How is adoption and fostering changing? We talk with April Dinwoodie, a transracial adoptee and thought leader in the field of adoption. She is host of two podcasts: Navigating Adoption and Born in June, Raised in April: What Adoption Can Teach the World!
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Welcome to Creating a Family talk about adoption and foster care. I'm Dawn Davenport. I am the host of this show as well as the director of the nonprofit creating a family.org. Today is the second in the two part adoptions and 2022 series we are doing. Last week we talked about adoption options in 2022. So if you didn't catch if you didn't listen to that, make sure to go back it was a terrific show. And today we're going to be talking about the shifting realities of adoption and fostering in 2022. We will be talking with April Dinwoddie, she is a transracial adoptee, as well as a thought leader in the field of adoption. She is the host of two great podcasts, one navigating adoption, and the second is born in June raised in April, what adoption can teach the world? I think you are really going to enjoy this discussion. I know I am certainly looking forward to it. Welcome, April to
Creating a Family.
Thank you for having me on. It's wonderful to be here.
I am truly looking forward to this. You and I have tried to connect. And it's amazing to me. I don't know that we've actually met in person. I think we I we talk we go to the same conferences. So maybe we have, you are the source of a great source of embarrassment for me, you probably don't remember this. i This was quite a few years ago, we had actually scheduled a time to meet. I had meetings in New Jersey, I'd rented a car. And it was sometime late afternoon, you and I were going to meet in New York. And I as a friend. This is such a rookie mistake. I think it was a George Washington Bridge. I'm not from the New Yorker in the New Jersey area. And so I checked my time and knew how much time I had I added time because I knew that I had to park. So I was just going fine. Got on the George Washington Bridge. And it stopped. I mean, it completely stopped. And I'm like, Oh, well, you know, I've got plenty of time. I added time. I did not move. I did not move. Now there was a wreck. However, my friends in New York now tell me that I think I probably left it three or something. And they were like, there's always a wreck of the George Washington, you never leave. You never cross it that time. And I was like, well, that's not what Google Maps told me. Anyway, fortunately, and I you know, it's a person who really does take pride in making certain that I'm on time and all that type of stuff. So anyway, I hope I My memory is that somebody calls them bad and have your phone number either. And I was like, What am I gonna do? I called somebody creating a family who did have your I think I hope they I hope that you weren't sitting there waiting at the coffee shop for me. I'm sure you were not. But
we worked it out. Yeah, worked it out. But we
never made it. It never happened again. So anyway, and and talk about a rookie mistake. So this is our opportunity. So I am so looking forward to this. So the title is shifting realities and adoption and fostering. And so let's start by but what what are some of the shifting realities that you see, as someone who works in this field?
Well, I think one of the big big shifts that I see is more adopted persons, those who spent time in foster care and or have that experience in both foster care and adoption. As the as the adopted people or former foster youth. Were speaking out, we are having our voices heard you're having me here on this podcast. It's a it's a wonderful thing. So often, we have seen professionals or parents with the mic, as we say, right? If telling that story, we still see that happening a lot. But there's so many of us who are like, Oh, wait, we're over here, we have something to say and, and many of us are indeed, moving into the professional realm of adoption and foster care, as having that experience ourselves. So I see a lot of lived experience, however you want to phrase that those of us who have the experience of being fostered or adopted, that are in the mix from a professional standpoint. And I think that is really a game changer. I think that's one thing. Another thing I think is happening, that is is urgent and happening in ways that I think signal that there is a will and a need to sharpen the skill around diversity disproportionality of race in foster care and adoption. And what I mean by that is an over representation of black and brown children in the foster care system, and a real data and statistical show us that also black and brown children take longer to be adopted. There's all these factors. And I do feel like there is a an attention being paid. Not nearly enough, but I do think that is shifting, and it's about time and I'm all for it. And I certainly will do everything I can do to make sure that that skill meets the will of folks that really do want to see change. Not everybody wants to See changed, but some do and those who do, I hope that they really do Lean into what they need to know, as professionals to help make changes in that area.
Yeah, I agree with both of what you just said the focus of National Adoption Month was on they didn't call it shifting the script. But but that was a couple of years ago. But they, but focusing on hearing the voices of lived experiences and our field and I couldn't agree with you more. And then moving to the your second point about the over representation of of black indigenous and children of color in that who come into the system. This is predominant, would you say this was predominantly through Foster? Or do you think through domestic infant as well?
The best data we have is in foster care and adoption draft cars, right? Because that's the best data we have. But that's only good data we have. Right? That's the best. It's the only good data. You're absolutely right. So it's certainly primarily through foster care that we see the disproportionality of black brown and indigenous children entering care. And further to that staying and care longer. Yeah, so we do note now, there, I think there's a there's a number out there, that's like 40%, of even domestic infant adoption are trans racial. Right. But again, that data is. And I would say, you know, when it's obvious that there's a racial difference, I think every adoption is trans cultural. There's no two families culture that are exactly the same. So I think when we think about race and culture, we have to link the two things together, and really think about how to level up as parents of professionals to meet the cultural needs of children.
Yeah, I would agree with all of that. Do you think that the the family first fact which, for the audience, you've heard us talk about it, but I will remind you, it was an act that was passed in, I think, February 2018, which seems like a long time ago, but in fact, is just now really beginning to be implemented, at least where what we say is that just now kind of trickling down, not to the state to the state, but also to the county and parish level. But do you think that the one of the impacts of the family first fac and I'm you know, this I'm aware, but I'm telling, you're saying for the audience, one of the impacts for the Family First Act is a greater emphasis on placing children with Kin with kinship families? Do you think that will have an effect to I'm not sure that would have an effect or reducing the number of children of color coming into the system? But do you think it will have an effect on how quickly they are getting placed in permanency?
Potentially, look, family systems are complicated, right? And when you have to say the least, when, when you when you have some crisis in the family, there, there can be complicated factors that make a placement, a little bit longer of a journey. Right. That said, I do think that the best thing that we can do is to keep children in their families of origin. One, really be thoughtful about why we're removing children and to what degree that is based on race, culture and class
and and economics. Yes, yes. Poverty, it's it's so neglect in poverty can be so often confused. Yes, they sure can.
And we've a real problem that so that's not what this podcast is about. But when we think about what happens when we have removed children, trying to find a stable loving and permanent option for them in one that meets their cultural needs, I do think kin is is the is the best the next best thing, if that works and is safe for the child, right? That does not mean it's necessarily going to be quicker, those family systems sometimes need our support and work very well to to, to really embrace this new relationship of raising a child. That is that is connected to you biologically. So I think we have to resist the urge of oh, those families need less from us. In some ways they may need they may need just as much or
more. And we give them less. We're in the middle of a project right here with creating a family with listening sessions for grandparent or other kin families. We're literally halfway through we were having a total of six and we're just finished the third one. And it is so very clear. I think they absolutely need more support, including financial support, and then oftentimes they're getting less and then the response is, well, they should become foster parents. Well, that's also really complicated and not also in the best interest of the family or even the best interest of the child. So it's a Yeah, I could not agree with you more. And your point is well taken that the the emphasis of family Family First is family preservation. So before we jump to placing kids with Kin family The whole goal is to look at the family of origin and support them where they are, so that the child doesn't have to be removed. Now we both know that there are situations where that's not going to be possible. But the more there are many situations where it could be possible. So rather than giving the money to foster family, or even kinship family, although they receive less generally, but rather than do that, finding the services that the family of origin needs, so we could keep those kids in their family. That's, that's where the emphasis, and I think it's just too early to tell our buddy, what's your thoughts?
I think it's too early to tell us as well. And I'm so glad that that is the that is the centerpiece of of this, of this work in the law legislation. And now coming down into policy and in what's really happening, I think the thing that I always say there's those laws, policies, practices and people, right, you can have a law, you can have a policy, you can practice and you have individuals that really do need that training, that ongoing conversation about how do you hold family? How do you value identity related to culture, we have to really work with the professional environment to say, what needs to shift and how we come to do this work on both when we're preserving families, and not separating them. And then once we create a new family, what are we doing to support that family? It's so individual, that I think that's where we talk a lot about long pause and practice. But we really have to talk about individual personal operating systems of the people in charge of doing this work. Right. And that's why I heard you say, listening sessions with with Kin with kinship families, right, listening to what is happening with families that are being impacted by foster care, adoption, whether they come voluntarily into that space, or they are in that space, because they find themselves they're not by choice, listening to those families. And and, and then obviously, the children that that are entrusted with those families, that is so vital, because we can have a lot on the policy. But if we don't understand this real human work, we're never going to advance it the way we need to. Well, and
they're the ones who they are the ones who understand their needs more if you're trying to meet somebody needs, you need to you have to ask what their perception of their need is because let's be honest, they know it talk about lived experience, they're in the midst of it, so we do have to live to them. But another thing about the people part, and I like how you divided up law policy, and people, the other people that I think that we see more, we have a more of a grassroots presence. And and that is the on the people on the ground, on the county level, or on the agency level, who are actually implementing your law and your policy, getting them to shift. I mean, and in fairness, you know, we have had a different policy in the past, you know, starting in the 1990s, there was a big push to get children into permanency, you know, push towards adoption. So this is a shift. But I do think that that is a whole see getting the getting the perception shift for the person who is walking up knocking on the door. That's a That's a harder thing. And I think it's at one point, I was frustrated when I thought this law passed in 2018. Okay, this is 2021 wire. But I think that it's that's just how it has to be the law comes down, it comes down to the state, the state has to have implementing regulations, then that has to get pushed out to the county. But the next step, it seems to me is that we've got to do some education on the on the boots on the ground people to help them understand that this is not just policy coming from one high, it's actually policy based in a fair amount of research and wisdom. So I don't know, that's probably a more depressing topic.
We have to have hope, like we have to, we have to have hope. I mean, there's, it's just too important. It's just too urgent to be thinking about how we level up for children. I always try to find that it's hard some days trying to find that out. But I always tried to I always try to,
and I think it exists. I can't tell you the number of the people who are boots on the ground that we work with or talk with or and honestly the number of families. One of the questions we're asking in the listening sessions is what's working for you. And that's been in heartening. I mean, there's a lot that is working and and even talking with the people on the ground, who are you know, the professionals who are doing the hard day to day work. You know, there's so many good people so I mean, there there there are some who are bureaucrats in the worst way but there are some who are absolutely doing the right work. Hey guys, let me pause for a minute. Do you know about our free online courses? Thanks to the Chucky being Family Foundation. We now have, get ready for it 1212 free courses available for you to listen to on our creating a family dot orgs online Parent Training Center, the short link to get there is Bitly slash JBf support. And you could see all 12 courses, like how trauma impacts a child's development, that is just one, each course comes with their each one hour, they all come with certificates of completion, you will likely be able to use it if you have continuing ed needs. So pop over there to Bitly that's bi T dot L y slash j, b, f support. Thanks. Well, let me shift to another shifting reality. And that's been a big one. And that is the precipitous decline in international adoptions. What are your thoughts on that? Do you think that that is? I think no one thinks it's going to reverse but anyway, but nevertheless, what do you think? What are your thoughts on that and how it's going to impact adoption and fostering in the US? Well, we've
had some real challenges with inter country adoption in this in this world, right, we've we've had a lot of, we have, quite frankly, criminal behavior that has happened related to inter country adoption. And so I think the what we're seeing is some, some calibration of in country, options for children, right, trying to keep children in their countries of origin, which is, which is a laudable goal and important. And I think we're also seeing politics play out, as we often do in international elements. And with adoption, being one of those things that comes into play. It's an easy sort of target, if you will have for political negotiation, I guess you would say or, or political power moves. But But ultimately, I hope what has happened as as things have declined, as we become more thoughtful about how we do it, right, whether that's finding in country options for children, whether that's making an inter country adoption plan, and really looking at all the factors that impact a child who is moving from a culture, usually with with with, with some severe trauma attached to their beginnings in life. So I think it's an eye opener, I think we have to shift the conversation from, oh, my gosh, we can't get babies here, internationally, like we used to like that's, you know, it's not about really the parent need. It's really about the child need. And in that conversation, I always hope continues to shift but it's a it's a tension, right, there's tension there, but right to be clear, but look, I hope that what it's what that drop in the numbers is doing is giving people a moment to pause and say, what was really going on? Who are we really serving? And how do we continue to level up when we're doing inter country adoption to make it at the highest level of humanity possible? But I get it. I think there's, I think the headline for a lot of folks is, why can't we have babies from other countries? And that's just not the conversation I think we need to have.
I know, I honestly don't hear that. I will tell you the truth that we haven't been getting baby. We're you know this, but we haven't been getting babies for years and years and years and years and years. We tell people that all all children adopted internationally. They look very similar to children in our foster care system, children interstate care the world over for the very same reasons neglect and abuse and poverty. And those are the same reasons and the same traumas and sometimes worse, and as well as medical special needs. So I don't hear people talking about, we want to get babies now. I will say that that was probably the case 15 years ago. Well, even more than that. Well, yeah, but 15 years ago, people were still hoping that that was going to come back. But generally, extended family, extended community can step into care for babies. So that's really yes, that will never, that will never be an issue. It to me. That's not how I don't think it will ever come back. If it does.
I just want to pause there and say this, that what I'm what I'm talking about really is a more broad understanding of it. Right. So you talk to people outside of the field, right? That's the refrain. Right? If we're talking about right, so more broadly held idea of that. Now, when we get in closer to it, I think there's definitely evidence of that shift many years past moving towards older children, children with special needs, that is in the data. We know that that isn't the trend. But But broadly speaking, that's the stuff the perception shift of the more broad holding of adoption period. The layers of it, how it happens inter country, foster domestic infant, all the things we that's the broad perception shifts are the things that do a little bit of harm to our work because the sometimes the people doing the policy aren't in that are oftentimes they're not in the person, they're in that project, we just need to get the babies. So yes, I wanted to differentiate my sort of holding of that. That's a
very good point, you are exactly right, the people who come in, and actually we do see a little of that when people come in, we often meet people at creating a family when they are coming. They join our community when they're first thinking about adoption, and they don't know much. And it's our mission to educate them on what their options are, and things like that. And it certainly by the time, that is certainly what we are educating them on. And I don't know I think at this point, you're exactly right, though, the general populace is still remembering when you could get a three month old from China, or Guatemala, and you know, and healthy, and you didn't air quotes around the word health a better health a three month old or you know from your right. Yeah. And that's that ship has sailed for quite some time. If you have enjoyed this or other creating a family.org podcast over the years, we have a favor to ask, please go to rate this podcast.com/creating A family and leave us a rating and preferably a review. It is super simple. And it helps us reach others who benefit from the information that we share. That is rate this podcast.com/creating A family. And thanks. A big change that I know that you see and have have spoken in Britain about is for domestic infant well, as well as foster adoptions is the move towards openness. I have looked for a while to try to get a I'm not sure there is a good statistic on this because I don't think there's a good definition we don't we all are working with the same definition of what we mean by open. But what what stat do you use for what percentage of unless let's distinguish now and speak only of domestic infant adoptions? What percentage do you use? For what percentage are open? Or do you? Or is that a fool's mission?
Well, we're talking about data, right? So hard to get this to understand what's happening you to your point as well done. It's it's what is the definition? Right? What is the definition of openness? Well, we can kind of dig that in dig into a little bit. But what when I was at the institute, that dance and adoption Institute, we would say like something like a high 90s in the high 90s domestic agencies, domestic adoption agencies, were transacting open adoptions, like in the high 90s. Like this is, you know, most agencies today, meeting the needs of, of families of origin, right families of origin are coming to the DSA, I'm not going to relinquish if I don't have contact, right. So this is a new if we talk about it. In that sense, I don't like to talk about it in terms of market, but it is we sometimes have to to get it to land the plane. It's like, there's a different there was a different market, right. And adoption. And again, I don't like that next to children and families, but people are showing up in a different way to say, I, I want contact, I want to know, and that's so so there's there's a there's a there's a strong sense of many agencies most really are in some ways, meeting the needs. And the in the end, the outlier is usually the the the expectant parent, the expectant parent, who is eventually the woman who would give birth, that expected parent who shows up and says I want to completely close adoption is the outlier. That is the outlier these days most many would like some form of contact that said, the transaction of all that's one thing, the transformation of that how we move through that as human beings is a whole nother thing, because that is the level of relationship engagement that is so intricate, and so fraught and so hard, but also possible. But we what we have haven't done effectively, I don't think is to help the parents, all the parents really understand their role, their, their identity as as part of this extended family, and how they have to do their work to be in right relationship in order to make this a healthy relationship for the child. We haven't done that deep relationship work. We like to talk about openness, but we really haven't dug into to say what's it going to be like when you're all sitting around a holiday table? You do that when when we say, Oh, my parents were my parents were so and are still this way. And I challenged them on this. And I talked about my parents, I love them, they love me, it's all amazingly good. And there was some things that needed to be better. And we talked about this idea of at the holiday, oh, our, our, our doors are open our please come and have a seat at our table, we have enough we have more than enough, everybody's welcome. But I quit, would my family of origin be welcome at this table. And when you say that is everybody really welcome and who's going to walk through that door, it's going to make you feel uncomfortable. So those are the types of real time conversations and trainings and, and and role plays that we have to do with parents, if we're going to talk about openness, we've got to do the deep work of creating relationship to openness. And that's harder.
And we as professionals, have to give better support for both families after the fact. Because we run a large online support group, everybody out there probably knows Facebook, creating a family, please join us. And we get questions all the time on, how do I navigate? It's a messy relationship. It's complicated. You're coming, you're almost always changing cultures, oftentimes changing socio economic. And it's just it's complicated. And not only baby talk, can you even imagine a more complicated relationship? I mean, it's really hard to I can
guess, in what laws and laws in laws?
Well, generally, yes. Sometimes those you have more in common with, potentially and yes, sometimes, yes, but I'm speaking, generally speaking, I think that they open. And we also, I think, offer more support to families, figuring out how to, there's that you have more you can complain about your mother in law, and people will shake their head and understand if you complain about your child's mom, birth mom, you don't have that, that, that if families are navigating complexities, and I don't think we as professionals, walk alongside them after the placement to help them figure out how to handle some of these relations.
Right? You know, look, it's not the same, but it's the closest thing I can think of to get people in the spirit of I can do this. And I can do that in the spirit of I may not like where they go to dinner or or how their house smells, all these different things that you may not like about this, like some big things, some little things, or the way they operate or how they talk about politics. But you know what you show up, you put it you put your best face forward, because their family love, well, you love that person. It's about that's loving, right? It loving is when you stretch, and you say, I really don't want to have to go listen to that. And by the way, I'm, I'm emotionally triggered, because every time I go, my mother in law compares me to someone they don't like very much, or, you know, all these things, but you show up and work on that relationship because you love your partner, because you love that person. So I think it's for me, it's like the closest thing we can we can because I don't what I would say is we have we have created this, this really almost unattainable connection through open adoption. That just seems too hard. We've, we forget about all our other relationship skills. When we come into relationship around adoption. And and what we can do to level up we forget, we're just like, we can do hard things. We just need that support and help and to be reminded of the hard things that we that we can do. So I you know, it's a start, you know, it's sometimes we'll go on, think of it that way. Like now let's go deeper, right? Yeah. And let's go deeper, even deeper.
We have a we call it a slightly annoying grandmother rule. And it is similar to that. It's like your grandmother may annoy you. She may have habits. She may do things. She may say things, but you value that relationship. So you keep connected because you value the relationship and you're willing to put up with the fact that she's not perfect. And hey, newsflash, neither are we guys, I want to thank one of our longest sponsors, our longest partners for the creating a family podcast, and that is hopscotch adoptions. They are a hay accredited international adoption agency, placing kids from Armenia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Ghana, Guiana, Morocco, Pakistan, Serbia and Ukraine. They specialize in the placement of kids with Down syndrome, as well as other special needs. They also can help you if you're trying to do a kinship adoption, an international kinship adoption. They place kids throughout the US and offer home study services and post adoption services to residents of North Carolina and New York. Thank you hopscotch for your long support. So tell me about the podcast born in June right April, what can adoption teach the world and I particularly am interested in the what can adoption teach the world part. But first start by telling me a little bit of time we have left about the podcast. Yeah,
absolutely. I want to talk to you about another podcast to navigating adoption brought to you by presented by Dr. Rescue. Yeah, that's everyone's here. So I'm in the podcasting world. I'm so excited.
Let's move to both of those. Exactly. Yeah,
let's do it. Right. Like I was inspired to do this podcast by my cousin of origin my first cousin who I met in the last eight years, and this woman is amazing and I beautiful connection with her. And so she's like, Oh, you have a really a lot to say you should have a podcast that's like okay, I have come the born in June raisin apricot is real simple to it real simple and complicated. My mother of origin named me June in this event, my parents of origin when they just found out they were getting me as a foster to adopt and adopted me. They changed my name, unknowing didn't know that I was already June, Elizabeth, but they changed my name and decided on April 8, that's the best. And so and I'm born in October. So born in June, race in April is my full holding of my names, right. Perfect. And it's perfect. And I love it. And it's it's been a real centering piece for me. And what also happens with that sort of looking at the names and neither one of my names being the month I'm born, got me thinking very much about the calendar and how we, as adopted persons or members of this extended family adoption, experienced the calendar in a different way, Mother's Day, Father's Day, birthdays, there are layers within our experience with the calendar. So I take the calendar, I deconstruct it, I we live as we lead into these deep conversations about identity, how family comes together, we you know, we just came or we just came off of Thanksgiving. And we talked about that Thanksgiving Day table not matching your family that's that's around that table. And and what we need to do to prepare as parents and professionals to really meet the practical day to day needs. So born in June, raisin April, does all of that we deconstruct the calendar, we have guests, we have a great we have great conversation, and sometimes a lot of fun. But it's deep, it's deep. So that is been a joy. And once I started podcasting, I was like, Oh, this is kind of fun, but not so bad at it. And I I have been I've been doing several others and one of them that I really love is navigating adoption presented by adaptive West kids. awesome podcast. We love it. It's all the lived experiences of those who have adopted and Ben adopted, you know, from from an older youth perspective. So the best part of that Bob, that podcast for me, are the young people, the young adults that that that are that are they're in conversation with me. And it's such a joy and quite frankly, a privilege and an honor whenever I'm around family, but families impacted by adoption, foster care, but most importantly, that young people, they're just so there are guides, there are guides.
And and so the focus of and by the way, everybody you can get both navigating adoption, as well as born in June raised in April, on any of your podcast apps, just type in the names and you can subscribe there. So the Navigating adoption is primarily Amplifying Voices, the lived experiences of adoptees and former foster youth.
Yes, you're 100%. And it just was really well done. And very, very well thought out which which is so important because you have we have people real human beings that have had a journey. And so I'm always so committed to holding space for those sacred conversations.
Yeah, that's a beautiful way to say it. Absolutely. We have been sharing the throughout our network, the navigating, navigating adoption podcast and we will also start sharing born in June raised in April. Thank you so much. April Dinwiddie, I have been looking forward to this. This has been a pleasure for the audience to get more information about April. She is a speaker, she's a trainer, she can do so many things. You can go to her website, which is fortunately her name, April dinwiddie.com. And Dinwiddie is di N Debbie Odie. Thank you so much April for being with us today. I truly appreciate it.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai