Creating a Family: Talk about Adoption & Foster Care

Adopting a Relative from Abroad

June 25, 2021 Creating a Family Season 15 Episode 26
Creating a Family: Talk about Adoption & Foster Care
Adopting a Relative from Abroad
Show Notes Transcript

What issues should parents think about when adopting a relative (niece, cousin, sibling) from abroad. We talk with Mary Beth King, who has a Master of Science in Social Administration and is Frank Adoption Center’s Executive Director, and with Katie Schultz, an International Adoption Specialist with Madison Adoption Associates.

In this episode, we cover,

  • What level of genetic relationship is required to call it a kinship adoption as well as what circumstances make a child eligible for an international kinship adoption, especially in the eyes of USCIS.
  • At what age is a child no longer eligible for international kinship adoption?
  • Changing relationship for both adopter and child – to go from the “cool, exotic US visitor” to everyday caregiver.
  • Relationship with bio family in home country.
  • Helping children navigate (and choose) the language of family – will they continue to refer to you as “aunt” or will you be “mom,” etc.
  • Blending children by birth and this newly adopted child.
  • Understanding that trauma and loss are still a part of the child’s story even though they are remaining in their biological extended family.
  • It can take a long time for relative adoptions to come to fruition, the child can be much older than when the family started the process and so helping families adjust to the fact that they may be bringing home an older child can be challenging.
  • Helping families embrace pre-adoption education as necessary even though they have experience in parenting or they know this child and therefore don't need education on how to parent.
  • Recognizing that the child’s immigrant experience will be different than your own and how to separate the two.
  • One parent not related and maybe not been an immigrant.
  • Navigating two identities, for example - Preparing your child to embrace their identity not just as a Cameroonian, but also as a Black American.
  • Managing expectations of cultural changes – Understanding that these children are very likely to take on cultural norms of America kids and teens which may be different than the parent-child relationship expectations of your country of origin
  • Understanding the importance of hobbies, sports, extracurricular activities, play time, etc. in addition (and sometimes even as backseat to) academics, especially as kids adjust to these big changes, make new friends, and heal from trauma and loss
  • Navigating the American school system and understanding that grade levels don’t always translate internationally. Accessing services to help the child transition.
  • Adjusting to parenting as an older parent. Things may have changed since they parented last.

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Welcome, everyone to creating a family talk about adoption in foster care. I am dawn Davenport. I am both the host of this show as well as the director of creating a We have lots of information on our website that is free to use. So we encourage you to pop over there and check it out at creating a Today we're going to be talking about adopting a relative from abroad. We'll be talking with Mary Beth King. She has a Master's of Science in social administration and is Frank adoption centers executive director, Mary Beth works closely with relative adoptions from all over the world and she finds great joy in getting to know families and seeing the way that they integrate their cultures and traditions from home into their lives here in the US. We'll also be talking with Katie scholtes. She is an international adoption specialist who has been with medicine adoption associates for three years. She works with families adopted from China, the Dominican Republic, and the Philippines. And she co manages Madison's Philippines program. Welcome Katie and Mary Beth to creating a family. We're so glad to have you here. Thank you for having us. All right. Well, I think there's often some confusion about what genetic connection, how close does a relative have to be to be able to be considered a kinship adoption from abroad? Marybeth, do you have thoughts on that? Or do you know what the rule is? As far as what's how close a genetic connection? And what circumstances make a child eligible for an international kinship adoption, especially as in the eyes of the US cis? Sure, sure.

So the USA and the majority of sending countries don't really make a distinction between relative and non relative adoptions, as far as the paperwork and the process. So the actual level of genetic connection doesn't, doesn't really matter. The majority of the families that we work with are typically adopting nieces and nephews, sometimes younger siblings, sometimes cousins. But that typically tends to be as as far, far as it goes.

So the US government basically treats a kinship adoption the same as we treat any other international adoption.

Yes, exactly. That's different family. we're adopting a child they did. Okay. Excellent. Yes. And then you know, that so that also means the child has to meet the legal definition of or there are no, you know, no, no differences in that piece either. Okay. And

so what are Katie, the legal definition of orphan that a kinship child, a child who is akin to the family who wants to adopt has to meet, I think there's a great deal of confusion there.

So, you know, children that are of abre, kinship, adoption, have to be legally declared as such, and therefore, the biological parents have to relinquish their birth rights in what are for the child to be eligible to immigrate to the United States.

So the child has to meet the definition of orphan, as well as under the The Hague Convention, is that correct? Right. And

we're Finn either, you know, either a court has declared the child as an orphan, and or you know, the child, again, the birth parents relinquish their rights and signed a deed of voluntary commitment. doing so. So those are kind of the two processes.

It seems like we will often hear somebody say, Oh, you know, I'm going to adopt my cousin because they're really poor. And and then that were and and they have more opportunities here in the US, Mary Beth, is that possible?

Typically, no, that that is not reason enough. Sadly, the child does still, as Katie said, have to meet meet the definition of orphan. The only real, I guess provision would be in a Hague country, the issue of no prior contact typically doesn't apply.

Meaning that under Hague, you're not supposed to have had prior contact with the child. But if obviously, if it's your cousin or your sister or your niece or nephew, that is not applicable. Right, right. Okay. Yeah. Katie, at what age is a child no longer eligible for international adoption?

So, you know, it's basically kids that are under 16 years old, you'd have to be under 16 years old when the form 800, which is the child specific usci approval gets issued. In the case of a sibling group, the children can be up to the age of 18.

Okay. Okay. So this is for this is for all international adoptions, including kinship adoptions.

That's correct, as, as Meredith said earlier, there's really kind of no differences. So I do

know that some times families will have waited, and the child is no longer eligible because they have aged out. And if that's the case, you really do need to at that point seek an immigration attorney, preferably an immigration attorney that's got some expertise in kinship, immigration. So right now, so we've got some of the legalities out of the way. All right, I want to start by talking about some things that we often don't think about families often don't think about when they go to adopt their niece, nephew, cousin, brother, sister, whatever. And that is the changing relationship, both for you as the as the person who is adopting, as well as from for the child. In the past, they may, in fact, chances are very good, they know the child, they have probably gone and visited the child, but at the time they go to visit they are they kind of the cool, fun, exotic, US visitor, and that's really different from when the child comes to live with you, Mary Beth, can you talk some about that?

Sure. Yeah. And I think it's exactly what you said, Dawn, you know, often times when, when the adoptive parent to be comes from the US, they bring great things, and they have great stories and all of the fun stuff. And then once the child arrives in the US, somebody still has to take out the trash. You know, it's not just the constant fun, cool stuff. And that can be a hard adjustment for everyone. I think, especially for the kids of realizing that, you know, they're still going to have a day to day life here. And it's gonna be likely different than than what they imagined.

So Katie, what are some things that upfront, people who are considering adopting a relative from abroad, can do to address this in advance so that it's easier for the child? And quite frankly, easier for them? Yeah, I

think that's a great question. You know, as you pointed out, you know, you know, the child may have already thought of the prospective adoptive parents, the relative that are going to adopt the child, as you know, God to the child as mom and dad, but recognizing that sort of living with and disciplining the children on a daily basis as parents is really different from being there, an uncle. So and there's sometimes a mentality, I think that American families, even relative families, you know, are wealthy and that child be able to get whatever they want. So I think it's important to educate the prospective adoptive parents on things like overindulgence of the child, overstimulation, so, you know, kind of setting expectations as early in the relationship as possible. And also, I think, recognizing that, you know, the child might have ongoing, you know, emotional and developmental and behavioral difficulties just from their own experience in their country of origin. And even if they work with their bio parents, and that can affect their brain development and how they express their emotions. So I think, you know, prospective adoptive parents, you know, need to learn about trauma informed care, you know, and can do things like once the child is here, you know, set up routines, so the child knows what to expect, you know, learn about triggers a CI, mostly, I think it's really encouraging open communication, and being consistent.

And addressing it if you have contact with the child ahead of time, trying to do everything you can to show the child what life will be like, and to also start shifting your relationship ahead of time. If you have that option. Many times you don't, but if you do, you can shift the relationship between from the one who brings gifts to the one who has expectations, which is

there's a shift, one thing that we've suggested to families is, you know, do a video call and walk through your house and you know, show the kids what's in your pantry. And if you can go to the school that they'll go to go do that ahead of time, so that they can start to get a sense of, you know, that that the US is not what they've seen on TV, you can better understand what their day to day lives, maybe like, it's not the land and milk and honey. Now, sadly, I am probably dating myself, but spent some time in Kenya with a host family and their only understanding of the US is what they'd seen on MTV. And they were pretty disappointed to learn that I didn't, you know, I didn't live in a house that that was shown on cribs. And you know, and couldn't dance and sing and do anything, right. Yeah, a little bit. Now. I had a very, very bummed four year old and now.

Yeah, I was gonna say that's, I mean, one of the things too, you can start to create a life book in advance as well. You know, just to help the child start to, you know, shift their belonging to, you know, both both places. So we see that a lot. And it's, you know, it's generally very, very helpful.

So Katie and the families you work with, is it common for the children once they have been come to the US to maintain relationship with their bio family in their home country.

So we have done a lot of relative adoptions, frankly, we probably have about 10 families, you know, we've had a few come home. And it is very common for them to maintain that relationship. Because oftentimes, that, you know, the relationship was there, say, between sisters, one in the US and say, one in the Philippines. So there's often a lot of video calling on a pretty consistent basis every week, sometimes, you know, the children, if they come in mid year, for example, they might still be doing school online in their host country. So they see their relatives, some of them that are in their classrooms, but usually there is, you know, a connection, which can be different, obviously, than non relative adoptions where oftentimes, you know, there is no connection with bio parents who are foster parents.

Yeah, exactly. So Marybeth, how can we facilitate those relationships, whether it be with bio parents or siblings or aunts, uncles, whatever had, okay, how can we facilitate those and still create a family unit here in the US?

I think it sort of happens naturally, you know, the, likely the adoptive parents have always been in touch with the other adults in country. And so then it just becomes a matter of making sure to include the kids in those conversations. I think in the beginning, it's probably a lot of the kids who are now in the US wanting to show only the great things, you know, to just, I think, partly to, you know, maybe subconsciously comfort the family that they've left behind, but also to say, hey, look what I've got. And then I think slowly, that relationship just naturally evolves into the more day to day stuff. And that's where I think parents need us to step in even more to say, you know, this is okay, this is okay, that the relationship is going to evolve and change with people, family who is still still in country.

Yeah, and I think I was gonna say, I think encouraging and letting the child know that just because they're now in the United States, they're not replacing their relationships that they had before. But these things can coexist and should coexist, so that the child doesn't feel, you know, guilty or ashamed or feel like they're forgetting, you know, they're in prior history. Or divided loyalties were divided loyalties. Exactly.

So Katie, you know, before, let's say, you were the aunt, and now you have become the Mom, do you change names? And how do we help families navigate? What to call me there is the language of family, you know, there is a What do you call the person who is fixing meals? Are is driving you are coaching your team? Or what do we you know, so? And especially because they have called to something different in the past? Yeah, it's, it's

a, it can be a tough question. I think helping children navigate that. And I think it definitely depends kind of on the age of the child, and just who that child is, you know, obviously, the adoption is in the child's best interest, but they're still experienced losses, right, their environment, their country, possibly their language. So the names that they choose, could be one of the only things kind of left of their past. And, you know, I think some kids kind of really hang on to that name with a passion, like their mom, or their dad, while others choose to let it go. So every situation is unique, obviously, but I think if the child is old enough, you know, ask them, you know, what do they want, what do they need, help the child you know, in again, in an age appropriate way, use names that are comfortable, you know, and recognize that the child has biological parents and they may still consider the mom and dad. And it's also I think, important to dialogue with the biological parents and remember, because they also are experiencing a great loss and that may also include the loss of those titles by their child.

Okay, and there and there are ways to navigate that, especially if the child is coming speaking a different language, they can call the mom, their mom, or that is in their home country, whatever mom or mommy or whatever is in that language and call us something that is in if they wanted to call you mom, or mama or whatever, that they could do that in English. If it's important to you, and it may be important that you want the child and you both want to maintain your relationship as aunt or something.

Yeah, I was also going to say, you know, it may you know, be helpful to have teach the child or help the child learn responses to questions that they might get from, you know, peers or teachers or other relatives about, you know, why don't they call their new parents mom and dad if that's the case, so helping them, you know, honor their history and not make the child feel defensive about their situation. So, child could say, my mom lives in the Philippines, and we love each other very much. I live with my aunt and uncle now and love them, too. I feel very happy to have so many relatives in my life.

Yeah, short and sweet. And I'm going to call them at betina kebab. Because that's what they are, yeah. Are or I'm going to call them mama B and daddy j or something, or, you know, so that whatever it is that they decide to do, okay? Hey, guys, I know you are listening to this creating a podcast, but have you subscribed. subscribing helps us both good for you. Because you're gonna automatically see the topics for the weekend, it helps us because iTunes, and other podcast apps, look at the number of subscribers and deciding which podcast to recommend. So you see, it's really a win win. So thanks for subscribing, Marybeth, oftentimes, the family that is adopting has biological children, and they are bringing in another child into the family. So that's blending kids by birth and adoption is complicated. And it's complicated, regardless, whether the child that you are adopting, has in some way related to you. So how can we help prepare families for the blending of kids by birth and adoption? And some of the issues that may arise? So maybe let's start with what are some of the issues that can arise when you're combining kids from birth and adoption?

Sure, well, and I think, you know, you make a great point that that is always something to take into consideration, whether it's a relative adoption case, or, you know, typical adoption, I guess we could say, yeah, I think in what we have seen is that there's sometimes an added level of expectations on the biological kids, either to take on more of a somewhat adult role in that, you know, you Your job is to take care of your cousin, your job is to make sure your cousin is okay and understands and you know, is following the rules and that sort of thing. So I think it's important to talk to parents about just being aware and keeping an eye out to make sure your biological child's needs are also being met. And to recognize that this is going to be hard for them to and and be willing to do what you need to do to make sure that they continue to feel supported and, and loved and very much part of this new family.

Yeah, that's for sure. And it's even more heightened, when the kids are going to the same school. Right expectation that you will look out for, or you will take up for Are you will make sure that this child is included in your friend set and this that type of thing.

Yes. And I think for a lot of you know, these these biological kids, there's they're already straddling that world of having immigrant parents and potentially being, you know, an immigrant themselves and trying to figure out how to be an American kid while they're still a Cameroonian kid. And now you're bringing another foreign born child, it's just a whole added, you know, level, and it's an added level of intensity for these kids, especially teenagers, and young teenagers. You know, they're trying to balance all of that anyway. tweens and teens, right. Sure.

Yeah, for sure. It Katie, there's the other side, which is that, you know, the other side of the coin, which is that there can also be a tendency to favor the children by birth over this new child, you if for no other reason, you know, the kids, you've already kind of worked out the symbiosis of living with you know, that, you know, what sets them off, you know, what sues them, you know, this child, and you don't know, the new kid coming in, and the new cable have had experiences that you don't know about beforehand. And and so it's just as complicated. So how can we as parents make certain that we're cognizant, and that we work to make certain that we are not favoring at least outwardly our children by birth? Yeah,

that's a good question. You know, I think it's important that parents, you know, give individual attention and affection to each of the kids kind of equally. So they all feel that there isn't favoritism happening. But I also think, you know, they can, you know, create kind of family experiences and memories together, you know, doing fun activities together like playing games, you know, to help create Create a sense of belonging of everybody. And also, it's an opportunity for everyone to start really getting to know each other. I've heard of some families creating like a family journal, where each of the kids every week, everybody in the family can kind of contribute to it. So I think those are important things that from a family unit perspective that can be done. And it probably will help, you know, parents be more aware and Cognizant so that they aren't, you know, inadvertently favoring the children that they know the best.

Right? You know, as the National Adoption, education and support nonprofit, one of the things that we see is that we see more resistance. And this is a mega, this is a generalization. And as with all generalizations, it's probably false. But the we do see resistance to being trained. I mean, there is this idea of, and I get it, it's this idea of, look, it's my nephew, I know him, I've known him all of his life. Yeah, I don't need you to tell me how to raise this child. I don't need a class on understanding trauma and loss and things like that. Thank you very much. So there there is that I don't know if that's universal. But we certainly have seen that. Mary Beth, have you seen that and your work?

Absolutely. And I think it it, you know, ties into a lot of things, a lot of things that we see for so many of these families, there's almost an added level of frustration, understandably, that they are having to do so much to bring home a child that they are related to.

Yeah, all we want to do is step up and do the right thing, you know, stop playing stop getting in the way.

Right, right. And you know, oftentimes these kids, at least the families that we work with, these kids are coming from, you know, truly dangerous situations. And so there's a frustration at how long it takes and and what could potentially happen while they're waiting. Oh, yeah. And then when we say to them, okay, so now we also need you to sit down. And do you know, however many hours of webinars and classes and courses, it's just piling onto that. And so I think it's first working through that. I think it's also for so many of these families, you know, because they themselves were immigrants, and in their minds. They did that they got through it. And so if they did it, why can't this child do it? And so I think it's just allowing families at first this space to process and even grieve their own immigrant experience, sometimes, as far as what it could have been if someone had been aware of the trauma and the how that affects things, and then working with them to transfer that understanding for this new child.

Yeah, and how do we how do we help families understand the trauma and loss that are part of this child's story? Because the reality is, for every one of these children, I mean, if nothing else, simply that completely being removed from their family of origin, and, you know, moved across the world. That's enough of it. But most of the sitch, most, almost always, these children are coming from less than ideal situations, or there wouldn't be a need for their relatives to adopt them. And so there is trauma and loss. So how do we help families, the adoptive families, the relative families understand that parenting this kid, by necessity should be different? And I'll direct that to you Marybeth.

Okay. Well, and I think it comes back to, you know, like I said, kind of beginning the conversation by asking the parents what their own experience was like, and, and helping them to see that the way they the way they may have done, it took such courage and such bravery and such work to become the successful American adult that they are now. And then helping them understand that they want these kids to get to the same place. But it can be done in an easier way, by just taking the time to try to understand the trauma component of it all, and how that really does affect the day to day. I think the parents that we are working with, they have been in the US long enough. The vast majority of them are are, you know, educated and they are so truly wanting what is best for these kids. So once they really kind of are able to take the time to see and think about what we're saying. They are typically very open to doing whatever they need to do.

Katie, have you seen that and be going back to what Mary Beth had said at the end. A while ago about adoptions take a long time international adoptions take even longer. And so the children that are coming home, they may have agreed to bring their adopt their nephew. But at the time he was 12. Now this nephew is 1415. How do we help them understand the differences between what they originally thought at 12? When they were adopting 11 or 12 year old who now adopting a 14 or 15 or 16 year old? Can you help? How do you help families navigate that those changes and prepare for them?

I mean, I think a lot of it comes down to, you know, training and education again, what are you know, about the challenges of adopting older children, you know, and trying to get people to adjust their expectations about, you know, having a five year old, and then, you know, suddenly that when the child gets home, they're eight years old. And I think that, you know, we found that families that talk to other adoptive families, is often the best support advice that they can receive, because they've been through it, and they're living it on a day to day basis. So, you know, we feel like it's important for families to reach out to other adoptive families, or, you know, join a support group. Yeah, we're substantive issues, like adopting an older child are discussed. The other thing is, a lot of times we see that, you know, not both of the parents are necessarily involved in the process. A lot of times, it's just the mom is the primary caregiver. So, you know, we we also encourage, you know, the dads to understand, you know, this, this change that's about to happen, in fact, that an older child's going to come into the family, you know, and be engaged in the process as well.

You know, that's so good. It's, that is not listen, our experience, one parent being the what we call the, you know, the acquire of knowledge and the other parent sitting on the sidelines. And let's be honest, it's very often almost always the woman who is the acquire of information. And the man who is not, I mean, if that doesn't change with relative adoption, and but it's, it's in it's especially more complex, I suspect, if the relative is the wife's relative, have you seen that to Kaden?

Yes, absolutely. And a lot of times, it is, it seems like a lot for us, a lot of the times it is the wife's relative, you know, and sometimes the, you know, when you want to talk about cultural issues and things like that, sometimes the dad, you know, is a Caucasian, you know, and the mom is a Filipina, and then the child Filipinas, for the Father, in some ways is even, maybe not always, but one more step removed from the process. So, you know, it is really difficult to engage the dads. So you have to really, you know, you have to involve them in the process, when you do your video calls with the families find a time when, you know, both of them are available to talk, because it's oftentimes easier if the bomb is home taking care of kids, which is often the case, she's the one that you're engaging with. Yeah, I think the other important thing about that, and, and the dads is, you know, adoption, whether it's relative or not, is really difficult on marriages. So I do think, you know, engaging the both parents is important, and giving them some training, about how this huge change can affect their relationship and give them some strategies for making sure they stay healthy in their marriage.

Amen. That, yep, our partnerships are some of the things that suffer the most when we bring a new child into the family. And this is irrespective of whether the child is related to us. But it is, it's just a challenge and in any form of adoption. And I think that with relevance, it can be more complex, because it's one thing that if we're bringing, we're adopting a child that is a non relative, then both parents have to somewhat want this to, I mean, usually there is one parent that is more invested in it, but the other one has to actively want it. But when there is a relative involved, you're actively reaching, you're the person who is related, is actively wanting to help their family. And the non related parent is to say no, at that point to do they even have a legitimate reason to say no. So do they really have the full? Are they really fully vested? Are they having to go along? Marybeth? Have you seen some of that?

To be honest, I feel like we don't see that we kind of tend to see the opposite as far as where the the dad seems to be the more involved just as far as communication.

Is that because it's maybe maybe we shouldn't say dad, maybe we should say the person who has the relation is their relative, would that be a fair statement?

Not No. I think honestly, I think for a lot of our families, it It may be more about the language barrier. Oftentimes, because the the male partner is the one in the workplace, their English, and technology abilities may just be, you know, they may feel more comfortable being the one to do the communication. And that makes sense. It kind of is absolutely everything you both just said. But it's making sure that that both dad and mom are getting and fully understanding all of the information,

you raise a good point about language, and then how do we educate? How do we educate somebody when there is a language barrier? That's a whole nother issue. And that's right. We could do another course on that. Yeah, that's Yeah. And that's it's a it's a it's a good question. Well, I'm glad to see that you are nodding, because I certainly have talked to other agencies, who do see that the parent that is the relative is the more invested one, in bringing the child over. And the other one is just not wanting to not wanting to even feel like they have the right to say no.

Oh, yes. Which is very hard. And, you know, I think, Katie, that she pointed out that in a lot of the families that she works with, where one parent, maybe American, and the other one is, is foreign born. In our cases, typically both parents are from the same, the same country in the country where the children are. So that may be a difference to

your probably. And please note that we are using mom, dad and gendered roles, right? Because the reality is for most countries, not all, but for most countries internationally, that is what is required. So so we use those roles, but it would apply to partners of any gender. Absolutely. All right. Okay, excellent. So I guess from just circling back to to tie this up from what we were talking about, Katie, the the challenge for the caseworker for the social worker in the home study. It sounds to me like if that's where the responsibility lie, lies for engaging the parent if there is one that is less involved, and making certain both that they understand what they're getting into, but also that their voices heard it. Would that be what I'm hearing from you? Yes, I think that's that's an accurate way to put it. Okay, excellent. Have you enjoyed what you've heard so far? Today, we are so excited to offer you more expert based content just like today's podcast, thanks to our partners at the jockey being Family Foundation. When you go to Bitly, slash j, p f support, that's bi T dot L y slash all one word jbf support, you can find several free online courses on creating a learning platform. There's a great variety of topics to choose from, like transitioning home as a newly adopted family. And that supports today's contents with additional information. Each course is free when you use the coupon code JB f strong at checkout, check it out today. Alright, now I want to talk about a topic that I think we don't explore very often. And that is the navigating to identities. I think that very often we as both professionals, but I also think we as a US society does some of this, it's you know, we it, particularly if the person coming in as a person of color, that if the child coming in as a person of color, and the family obviously would be as well, if they're related. We tend to in America in the US just lumped them all together as black Americans are African Americans, even which we're working against, because in this case, a they may not be from Africa, but we tend we tend to not make distinctions. But I think that the communities often do make a distinction. So they're really navigating a number of different roles. They're Cameroonian as well as black American. So I want to explore that. And Mary Beth, from your experience, what how has this worked? And how do you help families? Or do you need to help families? Perhaps it's the families that need to be educating us on this?

Right, right. I think it's kind of a combination. And like, everything we're talking about, so much of this is just about talking to families and hearing their thoughts and opinions on this and continuing conversations and managing expectations. I think for a lot of the adoptive parents that we work with, they came to the US typically as adults. And so they have navigated this country almost more so as say a Cameroonian than as an American or as a black person, whereas the child is coming that much younger and so it may be as they get older, they may not have accent anymore, you know, there might not be anything about them where people automatically recognize them as from another country. And so people, the general road will first see them, say, as black. And so I think it's helping both the adoptive parents understand, you know what that may mean as far as safety concerns, and, you know, finding strength in that part of themselves, whereas the parents may find it more as a Cameroonian, whereas the child may eventually need to find out more as an African American. And that's something that I think we as an agency, or me in particular, that's a very fine line, because I'm a white American born woman, I can't tell them how to do that. So I think that's where, first of all, just understanding how they recognize that, you know, in their own self, and then helping them find the resources that can better speak to that Be it a support group or a you know, an article or a book or a movie, whatever it may be,

are can't are the Cameroonian society groups that exist? Yeah. Many years ago, I worked with a family from Liberia who had already adopted was a young child like a five year old, and that the parents, it was their first child, they didn't, it was a relative. That was it coming in, and they had no other children. And they very much did not think of themselves as black Americans or African Americans, they thought that they were librarians. And that was how they and they were absolutely going to raise them, that's fine. That was their choice. And that's how they were going to do it. But they found a great deal of support in understanding the distinctions by talking with other librarians and they had a very strong culture where they'd see that they lived in and they found that they were able to talk with librarians who had had children born here in the US are brought over at a young age, and and who were who were older than the son that they adopted, who was five. And that was very, very helpful for them. And what we encourage it was him to ask the questions to these librarians, who had been here, whose children were now 12 1314 1618, whatever, and how they navigated that distinction between being librarian and being black American, if at all. So that was, yeah, but it's worth at least thinking about, because from their perspective, there was nothing to think about.

Right. Right. And I think that's, you know, a somewhat, somewhat, obviously, it's not as simple topic, but as somewhat simple way to just help building our own relationship with these families, because there's so much of this process that, you know, they're not asked for their opinion. And that's true for every adopting Barrett. And this is something where they are very much the experts, they are, you know, how to be that. And so it's important for us to, you know, give them a chance to explain their perspective and then follow their lead.

Yeah, I was gonna say, I think this also ties into potential, you know, racial discrimination, you know, because race relations have been at the forefront, and sometimes the paps, you know, have a difficult time, depending on their own histories, accepting that the child they're bringing into the United States has these different identities and is going to be live living like a very different childhood, perhaps, than they did. So I think acknowledging, you know, these multiple identities is really crucial, so that they can have more open and honest discussions about, you know, racism, because the children may very likely encounter it. And, you know, they need the support, you know, of their parents in the United States. So having honest, open communication, you know, helping to model safe responses to racism, things like that, I think, are really, really important.

And chances are good, they have also experienced, if they're a family of color, they've also experienced this, but understanding that, that their child may choose to handle it in a way that is different from them. And,

yeah, I was gonna say, you know, some, some of the families that we see that are, you know, that emigrated here, you know, their world really is in their country of origin. So their social life, their church life, their community life is somewhat insular at times. So they may not really travel out of that too much. And so they may have faced less, you know, kind of discrimination that maybe their children will when they come, you know, given the age that we're in now,

and depending on the age of the child and right, yeah, yeah, all of those things. And by the way, when k He said Perhaps she's speaking of prospective adoptive parents. It's a slang that we tend to use, but I'm not sure everybody in our audience would recognize what it was. Okay, now let's talk about managing expectations of cultural changes. And this is an interesting one, because and this is probably more relevant to families who are, who are adopting who don't already have children in the US, because they've already had kids in the US, they probably have already experienced this. But how do we help our families understand that the kids are very likely to ultimately take on some of the cultural norms of American kids and teens, and that this may be different from the cultural norms of their birth country. And this could be just from, you know, any number of things, they, you know, children speaking, speak speaking, their minds are, you know, being good, what girls are able to do, playing sports and things like that, as well as the adult child relationships just in general? Katie, do you have some thoughts on that?

Yeah, I think it's a it's an interesting question. I mean, you're right, you know, you could have like teen girls that, you know, maybe they date at 15 or 16, in the United States. But, you know, that was forbidden in the country of origin at that age. You know, I think parents need to try to educate themselves, about what children at various ages do in the United States. And, you know, be able to recognize that their childhood may have been very different, especially if you did not live in the US as a child. I think, you know, just listening, asking a lot of questions. Not being judgmental, you know, being aware of your own biases, things like that will promote honest communication, and ultimately will help your child feel like they can embrace the culture that they now live in, without fear of disappointing their parents or having to have secrets, you know, and not be honest with them about the things that they're doing.

Marybeth, it occurs to me that one some examples of this, in addition to what I mentioned before about behavioral things, would also be the importance of sports, extracurricular activities, playtime, things such as that, and that, that many of the immigrant experiences that they have been successful because they stress in in many countries, academics, is stressed above all else. And one could argue that certainly here in the US that is the case or it loosens, in some cultures, it is here as well. How do you help families understand some of these cultural differences?

Sure. And, again, I feel like I'm sounding like a broken record. But again, it's all about the expectations and, and communication. It's kind of a conversation to have up front, I think, long before the child arrives, is to just find out what what does the family expect? Do they anticipate that the child will arrive in the US and immediately start school the next week? Do they expect that they will go into the the appropriate grade level based on their age? Or are they willing to first determine where the child may need to be? And I think it's also again, just just understanding and recognizing that a lot of these parents may have come to the US on a student visa. And so they had a whole different set of expectations and requirements, in order to keep that as far as academic performance. And that for these kids. That's not why they're here, necessarily. And that it's okay to put academics, you know, not totally on the back burner, but that they may need time to adjust to all these other things before before really diving into focus on grades.

You know, it seems to me that we have to that there's a fine line here, because I don't know that we should be setting them up to think that that our way is the better way necessarily, right. But it is important for them to understand that this are these are issues to think through and to continue to think through as the child ages, but not necessarily that they have to change because it could be that their way is the better way or certainly the better way for them. Absolutely. The more that the way, again, encouraging them to talk to families in the communities of from they're here in the US from their home country, and with people who have had children of similar ages, but even more important people who've had children, just a bit ahead of them so that they can be prepared to think through in advance and not not just react but to be proactive because they thought through it or How it seems to make is I'm not sure that that it's our role to say, Our way is the best way.

No, absolutely. And I think that's also where it comes back to, you know, these parents know, this tribe. And so, again, follow their lead in terms of what this child may need, they may already recognize where the child needs to be, as far as academics, or sports or extracurricular activities. And so I think it's just a matter of hearing them and then working together to address any concerns, both before and during,

yeah. And having them think about it, so that they're not surprised by it. So if issues come up, they have at least had the forewarning that this is something to have thought through.

Right, right. You know, we've also had some kind of wonderfully funny experiences where we've encouraged parents to check out the school, long before the child gets here, just to understand that the school their child will attend is likely very, very different from the school they attended, or the school that the child has been attending, and just really kind of get a sense of what what that'll be like for the kids.

I'm glad your school system because I think that is that is something that can be very different. And also, you know, how do we help children coming in who have not have none of the language, and help them integrate into school? Katie, any thoughts on that?

Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, I agree with Mary Beth, you know, plan, plan, plan in advance, you know, meet with educators, help them understanding, understand your upcoming situation. But also remember that, you know, you might have to work with the school system to, you know, potentially educate them, you know, on the effects of trauma on the brain, and how it might manifest for these children coming into school. So, you know, educating them that way might be important. And then again, you know, providing the school with as much information as possible about your child's situation in advance is probably really helpful. I do think, you know, helping children, I mean, going back to Canada, hobbies, sports, extracurricular activities, I mean, I think, you know, helping kids and parents understand, you know, kind of the psychological benefits of like, regular exercise, like improve self esteem, and feelings of belonging, and acceptance, can really help as the children are trying to integrate into the school system. And, of course, the parents, you know, really need to insert themselves in the process, they need to advocate, you know, let the school system know that they really want a collaborative relationship during the transition. And, you know, learn about, again, you know, what's the child's appropriate grade, what services are available, like English as a second language, or psychological services, or any testing that your child should have, and when, etc.

And, and our role as as professionals is to help them know that this, these services are available, and they are open, they are free, they're available, assuming you're going to a public school, and that they can ask for these that that they know that they exist, and can ask them again, more helpful. If the parents have not parented before. I

think also don't like you pointed out you most of these families are already part of a community. And so helping them up front to kind of, you know, determine or establish a relationship with someone who could sort of be a community liaison if they feel like they need that. Just because the school system is intimidating. You know, I'm intimidated by it all for my kids and I have lived here my whole life. And so for some of these families, who may not have much of an understanding of how it works, having somebody who can kind of be part of explaining the cultural components and knowing what to help families as far as advocating for services and things like that, and be really useful.

Yeah, sounds like a recurring theme here is to encourage the adopting family to find a mentor in their the community of that they are probably already connected with that helps children just a little bit ahead of theirs or maybe significantly ahead in school or an age so that they can and set up that as part of their village or their support network before the chalk comes home. Exactly. Let me just take a moment to thank one of our partners, and I truly mean thank you because this show would not exist without their support. And one of those partners is adoptions from the heart. It was founded by an adoptee and is celebrating 35 years of bringing families together through adoption. They are a full service domestic infant adoption agency specializing in open adoption. You can adoptive parents and birth parents share their stories on a f t h TV airing Tuesday mornings follow adoptions from the heart on Facebook and YouTube to catch every episode. Katie, this is not always the case. But sometimes it is the case that that parents who are stepping forward to adopt a relative from abroad, maybe older parents, and their that brings a whole host of issues whether they have already parented and their children are older or whether they're first time parents. So how can we help them both? Prepare for the lifestyle changes if nothing else, but also if they've parroted in the past that that things may be different now? Well,

I think it does come back to education and training again, as you mentioned, I mean, they A lot of times, especially relative adoptions, they're older, I think I read a statistic that most prospective adoptive relative parents are older than 50. So just some, you know, practical tips are, you know, stay healthy, take care of yourself, you know, exercise, get enough sleep, because kids are difficult to raise, you know, it's a challenging job. I think that, you know, as older parents, they can do things like you know, join the PTA at the school, or meet with school counselors to better understand what changes there are in the world since they parented last if they have parented before, things like social media and dating and, you know, getting jobs after school, things like that, you know, and most importantly, I think, you know, talk a lot to your kids, you know, listen to them, ask them questions, just, you know, try to learn on your own. And, you know, again, sometimes the best advice again, is, you know, having other families that have been through this be, you know, kind of in your back pocket, so that you can talk to them.

Yeah, very thankful that you talk, he raised the issue of Internet safety and reasonable rules for the internet and social media. And my experience, Marybeth that this is an area that often times, particularly if they have not parented, that they are clueless, and they're bringing a child and the child may or may not be clueless to how this is done in the US chances are good, the child's going to be more sophisticated at this and the parents, what are some ways that we can help parents at least think through some of the issues so that they don't, it's harder to take away rules than it is to set some firm, it's easier to loosen boundaries and to take them away to tighten them up?

Right, right. The lesson that sometimes we learn the hard way? Oh, yes. Oh, yes. You know, and I think it's exactly what Katie said, it's all about education, I mean, some of the just kind of practical things, as we keep a list of websites that you know, that we as parents recognize, as okay or as a little bit riskier, keep a list of apps that can help in monitoring your child's social media, and then just encourage parents to really, you know, I mean, I'm don't think of myself is that older parent, but my 11 year old is lightyears ahead of me when it comes to what the internet, you know, can do and what apps are out there, whether she's on them or not. And so I think it's just encouraging parents to try to continuously be aware of, a lot of times when these parents do have older children, it's really helpful because those kids, especially if they're, you know, young adults, have already kind of navigated this and can can help guide their parents in doing it all again. But I think just recognizing the end, you know, the internet is, is wonderful and awful, while at the same time and keep yourself educated about these. So so keep

it creating a family, we have resources on this, we have courses on this. And there's other resources out there. So just encouraging. And, again, it seems like this is a recurring thing, raising the issue up front so that they can think about it. And they won't be surprised. It may not it may just be maybe a very smooth thing they may know, social media may never be or internet may not even be an issue at all. chances are good that one would be but having them think about it ahead of time, is Forewarned is forearmed.

Right, right. And, you know, it can be a great thing for these families in particular, because people all over the world have Facebook and Instagram and other things that I don't even know about can be a great way for for families to keep in touch. It's just making sure that it's all done safely.

Yeah, yeah, I think it's all about seeking a balance. You know, because you can't ban the child from social media. It really is a part of Life and American life and it helps them be connected to the community. But, again, you know, coming up with, you know, an Internet safety plan, for example, to identify and help parents be aware of some social media concerns, makes sense and will help them create that kind of balance.

Excellent. Well, thank you so much, Mary Beth King and Katie shorts for being with us today to talk about adopting a relative from abroad and to our audience. Thanks for joining us, and I will see you next week.

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