart there’s a little grimace and then guilt. Because you aren’t supposed to feel anything but great about the fact that your parents are also parenting other people. People who aren’t always excited to be part of your awesome family. People who require your parents’ time. People who don’t like you. People you don’t like.

    There I was, 16 years old, oldest of three and I had it all going for me. Cheerleading. Band. Choir. I had just gotten my first car (1986 Toyota Corolla 5 speed, with a sun roof). Everything was just right. Then my parents up and decided to become foster parents. I was ok with it at first because we would be helping people and I knew it was a good thing. What I didn’t know was the turmoil that some many MOST kids dealt with.”

  • Factsheet for Families: Finding and Using Postadoption Services

  • Helping Kids in Foster Care Track Their History: “Lacy is eight years old, though that’s not her real name. Lacy’s adoptive mom, Rebecca McClintock, asked us to disguise her daughter’s identity because we’re going to be talking about her past, and a lot of it is painful.

    Lacy came to live with McClintock as a foster child about a year and a half ago. McClintock said she got a call from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services in the middle of the afternoon.

    ‘She’s been in a foster home that wasn’t working out and they needed to pull her from there quickly. And three hours later she was on my doorstep with her little tiny Winnie the Pooh suitcase and a caseworker and a piece of pizza,’ McClintock remembers.”

Have news you’d like to share? Please post in our comments!

Inclusion in this post does not imply an endorsement by the Coalition for Children, Youth & Families. The Coalition is not responsible for the content of these resources.

Tip Sheet Tuesday: Helping Achieve School Success

Tip Sheet Tuesday: Helping Achieve School Success

Getting ready for school can be an overwhelming experience for a child as well as for foster parents. You may have a child in your home beginning at a new school, returning to the same school, or may have a new child coming into your home during the school year who you haven’t even met yet. There’s a lot of information and things to remember. We hope the following will help you and your child prepare for having a successful school year.

Preparing to Start at a New School
The first step in starting at a new school is making sure to register your child. You also need to make sure that the new school obtains previous school records. If your child has an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 plan, make sure you also get a copy.

School districts vary widely in their enrollment processes. If you run into any issues, hopefully, your worker and your child’s parents can help in the process.

Additionally, talking to former teachers is often helpful in understanding what your child might need to be successful at the new school.

In order to help ease some stress for both you and your child, try to meet with the current teacher before starting at a new school. For more information, see the Coalition’s tip sheet Helping Kids in Care Change Schools.

Other things you might consider include:

  • Volunteering in the classroom a day or two a week, or as often as your schedule permits, or joining your child for lunch to help with this transition. If you aren’t able to be with your child at school, maybe a scheduled phone call to check in during the day can help him feel more at ease. Your child may only need you to do so until they are feeling comfortable. However, some children may need extra support from you throughout the school year.
  • Finding out what works best for ongoing communication between you and the teachers. This might be regularly scheduled phone calls, emails, or a communication notebook that goes back and forth. Being proactive can help your child have a successful school year—don’t wait until conference time to address issues.
  • Continue reading on our website.

Under the Umbrella: Back to School

Under the Umbrella: Back to School

The long summer months are now winding down, which means that the school year is about to begin. Hitting all the back to school sales to stock up on school supplies is the easy part, but preparing the children in your home for the new school year might require a little more planning. Here are some tips to make sure that first day is a success.

  • Reestablish school routines: A few weeks before the first day of school, parents can begin preparing children to get back into the swing of things. This can include having children wake up and get dressed the same time every morning or getting children used to leaving the house every morning by planning morning activities.
  • Talk to children about their feelings:For many children, returning to school can be a stressful time. New teachers, new classmates, and new routines can all cause children a great deal of anxiety. Take time to talk with your children about how they are feeling now that it’s time to go back to school. Talking together can help your kids work through their feelings and give them the confidence to face the new challenges each new school year brings.
  • Reduce the first day anxiety: If you think back on your childhood, you probably remember that the first day of school is the most stressful day of the year. Parents can help children navigate this stress. Start by having the children organize their school supplies and pack their backpacks and by letting children pick out their own outfits for the first day. Many parents even take the time to visit the bus stop, or walk children through the drop off and pickup routines. By eliminating as many unknowns as possible, parents can help their children feel great about their first day.

The tips above apply to all children, but if you are caring for children who have recently joined your family through foster care or adoption, you might have to put some extra time and thought into helping them adjust to the new school year. After all, these children may be in a new school, on a new bus route, or separated from their familiar school friends.  At the very least, they may be used to routines that were established by their birth parents or other caregivers, and they will need your support and guidance to make healthy and successful adjustments.

The Coalition for Children, Youth & Families is here to support you and your family as you gear up for the new school year. Check out some resources below, or reach out to a Resource Specialist today.

Featured Tip Sheets

World Wide Wednesday: August 26, 2015

iStock_000003621765_LargeIt’s World Wide Wednesday! Here’s what’s news in the world of foster care and adoption around the web:

  • Building Attachments with the Five Love Languages: “I believe in the wisdom behind Dr. Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages. The idea that each of us gives and receives love in different ways, just makes good sense. The use of love languages is a way to build bonds with anyone that you care about, but also a wonderful way to build an attachment with foster or adopted children.”
  • Keep Calm and Carry On . . . You’re a Foster Carer! “Foster care would be that little bit easier if you could press a ‘pause’ button on your own life. What would we not give for some sort of arrangement to put everything on hold, as we work to resolve the seemingly intractable problems of the children who come into our care? But the reality is that our own lives carry on: stuff happens to us too, with no regard for the children and young people who have been entrusted to us.”
  • Other Brothers (and Sisters!): Many adopted children have biological siblings. Six families share their stories of meeting or adopting their child’s birth brothers or sisters. (From Adoptive Families magazine)
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders: Facts and Resources.

Have news you’d like to share? Please post in our comments!

Inclusion in this post does not imply an endorsement by the Coalition for Children, Youth & Families. The Coalition is not responsible for the content of these resources.

Tip Sheet Tuesday: What Do These Behaviors Mean?

“I’m a convert!” said one formerly skeptical Wisconsin foster-adoptive parent. “It really is all about fear, and sometimes it really is as simple as asking, ‘What are you afraid of?’”

Kim talks about how frustrated she was in not being able to break through her daughter’s defiance. Finally one day while driving, she asked her daughter, “You don’t act out at school, right? But you do with me. Why is that?” Right away her daughter answered, “I’m afraid that Monique [her daughter’s biological mom] is drinking again and if she drinks, she might hurt someone and I don’t want her to go to jail.”

Kim was stunned. She had no idea how much her daughter still thought about her past and how scared she was to have someone she loved potentially be incarcerated. What’s more, Kim was surprised that there was no real link to the “why” behind her daughter’s behaviors and her daughter’s fears. Like most of us, Kim was taking her daughter’s outbursts personally.

While Kim says that she was glad for the immediate breakthrough in that particular incident, she also admits that it wasn’t the cure-all she was hoping for and didn’t always have the same results in other attempts.

Tip Sheet Tuesday: What's do These Behaviors Mean?Not An Easy Fix
As with other parenting approaches, this is not an easy fix. It may not generate immediate results, but over time, it can help you with your child’s most challenging behaviors. Heather Forbes wrote about a lot of these behaviors in her book, Beyond Consequences Logic and Control: A Love Based Approach to Helping Children with Severe Behaviors.

Here are some different approaches that may help in understanding some of the most challenging behaviors.

Fear and Stress
Most children lack the words and understanding to identify what they are feeling and what they need. Instead, children may act out when the emotions are too big or scary. Often, the emotion causing the behaviors is fear— triggered especially when too much stress is present. It’s hard when your own stress level is high, but try to respond to the fear behind your child’s actual behavior.

The following behaviors are common in children who have had a history of trauma or challenges with attachment. Some behaviors, however, are just ingrained in people—every child is born with a certain temperament and resilience level.

Aggression. A child displaying aggression can be scary to encounter. Kim says that even though her six-year-old can be completely heart melting at times, the sheer rage continues to amaze her. “It’s a shock to hear someone that little and sweet have so much hate directed at you and to have her use the f bomb, threats to kill and gestures that she does. It’s hard to think of her as vulnerable.”

Continue reading on our website.

Time Out! What to Do When Your Child’s Behavior Triggers You

Maybe it’s a dinner plate left with half a meal on it. Or a screaming fit that feels endless. Maybe it’s deliberate testing in ways that only your child knows will grind on your every nerve. Perhaps it’s the wrong attitude at the wrong time. There are countless opportunities for your child’s behavior to draw out your not-so-good side. No parent has avoided being tested and triggered by their children’s words and actions, and, often, it takes a series of live-and-learn moments to bring us to a better understanding of how to avoid parent melt-downs alongside kid melt-downs.

2204675_HiResCompassion – The Most Critical Tool
When kids act out (especially children who have experienced abuse, neglect, or other forms of trauma, rejection, and instability), they’re often exhibiting a very tender need in a less-than-optimal way. It may present as stubbornness or a power struggle, but we encourage you to try and see the world through the eyes of the child for that moment. You might see that he is in the midst of a transitional period – maybe he is missing a sibling, or struggling to form his identity despite missing or confusing pieces, or trying to make sense of all of the change and unpredictability in his life.

These moments of testing or crisis are when your child needs you most. It may be an opportunity for your child to realize that someone can manage their storm with them, and isn’t going to leave them when things get hard or when they lose control of themselves under pressure and pain. The unconditional love that this communicates back to your child can be very healing. None of this means condoning the behavior, but serves to coach him through the moment to use his words and other positive means to express his feelings, while showing him it’s safe for him to do so.

Think of compassion as your go-to anger-extinguisher. Keep it handy at all times.

Don’t Take It Personally
I have yet to meet the parent who has never heard the dreaded words, “I hate you” directed at them. It can make the blood boil in the moment, but, from a calm place, we know that hurtful words can be said merely to hurt someone, stop a perceived threat, express feelings of loss, or to alleviate pain. Remind yourself that it’s not personal, even if it feels personal. If you are able to, try to take a step back in that moment. Then, later, from a calmer and more thoughtful place, you may be able to reframe the situation in a way that will allow you to see the bigger picture behind a momentary hurtful outburst.

39778004_thumbnailHolding the Space
For some children, regulating emotions is more difficult than for others. As the parent, it’s important for you to remind yourself that you can use your regulation tools to keep the situation from escalating, especially when your child may not be able to do this. This is often referred to as “holding the space.” If your child is in emotional crisis, you can coach and support him through the episode in a way that de-escalates the situation and keeps him safe. Any serious conflict which arose can be discussed and managed later.

Whether it’s a full-blown crisis, or merely nails on a chalkboard, practice recognizing when you or your child are too stressed or unable to be rational. If that’s the case, or if you’re temporarily unable to be supportive of your child’s emotional needs, take a break. Avoid engaging when it can only lead to escalation. You may spare one another many emotional wounds that wouldn’t be inflicted if you or your child had a break for your thinking to shift back to a more rational, calm place.

Facing the Mirror
“It’s just the way he…”

“I just can’t stand when she…”

A lot of times, the minor annoyances that really get to us are inexpiable and unimportant. We know we can’t really rationalize them. What are the types of things that trigger you? Perhaps a drawn out tantrum doesn’t faze you, while a white lie about having homework done causes you to fly off the handle. What is it about that that triggers you? Sometimes the answers are easy and sometimes they are complex and take time to appear.

Increased self-awareness can lead to more accountability and rationality in the moment, preventing you from reacting on his or her level.

Gymnastic balance beam
The Balance Beam

When you take that step back, are you noticing that you are over-stressed and overwhelmed? In the bigger picture, you may find it helpful to identify ways that you can get some help to ease the tension of life’s demands. When we’re stressed and taxed, we lose the ability to manage ourselves and are significantly more likely to react sharply. It only takes a pin prick to set us off course. Seek support. You don’t have to do it all. You don’t have to do it alone. We’re here for your call.

Featured Tip Sheets