How do I choose an adoption agency?

Congratulations! You have made the decision to build your family through adoption. The first step in your adoption journey is to choose an agency. You may be thinking that you want an agency that is licensed by the state, honest, and ethical.

chooseanagencyYou may also want to work with staff who is compassionate, patient, efficient, and available when you need them. It’s a good idea to call a few different adoption agencies to see which one is the best fit for you and your family. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Researching an Agency
Gather as much information as possible about adoption in Wisconsin, adoption agencies, and state requirements. Ask questions like:

  • What agencies offer the kind of programs you are looking for?
  • Is the agency licensed by the state?
  • Is the license current?
  • When did the licensing board last visit the agency?
  • Are there any current or unresolved complaints against the agency?
  • You can find these answers by contacting the Department of Children & Families at 608-267-3905or at http://dcf.wisconsin.gov.

Networking and Support Groups
You also might try networking with adoptive parent support groups to find out about the agencies they went to and ask for recommendations. (For a list of support groups, check out the resource section at the end of this tip sheet.)

Support groups and adoption classes are also helpful throughout the whole adoption process, because there is only so much information you can get from agency staff and websites. The real learning comes when you can combine that information with forming relationships with others who are taking the same journey that you are.

Elizabeth Ghilardi, a Wisconsin adoptive parent says, “In the course of our adoption process, we went through 13 weeks of preparation classes; something we initially were not looking forward to, but turned out to be wonderful.”

She goes on to say, “We have kept in touch with many of the families and have gatherings on a regular basis. We have developed an unbelievable support network that is invaluable to our family and the children. Among us, we’ve adopted a total of eight children, with several more pending.”

Once you’ve narrowed down the search for an adoption agency, set up an introductory meeting so you can ask more detailed questions.

Continue reading the tip sheet.

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Tip Sheet Tuesday: Adoption Has No Age Limits

Think back to when you were 18, 21, 40. Were your parents there for you? Were you able to handle everything you needed when you moved out? Or did you still come home to do laundry, check out the refrigerator and bug your younger siblings? Were your parents at your wedding? Did you make vacation plans around your parents’ holiday celebrations? Did your need for a family ever go away?

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In Wisconsin, adoptions can occur at any age. There are many reasons why adoptions are finalized for adults, but one of the primary reasons is that being adopted creates a life-long connection for the adult adoptee.

Dustin Bronsdon, who was adopted as an adult, says “Family has always been important to me, and just because I turned 18, didn’t mean that I don’t still have a big need to belong.”

He laughs and says, “My fiancée wasn’t too thrilled to see that I had found the Bronsdon family crest and had it tattooed on my shoulder. But that’s how much being part of a family means to me.”

He goes on to say that “Being adopted lets you feel part of something—something real. It gives you an identity that was missing before.”

There are generally three main reasons for adult adoptions:

  • Formalizing a child-parent relationship so the family truly feels like they belong together.
  • Inheritance rights—especially in cases of trust funds and beneficiaries where “relatives” or “children” are only mentioned generally—not by a specific name.
  • Perpetual care for someone who has cognitive delays or other disabilities.
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Adoption-Focused Books

The number of adoptions finalized each year is rising, meaning that more and more parents and families will be looking for the best way to talk to their children about adoption. Sharing through books can be a great tool to help explain to your children the concept of adoption.

HiRes.jpgAny number of books are available to help adoptive parents explain adoption to their child, at any age. Adoption books cover many different themes regarding different topics related to adoption.

Some books available in the Coalition library include:

  • Zachary’s New Home by Paul and Geraldine Blomquist uses animals to explain the process of adoption, as well as the emotions that go along with it from a child’s point of view.
  • Double-Dip Feelings helps kids understand emotions and that you can have two or more very different emotions at the same time.
  • When Joe Comes Home teaches the international view about birth country and heritage, along with the excitement and anticipation felt by the adoptive family.
  • Susan and Gordon Adopt a Baby uses familiar faces from Sesame Street to explain the concept of adoption.
  • The Boy Who Wanted a Family provides the view of an older child who wants a permanent home, along with the emotional ups and downs while going through the process.
  • There Goes My Baby is a comic book geared towards adolescents that explains adoption.
  • Pugnose Has Two Special Families explains what an open adoption is and gives reassurance that it’s okay to love both sets of parents.

Some books might make your children uncomfortable or be something that they just don’t like. There are so many options for each topic, you’re bound to find one that fits.

Continue reading this tip sheet.

Welcome Home Books: Building Connections

Imagine for a moment what it must feel like to move into a new environment, with new surroundings; an unfamiliar mattress, new rules, new routines. Moving into a new home can be a scary and overwhelming experience for youth in foster care.

welcomehomebooks.pngFoster and adoptive parents can help ease some of those fears and anxieties by creating a welcome home book. The less anxiety a child feels, the safer he or she will feel.

Welcome books can be valuable resources for youth of all ages. Welcome home books can help bridge the gap between what is unknown to what will soon become more familiar, comfortable, safe, and secure.

Getting Started
Encourage all family members to participate and contribute in creating a welcome home book. Welcome home books do not have to be an extensive project. Pictures with captions and descriptions are what make up the contents of a welcome home book. A small photo album or a scrapbook with captions would work well, too.

Your creativity will ultimately dictate how detailed and comprehensive your welcome home book ultimately becomes. Be creative and imaginative and most importantly of all, have fun and be expressive!

If you have computer skills, you could create a welcome home book through a free online website, such as snapfish.com If computers are not your strong suit, then perhaps you could put together a hand crafted welcome home book, including pictures of:

  • Family members greeting the child with warm and welcoming messages, such as “Welcome Annisha!” or “We are looking forward to meeting you, Antonio!”
  • The child’s bedroom
  • The family’s dining room
  • Holiday celebrations or family traditions
  • Continue reading

Are you ready? Preparing for placement

You never thought the day would come. While dreaming of fostering or adopting, you slogged through mountains of paperwork, passed the home inspection, and finished your pre-placement training. It seemed endless. vintage tone, teddy bear sitting alone at Railway PlatformBut then the call came — a child needs a home. Suddenly your excitement turns to apprehension. Are you really ready?

Following are some tips to help you prepare for that magical moment when a new child walks through the door to join your family, whether temporarily, as a foster child, or permanently, as an adopted one.

  • If the placement decision isn’t urgent, consider requesting a pre-placement visit or visits. These could range from an hour or two to an overnight stay. While not possible in urgent situations, these visits allow both the child and your family to test the waters and determine whether this match will be positive for everyone. This might also be an opportunity to connect with your child’s birth family and get a sense of what this relationship will look like.
  • Check in with the other children in your home: what are their feelings now that a new child is coming to stay? Depending on the child, feelings could range from excitement to concerns about how they’ll get along with a new sibling, to fears about receiving less of your attention. Assure your children that you will continue to be the parent they’re counting on. You may also want to review the basics of confidentiality with your children.Father and son with groceries
  • Take stock: is your home ready? A place to lock up medications, fresh linens for the child’s bed, and the home diagram and fire evacuation plan are just a few of the many physical requirements to attend to. Are there special items you need to obtain for the child? Medical equipment, a restricted diet, or other special needs could mean you have extra homework. Having everything on hand will save your family the stress of running errands during those important first few hours after the child arrives.
  • Consider putting together a “welcome home book” for the child. This book serves to bridge the gap between the scary unknown and what will become familiar, safe, and secure. A welcome book could include photos of family members, written greetings using the child’s name, pictures of her new bedroom, and things to see or do in the community or neighborhood. (See our Tip Sheet for more details.)
  • Your licensing or social worker has likely provided you with some information about the child and his situation. Be prepared to ask questions and have conversations with workers about the plan for birth family contact, crisis or safety plans, feedback you provide to determine the child’s Level of Need (the CANS tool), and whether there are any special conditions in the child’s court order that you should be aware of. Practicalities such as medical appointments and school enrollment, upcoming court hearings and visitation arrangements may all bombard you within the first few days of the child’s arrival. You may want to talk with your work to help ensure you are prepared to understand exactly what your role is in each of these important events.

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Have more questions, or just want to talk to someone confidentially? At the Coalition for Children, Youth & Families, we want to support your family and all your hard work as a parent. If you need someone to talk to, referrals to additional resources, or information, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 414-475-1246, 800-762-8063, or info@coalitionforcyf.org.

Tip Sheet Tuesday: Honoring Your Child’s Racial and Cultural Identity

When adopting a child transracially or transculturally, certain changes within your family may seem obvious in the beginning. However, adopting a child of a different race or culture will require a shift in thinking above and beyond what you may initially think because your child’s experience will differ greatly from your own.

122406133.jpgWe hope the following information may help your family adapt to becoming a transracial family or a transcultural family.

Definitions
Here are some definitions that most people use when referring to race and culture:

Racial identity is the racial background with which you identify. Many people today have backgrounds from more than one culture or race, and many of these people will pick on that they feel they can relate to the best.

Transracial or transcultural adoption means placing a child who is of one race or ethnic group with adoptive parents of another race or ethnic group.

Cultural Identity: chosen or adopted culture.

Creating Positive Racial and Cultural Identity
By empowering your children to adapt to your family and your culture, you will be honoring your child’s racial and cultural identity. A child who has been adopted and is a different race will have varying emotional needs.

Your children will be treated as members of your family at home, but may have a different experience in the world at large. It’s these experiences that contribute largely to the development of their identity. They may deal with racism or stereotypes that you or your children have never had to deal with in the past.

This requires preparation and open family communication. Rather than expecting that your child adapts to your family, your family will need to adapt to your child and his or her racial and cultural identity. Your child’s race and culture should become a part of all family members experience and be present throughout your home.

The Impact of Transracial Identity
Adopting transracially impact the entire family. The whole family now becomes transracial—not simply the child. If all family members think about their family unit in this way, it can prevent the child who was adopted from alienated.

Relationships with extended family members and friends may be challenged or even changed when they are asked to accept and respect you as a transracial family.

At school, peers may question your children about why they look different from you or a sibling. Not only will your children need to be prepared for these occurrences, but so will the entire family.

As a family, reflect on your own beliefs, attitudes, and experiences so you can understand the messages that are being sent to your children.

Tip Sheet Tuesday: Life Books – A Lifelong Priceless Treasure

What is a Life Book?
Life books are a way to provide youth with an opportunity to safely record their life stories through their own personal collection of words, pictures, artwork, and other memorabilia. A simple and creative tool, life books can help children and youth in foster care or who were adopted celebrate their unique qualities and talents.

Life Books: A Lifelong Priceless TreasureBenefits of Life Books
In addition to providing youth with a platform to share their life stories and highlight their strengths, life books are a way for children and youth to begin to make sense of their pasts, learn to embrace their presents, and give them hope for their futures.

Other benefits of life books include:

  • An outlet to create and express themselves
  • An opportunity to explore issues related to self-esteem and self-identity
  • For many youth, a way to validate feelings about the past
  • A therapeutic exercise to help the youth begin the healing process, which can include grief and loss, forgiveness, etc.
  • A tool to help build attachment and bonding between the youth and caregiver or provider

Engaging Children/Youth in the Creation of Life Books
Foster and adoptive parents play an important role in providing support while a child or youth creates his or her life book. The same is also true for any safe and supportive adult who has an interest in helping the youth celebrate, heal, and make personal connections with his or her past, present, and future.

Creating a life book – or even helping to create a life book – can sometimes feel like an overwhelming task, especially when there is limited (or no) information or only a few tangible personal items available to include. Sometimes, children may feel reluctant to share information, especially if they are not ready to revisit the past.

Continue reading this tip sheet