Attachment: What Foster and Adoptive Parents Need to Know

Attachment issues can creep into the healthiest of settings and are probably the least understood and most frustrating issues affecting foster and adoptive parents.

Bears hugging

When love and generosity are met with suspicion, lies, theft, hoarding, and aggression, even the most capable caregiver becomes confused, overwhelmed, and frustrated.

Is it typical? Is this something I should be concerned about? Why doesn’t anything seem to be working? To answer these and the myriad other questions facing families dealing with attachment issues, one must first understand attachment.

Renee Genin will draw on her own experiences as a parent, foster parent, and therapist to help you better understand attachment and the implications of attachment impairments on children and their caregivers. She will then provide tools and techniques to help you effectively re-parent your child, maintain your sanity, and regain control of your household.

About the Trainer
Renee Genin, LCSW, is a psychotherapist and child advocate in private practice in the Greater Milwaukee area. Over the past 12 years, she has treated hundreds of children and families struggling with attachment disorders, taken in foster children of her own, and provided workshops and presentations for parents, educators, and other professionals. She also provides bonding assessments and expert witness testimony for Children’s Court in both Milwaukee and Waukesha Counties.

$15/participant
$60/agency group

The Coalition for Children, Youth & Families
6682 W. Greenfield Avenue, Suite 310
Milwaukee, WI 53214

Or attend via webinar

Register online, email to info@coalitionforcyf.org, or call 414-475-1246.

World Wide Wednesday, March 26, 2014

174337705It’s World Wide Wednesday! Here’s what’s happening the world of foster care and adoption around the web:

  • New program provides children in foster homes access to medical care: To appreciate the importance of a new medical program for children in foster care that was announced Wednesday at the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare, consider what happened to Bregetta Wilson. Wilson was 13 when she was placed in foster care. She would remain in foster care until she turned 18 and aged out of the system. Continue reading this story.

  • Adoption and HIVSpence-Chapin is committed to finding families for the most vulnerable children in the U.S. and around the world, including those children living with HIV. There are an estimated 3.3 million children living with HIV in the world.* Children with HIV are overrepresented in orphanages and many are waiting for loving adoptive families. With the right care, these children can live full and happy lives. Learn more.

  • Easing the pain of an empty nest: Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of being a foster parent is the moment when your foster child leaves your home. As a foster parent, your home becomes a place where foster children come for a period of time, with the goal of being reunited with their family in the near future. There are times when the removal of a foster child from may come suddenly, and without any prior warning. Continue reading.

  • Foster Care Books & Resources: Here’s a brand new Facebook site for foster parents and those who work with children in care. A site devoted to books, magazines, and other resources about foster care.

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

Guest Post: Overwhelmed by Love and Grace. Adoption Follow-Up

Several months ago, we shared a guest post with you all from Rebecca Eby. She shared her story of trying to start a family and also how she and her husband, Ben, decided to pursue adoption. Today, Becky has very graciously agreed to share two new posts with the Coalition and our readers. Here is the first post. The follow-up is below.

You are all wonderful. Since I posted our adoption story 15 hours ago, we’ve had about two thousand visitors to that blog page.  Wow.  So amazing.  Personally, I take a lot of comfort in knowing that others are hearing our story and reacting so strongly to it.  I can honestly say that I feel that God gave me those words.   I was sitting at home, alone, yesterday and just felt this need to write.  I had to write or burst.  It’s all these things I’ve been feeling, except written so well that I can’t take credit.  Anyway, I just wanted to share a few things that I took away from yesterday’s post.

  1. Many adoptive parents have gone through something similar to what we experienced.  So many. It’s heartbreaking.  We knew this before we decided to adopt but hoped we’d be lucky. And you know what? We are lucky.  We are lucky to be part of this story, to become friends with this amazing woman and her family, to know and love this precious baby boy, and to have the support of such amazing people.  If I had to choose, I’d do it all over again.  Why would I wish away one of the best days of my life? I’d take the bad with the good, any day.
  2. So many people have no idea that this is what adoption means.  It means baring your soul.  It means sharing something of yourself that you can’t get back.  It means you will meet amazing people that will inspire you to do better.  I heard several people mention my strong faith.  Can I just give a little shout out to this sweet new mother?  She has done more to encourage my faith than anyone in these last 13 years since I left home.  From the beginning, she has thought our connection has been “a God thing”, and I think she’s right.
  3. As I said in my post yesterday, adoption is TOUGH.  If you have friends or family suffering from infertility or pregnancy loss, please think before you tell them to “just adopt”.  Obviously it’s not easy, it’s definitely not cheap, and it’s not fast.  We feel it’s right for us, but there is a ton of uninformed people out there making it sound like a quick fix to starting a family.   It is definitely not any of those things.  But it is beautiful, and forged out of love.  So for some people, it’s worth it.  And while we’re on this topic, please don’t tell someone they will get pregnant as soon as they decide to adopt. It’s not funny.  It may happen to some people but for most people, it’s not an option.  Ben and I could easily be pregnant but realistically we’d lose that pregnancy like the last 6 pregnancies.  So we are actually hoping to adopt MORE than we hope to have a biological child.  A biological child is not better than an adopted  child.  Children are the same, and the way you build your family doesn’t matter.   So if someone says they plan on adopting, please wish them well and share their excitement.  They are not choosing a lesser method of building their family.   (Stepping off soapbox.  You know I love you all, right?):)

  

So.  A few things were sent to me in messages or comments and I wanted to share a few of them so you can see why my heart is so full today.  It is because of people like you.  Taking a moment to send a message or comment to a family that is hurting is always an encouraging thing, even if they don’t respond.  Your words have the power to lift up a complete stranger.  So I’d like to share some of your words… both from strangers and friends.
The journey toward becoming a parent and then being a parent is full of so many hardships and heartbreaks. I know someday soon, you are going to begin raising a child of your own, and miraculously, all of the pain and hardships will become part of your story. They won’t be forgotten, but love always wins, it’s the love that keeps us going. Thank you for sharing your heart and faith … I’m so, so, so sorry you have to go through this. You already are an amazing mother.  -Katie

I hope one day this is just a footnote in what is an amazing journey for your family. – Molly

Although you are grieving now, what a blessing to that mother that if nothing else, she has found true friendship in you. A support system… God has a plan. It isn’t for us to try to figure out or understand. There was a reason you were chosen. There is a reason He gave you those moments of being a mama and then taking it away. Perhaps so that you don’t give up hope? We may never know but your undying faith will keep you strong and your blog is helping others; not just those who are are in the process of adoption either! Do trust me, I see that if you can still trust in God’s plan even during this time, that my problems are minor. I won’t say I’m sorry that you had to go through this because although this child isn’t your son on paper, he was your son in your arms for a moment and I’m sure in your heart for a lifetime! God bless and prayers to you and your husband as well as to the newborn and his family! -Jennifer

I am so very sorry. I am praying for all of you tonight. You are so brave and such a blessing for so many people like me. I can never thank you enough for being my voice. Your strength gives me strength. Please know there are so many people out there tonight grieving with you. Blessings and peace be with you.  -Morgan

Our first adoption experience had us with a brand new baby in our arms for 5 days. And then the birth parents changed their minds. The depth of grief I experienced was only matched by the grace I kept unearthing in order to find my way through. There is beauty everywhere. I worked through & learned so much in those weeks. …  And that first story had to happen in order for us to find our way to our daughter, and for her to find her way to us. The road to adoption is never straight. And we have our own labour pains. And, in the end, we get our children, no matter how they come – birth, adoption, relationship. … Even floating in grace, grief is a deep ocean to swim across. Much love from here, to you there.   – Jennifer

There are absolutely NO WORDS. Miscarriage… society expects you to grieve… adoptions disrupted….very few people gave me the time to grieve a child that was alive with a different mom…. Praying for you and your family.  -Cindy

I’ll stop sharing quotes now, but these are just a few of the encouraging words that have been shared with us.  There were literally hundreds of people sending prayers, love, hugs, and well wishes.  With this kind of support, how can I help but be thankful?  And knowing that our story has helped several people reading it makes my heart happy.  

Thank you, God, for using this experience and our pain for your glory. You are so, SO good.

And finally, this is the only photo I will be sharing of me with Baby Boy.  I want to protect his privacy.  But I figured this one was okay. It was our first photo together and he was five minutes old.  I treasure this image. :)

Guest Post: Adoption is Tough. Let Me Tell You . . .

Several months ago, we shared a guest post with you all from Rebecca Eby. She shared her story of trying to start a family and also how she and her husband, Ben, decided to pursue adoption. Today, Becky has very graciously agreed to share two new posts with the Coalition and our readers. Below is the first.

ADOPTION IS TOUGH. LET ME TELL YOU…

This post is much different than what I anticipated posting today. In fact, I had a beautiful post written on Tuesday morning and waited to hit “publish”. I guess this is the post I was meant to share with you instead.

We’ve been very open with our adoption journey but have held back some things these past few months because of privacy or out of respect for certain people involved.  Today, I want to share a little bit more about our adoption journey. It’s painful but I find a lot of comfort in writing our story out, as well as sharing with you.  I know, without a doubt, that this story will help someone reading it.  So if that is you, I’m sending you hugs and an open invitation to get in touch if you want to chat.  Grief is tough to deal with but I find it so much easier to know I’m not alone.

As many of you following our adoption Facebook page already know, we have been speaking with an expectant mother since October.  Here is a short synopsis of our timeline.  This is done from memory so I might be slightly “off” on my calendar, but you get the idea:

  • October: First contact by the expectant mother.  We get to know her and she has been talking to two families, trying to figure out which one she wants to place her child with.  She chose us.:)  She chose us, over anyone else, and we fell in love with HER as much as her child.  The father was uncertain of his plans to agree to adoption at that point.
  • In November, the expectant father agreed to adoption.  We continue to get to know the mother, and in her we find a wonderful friendship, fantastic communication, and hope for an amazing future with the child we’d been waiting for since we started trying for a family in 2009.
  • In January we announced to the world that we were expecting to adopt that baby in mid March.
  • Two weeks later, the expectant father changed his mind and said he absolutely wouldn’t choose adoption or sign the papers.
  • February we reached out to him.  We said we understood and respected his decision, but we were still interested if he changed his mind.
  • Mid-February he said that he was considering it again.  He continued to talk to us over the next few weeks.
  • March 17 – we got the call from him saying he would choose adoption.
  • March 18 – we got the call saying the mother was heading to the hospital and I joined her there.  I was in the room for the birth.  It was emotional and I fell in love with that baby within seconds of meeting him.  In the room when he entered this world was the mother’s mom, her best friend, and myself.  There was so much love and support. It brings tears to my eyes when I think about it.  So beautiful.  The first thing the mother said to me after Baby arrived was, “You have a son!” then she grabbed my hand and we wept together.  I’ve had some powerful moments in my life, but this was probably the MOST amazing moment that I will always remember as being one of the best.  I thank her for sharing this experience with me.  The rest of this day and all night was spent at the hospital.  We all cuddled the baby, learned some baby care things from the nurses, and I even spent the night with the mother, in her big hospital bed with the baby in the bassinet at our feet.  We were up talking late, and at one point a nurse told us that she was told about our adoption situation when coming on shift.  She thought it was going to be a bit weird but all the other nurses told her, “Oh no, it’s like the adoptive and birth moms are best friends!  It’s an amazing thing to go into that recovery room.”  And she agreed that this was a special relationship.  Watching my husband hold that tiny baby, and hearing how strongly it impacted him was so incredibly sweet for me.  I also watched the baby’s father hold that baby.  I kept telling myself that worry wouldn’t change anything; if the baby was meant to be ours, it would work out.
  • March 19 – the father changed his mind again.  He said he couldn’t sign the adoption papers. My mom and sister also came to visit, and they were there when the whole thing fell apart.  My husband’s family was going to come today (the 19th) to visit, but given the situation, they did not come.
  • Today is March 20th. I’m sitting at home, with no baby in my arms.I am ready for a baby. Clothes are washed, the nursery is done, and my arms are open. Last night I cried myself to sleep.  Miscarriage is hard. Failed adoptions are hard.  But failed adoptions when you have held that baby, made decisions for him, stayed up with him for hours at night when no one else is awake, and stared at him enough to memorize his face is enough to break your heart into millions of tiny pieces.I hurt today, friends.  I hurt so much.  I hurt like there is this big piece of me missing, a piece that I was aware of but didn’t know how big it was until two days ago.  I hurt for this new mother that will now be raising a baby that she loves so very dearly.  She loves this baby so much that she wanted more for him… she wanted him to be raised by two loving parents in a stable home where his life would be blissfully simple and happy.  Where his mommy would be able to stay home with him every day and his daddy would take him fishing.  Where he wouldn’t have to think about custody and splitting Christmases with different families and where our values are so in line with what she believes is important.  With that said, she is and will continue to be an amazing mother. I have no doubt she will do whatever she needs to in order to raise this baby to be an amazing child.There is still a chance things will change with the father.  It’s not likely, but he’s done it before.  We know God is good and no one can imagine the plans He has for us.  If this baby is meant to be ours, it will happen.  We aren’t giving up completely on this adoption but we are recognizing that this family has some serious things going on and they need to figure out what to do next.With the friendship we have built over the last few months with this new mother (and on a much smaller level, we’ve built a relationship with the father as well), and we don’t anticipate that changing.  She will always be important to us, and she made me a mother in a way that my miscarriages never allowed, even if I had a son only in my mind for a few short hours.  Those moments were some of the sweetest I have ever known.

    Today, I’m doing okay.  I’m still pretty weepy and sad, and if I’m honest, I’m grieving a little.  I still want to be a mom and more than anything, I want to see my husband be a dad.  He will be amazing at it. I don’t think he realizes exactly how much he will love it but he got a taste of it yesterday.  This has impacted him more than he expected.

    But this morning I realized that God answers prayer when things go the way I want, and he answers prayer even when things are going horribly wrong.  I still have HOPE, even though things looked so very bleak last night.  Now we just want to support this new mother who is so dear to us.  We want the best for this baby, as does his mother, and all of us will work to make sure that happens.  This amazing, beautiful little man has the most incredible list of people who love him.  For that, he is so very blessed.   And our family has grown to include the family of this new mother… so while we didn’t gain a son like we hoped, we did gain some amazing friends who are very much like family. Watching the new mother’s mom hand my own mom the baby… these “grandmas” hugged and stared at this child, and wow.  I cry just thinking about that moment.

    Adoption is tough. It’s heart-wrenching on many levels for so many involved.  But it is so, so beautiful. Thinking about the moments I’ve witnessed in the last few days is humbling.  The adoption hasn’t worked out (though we still hope for a miracle over this next month) but the love will continue.  I know this without a doubt. As I said before, this journey toward adoption has strengthened my faith in so many ways.  Without my faith, I think I’d be an angry, heartbroken mess today when I think about the roller coaster of emotions we’ve had.  But instead, I’m a little heartbroken and a lot hopeful.  I’m sad but at peace. Does that make sense? If we are ever blessed to become parents, it will all come together and everything will be right.  If we are not meant to be parents, I will still have my amazing marriage and life, full of happiness and blessed by a God that knows what I need more than I do.

     Three final parting thoughts:
    1. Please pray for us and for this new baby and his family. If he is meant to be ours, it will work out.  If not, they still need prayer.
    2. God is good and has a plan.  This is clearer to me now than ever.  We could have brought the baby home from the hospital today but strongly feel He wants us to step back while everything is figured out.  We hope this baby will be ours but accept the situation either way.
    3. In case this is the first time you’ve read any of our adoption/infertility posts, you can read about it on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/beckyandbenadopt, or on our adoption site, www.beckyandbenadopt.blogspot.com.  I also have some blog posts on this blog HEREHERE, and HERE.As always, thanks for your prayers, encouragement, and support.We are so thankful for the 900+ people on following our journey on Facebook, as well as those who we know in real life that are on our team.:)  You all have made our time of waiting so much sweeter.

World Wide Wednesday, March 19, 2014

174337705It’s World Wide Wednesday! Here’s what’s happening the world of foster care and adoption around the web:

  • Social, Emotional and Physical Well-Being for Youth in Transition from the Foster Care System webinar: Youth in the foster care system face multiple and unique challenges on the path to educational and lifelong success.  In addition to physical health risks and academic difficulties, these youth are more likely to suffer from social-emotional challenges that affect their long-term well-being. In order to support youth in foster care as they transition out of the system and into healthy, successful lives, many programs are relying on social-emotional approaches. These approaches include trauma-based interventions, counseling services, and long-term relationships with youth even after they have left the foster care system.  The American Youth Policy Forum hosted a webinar on December 18th entitled “Social, Emotional and Physical Well-Being for Youth in Transition from the Foster Care System”, which focused on program and policy supports that reinforce the social-emotional health of youth in the foster care system as they transition into college, careers, and beyond. Highlighting the report “Connected by 25” , this webinar featured Barbara Langford of the Youth Transition Funders Group – Foster Care Workgroup; Wayne Sims, President and Chief Executive Officer, KVC Health Systems, Inc.; and Mary Lee, National Transitional Living Coordinator,Youth Villages. View the webinar.
  • Free Book to Share with Your Child’s Teacher: Educators Making a Difference for StudentsIn the schools of the 21st century, educators encounter a diverse population of students. Students come from different ethnic, racial, and cultural backgrounds and varied family situations, including foster, adoptive and kinship families. Regardless of the type of family situation they live in, children who do not live with their birth parents deal with unique issues. These issues may affect a student’s school performance. This booklet was developed to provide educators with information about issues that impact children and youth in out-of-home care and the effect those issues might have on classroom learning. Information and suggestions on how educators can assist and advocate for these students are also included. (To receive a copy (or multiple copies) of this booklet, please email your name and address to Crystal Thomason at cthomason@ifapa.org or call 800-277-8145 ext. 5. You can also find this book on IFAPA’s website.)
  • Human Trafficking – A Survivor Story (VIDEO) Dellena is a former foster child and a survivor of 21 years of sex trafficking. She is now a foster parent and is sharing her personal story of survival. View the video.
  • Expectations and Realities: Parenting an Adopted Child with Special Needs: Download Martha Osborne’s presentation on the expectations vs. realities of parenting an adopted child with special needs.

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

World Wide Wednesday, March 12, 2014

174337705It’s World Wide Wednesday! Here’s what’s happening the world of foster care and adoption around the web:

  • Federal Tax Guide for Foster Parents: The National Foster Parent Association publishes an annual guide for foster, adoptive and kinship parents that explains the ins-and-outs of how in-home care affects your federal taxes. TheTax Benefits for Foster, Adoptive Parents and Kinship Caregivers resource guide provides you with valuable information worth several thousand dollars or more in tax benefits. The guide is free for NFPA members and the link provided includes information on joining, as well.
  • Fostering Success in Education: National Factsheet on the Educational Outcomes of Children in Foster Care – The Working Group on Foster Care and Education has released an updated version of this data factsheet on foster care and education (January 2014). The factsheet describes the educational challenges, and opportunities, for children in foster care, and includes a summary of research on this topic.
  • New Program Aims to Streamline Health Care for Foster Kids, Treat Trauma: On Feb. 5, Wisconsin state officials joined in Milwaukee to unveil a new “medical home” program for children in foster care. The program means, no matter where kids are placed, they’ll keep the same doctor and other health care providers. The program also promises more mental health services for children who’ve experienced trauma. Read the full story.

  • A Gathering for adoptees, former fosterees, and birth relatives: The National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) is pleased to announce that at this year’s Protecting Our Children Annual Conference, we have invited the First Nations Repatriation Institute (FNRI) as special guests. On the evening of Monday, April 14, 2014, FNRI Founder and Director Sandy Whitehawk will facilitate a special meeting intended for American Indian and Alaska Native adoptees, former foster children, and their birth relatives.

    The session is open to anyone touched by adoption. Participants are welcome to share their experiences or just come and listen. Whitehawk will lead the discussion on what it was like growing up not having words to describe what adoptees experienced. She states, “We can share our stories-often for the first time-and find out we are not alone.”

    Whitehawk is quick to emphasize, “We will not bash our adoptive parents. Coming to terms with our adoption experience does not mean we encourage separation from our adoptive parents or relatives. There are those who are estranged from their adoptive parents, others who are not. And still others suffer from rejection of adoptive parents with whom they would like to have relationship. It is complicated. We support each other in our process, wherever we are within that journey.

    Birth mothers, fathers, and other relatives are also encouraged to attend. Whitehawk elaborates, “Adoption impacts everyone. Our birth mothers and fathers have often suffered the loss of their children without the benefit of any resource to express the pain, confusion, and guilt associated with relinquishing a child. We want to give them space to tell their stories. There are also birth mothers and fathers who don’t experience these negative things, which we are also grateful for and invite their participation too. All are welcome.”

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