The Right Match

Ben and Becky Eby married in 2007. Two years later, the couple was ready to start domestic 1their family. Ben and Becky conceived . . . and lost six pregnancies. With no clear answers as to why they could not carry to term, they began thinking about other options for building their family. Ben and Becky contacted the Coalition to get some information about getting started. Following, Becky shares more of their story:

“We decided to look more into adoption,” Becky said. “Over the years, we had discussed this route, but it took several years for the both of us to be on the same page and agree that adoption was the right path for us.

“We didn’t know many people who had adopted, especially not in Wisconsin. So our first step was calling an agency and setting up a meeting. From there, we decided to meet with two more agencies to decide which one was the best fit. We decided that we’d work with an agency, but also try to find a match on our own through an independent adoption. Everything I read online said that matches came from such
a variety of places . . . family friends, random acquaintances, or just being in the right place at the right time. (I happen to believe this is the work of a mighty God!)

“So, as we were working on our home study to officially become adoption-ready, we told everyone our plans to adopt. I blogged about it. I shared it on my business page for Facebook. We started a Facebook page and website specifically for our adoption journey, printed little business cards with our website address, and asked
friends and family members to pass them out. Sharing our story, including our losses, was one of the hardest things I have ever done. (And I made it through boot camp and military deployment. I have done hard things!)

birth parent 1“Ultimately, we ended up meeting our son’s birth mom through an acquaintance on a Facebook group. We did have a failed match before that, and the expectant mother there had seen one of our business cards on a community bulletin board. She also had seen our website previously when a friend shared it with her. So I don’t think any one “seed” we planted was responsible for us finding our match. Instead, it was a team of family and friends rooting for us, praying for us, and sharing our story. We did have a profile book at our agency, but it did not result in any matches.

“I did join a few adoption groups on Facebook that were really supportive. It was nice to hear that we weren’t alone in our frustration, sadness to still be waiting, etc. I wasn’t able to find a Wisconsin-specific group though, so I started one! It’s still a small group, under 150 people, but it’s very supportive and a huge resource on discussing state-specific things. Plus, it’s nice to know local families that have similar dynamics to ours!

“One thing I’m really happy we did was meet with three-four agencies, review policies from each, and ask a ton of questions before committing to one. Each agency has such different policies and the social workers are obviously so different! We wanted a social worker who we were comfortable with, so that played a big part in our decision.”

Becky and Ben have kept in touch with their son’s birth mom, Izzy. They all cherish the open relationship, learning together along the way.

“Open adoption is beautiful, but there is no guidebook! Every birth parent, every adoptive parent . . . we’re all so different. So there is a lot of getting to know each other, navigating a difficult, emotional situation, especially at first, while everything is so new. For us and Izzy, communicating frequently is the best thing we’ve done. We try to build a relationship based on our son and on getting to know her, as an important person in our life.

domestice or birth parent 2“So, for our son’s first birthday, my husband had to work, so Izzy and I took the baby to the zoo together! [Ben and I] also surprised her at work with a card and gift before Mother’s Day. Most days I try to send her a Snapchat photo or video (or 10 of them!), because I know how much she values contact from us.

“At first, it was scary to share so much and we worried that it would hurt her to see him with us, but she has told me several times that she loves seeing him happy and loved by our entire family. We also were worried that it might be tough to set stronger boundaries later if there were any issues early on, but she has been so respectful of us as his mom and dad. Likewise, we respect her importance as our son’s first mother, and are so thankful for her choosing us to be his parents.

“We’ve known each other for a year and a half now, and it gets a little more comfortable, a little easier, every month. I can’t wait to see what our relationship looks like in 10 years!”

World Wide Wednesday: October 28, 2015

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

  • Supporting Someone through Adoption Loss: The loss of a long term foster child…the loss of a foster-to-adopt baby that the family had dreams and plans and expectations of adopting…the loss of a potential child when an adoption falls through…having to make the agonizing decision not to complete an adoption…coming home from the hospital to an empty crib when a potential birth mom has decided to parent the baby you thought would be yours…there are no Hallmark cards for these occasions.
  • The Impact of Adoption on Adoptive Parents: Adoptive parenthood, like other types of parenthood, can bring tremendous joy—and a sizable amount of stress. This factsheet explores some of the emotional ups and downs that adoptive parents may experience before, during, and after adoption. While every family is unique and every parent has different feelings and experiences, there are some general themes that emerge regarding adoptive parents’ emotional responses. The purpose of the factsheet is to identify some of these themes, affirm common feelings, and provide links to resources that may help your family address adoption-related concerns.
  • Adoption Options: Where Do I Start? – The prospect of adopting a child can be both exciting and overwhelming. There are many different types of adoption and choices to be made in pursuing an adoption. This factsheet is an introduction to the many pathways to building a family through adoption. It provides a basic understanding of the different types of adoption and guides readers to relevant resources. It begins by describing the different types of adoption and goes on to discuss State laws governing adoption, choosing an agency or adoption services provider, completing the home study, being matched with a child, and completing the necessary legal documents.
  • Winning Your Child’s Trust Around the Dinner Table: A childhood feeding specialist explains how to show your foster or adopted children love through food in an excerpt from her guide to enjoying family meals.

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 – Missing Pieces: Talking to Your Child about Adoption when Information is Lacking

How much do you know about your child? Parents who adopted internationally, those who experienced a closed adoption, or whose child was relinquished through the Safe Haven law in Wisconsin may find that they know very little about their child’s medical, social, or birth family history. So, why is this important? Most children and youth who were adopted will someday look to find out about their birth family members or will have questions about their pasts. This tip sheet looks at what you can do to support your children when you have little or no information about their birth family.

Adoption, Loss, and Its ImplicationsTip Sheet Tuesday - Missing Pieces: Talking to Your Child about Adoption when Information is Lacking
Adoption cannot happen without loss, and most adoptees experience some amount of grief over the loss of their relationships with birth family and culture. When information about the child’s birth family is lacking, those feelings of loss may be even more intense and might surface at various points in the child’s life. If the adoption was preceded by an abandonment, children may experience self-esteem issues as they try to understand how and why their birth parent would desert them.

Adoption is a lifelong journey, and your child’s feelings and understanding about adoption will change as she goes through various developmental stages and life events. Preschool-aged children often view adoption in a positive light and may ask a lot of questions about the subject. By the time children who were adopted reach school age, most realize that, in order to be adopted, they were first “rejected” by their birth parents.

The Teen Years and Beyond
Adolescence can be a trying period for any young person, and adoption adds another layer of complexity. Identity becomes a big focus during the teen years. Part of a person’s identity includes where they came from and how that affects who they are. Adolescents who do not know much information about their past may struggle with questions like “who am I?” Those who joined their family through birth or through an open adoption, have some idea of what their birth family looks like, what they have in common with them, and/or why their birth family made an adoption plan. Youth who know little about their past may struggle with the unknown. In general, most teens try to fit in with their peers and don’t like to stand out. Since most teenagers have information about their family history, a teen who was adopted can feel “different.”

Continue reading on our website

Under the Umbrella: Missing Pieces

While many of the adoptive families connected to the Coalition for Children, Youth and Families have open adoptions, there are a variety of circumstances that do not allow that type of relationship with birth families. In fact, there are families who have adopted children internationally or through safe haven laws and know little or no information about the child’s birth family. A few months ago, one of our Resource Specialists was viewing a webinar about open adoption. She couldn’t help but think, what can these families do to support their children’s curiosity about their past?
Under the Umbrella: Missing PiecesThis question was posed to the webinar facilitator, Lori Holden, who posted a response on her blog. (The thoughtful and detailed response can be seen on Lori’s website, LavenderLuz.com.) We also encourage you to view our new tip sheet: Missing Pieces: Talking to Your Child about Adoption when Information is Lacking. If you are interested in learning more about this topic, you can check out Lori’s book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, from our resource library.
Whether your family was formed through an open or closed adoption, you may have questions about how to talk to your child about their birth family. We are always here to help you navigate your adoption journey – Resource Specialists are available for support at (414) 475-1246.
We want to thank Lori Holden and Gayle Swift for allowing us to share their blog post for this edition of Under the Umbrella.

Tools Needed to Survive an Allegation

When individuals or families choose to become foster parents, they do so to help children in their communities and to provide a safe place for them—they open their hearts and homes and become licensed with good intentions. So, when an allegation occurs, it can leave foster parents reeling. A system they worked within is now investigating them. Foster parents are left feeling a range of emotions from fear, disbelief, shame, and bewilderment—all of which are common feelings when faced with dealing with an allegation.

Veteran foster parents often say that it is not if you will face an allegation, it is when. Foster parents are told of the possibility that they may face an allegation during training or during the licensing process, though that is certainly not the same as going through such an experience. Allegations can vary from a misinterpreted trigger from a child with a trauma history to a licensing violation. Regardless of the particulars and details, the experience of facing an allegation can be both painful and scary. Being prepared and knowing where to turn for support can help make the process a bit less stressful.

LibraryWe spoke with Sherry Benson and Tina Christopherson from the Wisconsin Foster and Adoptive Parent Association (WFAPA) and asked them to share with us the tools foster parents need in order to survive an allegation. Following are some of the suggestions they offered to help protect yourself, as well as the children you provide care for:

  • Document, document, document! Keeping track of phone calls and conversations with workers and other providers can help. Document behaviors observed and information disclosed to you by a child in your care—anything that may leave you feeling uncertain or wary—better to have it and not need it. It can help provide information during an allegation.
  • Seek out help and support. One of the most important things, say Sherry and Tina, is, “Don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for help. The more knowledge you have the better; knowledge is power.”

    WFAPA has a program to help foster families who may be going through an investigation of an allegation. The Foster & Adoptive Support & Preservation Program (FASPP), is a volunteer peer network that was developed to help support adoptive and foster parents who are experiencing investigations of allegations and provides a supportive and safe place for parents to talk about what they are going through. Sherry and Tina both recommend that foster parents talk to someone, ask questions, and ask for help, whether from a confidant, a support group, or therapist.

  • Take care of yourself. “Try to keep your life as normal as possible and make sure you take care of yourself,” advise both Sherry and Tina. “Make self-care a priority and don’t make any big life decisions during this time.”

    Part of taking care of yourself means making sure that you are meeting your basic needs: sleeping, eating, exercising. Talking to a therapist might be beneficial during this situation or seeking legal counsel from an attorney; every person and every situation is different. Ensuring you are taking care of yourself can help you better deal with this stressful situation with a clear head.Open door with bright light outside

  • After an allegation and investigation has occurred, it helps to debrief. Learn from the experience: What could I have done differently? What might I do differently from here on out? How can I better take care of myself? How can I prevent something like this from happening again? How can I better protect myself and my family? Learning your personal limits, and knowing that it is OK to say “No” when you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed, can prevent a situation from reoccurring. “After-care is very important,” Sherry and Tina agreed. “There is hope.”

Sherry and Tina shared that the experience of dealing with an allegation is similar to going through the stages of grief and loss; it is a process that can impact relationships with your worker, agency, a child, and other providers. Even when a situation is resolved, many people are left feeling as though their reputation is tarnished and they second guess themselves. It is important to remember that this is a temporary situation. It is a frightening experience, but there is hope and help.

Becoming a foster parent exposes oneself to a certain amount of risk, though it is a worthwhile risk helping to keep our children safe. Please see our additional resources for more information and support. And, remember, you can always call the Coalition for help—we are here for you!

Thank you to Sherry Benson and Tina Christopherson from WFAPA for contributing to this article.

World Wide Wednesday, October 21, 2015

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

  • Creative Ways to Connect with Birth Family: Families in open adoptions share the unique ways they stay in touch, from taking photos with the same stuffed animal they gave to their birth parents to getting matching tattoos.
  • DNA Testing: Seven Guidelines for Adoptees
  • Taking a Break: Creative Foster, Adoptive, and Kinship Respite Care in Your Community.
  • Kinship Caregivers and the Child Welfare System: A number of grandparents and other relatives find themselves serving as parents for children whose own parents are unable to care for them. Sometimes, the arrangement (referred to as “kinship care”) is an informal, private arrangement between the parents and relative caregivers; in other situations, the child welfare system is involved. This fact sheet is designed to help kinship caregivers—including grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other relatives caring for children—work effectively with the child welfare system.

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.