Are you thinking about adopting from foster care or adopting a child you are already fostering? Are you wondering how to help the child transition to adoption? Our guests are Hope Middlebrook, a foster parent recruiter for Arrow Child and Family Services, and Jennifer O’Brien, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Regional Director for Arrow’s Foster Care Programs.
In this episode, we cover:
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Please pardon any errors, this is an automated transcript.
Dawn Davenport 0:00
Welcome to Creating a Family talk about foster adoptive and kinship care. I'm Dawn Davenport. I am the host of the show as well as the director of the nonprofit creating a family.org. Today we're going to be talking about kids transitioning from foster care to adoption. We will be talking with Hope Middlebrook. She is a foster parent, recruiter for Arrow, Child and Family Services. And we'll be talking with Jennifer O'Brien. She is a licensed clinical social worker, and regional director for erros Foster Care Program. Welcome, Jennifer, and Hope to Creating a Family.
Unknown Speaker 0:36
Thank you are honored to be with you today. Okay, so today,
Dawn Davenport 0:39
we're going to be talking about two different scenarios because I think that the idea of transitioning differs depending on which of these scenarios you're in one you could be the current foster parent of the child, you are going to be adopting the child is living with you, and in some cases may have been living with you for a long time. So you that is one situation. The other situation is you are adopting a child who is living with a another foster parent. So you are not the current parent to that child. And I think that the way we transition differs significantly each way. So firstly, when did children begin to understand the concept of adoption? Hope I'll direct that one to you. Because that matters when we're trying to transition a child as a child even have an idea of what we're talking about.
Speaker 2 1:28
You know, it really depends on their age, typically, children begin to notice these things around the ages of six to eight is when they become aware, hey, I adopted I was not born into this family. And it also will depend on whether they share a race or ethnicity with their adoptive or foster family. If they know they don't look like their family, it might occur to them a little bit earlier on.
Dawn Davenport 1:55
Okay, Jennifer, even for older kids who aren't have not been adopted, they have been in foster care, the distinction? When will they? How do we help them understand the distinction between this is different. You've been in foster care, but now you are going to be an adoptive home? And does it matter if the child has been currently living in the home and his or her adoptive parents, their adoptive parents are going to adopt them, versus they're going to be leaving the home they had been living in moving into a different home, how can we help children understand that this is not the same thing as being in foster care.
Speaker 3 2:32
So every child has a innate sense of them of wanting to belong. And it's important to remember, the as a therapist, I work from the basis of attachment theory. And just knowing that without longing to have a secure attachment, whether they have been in foster care, or living in their adoptive home or transitioning, we need to give space to them to explore and be able to have communication where they can express their needs, their desires, and every child is unique. So the narrative that they create in their head than the story that they have around why they're being adopted, or why they're leaving one home to go to another, it's important to understand what it is that they're thinking individually. So as much as we'd want a one way fits all system or pathway to know how to handle these situations, we really have to consider each individual and be able to be comfortable with having those conversations with our kids
Dawn Davenport 3:37
and be open to them not having the same our preconceived idea of what their response should be, we should be open to them having their own and particularly this is well, at any age style, correct? Correct. All right. So let's say if you are adopting, right started off by talking about two different scenarios, one, you're the foster parent, and they're adopting a child who is currently living with you, in contrast to your adopting a child who is not living with you who's living with another foster parent. So let's start with the first scenario. So let's say you are adopting a child that you've been fostering and, and quite frankly, likely you have been fostering for some time. So hope, how would we explain to that child, the child is living in our home, but they're going to be changing their their position in the home will be from a foster child moving into a child in the family, same as any other child in the family? What are some ideas that parents can think about for how they can explain that difference to children? And it's fair to break it into say, you know, some general age kids preschool age versus school age versus teens? If there are differences.
Speaker 2 4:45
Yeah. So Well, first, we want to make sure that we're not talking to our kids about adoption until it is 100% certain that they are going to be adopted. So if you don't want to be getting their hopes up, getting them excited, making them feel like they're going to be staying here if they aren't And ended up being moved to another placement. So once that distinction has been made, and it is clear this is going towards adoption, you want to begin that process slowly of transitioning in to the adoption, talking about adoption, you want that to be just a gradual progression, talking about the fact that like, Hey, you're not going to move homes again, you're gonna stay here forever. And it especially if the child hasn't been referring to you, as mom or dad, maybe they've been referring to you as auntie, or a nickname. And kind of saying, like, if you feel comfortable, you can start calling me mom. And so beginning that conversation, but really seeing how the child feels, how they feel comfortable, what you can do to make them feel more comfortable. But the good news is, if this is a child that has been living with you for quite a while, and you are wanting to adopt them, they're probably wanting to be adopted. So overall, I think you can assume they're going to be very excited and ready to have a permanent place in your home.
Dawn Davenport 5:59
We know let's talk about some of the typical emotions. Because honestly, sometimes I think and this is particularly the case with upper elementary age and to tweens and teens, sometimes I think parents assume that the child is going to be thrilled, when in fact, the child has a whole mixture of emotions. Because while this does, this does mean permanency for them. This does means if they are happy in their home, which we hope that they are, it gives them a sense of belonging. On the other hand, they're also losing a fair amount. And it that's hard for us parents sometimes to think about because we view it as a win win. We're getting a child, they're getting a family, and it's easy to forget that they're also losing a family. So Jennifer, can you talk about some of the typical emotions, both positive and negative, a child might feel?
Speaker 3 6:51
Absolutely. And I really like what you're saying that oftentimes, as parents, we do, sometimes inadvertently project our own feelings and emotions onto our kiddos and really taking a step back and pausing and questioning that is really important because they may experience anger or sadness, or depending on the temperament of a child that might show up in different ways there could be aggression. We often see with many of our kiddos a regression and behaviors, so where they may have come to the home with a lot of atypical behaviors for their age range. And they've been doing better they might regress to a prior developmental age, and just having that patience to know and understand that they're working through maybe a narrative that that we are not aware of yet. And I would always encourage parents to not be afraid of reaching out for help. And maybe it'd be a therapist or other adoptees or families that have have walked this process before to be able to say these, you know, just ask questions and be curious, I think the most important advice I could give is to be okay with being curious and not have all the answers, because that's the hardest part is not always having every answer to every question. And that's okay. Yeah,
Dawn Davenport 8:09
it's to be expected, quite frankly, yeah. And to give your child a safe place to voice, their child may be hesitant to voice some of the fearful emotions. I mean, one of the things that oftentimes we don't realize is that we may not know that in the child's mind, they still thinking that they may go home, that they're going to eventually be reunited, even if it's not their parents, with their siblings, if they're not if they're not with their siblings. And that when the realization hits that being adopted by this family, even though I like this family, I'd like to belong to this family. But wait, on the other hand, that means that I'm not going to go home, I'm not going to see my way who knows what the arrangement will be be about seeing we'll talk about that in a minute with with siblings but, and giving your child a safe place and you may not be that safe place. They may need to have a counselor who can help them explore that it's okay to feel sad. It's okay to feel excited and that we as humans, are amazingly capable of feeling happy and sad, scared, angry all at the same time.
Speaker 3 9:23
For sure, absolutely. I think that's the key is understanding that the you can feel both at the same time and opposing emotions at the same time. Yeah. And also, understanding that even the child themselves experiencing the emotions may not understand why they're having those emotions. Yeah, and giving space and validating that in the process of seeking out finding help a therapist or a counselor. Just the there's power in validating in letting them know they're okay. That is a normal feeling to have a man emotions aren't bad. They're not they're not good or bad. They are emotions. And we all experience them. It's what we do with those emotions that have an impact.
Dawn Davenport 10:08
And I also think that by saying what you just said, Jennifer, you're also sending the messages, you're not hurting my feelings. By being sad. You're not hurting my feelings by saying, I really wish I could go home to my parents. I'm not scared by your emotions. And I'm not my feelings are not hurt. They're normal. They're natural. I expect you to feel these things. It's okay. And if you don't feel them, that's fine, too. So that there's not that torn loyalty? Because I think so often kids pick that up from us, honestly.
Unknown Speaker 10:42
Yes, agreed. Yeah, I
Dawn Davenport 10:45
want to tell you guys about a new service from creating a family. It is the interactive training support curriculum for foster adoptive and kinship families. It's actually not terribly new, it's been a couple of years old, I should just say it's a new sir. It's a service, not a new service. It is a curriculum. It's a library of curricula. We have 23 curriculum on topics directly relevant to the journey of any foster adoptive or kinship families raising kids who have experienced trauma, co parenting, just you name it. And each curriculum comes with a video, a facilitator guide, a handout, some additional resource guides, as well as a certificate of attendance if, in fact, you need CPE credit, it is a great resource, you can find it at creating a family.org. Well, we've talked about the child who is going to be adopted, but also one of the things that I it's a little bit of a soapbox of mine, but I think we don't spend enough time thinking about the kids who are already in the family, and how everything, not just with this, but just across the board, how adopting fostering and kinship care affects the kids already in the family. So I will step on my soil act, I'm gonna allow hope to step on my soapbox. What are some of the typical emotions and behaviors, you might see from some of the other kids who are already living in the house, that they've been fostering this child. But now all of a sudden, this child is going to become not their foster brother or sister, but their full brother or sister their whatever you want to call it? How does that impact the kids already in the home? And what are some of the things? What are some of the feelings they might be having?
Speaker 2 12:29
Well, lucky you don, because this is also a soapbox of mine.
Dawn Davenport 12:34
I'll move over, you're welcome to stand here with me.
Speaker 2 12:37
Please let me get on top of this soapbox, because I can talk about this for hours. Right? Yeah, well, here at Arrow, our motto is helping kids and strengthening families. And that includes the children who are already a part of the family, whether that be kids who have already been adopted or biological children. You know, I was talking with Jennifer about this earlier that you can kind of equate it in some ways to a parent bringing home a new baby. And the sibling can be very excited, there's a new kid in the house. But jealousy can arise because Oh, Mom and Dad's attention is being split in a new way. And this kid is going to be here forever, all of a sudden, they're going to be at every major family holiday for the rest of my wife. And you know, so really thinking about the fact that your kids still needs individual attention. And they still need you to continue showing up in the ways that you always have, just because this child is going to be moving in and staying here in this home doesn't mean mom and dad are no longer going to be showing up for you in the ways that they always have. And so even rebuilding that trust, like, hey, our relationship is gonna stay great, even though there's a new family member. So continuing to show up for them will build that trust between the parent and child even as there's a shift in relationships because having a new child, whether it be a new baby, or a newly adopted child, that will shift all of the family dynamics. So allow space for your child to also have mixed feelings kind of like we were talking about a few minutes ago that your newly adopted child might have some mixed emotions, your biological children might as well and that's okay, because we can hold both things, we can be very excited, and we can feel a little jealous or a little bit sad.
Dawn Davenport 14:22
And you've described more the situation where the child is new coming in. I think it takes us by surprise when the child has already been here. And we've had the child in our home for a year. And honestly, I don't know about you guys, but I do see that the adjustment of the siblings is less at that point because it's not the unknown. This child has been here for x period of whatever a long period of time. I know what this child is bringing in. I know what this sibling is bringing into the family. So I do see it as less but I think that you did a great job of describing what it's like when a new kid comes in. But hope do you see differences when the child is already been in the family and The other siblings, the other children in the family may still react in ways in surprising ways. Because they were thinking, Oh, this kid's temporary. I wasn't planning on this kid all the big eyes, you said it every family, major family gathering for the rest of my life is a whole nother kettle of fish. Yeah,
Speaker 2 15:19
well, it's definitely a major mindset shift, especially for families who have fostered many kids. And perhaps they've never actually adopted one of the kids. So all of a sudden, it's like, maybe they're even going to be closing their home after this child is adopted, and they're not going to continue fostering, it's like, hey, my whole world is changed by this child moving in and staying here. And even if they've been here a year, all of a sudden, this isn't my friend who is staying with my family. This is my new sibling. So yeah, there still is going to be an adjustment period. But ideally, they're already going to be pretty well bonded, if they are a good fit in the family. But again, allowing space for your child to have emotions that perhaps you weren't expecting them to have, because they may have not been expecting this. But be open with your children from the beginning, especially if this is a child you are hoping to adopt. And it looks like it is moving in that direction. Be open with your biological children from the beginning that this is a child you're wanting to adopt. So they're not shocked when mommy and daddy say this child is going to stay forever. Rather, it should be kind of a family discussion.
Dawn Davenport 16:28
I love that idea. Go ahead,
Speaker 3 16:30
Jennifer. I was just going to add, we were talking earlier to just from a therapeutic standpoint, we all want to be heard, seen and known. And so if we could keep those three points in mind when we're thinking about all the family members, that includes kids already permanently in the home, and creating a plan that is unique to each personality. So as as parents will attest to you don't parent, each kid the same way every child has their own viewpoints on life, their own perspective that they bring to the table. And so I think it's really important to meet each child where they're at. And one might be really ecstatic and excited. And the other one maybe won't be as verbal with their, with their emotions. And so really taking the time to create a unique plan for each of your kiddos. And spending that quality time and it and becoming experts at observing just being observant of what's going on in the family dynamic.
Dawn Davenport 17:28
Absolutely. Something that hopes that I wanted to come back to that I liked is when it looks like this fostering situation is going to move to adoption. And when the parent or parents have decided that they're on board with this moving this to adoption, to start, including the kids, but it's a fine line, because you don't want to give the kids the idea that kids already the family the idea that they get the veto power, because that's number one, they maybe you want to do that. But that's a lot of pressure to put on a child. Yes. And I my personal position is that children don't have you can listen in here. But the decision of a yes or no, on major life decisions is a parent's decision because it's not fair to I interviewed a woman once who had decided, her parents said it's up to you whether we adopt and she decided she didn't like it was a brother, she didn't like him, he was a pain in the butt. And she just had no interest in having and so she said no, and they didn't adopt. And it's haunted her. She found out he had never was adopted, he aged out of foster care, that type of situation. And she feels responsible. And I do think that it's stuck with me all of these years that it's important that parents not push that decision off. She this particular woman believes that her parents were having mixed feelings and knew that she would say no, because she and the boy were in conflict a lot. And the parents want to make the decision. And so she believes they just kind of let her make it. But anyway, just throwing that out there because that has stuck with me for many years.
Speaker 3 19:03
Yeah, that's a really impactful story. And I think that burden is I agree with you too much to put on a child to make that decision. And really, as a parent, it would be more I think beneficial to explore the reasons why a child would not want to adopt versus to make the decision because what it is that they're afraid of or the reasons that they would have for not wanting to adopt and try to meet those needs as much as is the best to their ability as parents.
Dawn Davenport 19:32
Yeah, absolutely. Let me pause here to tell you about some free courses we have available to you. Thanks to our partner, the jockey being Family Foundation, you have 12 free courses to choose from. You can find them at Bitly slash J B F support. That's bi T dot o y slash J B F support. Okay, so we've talked about scenario of adopting a child who is currently living in your home that you had been fostering for a while. Now I want to talk about this scenario of you are adopting a child that is living with another resource family or in a group home, or even in a kinship home. And so that child is new to your family. So let's start again with and, Jennifer, I'll start with you some of the typical emotions, both positive and negative, a child might feel Yes.
Speaker 3 20:31
So again, it's not that dissimilar from emotions that any child is feeling as they as they process through the idea of adoption and being adopted. But moving from one home to another is potentially another point of trauma for for kiddos who are trying to form secure attachments. And so helping them understand oftentimes we see our kiddos have what's called a honeymoon period. And
Dawn Davenport 20:59
if you don't get it, you always feel cheated as a parent. Where's my exam? So exactly,
Speaker 3 21:07
no, that's, that's definitely true. And so oftentimes, you will see that the kiddos are consciously or subconsciously on their best behavior, because they're unsure, it's that it's that fight flight or freeze mode that that kids go into. And as they become more comfortable in the home, you might see definite behaviors that may feel challenging. It could be anger, it could be rebelling, and it could be a myriad of emotions, again, that maybe even they themselves don't understand or connect it to the fact that they are that older child, that adolescent is processing, grief loss, trying to create the narrative, again, in their head, and they keep going back to that narrative. But we all create stories in our head surrounded in connection with our circumstances. And sometimes the story that we create isn't necessarily the full story. And and we need to reach out and ask for help ask therapists or professionals to be able to unpack that or just as the parent gives them space to express those emotions and again, about validate those.
Dawn Davenport 22:15
So hope how long in an ideal world and I realized we do not live in an ideal world. But we don't. Well, you and I wouldn't need that soapbox. We're going to be on if we lived in this ideal world that Well, I wish I did. So how long should the process take the child or youth is in a group home or in another foster home? The plan has been changed to permanency so that they're the DSS or the child welfare agency is currently looking for a permanent place of an adoptive placement for the child they found one, how long should the process take? And what can the adults do to make it less stressful for the child? Or the youth?
Speaker 2 23:01
So how long should the transition from maybe that group home to?
Dawn Davenport 23:11
And the answer is you may not have a choice.
Speaker 2 23:15
Yeah, so it's possible it can move very quickly and all of a sudden that child will be in your home. Ideally, though, it will allow enough time for that child to make even the mental transition that they are going to have to move to another placement. Here arrow, all of the children must be fostered for six months by their foster family before they can be adopted. That's pretty typical ever. So yeah, I wasn't sure if that's just in Texas, but the actual transition from one placement to another, it just depends. Jennifer can maybe speak on this even more, but I believe is 30 days pretty typical.
Dawn Davenport 23:52
Ideally, it would be even longer.
Speaker 3 23:55
Wish you nailed it in the beginning when you said there is no there is no typical. I mean, it really could the transition depends on the on the circumstances of the child's case and possibly even DFPS CPS workers involved. But I in an ideal world it is the slower the better. Oftentimes, in some cases, we can even do what we would call pre placement visits, or children can come or use can come and stay with the family for a weekend or a brief amount of time ideally quite a few times before they were to transition permanently into the home.
Dawn Davenport 24:29
I mean if we were again this ideal world that is not happening it's not happening is the parents will visit the child in their existing home so that the child's in a safe place that parents are coming into that home. Then taking the child maybe out to go get hot cocoa or get hamburger get dinner. Then have the child come to the there to be adoptive home. And then after a visitor to have the child spend the night I'm missing something that is ideal. It doesn't always happen. But I do think interestingly, I've seen a number of cases where when either the existing foster family or the adoptive family is pushing back on the social worker say, No, I want it to go slower. And they can when I mean, sometimes they don't, but they can say, Nope, we want them to spend the night. So I want foster parents or potential adoptive parents to know that if slow is the ideal, do your best to push for it, you may have the power, you may not. There may be extenuating circumstances that are outside of it, you're not going to be listened to. But I've heard of a number of cases where the parents just put their foot down and said, We want this to go slower because we think it's in the best interest of the child. And distance makes a big difference to whether you live near the child.
Speaker 3 25:50
And I agree I've been with is era, we are a huge advocate for slow transitions and doing what's in the best interest of every child. That should be the focus. And I wish we lived in an ideal world where I think people's intentions is always to make decisions in the best interest of children. But the system isn't always set up that way. But it doesn't mean that we don't stop advocating. And I know that's something that arrow really, that's our foundation, we are always going to make decisions and advocate to the best of our ability, any choice that we make for a child is going to be through that lens and what's going to be best for them.
Dawn Davenport 26:29
And as prospective adoptive parents, we have to take that lens too. And sometimes it's inconvenient. Almost always it is you know, having to make these visits or having the child just come it's sometimes would just be easier for the adults, probably just to save just move the child. And then we don't have this go back and forth and whatever. Yeah, so we've just talked about what can adults do to make the process less stressful for the child one, to the extent you have the ability to influence this, slow it down, let the child get to know you, and then gradually bring the child in for longer periods of time. But what are some other things? That I hope I'll start with you? What are some other things that the adults, either the foster or the soon to be adoptive parents can do to try to make this process easier for the child?
Speaker 2 27:22
Absolutely. Well, I think noticing that disruption is hard on a kiddo. So if they have a healthy and happy relationship with the foster parents, allowing them to continue that relationship can be hugely beneficial for both sides, especially if the foster parents are willing to remain in that child's life in maybe an aunt and uncle role or in a grandparent role, allowing that transition to happen naturally, even if the child has stayed several nights at the adoptive parents home. And then they eventually move in permanently instead of cutting off that relationship with their foster parent. Maybe the foster parent comes over once a week even after their and their new placement and comes and visits them or they talk on the phone every night before bed. Allowing relationship to continue can be incredibly helpful as that child is adjusting to their new environment.
Dawn Davenport 28:15
Excellent. Excellent point. Jennifer, can you think of other things that either set of parents or parent could do to ease this transition for the child moving into a brand new home.
Speaker 3 28:28
So I think the important thing is really taking the time to get to know that child and valuing the advice or the information that the former foster parents can share as well. Knowing that they've known this child for however long they've been in that home, they have a wealth of information they could probably share in and not being afraid to reach out and ask for help from the prior parents who've worked with the kiddo before. So yeah, that's really
Dawn Davenport 28:57
treat them as the expert that they are and mine for information.
Unknown Speaker 29:00
Yeah, exactly. Right.
Dawn Davenport 29:03
Have you subscribed yet to our free monthly newsletter, if you go to Bitly slash transracial guide, today, you will get our new downloadable guide, which as you can tell from the URL I gave is on transracial adoption. The URL for that is Bitly bi T dot L y slash trans racial guide. The guide is terrific. It's all about strengthening and supporting your transracial adoptee. And the guy we're giving you is our way of saying thank you for subscribing. Our newsletters are terrific. You will find practical tips throughout and new resources both ours and others. It's free, you get monthly it's easy. Go to Bitly slash transracial guide to get it. One of the things that very often comes up when a child is to be adopted is whether or not to change the child's name or names and that means either the first name or or the last name of the child? Jennifer, I'll start with you this time, what are some of the pros and cons of changing the child's name? Let's talk about both first name and last name.
Speaker 3 30:09
Sure, this is a sensitive topic, because I think a lot of parents, we've we've experienced families who the intention is right that they want to create a better story for their kiddo and sometimes creating a better future. They include that part in their journey of changing the name, I think, really what's important is questioning the motivation, it can be a positive thing, or it can be a negative thing. But I think either way, whatever decision is made, the child should have have the opportunity to participate in that decision. So if it's waiting until they're at an age that's appropriate for them to participate in that. I think that's an important key in deciding whether or not that's going to be the right decision for your family and for that child.
Dawn Davenport 30:58
I think it is typical, usually that the child changes last names, but it is not required. Or at least I shouldn't say that. I don't know that every state has that. But all the states I know about it actually isn't required. There are obviously some advantages there. But there are some disadvantages to potentially, yeah,
Speaker 3 31:15
we definitely we've had some kiddos who have decided to change their first name, and that was a really positive experience for them. And so it definitely is not an all or nothing. If that is something that they feel is right for them, then I think that they can be positive.
Dawn Davenport 31:30
And we've talked about some of the typical behaviors and emotions or behaviors we might see, summarizing what Jennifer had said, you may get a honeymoon period where the child or children are on their very best behavior. And while that does feel nice, it's also it's usually temporary, because at some point, and you want it to be temporary, because you want them to be able to settle in and, and be their true selves, which can sometimes be grouchy and sometimes be aggressive. And while not aggressive, but we don't want that but we could certainly angry and sad and all that the mixture of emotions. Some of the other emotions that you too have said is that we could expect there to be some regression of behavior. Children who are formerly potty trained, are dry at night may start wetting the bed again, there may be there may be daytime wedding, there may be increased sibling rivalry amongst the children. Let's say you're adopting a sibling group and they come in and there could be increased sibling rivalry. There could just be a whole host hope anything that I've left out any other typical type emotions that we would be expecting from children who's, or let's be honest, they're having their entire life turned topsy turvy, they're moving yet again from to another home to another set of parents. Yeah, well,
Speaker 2 32:47
recognizing that that is a lot of adjustment for a very young human, we as adults would struggle with something like that. So even having increased empathy for these kids, I sometimes I love on my training, some like, think about if all of a sudden you had to move into a new house with all new food, a new bed, all new people, and you have to just be perfect right away. Like that's a lot of pressure to put on a kid. So how can we have empathy for this child? When it comes to regression, I just want to even know that progression happens even with biological children, if there's a new baby in a home or if they've experienced some sort of trauma, sometimes kids do just end up going backwards for a second and that's okay. Even if it feels like you're going backwards, you are moving forwards. Because these children are learning to adjust, they are learning to trust you. And so it's okay if they act out for a little bit. It's okay if they struggle in certain areas forever, we just want to hold space for these kids to learn to be in a safe home and that they can relax with you and then they can trust you and they might experience a wide range of feelings but we want to hold space for all of them.
Dawn Davenport 34:02
And Jennifer so parents were encouraging them to anticipate that there will have as hope to set a wide range of emotions. What should they do in advance to prepare for this and to think through and how they might how they're going to help the child because you should think through advance you're going to the child the children child will have a wide range of emotions some of which will be hard for them to handle.
Speaker 3 34:26
Mm hmm for sure. I have often used the analogy with parents have a thermostat so if a child were to turn up the thermostat to 90 degrees, you want to stay at 70 degrees because that you know needs you to say self regulate it right is that is the fancy term we use or when it when a kiddo dis regulates and so doing the work and advanced in sometimes it's it's helpful to know that okay, these things are coming. If I know it's coming, I'm less likely to get caught off guard where when they turn up that thermostat I know I can control myself too. keep myself in that 70 degree range. Or what do I know I'm going to need do I need to set up space and time where I will have a respite is what the fancy term to and in our world where they'll just have maybe have a break to be able to, because it can be exhausting, exhausting to adjust to all the new nuances of of a new family dynamic. And so giving yourself grace, we've talked a lot about giving our kiddos grace and empathy. But I think it's important for parents to give themselves space and empathy and be kind to, to know there's going to be a lot of changes, and you won't be perfect either. That's okay. Yeah. That doesn't mean, this wasn't the right thing. And you might even have that thought at times that maybe we weren't supposed to do this, or you might have done something wrong. But truthfully, this is normal. And it's okay. I encourage all people do the work that whether or not it's a adoptive Foster, no matter what the situation is, we all need to do the work to make sure that to the best of our ability, we can regulate self regulate ourselves, we can stay in that zone where if kiddo goes into flight, fight or freeze, we stay calm, because if we're calm, they're calm. Eventually, it takes time.
Dawn Davenport 36:16
Yeah, yeah. But it's gonna be a lot quicker if you're also not flying off the handle. Correct. One of the things we want for all of our kids to have is what we call in the biz a life book, hope, can you tell us what a life book is. And the reason I bring it up now is that in this time of transition between a foster home, especially outside foster home, and coming into a changing homes to or adoptive home, it's a perfect opportunity to gather the material for the life book. So let me start now let's so let's hope tell us what a life book is. And why this transition period is a is a good time to be thinking about it.
Speaker 2 36:56
So a life book helps explain some of the differences between foster care and adoption. Because there is a distinction, and especially for our littles, they might not understand the difference between the two. So having something like a life book as a resource to sit down and look at with them can help them understand what this transition is, and what even adoption means, especially for our younger children. But it's an excellent resource, even for older kiddos, and a great way to prepare for this transition for you as the foster adoptive parent.
Speaker 3 37:28
And if I could add to that, I think the life book is tedious as it can be a lot of us even in in normal life. Don't love putting together the photo album or the
Dawn Davenport 37:37
I'm raising my hand. Yeah. I hate scrapbooking. kept up with a photo album until we went digital. And then even then,
Speaker 3 37:46
yes, we all keep everything on our phone nowadays. Yep. But having that for a kiddo who we know is potentially had multiple placements or just coming into care. It really is showing them we value their history, we value where they came from an it's a tool to be able to help them fill in the gaps as they grow from stage, different developmental stages to address, you know, looking back at pictures, it could spark conversations that they needed to have and communication they would like to have with maybe their parents or it just answered those questions that that oftentimes go on to answer it. If there's no record or something to look back on.
Dawn Davenport 38:24
It helps them make sense of their life. Everything that happened in their life is important. And one of the things that we tell families is, when the child is transitioning to a different family, that's when all the pictures can get lost all the memories. And so that's the opportunity. If you're able to talk with the foster parent and say, Do you have pictures? You were there for their eighth birthday? And ninth birthday? Do you have pictures? Do you have pictures? When they went to you know left for school, their first day of school pictures? What was their favorite thing when they were eight? What were they afraid of? You know, coming up with questions that you could ask that person because it will get lost. And the other thing is that you can often ask caseworkers because now the caseworker will be involved with your new family for a while. But in the sometimes it's just six months before then that case the adoption goes through and then the caseworker is gone. So anything that you can gather from the caseworker at this point, it's just a good, this transition time is a good time to start looking for information, even if you're not going to put it in a life book. And I will just say that my approach to life books because I am not a crafty type of person at all. And I'm very well aware of it because my efforts don't look good. But I just took the entire pressure off and I said this is going to be you know, just a photo type album and I'll just stick paper into those little sticky pages. There was nothing cute nothing nice about it at all, but I got it done, you know
Speaker 3 40:00
Yeah, wait, this is not the time we need to compete with all the Pinterest ideas. Oh, gosh,
Dawn Davenport 40:04
Speaker 3 40:05
no, if that's something you enjoy, by all means. Yeah, please. So you
Speaker 2 40:09
don't have to be Martha Stewart. The child is not expecting that. Yeah,
Dawn Davenport 40:12
yeah, exactly what unless he, like you say if it gives you joy? Yeah. But just quite frankly, the next year, you're not going to have time for it. Because you know, you're going to be chaotic. So you're not going to have time for it. But if it does give you joy, then go for it. Yes. No,
Speaker 3 40:29
don't let it stop, I would say to anybody, I would encourage them, don't let that stop you from putting something together because it really does have a have an impact on youth and kids and care for sure.
Dawn Davenport 40:40
And it's a great way of giving all the information you have to the child, so they don't have to ask for it. And there may be some information that you want to discuss with the child so that they can put it in context and understand that better. And that's that's very often the case. But ultimately, it's their information. So this is the beginning of that. Yeah. I want to stop for a moment to thank one of our partners. For almost 40 years, adoptions from the heart has helped create over 7350 families through domestic infant adoption, adoptions from the heart can also provide home study only services. They work with people all across the USA and are licensed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Virginia, and Connecticut. All right, so I'm going to let hope get back on the soapbox with me. So how can we prepare kids who are already in the family for the fact that there's going to be an adjustment period now let's assume that the kids have not had foster children in their home before, and that this is new to them. And they're expecting a typical 10 year old to come in? They're not expecting a 10 year old who tantrums or they're not expecting a 10 year old who butts the bed. They're clueless. And so how do we prepare the kids who are already in the home for the adjustment period, and for how kids who have experienced trauma might behave especially at the beginning until they settle in.
Speaker 2 42:12
So we talk a lot about being trauma informed as adults. But I think it's important in age appropriate ways to educate your children on what trauma is, and how these kids have oftentimes been through increased difficulty in their lives. And so they might not be at a developmental age that matches their actual age. And so even having very frank, open conversation with your children about what this looks like, showing them age appropriate videos by wonderful people like Dr. Karen Purvis, and so they have something they can draw upon information they can draw upon when this child is going to enter their home. So they're not coming into it not knowing anything about children from hard places, we want them to have some understanding of what these kids have been through, obviously, again, in an age appropriate way, but we don't want them coming into it expecting that it's going to be like the Brady Bunch, because it might not be and these kids oftentimes have suffered abuse in the past, and they just might be a little bit different than their newly adopted siblings were expecting. So helping those biological kiddos to understand what this child might be like what they might have experienced. So they can begin bonding without expectation of what this newly adopted child is going to be like.
Dawn Davenport 43:31
Excellent. Jennifer, what are your thoughts on it's a typical thing, particularly, let's say if both of the child already in the home and the childhood, the new child are going to the same school, it's tempting as parents to say to the child are in the home, you need to look out for him, you need to, you know, invite them to sit with you at the lunch table. You need to take care of them. You need to you here's your brother now. You need to. Yeah, well, on the other hand, we you know, you think this new child is going to the school. But yeah, it's a lot of pressure. So just let's talk about that the expectations we have for children who are already in the family to look after our be the protector of the new child.
Speaker 3 44:12
Mm hmm. I think that can be a challenge because we do want to teach I think compassion. Yeah. Compassion. I think it's it's recognizing and being willing to unpack feelings and emotions with our kiddos, really getting some some feedback. It depends. Again, we keep saying this, but it really does depend on the developmental level as to, of what age are we talking about? As far as kiddos? There might be some that would naturally gravitate towards that who would naturally look out for their new brother or sister or maybe if it's fostering to adopt, they've already been going to school together. School is difficult for all kids nowadays. I think there's so many challenges they face and so being present and observant and just meeting the expressed needs of all of our kids and helping them to understand I think hopes, definitely articulated that well with just having the conversations that are necessary to help them understand and that might take looking towards resources or different professionals to kind of navigate the unique situations that every family might find themselves in, or the schools. Oftentimes, it may, school districts are different teachers are different. trauma informed care is different. The understanding of trauma informed care is different, depending on maybe where people live and things like that. So those are all things to consider. When discussing this.
Dawn Davenport 45:43
One thing I would suggest parents consider. I love children's literature as a way of introducing topics in a safe way. And creating a family we have a list of books to help prepare siblings for the adoption of a child. And you can look under creating a family.org under either the adoption tab or the foster tab under that suggested books and you will find a list of books. And it's a safe and easy way. Because it's not talking it's not personal. Sometimes it's a bear you're talking about. Or sometimes it's you know, whatever. So it's it's an easy way to help prepare them for the range of things that they may feel to. Yeah, Jennifer, it's so what are your thoughts on having some form of rite of passage and adoption finalization, and let's say past, let's say past toddlerhood, so when the child would have some cognizance of what's going on,
Speaker 3 46:44
I think it can be done in in beautiful ways. I've seen it I recall a family standing in the courtroom. And they, they each had T shirts on that had all of them have their last name on the back with the year that they were born into the family. And so just different ceremonial type experiences where that child can feel like this is a marked time in my life where I can move into that sense of a new sense of secure attachment. I think, again, knowing that individual and knowing that child, it's a time where parents can reflect and make sure they're not self projecting their own desires of how to celebrate it's it's an interactive conversation of knowing what would be meaningful to your particular child and involving them in that process is so important for it to be meaningful to them.
Dawn Davenport 47:36
Yeah, I think there is sometimes a temptation to have a big party, because this is from the adoptive family standpoint, the end time of a long process, a lot of thought, a lot of efforts. So having a lot of people around. And that may be fine. But it can also be overwhelming for the new kids. But it can also be not honoring the fact that this is for the adoptive family, only a time of celebration. But for them, it's a time of I'm no longer going to be a Gonzalez, I am now going to be a Smith. Right, I am no longer going to be a part of my birth family. I am now a part and allowing to be very, very clear. And that sometimes it's better to underplay to do more of what you said, just have something that marks it just within the family. And then if you are looking to have a party, then do that over something else. A little bit in the future.
Speaker 3 48:35
Right. Right. Yeah, you definitely said that well is is it is a celebration for our adoptive families, they are excited that this child is now permanently and legally theirs. And we celebrate that fact with them. But I think taking into consideration what that might feel like and and appear from the child's perspective, what that experience is for them. And I think the more that builds trust with your child, when you are showing them that what they feel matters, in you're taking into consideration how they think what this experience is like for them, that's going to build the trust that is needed for secure attachment,
Dawn Davenport 49:18
beautifully said and that you are not threatened by their sadness, that you have room in your heart to be sad with them. That is sad that you're not going back to your birth family. It is very sad. And we get that. And that builds that ultimately that understanding those the bonds of attachment. Yes, for sure. Well, the last thing I want to talk about is a very real possibility that in particular, I would say above the age of 11 or 12. So tweens and teens who don't want to be adopted, who given the option say and most I think really all states over a certain age and that age can be as low as 12. The child has to agree to be adopted. So if the child says thank you, but no, what do we do as parents, and in this case is caseworkers as well, since they're going to be dealing with it as well? Jennifer, I'll start with you, and then hope I'm gonna give you time to be thinking.
Speaker 3 50:15
Definitely, that does happen. And that's okay. And again, to explore those reasons are and it's different for every child, what we think it might be, may not be if we don't ask the right questions, or even ask the questions. And if that is the case, that they truly don't want to be adopted, being okay with that and supporting them, what we don't want to do is pull away from them or in our own feelings of it's natural to feel a sense of rejection, if your desires to adopt and create a legal sense of you are forever mine. But truly, and honestly, again, it's showing that we value that child's perspective and that child's feelings on these decisions that are about their life. And so we it is okay for us to have our own emotions, but not put it on the child who's making that decision, or has the ability to make that decision. Because it's oftentimes it's not always not about us. It's not about the adoptive parents, it's about their history and what they've experienced, and they have enough love in their heart to love and be permanently placed in a home even if that means they've chosen not to be adopted.
Dawn Davenport 51:28
And honestly, sometimes you're able to work around their reasons. I know of a case where the team said when really encouraged him with had a safe place to share. She said, I'm a Washington, I'm not a Richardson, you know, I'm making up both names. And so the family adoptive family said, Well, that's fine. You can say a Washington. Yeah, that's not a problem. And so that was the that was her main objection. And so that was an easy one to overcome to overcome. All right, hope for you. What are some thoughts on what to do when we have a tweener a teen who doesn't want to be adopted?
Speaker 2 52:06
Well, I know a wonderful kid, who is an arrow, foster child, and he's an older teenager at this point and had a family that wished to adopt him. And he declined. And now they have PMC. So that's a permanent managing conservatorship of him. So he'll be with them till he's 18. But for him, he's been in and out of foster care since the age of two years old or so. And he just felt like he didn't need to be adopted at this point that he felt more comfortable with these just being his guardians. And I just loved that they respected him enough to say, hey, that's great, you can stay here as long as you need, and you are still part of this family, whether you're adopted or not. So for certain states, PMC might be an option, or guardianship.
Dawn Davenport 52:51
And, you know, I know of a family who did something very similar. And they said, that's fine, we'll just be your guardian. As long as you come home for Christmas, as long as you can, as long as I get grandkids from you. As long as I get, you know, as long as you're at my Thanksgiving table, that's all I care about. And the last thing I would say is, allow space for the youth to change their mind, this is often a new concept. And change is scary. And so allow space for them. If you can, if you it's okay with you to be guardian, or whatever that would be. Now there are some oftentimes financial differences between becoming a guardian, so you do have to consider everything. But if you're able to, in some way, stay connected. Oftentimes, kids warm up to the idea, if given time.
Speaker 3 53:43
Absolutely. And I think that's the most important part is being willing to go on the journey. It can be the roller coaster at some times, but having that ability to know that, that it's, I just can only imagine being that age and having that the feeling the respect of what I think and feel matters. My security and a family isn't going to change based on what I think what I feel. And so having that forever connection, and our kiddos need this all the way through adulthood, I don't know about you, but in my 20s, I was not ready to be on my own. And beyond, we always need that safe place to come back to so just keeping that mindset as a foster adoptive where or a parent who does choose to do guardianship or permanency it's just creating that permanent need for that kid, no matter what that looks like. You can be
Dawn Davenport 54:35
a parent to this child without finalizing an adoption, you could still be who they call when they're in their 20s and trying to figure out how much they should withhold and their new job for their taxes. You know, so you could be the one who when they don't know how to change a tire, they call you to come out and help them you can still be the one who when they get the new job they call and you Have a celebratory dinner. Family is more than just what the legal connection and all children need. They need family they and they need them. Jennifer, I couldn't agree with you more as a parent of 20 Somethings, my 20 Somethings need family equally as much as they did when they were three right in different ways. But they Yeah, definitely need. They need to know they belong, which I think is a good way to end because I believe that's how we began talking about the needs of all people to belong. So thank you so much, Jennifer O'Brien and hope Middlebrook for being with us today to talk about transitioning from foster care to adoption. Thank you. Thank you.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai