World Wide Wednesday: September 30, 2015

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

  • A community built around older adults caring for adoptive families
    Families who adopt foster kids need a lot of support. In Rantoul, Illinois, families get help in a neighborhood called Hope Meadows from older adults who’ve moved there just for that purpose. The Gossett family has definitely benefited from this arrangement. Whitney Gossett adopted four siblings from foster care: brothers Patrick, 13, Andrew, 12, Jeremiah, 7, and sister Bella, who’s 10.
  • 12 things adopted/foster children wish you knewDo you have an adopted or foster child? If not, have you considered fostering a child or adopting a child? What is stopping you? What inspired you to do it? Whatever the case, adopting and fostering a child is one of the most difficult, intimidating, and humbling experiences for many families. It’s also quite admirable. Adopting or fostering a child (or teenager) will take a great deal of support from your “village” and knowledge about attachment, trauma and patience. Sadly, for many eager adoptive and foster parents, the idea of adopting or fostering a child often outweighs the potential downsides and challenges that come with raising an adopted or fostered child.
  • Student Debt Forgiveness for Former Foster Youth: Everyone knows that the student loan debt crisis has gotten out of control in this country but not many people are aware of the impact this problem has on the most vulnerable population in our society.

    Foster youth often have to overcome significant obstacles just to function in society, let alone pursue a higher education. Many grew up in poverty even before abuse or neglect impacted them, and bureaucratic bungling began over placing them in a stable home.

    It shouldn’t surprise anyone that most former foster youth don’t go to college and of the few who do, most of them don’t graduate at all. (Continue reading by clicking the link above.)

  • Adoption Disruption: An Open Letter to My Teenage Son (Although he may never read it…)

    “Dear Marcus,

    Being adopted must have been the hardest struggle for you. Harder than I can imagine. How could you know how to handle that at age 17? After having been in the system for 4 years, in and out of placements, “forever” must have seemed like a foreign concept. I want you to know that it is ok that you were scared.”
    (Continue reading by clicking the link above.)

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: Planning Ahead – Working Together for Successful Interactions

Think of the last hard day you had—at work or at home. One of those times when you didn’t want to talk about your day, but your partner asked anyway. Or the opposite—you really needed someone to listen, but your support person or partner was unengaged or absent.

Planning Ahead: Working Together for Successful InteractionsAt times, kids in care will experience those same feelings you have—especially after they return to your home after spending time with their family. It can seem like no matter what you do, it’s the wrong thing.

So what can you do to help make the transitions to and from families run more smoothly? It may seem somewhat obvious in hindsight, but one thing you may want to do is make sure you’ve prepared before children spend time with their family.

Preparing for Family Interactions
If you and the birth family don’t already have some guidelines in place for shared parenting, preparing for visits is a great place to start. This can include ideas such as maintaining similar schedules, rules, and discipline as much as possible, as well as information about food and medications and any health concerns. (Also see our tip sheet on Shared Parenting.)

You’re not always going to agree on everything and that’s okay too.

Other suggestions include:

Names. Talk with your child’s birth parents about what name you are called. Some children in foster care call their foster parents “Mom” and “Dad,” which can come as a surprise to birth parents. This is an important topic of discussion that foster parents and the child’s birth parents should have in order to avoid hurt feelings or confusion for everyone.

Family Interaction Form. The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families has a helpful resource you can use regarding family visits called The Family Interaction Plan. (Your social worker might have a form that he or she uses from his or her agency.) The DCF plan is a short, simple form that helps everyone stay on the same page in regards to transportation, times, places, who can have contact, proposed activities, what each party’s responsibility is, and a section for comments.

Well Stocked Homes. Having clothes, toys and toothbrushes at both houses greatly reduces the stress of packing and potential complaints if something isn’t sent to one home or brought back to another. Pharmacies will also put meds in separate containers so that both sets of caregivers can have medication on hand.

Continue reading on our website.

NEW Training: How Domestic Violence Affects Children

Training: How Domestic Violence Affects ChildrenDomestic violence exists in every community. In order to understand why domestic violence occurs and why some victims remain in abusive relationships, it is essential to first understand the dynamics of power and control. In this training, we will look at not only how domestic violence affects adults, but also the impact it can have on children who witness this violence. Debra will also discuss warning signs to look for, how to help a survivor of domestic violence, and what resources exist for families experiencing domestic violence in our community.  

About the Trainer
Debra Fields
is the Community Education and Prevention Coordinator for Sojourner Family Peace Center. She is a co-partner with the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare, educating W2 Case Managers on domestic violence and how to assist W2 recipients who are living with abuse. In addition to working in Community Education for Sojourner Family Peace Center, Debra co-facilitates the Beyond Abuse program, a 23- week batterer intervention program serving both male and female offenders.

Debra’s mission is to raise awareness about domestic abuse and intimate partner violence through education in order to break the cycle of violence.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015
6:00-8:00 p.m.
Coalition for Children, Youth & Families
6682 W. Greenfield Avenue, Suite 310
Milwaukee, WI 53214

or attend via webinar

$20 per person     $80 per agency group

Register online, email us, or call 414-475-1246

Who Gets My Heart? Foster Care & Divided Loyalties

There is no doubt that children and youth in foster care have experienced loss, just as there is no doubt that those children and youth process and grieve for those losses in a variety of sometimes complex and confusing ways. The transition from the home life they knew into an unfamiliar life as a child in foster care can be a tumultuous one for them. As they start to get used to their new environments and bond with their new caretakers, they may feel a sense of divided loyalty between their foster family and their birth family.
Who Gets My Heart? Foster Care & Divided Loyalties
Children sometimes feel that caring for their foster family means diminishing their feelings for their birth family. They might even feel like they are betraying their birth families, leading to a lot of confusion, anxiety, and frustration. As a foster parent, you might see these feelings manifest in behaviors like acting out, defiance, or emotional outbursts of anger and frustration.
As a foster parent or caretaker of child who is experiencing these complex emotions from a child in your home, you may also feel confused and even a little frustrated. Children have a fundamental need to be connected to their birth family and, for many foster parents, this can seem like a paradox. After all, children typically enter foster care when their home environments or caretakers are unsafe or dangerous to their well being. These types of feelings are normal; however, what is most important, is to put the needs of the children first.
So, how can you help the child in your care through these feelings? One of the best ways is to model a positive and collaborative relationship with the child’s birth family. No matter what birth parents did or didn’t do with regard to raising their child, developing a partnership with them honors the child’s connection with his birth family in a healthy and meaningful way. You might hear this type of relationship with birth parents referred to as “co-parenting.” Great co-parenting relationships evolve over time, and feature birth parents and foster parents learning from one another, finding the best ways to nurture and meet the needs of the child. This type of relationship can lead to the best outcomes for the child in out-of-home care, and helps ensure his positive emotional development.
Please remember that you are not alone. The Coalition for Children, Youth & Families is here to help you through the emotional journey of foster care. Check out some of resources below and contact us any time.
Featured Tip Sheets

World Wide Wednesday: September 23, 2015

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

  • Children adopted internationally often face multiple broken attachments in their early lives, which can make it more difficult for them to build trusting, attached relationships later in life. In this issue of the National Council for Adoption’s Adoption Advocate, Madison Howard explains why care models for children awaiting adoption that mimic family-based care can help provide the nurturing care they need as well as encourage the kind of secure attachments that will later help them attach to and bond with their adoptive families.
  • Friendships, Social Skills, and Adoption tackles the challenges that children who were formerly in out-of-home placements, such as orphanages and foster care, face in school. Dr. Julian Davies of the Center for Adoption Medicine shares this practical guide on RainbowKids.
  • Adoption & Foster Care In the Classroom: “Parents know what it’s like, the questions and requests from teachers for baby photos, information for family trees, and questions about moms. A teachers job is hard, really hard. It’s even more difficult as class sizes grow. To remember the backgrounds of every child is difficult, but I think there should be a general understanding that there are children in the classroom who come from divorced families, are in foster care, or were adopted.”
  • 5 Questions to Ask Yourself When You’re Thinking about Adoption:

    The choice to adopt is a big one. It’s not a choice to be made lightly because it’s a choice that has a dramatic impact not just on your life, but on the life of a child.

    Before moving forward with the formal adoption process, it’s important to ask yourself some key questions. The answers to these questions are vital if you want your choice to result in a long, happy life for you and your child.

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: Talking to Your Children about Their Birth Parents

Tip Sheet Tuesday: Talking to Your Child about Their Birth ParentsMost children who have been adopted wonder about their birth parents—at least to some extent.

For parents, the challenge comes in knowing when to bring up birth parents and how to answer tough questions. Should you bring it up? Should you wait for your child to come to you?

If you wait for your child to bring it up, it might not happen. They might be afraid of hurting your feelings or they might not know it’s okay to talk about birth families.

While the subject can seem scary, talking about birth parents with your child can actually reinforce the bond you share and strengthen your relationship. Often parents fear that the conversation will lead to their child becoming more interested in the birth parent and less interested in their family. Ultimately, it can be a way for your child to fully understand how they came to be yours.

Be prepared for questions about your child’s birth parents. We’ve all been uncomfortable when we’re caught off guard by sensitive questions. Decide what information you would like to share ahead of time, so you are able to think it through and not simply react to questions.

  • Speak to parents of other children who were adopted. Ask them what questions took them by surprise.
  • Read books. There are great children’s books for all ages that will likely help you. Books are a particularly great resource because they refer to someone else’s story, and it’s a non-threatening chance for both of you to make comments are ask questions.
  • Consider your child’s story. What questions can you anticipate?
  • Practice by having a discussion out loud with a partner or trusted friend who will give you feedback.
  • Be consistent. Your child should hear the same story from both parents. Talk to your partner before hand, so that you give your child a similar message.
  • Continue reading on our website.

Under the Umbrella: Talking to Children about Adoption

When it comes to talking to your child about his or her adoption, have you ever found yourself asking one or more of these questions: What do I say? Where do I begin? What if I say the wrong thing? What if I hurt my child? Will my child understand? Will he/she resent me or stop loving me? Might it be best to keep my child’s adoption a secret or wait until the right time to share?
Talking to children about adoption is far from easy for almost everyone. It is not a one time discussion, but rather a series of open, honest, and age-appropriate conversations that happen over time. And while it might seem easier to wait for a better time or to avoid discussion altogether, the reality is, talking to your child about adoption is, without question, essential.
Why?

A few weeks ago, one of our Resource Specialists happened upon a very passionate response to a post on an online forum that had to do with this same topic. The response was written by Paulette Drankiewicz, a foster and adoptive parent. Her response is moving and her words were so full of raw emotions and so perfectly composed that we were compelled to reach out to her privately and ask her permission to share with all of our readers.


“This is my thought: just say, for whatever reason, you choose not to tell her. As her mom, that is your right. Eventually, she will find out.
An overheard conversation.
A birth certificate that doesn’t look just like her spouse’s.
Another family member telling her.
Somehow, at some point, she will know. She will then think back to conversations she has had with you about . . . growing in your tummy (trust me, she will ask eventually), the family tree she filled out in fifth grade, her birth story, her father.
None of which you will be able to answer truthfully if you keep her adoption secret.
When she is pregnant herself (I know she is only two, Mama, but, in 25 years . . .) she will ask questions about your pregnancy, labor, and delivery. With her.
If she ever has any type of health issues that you need detailed information or bone marrow etc from the other side of the family, how would that look?
The list is endless.
If she cannot trust her mama with the truthfulness of the most intimate details of her life, she may question everything.
I often ask adoptive parents who choose not to disclose the truth why, and the OVERWHELMING reason has something to do with them. THEY don’t want the child to love them less/think of them not as their real parent/want to live with bio parents etc.
As parents, we should ALWAYS be the ones to take the potential emotional hit. To spare your feelings (which are unfounded; your baby loves you as Mama and always will) at the risk of your child’s feelings is never a great parenting option, in my opinion.
Secrets equate to shame and that beauty is NOTHING to be ashamed about!
Now think of it the other way. Her adoption is not a secret. It’s not anything hidden. It’s not anything you discuss daily at the dinner table (although, for a season, it will be, as she is processing it – and that’s OK) because it is just a matter of fact, like you being a single mom. You are a social worker. The Earth is round. Grass is green.
Adoptive families are just like all other families (personally, I think we are all a little cooler!) but if we cloud that in secrecy the future ramifications can be devastating.
When is the best time to tell her? NOW! If you wait for the right time, it will never be “the right time.” Then, it will get to the point where it flips from, “I will tell her when she starts school or asks questions etc.” to, “Now she is an adolescent going through her hormonal stuff; I can’t tell her now” or, “She doesn’t like me (entire teen years), so if I tell her now, she will want to live with her bio parents” etc.
It’s easy now. Super easy now.
As a side note: we don’t say our children “are adopted,” we say they “were adopted.” Being adopted is a one time event, not an ongoing status in life. It is how they entered our family, it’s how they got this dreaded long last name, it’s how the got stuck as a “forever”  . . . just as my birth children became a Drankiewicz by birth, we wouldn’t say to anyone, “They are birthed/borned” – their birth was a one time event. Just as all eight of my littles had a one time event. Past tense, not a status.

You got this mama. We are all here to support you!”


As always, we welcome you to visit our website and contact us (info@coalitionforcyf.org, 414-475-1246, or 800-762-8063) at the Coalition if you have any questions, concerns, or comments you would like to share. Like Paulette wrote above: we are here to help you.
Featured Tip Sheets: