How can we prepare kids already in our home for the adoption of a sibling whether that new sibling is an infant or an older child. We will talk with Michelle Hoevker, a board-certified Clinical Social Work Supervisor and Program Director of Adoption and Foster Care at Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services with more than 20 years experience in child welfare; and Adam Crawford, a Licensed Master Social Worker and the Program Director of Adoption and Foster Care at Presbyterian Children’s Homes and Services with more than 15 years of experience in child welfare.
In this episode, we cover:
Adopting an Infant
Adopting an Older Child Who is Not Your Foster Child (adopting from foster care or adopting internationally)
Adopting an Older Child Who is Your Foster Child
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Please pardon the errors. This is an automatic transcription.
Welcome, everyone to creating a family talk about adoption and foster care. I'm Dawn Davenport, your host, as well as the director of creating a family.org. We are not only this show, some of you only know us through this show, but we are more than just this show. We are the National Adoption and foster care education and support nonprofit. And we've got lots of resources for you over at our website, creating a family.org. Today we're going to be talking about preparing kids already in the home for an adoption. This is a question we get a lot from agencies as well as parents, which is good, I guess, because they should be thinking about the kids already in their home and they're bringing in another child, we will be talking with Michelle holker. She is the program director of adoption and foster care at Presbyterian children's home and services. And she serves the Houston and surrounding areas. She is also a Board Certified clinical social work supervisor helping other professionals obtain their clinical license, she has been working in child welfare for more than 20 years. We'll also be talking with Adam Crawford. Adam is a licensed master social worker, and the program director of adoption in foster care at Presbyterian children's home in services, serving the Austin and surrounding areas. And he has worked in child welfare for over 15 years. Welcome Adam and Michelle to creating a family. We're so happy to have you. Thank you. Thanks for having us. So as I mentioned, we get this question a fair amount? And and it's a hard question to answer because how we prepare children already in the home. And keep in mind that this could be previously adopted children or children by birth. So how we prepare them for an adoption depends on so many factors, including, of course, the age of the child in the home, the age of the child being adopted, the past experiences of both children, whether it's a trans racial, or trans cultural adoption, and, and so much more. So the way we're structuring This is to by we're going to be talking about how do you prepare when adopting an infant, we're gonna be talking about trans racial, we'll be talking about adopting an older child who's not your foster child. And they will be talking about adopting an older child who is your foster child. So that's kind of a layout that we're going to be following for everybody. So we'll start with, in theory, at least the easiest, and that is how do we prepare children in the already in the home for the adoption of an infant? So Michelle, that's a pretty broad, and I'm hoping it's an easy question. So I'm, I'm throwing it to you to start with. So how do we, what would you do if you're adopting an infant, and you've got kids already in the home? Sure, I think it's really important that the parents are prepared to start talking about adoption in general, right, yeah, you know, just the part of the process and kind of going on this journey is to ensure that all of the family members understand what adoption is, and begin recognizing with their child that this might mean some changes to their family dynamics, you know, their daily routine, the attention they might be receiving. And you know, it's very similar to as if the parent were having a birth child, right, you have all this time to sort of prepare them for those upcoming changes. When it comes to adoption, though, I think it's really important that kids start hearing about concepts and terms such as mother or mother, openness in adoption, right? So that's a little different. And just making sure that you're able to define these things for your kids, and of course, always at an aged, you know, age appropriate, developmentally appropriate level with them. Excellent. Yeah. I'm glad you raised open adoption, because that's something we also need to explain to our children. So Adam, what would you suggest for that?
You know, again, it's just like Michelle said, you kind of normalize that, you know, kids in the home may not understand what open adoption is. So there's a little bit of kind of educating that and painting a picture for what is kind of open adoption, who are all the players, right? The adoption triad, we talk about it just letting, letting our kids kind of understand what that is, in general, I think is important.
how that's going to play out in our specific situation of adoption, right? There's all levels of openness, openness looks different for every family. And so it may adjust over time, but just allowing them to kind of get a glimpse of you know what we may have a level of openness where your sibling, your now sibling, birth, birth, mother birth, Father birth family is going to be involved with us in a new way and you're going to get to know them in a certain level and just kind of preparing them helping kind of just normalize. This is a new phase in our life with new people and
That's really what openness is about.
You know, Adam, that's a good point. And I also think that we need to prepare our children for answering the questions of others, both their peers, as well as other adults in their lives. That that, that their peers in particular will come to them with questions about, well, why does your sister have two moms? Things like that. So how can we prepare our kids to answer other kids questions?
If you don't mind, I can answer that. I, you know, I really feel like our children do need to be prepared for that. Because what happens in you know, parents pursuing adoption, unintentionally, we put our kids in that position, right? So let's help them be educated and equipped with the tools for when those scenarios come up. You know, other kids are very curious. And they also may not always be sensitive. So I think, right, and so I think kids have to, you know, you have to keep those discussions open and ensure that your kids are always coming to you, when things like that do happen, right, they're going to have those experiences. But I think the family needs to maintain a dialogue of, you know, ensuring they speak with others, friends, family members, strangers at the grocery store, right, make sure they're comfortable saying things like, you know what, I'm so glad that you're curious about us or that that's fascinating to you. But it's also really private. And so, you know, finding the right words, right? Or kids can understand that is important as well. Yeah, I do think it's important to anticipate in advance that our kids will likely get questions, and we can model for them how to answer these questions in a way that's comfortable for our family. Right, I think it's really important to also, you know, remind them remind yourselves, that those questions aren't often you know, they don't necessarily come out of malice, right or ill will exam doesn't mean that they can, you know, also be hurtful at times or feel a bit intrusive. So, everybody in the family needs to be ready for that. So what if the child already in the family is adopted, but has a different degree of openness with their birth family? I think that this is a very common problem for families who have adopted more than one and I know that adoptive parents worry about this, they worry that one child is going to feel lesser than or feel hurt by the usually the one who has the lesser degree of openness. Mm, do you have thoughts on that? Or Michelle, would you like? I'm not sure. Let's see. Adam, what do you have thoughts on that? Sure. You know, I, I think it just comes down to just having that open, honest communication. You know, I think I, we talk a lot with our families about this idea of having a common philosophy and kind of a common language. The lens that we look through, right, is this idea of me as your parent, whether it's a bio kid and adoptive kid, what's important is that we're going to meet each child's needs, right? And each child's needs are different. each child's needs are met differently, right. And so for one child who may have a very open adoption, where we have a lot of access to birth family, if we can couch it in terms of you know, what this is the pathway by which we're going to meet this child's needs through this very open adoption? Well, you're exactly right, the child with the lesser kind of openness in their adoption, may look at that and say, well, that's not fair. Or, you know, well, that's different. I wish I wish I could do that way that as well. And then, but this conversation is the same, and you go to that child and you say, you know what, we are still here to meet your needs. And we may do that differently, we may have to go a different route. We may go other ways to do that. But I am here as your parent to meet your needs. Now. And as far as the level of openness that you have with that child, the one that is less open, you just have that open and honest communication around Hey, you know what, I ensure that we are going to do everything we can to keep connection and and thus, whatever level of openness we can get, we're going to press that and we're going to get your needs met through that. You know, and if you can't, then rest assured those needs are still going to get met. We just need to name we may need to find a different way to do it. Then your adopted sibling. Right.
Michelle, any thoughts on on in particular working with a child who feels left out because they don't have a birth mom coming to visit our they're not receiving a birthday present, or Christmas present or a holiday present or whatever from from their birth family? Yes, and you know, I feel like we can speak from experience on this.
Just some, you know, all of our years of doing post adoption work, something that we've seen over time, even when there's two open adoptions, they can still look very different. Like they will, yes, right? They will. And so, so the child for you know, who is does not have as open an adoption, or perhaps a closed adoption, we really would hope and invite the birth parent of the other child, to also embrace them in particular ways. And we've seen that happen very successfully, that, you know, they come and visit their birth child, and they bring a gift for them, well, they also acknowledge the other child, and ensure that they also, you know, if you're recognized, and special, we have really found that, that that works. And so the family, you know, has to do their best effort, you know, every family looks different, right? And they have to make their best effort to make sure that child feels included and other ways. I really feel like that's my best advice in that, you know, we've just seen that be pretty successful over the years. Well, I have as well, exactly that scenario. In fact, some really heartwarming stories of birth families, embracing In fact, there was a birth mom, and it's a part of our online support group. And this has been several years ago that she posted this, but her child, I think it's a son was adopted into a family that had another adopted child and a closed adoption. And she very quickly picked up that it was hard for the older child to see that she had a relationship and that child didn't. And the child asked if she could, if the birth mom could adopt her. And she did. And not only did she then she didn't always bring the sibling on visits, and if they were going someplace, but she did sometimes, and her family, at her request, her family, he was sitting with some Christmas presents. And she asked that her family always include a Christmas present for the other sibling as well. So we have seen that as well. And the other thing, and I think you're right, you can make that time special. If they if the one child's birth mom is coming in, the other one doesn't have a relationship with theirs. You could plan something special between you and the child or something, you could do something to take some of the sting away. Those are all really good suggestions. Right? And I think it's really important to you know, often start, you know, first with acknowledging the child's hurt feelings, yeah, really validating that you can understand why that would be hurtful for them, you know, and I think through that, it helps create an atmosphere where they always feel open to talking to you about it, you know, I think that's a theme we need to have, as our kids get older and grow through adoption, this idea or this feeling that they know they can come to their parents with hurt feelings, or thoughts or questions, concerns. That's the spirit we want. Yeah, exactly. And we also want to be careful that we aren't sowing confusion, that the child actually believes that this is their birth parent. And when we're asking one to step in, we were asking the birth parent of one to the birth mom of one to step into paying special attention to both children. That does it, we need to make certain that the child understands and understands more about their, their family of birth, and why openness might not have been an option for them. Right? If I think that's sure, and I think that's a really great way that we can utilize a child's life book is to help them understand their story. Recognize who all of the people are in their lives. It's just a great tool for that. Excellent. Yeah, very good point. That's a great segue into talking about resources for talking about when you're adopting an infant. So let me start with you, Adam, could you suggest life book is a great resource to do? And so can you say what actually, could you explain a little about what a life book is? And then we'll suggest another resource. Sure, you know, I think a life book is can be a very important tool. Really, all a life book is is a physical book, right of in every life books a little different, but it really does tell a child's story. And so you may have pictures in this book, you may have letters in this book.
And it just kind of is a story. You know, sometimes it's in chronological order. A lot of times it is it doesn't have to be but it really is a tool that you can sit with a child and this life book, and you can have a picture of their birth family that you know their life before. If you have access to some of these pictures you can talk about it shows what's important to that child, it family friends, where they went where they lived, where they went to school.
Their adoption process, right? Maybe their foster care process, you know, what, which families did they live with before they got to our home, right?
It just kind of tells a story in a way that it really helps a child understand what their life story is, how to tell their own story, they can get comfortable with
really understanding their story, how to tell their story, just as a way to keep those connections, past, present, and future.
And we always encourage families to reach out and seek pictures. And especially this is someone who could apply for an infant adoption as well, I mean, but pictures of the mom when she's pregnant, things like that pictures of grandparents, it's easier to get at the beginning. So ask and try to get as many pictures and stuff as you can. Okay, Michelle, other resources you would suggest for preparing children for the adoption of an infant?
You know, I think it's really important that parents find children's books that explain the concept of adoption, you know, it doesn't have to be a book that is about your specific journey, right? It can be about international adoption, older child adoption, but the idea is that a child is coming to live with us. And we're going to embrace them as our own in a permanent way. Right. And so, you know, books like Jamie Lee Curtis wrote a book called Tell me about the night I was born. It's okay, that it doesn't apply to that child, but it is introducing this concept of adoption. And I am so glad you suggest and the other thing that is important about what you just said is Jamie Lee Curtis book, as well as many others are actually written from the viewpoint of the adopted child. And we have families that say, well, but I'm looking for a book that addresses the child that's already in the family. But that's not really necessary. Because if I'm understanding what you're saying, Michelle, you're introducing the concept of adoption. And, and so it doesn't end there. Honestly, there are many more books, creating a family has a huge list of the best of the best adoption books, and we break it out by age of the child and type of adoption. And honestly, there are more of those. And there are books that are available for other we also have a list of books to prepare siblings for an adoption. But the truth is, there are more books in our list of books for and I would also throw out different ways families are made. There are a lot of books, a family is a family type of books, you know, in that their families can look different, but they're still family. Those are also good books, I think. Yeah, right. There's one book that comes to mind. And I can't think of the author right now. But it is called you are all my favorites. And I was just hodl Yes. And it's just this idea that yes, I am already parenting one or two children and another child's coming. But you are all my favorites. And it's really sweet. And so it's not an adoption book. But it's still the concept of adding children of recognizing that I'm going to have to start sharing my time and things at home are going to change. And so you know, that sort of normalizes it some as well. So yeah, there, there are lots of things out there, I think parents should have to get out there and start doing some reading and figure out what feels comfortable for them. You know, as you vary such a good point. And it's almost It was so obvious, we almost failed to mention it. And that is there are a gazillion the library shelves, your library shelf is full of a gazillion, I'm going to be a big brother or I'm going to be a big sister books. And those are just we perhaps over focus on the fact that we're adopting this child as opposed to the, from our children who are our new family. The biggest part is that they're going to be sharing their parents. So the their videos and honestly, your library will have just a ton of them. Right and equally relevant. Adam, any more resources that we want to mention about adopting an infant have preparing the kids in the family for the adoption of an infant?
No, I think you've covered it, you know, that's what I was gonna say is that just there's, you know, any type of book that talks about family, it's really important just to be talking about the concept, right? So I agree with what y'all have said. Okay.
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Alright, now we're going to move away to a different type of adoption in it. And we're going to inserting it now because it really has relevance regardless of the age of the child. And that is a transracial, or trans cultural adoption. It becoming a family that stands out a family that doesn't match. So Adam, we'll start with you. How do we prepare children for the adoption, when it's a trans racial or trans cultural adoption, where the child being adopted is not the same race or ethnicity as the children already in the family? Sure. You know, I think a lot of times similar to what we have been talking about, right is this idea of preparing these children that are already in the home to certain concepts, hopefully, families already doing a good job of exposing children to different cultures, just different ethnicities, what's in their community diversity type of type of issues, but if not really, they needed, that's part of kind of that preparation. You know, I think that
allowing the kids that are already in the home, they also, you know, we talk a lot about, we want to make life as predictable as we can, we're adopted foster kids, but also for these kids that are in, in the home all already try to make life as predictable as you can. So the way you do that is you start talking about that, you know, if you know the the ethnicity of the child you're bringing into the home, then start talking about those relevant kind of kind of issues, reintroduce them to what's around you, in your own community, where you plan on seeking out those resources to meet your adopted child's needs, culturally, racially, all of those things, start talking about that introducing those things to the kids that are already in the home. I think that's where we start. Michelle probably has more to say about that. So I'll pass that on over to her. Okay. Yeah, Michelle? Sure. I think you know, when a child comes in, and they are of a different culture, for our children who are already in the home, we have to really talk about this word different, I think, and different can have a negative connotation. However, we can always reframe that to something that's really unique, and something that, you know, to be celebrated and recognized. And so, you know, I think as parents, you become sort of a cheerleader for that, you know, you are the role model for diversity and inclusion, and how those are positive things. And just continuing those types of conversations in your home. I also think it's important to prepare them for things like going to the grocery store and getting the stairs, right, that people are curious about you, you know, they're not judging, they're curious, right, and so curious is a positive thing. And so just sort of finding those moments, once again, to make sure that your kids are talking to you make sure that they are wanting to understand even why we would be adopting a child of a different race or ethnicity, and just including them in all of it. And as Adam said, from the pre placement, preparation period, through the time they're placed, and even into the future, our kids need to feel comfortable raising subjects and concerns, you know, with their parents.
Really good point. And, and it just to reiterate something we said earlier, and that is our children will likely get questions, particularly when it's a transracial adoption from their peers, as well as from other adults. So practice with them, how they answer that, how come your brother doesn't look like you? How come your brother has skin that's darker than you? Questions like that? Have them come up with an answer. So they know how to answer. Right? Because he's adopted. So that you know, and that it's pretending like it isn't going to happen is really not helpful. Right. Right. Yeah. So have those scripts ready. Exactly, exactly. And that's different for every family, and according to their comfort level. And for every child. You know, some kids are really shy. And they would react really differently to those kinds of questions. Some kids are very confident and outgoing. And you know, their answers would be very different and probably interesting and funny. Yeah.
As the mother of that family, I will say that, yes, one of mine could not actually two of mine could not wait to talk with everyone, anybody and everybody. Right. And that reminds me to you know, we do have to remind our children that the adopted child story is their story. And we might want to celebrate it and scream it to the world, but we have to recognize their privacy as well. Right and so always making sure that we help our kids under
stand out. It's important. Excellent. Very good. Well, Michelle, sent you are talking now? Can you suggest some resources that we can use to help prepare kids in the family for a transracial? adoption? Sure. You know, there are once again, a lot of books out there on transracial adoption, I think it does, once again, start with the with the life book, you know, and within the life book, you can include pieces of that child's culture. And I also want to say that culture is not just your skin color, it involves a lot of different things, right. And so its traditions, it's foods, there's also a socio economic culture. And so we have to recognize all of these. So as far as transracial, adoptions, find those books, specifically, you know, there are a couple there's one called inside transracial adoptions by Gail Steinberg and Beth Hall. That's a very good one. But well, you know, it's it's one of those things where you have to decide, am I who's reading it right? Who is the audience? Am I as a parent reading it and preparing myself? Am I reading it to my child? So is it a child's book, The adopted child or my birth child, perhaps? So that's what you want to look for when you start doing that searching? You know, who is the audience of this book? Yeah, exactly. It's a book you mentioned really is geared for parents. Right? Exactly. And so once again, finding things that celebrate differences in uniqueness is really important.
Excellent. Any, and I will throw out that our list of books for preparing kids for the adoption of a sibling includes books that will address that. And we also have and much, much more extensive list of books for transracial adoption, and many of them are geared for very young children with animal characters and things such as that. So it's a it's a good resource for beginning they're great books anyway. And they're good, good resource for beginning the discussion and in a relatively easy way. All right, Adam, any suggestion before we leave on additional resources?
You know, yes. Actually, even in our we're an agency that does foster care and adoption, even in our training of foster parents and adoptive parents, but particularly foster parents, in our training, there are multiple, actually YouTube videos that we use, you know, I think we pick ones that kind of come from the adoptees perspective, and they're usually later in life. But there's several on YouTube that just as a story of coming from the adoptees perspective, kind of talking about what it was like being raised in a transracial. adoption. What What, what went well about that, what didn't go so well about them? And we've gotten some really good responses from some of our parents, kind of just how it opens their eyes a little bit to even those that think, yeah, we're gonna handle this really well. When you hear it from the adoptees perspective, it really can kind of bring about a paradigm shift. And just make you aware of some of those things that our kids Wish we knew about this area of transracial adoption. So I'll just put that out there as well. And that may be more appropriate for older children in the family, not necessarily younger children. These are Yeah, this is not geared towards kids. But nonetheless, okay. All right. Okay, now moving to our next general topic, and that is, how do we prepare children already in the home for adoption of an older child, who is not already living in your home? It is not your foster child. So what we basically mean is adopting from a child who is legally free from foster care, or adopting internationally. So that's what we're talking about. So one question I have would be, and Michelle, I will start with you, how much of your new child's history should you share with the kids already in the family? Because there's some it could be important for them to know some information, particularly because we may be seeing different behaviors or maybe different rules. So we there's some information that needs to be shared. But on the other hand, as you've pointed out before, we also have to be careful that it is not our real story. It's not really our story to tell. Right? Right. And, you know, I think that it's according to that child's age and developmental level as well. This is another time where that applies. I think that the younger the child, it really is, the more simple, you can keep it these concepts where we talk about a child who's needing a home, and we have a home when we have lots of love, right? And for some reason, their their parent was ill in some way and couldn't provide that care. Older children are going to ask more questions. You know, I think they're the ones who are going to be a little more
sophisticated about it and recognize, okay, there's a little something more going on here. And so I think it's important to share to the point where they understand why the child cannot live with their birth family. Why it is that you're choosing to adopt the child, and also have that opportunity to share their feelings, ask their questions. And as a parent, you know, you have to decide, what can I share? What can I be protective of, but also not, you know, minimize my own child's concerns and curiosity. You know, it's really striking that balance. And so older kids understand concepts that are difficult, such as substance abuse, domestic violence, some of the really difficult reasons for why kids come into care and become available for adoption. And so you have to really make sure that they're getting enough detail so that they don't feel completely left out of the loop.
But also be sensitive. You know, like we said earlier to that child's confidentiality, and, and I think it's really over time, that those things get shared a little more openly, you know, initially, I would keep it broad, and ask the child comes into the family as they start, you know, really, they're going to be the one to start sharing.
Yeah, you know, they're going to start talking. And so I think preparing your kids for that, if you don't prepare them with some pieces of it, they won't feel prepared to hear some of the things they're going to start hearing. That's a good point. And they'll also fill in the blanks with their own imagination. Right. And, and so neither are helpful. Okay. Yeah, very good point. I was just gonna add, and Yeah, go ahead. I think if it's it, if it is an older child that is being adopted, who really does kind of understand and can tell their story, it's important to ask that child, you know, hey, what what is it that you're wanting us, says the parents are for you to share with your new siblings, as as that older child's perspective to not only what they want to share, but how they would like to share that is that
most of the time, it will start small, like you're saying start small. And then as comfort level grows, as, as you spend more time around each other, those things kind of open up. But it's it's also important to kind of ask that child because it is their story, just exactly what and how they would like to share whatever they would like to share. Yeah, I know of a story where that we they did exactly that. And the key, he was a young team, but he was a teen, and he said, the thing that he desperately did not want anyone knowing was that he had in his birth family had lived in a car. And that to him was deeply embarrassing. And he just and that was the one thing there were many other things in his story, that from our perception would be something that would be a bigger deal since this did not and, and the parents mind seemed like but they asked, and they respected that. And that was something that they never shared within with the it wasn't necessary for understanding. So Adam, how to prepare kids in the family for potential behavioral challenges, our kids often come to us having experienced trauma and loss. And that does affect behavior at times. So how do we how do we prepare the kids in our family? Sure. You know, I think we start with letting them know exactly what you said that children do come from trauma. And again, you're gonna have to have that conversation at a developmentally age appropriate way. But I think the kids in the home need to know that, you know, they do they have experience trauma, that they often behave, because they're fearful, right? They kind of live in this state of fear. So kind of set the stage for not only Yes, we may see some difficult behavior by letting our kids know, how, why, why this child may be having some behaviors, right, that there's a transition period, and they're fearful, and they come from a from a place of trauma. You know, I again, I think trying to make life predictable for those kids that are already in the home. And you may not know what those behaviors are yet, but you'll soon find out but to start kind of having a family plan, right? Hey, you know, we may have experienced some difficult times, we may see some behaviors and have just allow your children to kind of know and here's what our plan is going to be when we see that. You know, we talked about scripts earlier, I think that's can come into play here. To kind of you know, it may be that you have a key word or a script that we use that kind of enacts this point.
When we see this behavior, here's everybody's role, right? Whether they be different depending on the behavior or whatever, but to talk about, what are we going to do, you know, have a plan, make it predictable, you know, as often as we can. You know, I think another thing is letting our kids understand that we may find some difficult times. And so we're gonna lean on our support system, right? We really, really encourage our adoptive families to really develop and kind of educate a support system to kind of be on standby, right, that if we're having a difficult period in the home or difficult time in the home, is there someone we can call this to to, you know, I think of our friends down the block, right? That, Hey, can I call them up and say, Hey, can you take the sibs? You know, we really just need to have a have a moment to kind of debrief this behavior has been a little extra time with the adopted child. So to have a plan to practice that plan to make life as predictable as we can. But we also just need to let them know that that's a possibility, and why that might happen for this child.
Michelle, another thing that comes up periodically, is we may have different expectations and different rules and discipline in a different way for the new child coming in. And that can be perceived as favoritism, it can also be perceived by them speaking of it from the children already in the family favoritism or unfair, or you're letting him get away with murder, you never let me do that. Things such as that, is there something we can do in advance? And then is there something we can do once we're once that the situation has already arisen?
Right, I do think it's really important to talk about as much as you can in advance, preparing your child for the fact that, first of all, they may have these behaviors. And second of all, this is how we may have to address them, and say, You know what, it may not seem fair to you, and I can understand that. But you guys are super different, your needs are different. But also what's different is sometimes maybe if you were, you know, breaking a rule or misbehaving, you know, you might have a consequence, but have a child who comes from trauma might be misbehaving or breaking the rule, we have to try to figure out, what is that behavior telling us? What are they trying to tell us, right? And so teaching your child the concept of, you know, the tantrum, the screaming, the falling out the disrespect, what what is behind that for that particular child, and helping them see that their life experiences, the way they were raised? Perhaps their tremendous losses, contribute to these behaviors, and therefore, we have to react differently, you know? And so we're sorry, if it seems unfair, keep talking to me about the fact that it seems unfair. But I'm also going to keep talking to you about why it's different.
Because like that, you keep talking and civili. That's right. And my kids would respond to Oh, Mom, we know.
Right? Right. You know, I think our kids, kids, or just in general, really do understand this concept of fairness. They really do. It's kind of instinctual, that kids just kind of know this idea of fairness. And so, you know, I encourage our families to really break that down for our kids and start talking about the difference between what is fair and what is equal. Right, that that what is fair is not always equal. Right? What is fair is we will meet each one of your needs, every time to the best of our ability. That's fair, but it may not look equal, right? It's just kind of discussing those concepts, I think has been helpful for families and kids, particularly because they understand fairness. Yeah. Yeah. And doing that in advance is helpful to McKay. Excellent.
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So Adam, how much voice should children in the family have on whether to adopt? Yeah, yeah. I think their voices everyone in the family, their voice needs to be heard. Right. It's just as with anything, not only
option. But any decision a family makes, I think it needs to be in the best interest of the family as a whole, but then also each individual in the family. And so again, I think we've talked a lot already today about talking with your children really having these open, honest communication with our children about all of these kinds of adoption related issues. And so yes, we want to have these discussions, we want to be asking, you know, how is it going to feel for another child to be in our home? For us to adopt? Once again, how do you think you will feel about that? What do you think you'll do about that, and so we need to have those conversations and allow them to be heard, right? I also think that our children, we also need to kind of help our children that are already in the home, kind of understand why it is on the parents heart to adopt
that these these children come from a place where we can provide a home for a child that doesn't have a home that we can provide permanence for a child that doesn't have permanence that our children may not understand kind of all these large concepts to break those things down, you know, and so, on one hand, yes, we want to hear our children's voice. But on the other hand, we also want to educate that voice to become more aligned with kind of the family's philosophy on, hey, we want to be a family that provides permanence for kids that don't have that. And so that's not an easy answer, that's every family's going to be different. Every child in your home is going to be different, and have different perspectives, some are going to be super thrilled, they're already on the bus before we were about adopting, and some may, you know, really be resistant to that. And so there's this give and take, right. But again, to also normalize that to, to some degree, that families often have differing opinions on lots of things that the family decides to do. So to draw on those experiences as well, it really kind of create that, again, open, honest communication, to try to get as close to the same page as we can. I will say, though, that if if there are, you know, we have to kind of take into account the best interests of our kids every time as well, not only the ones that are in the home, but also the ones who are adopting. And so out of these open and honest communication. If we find that, you know, maybe it's not in the best interest of that, then we need to take a hard look at that, and really open that up and talk about those things. But so overall, yes, we need to hear their voice, everyone's voice, but also kind of educate those voices as well to hopefully come to a mutual decision. Okay. Michelle, do you have any advice if you are disrupting birth order, when you were adopting? And specifically how to prepare? Since we're talking about how to prepare children are in the family? How do we prepare them when they will no longer have their birth order? Be at the oldest be at the youngest? Whatever?
Yes, well, you certainly have to, I would say in your sort of pre placement home, study, educating yourself about adoption, you know, getting prepared to do this. First, prepare yourself for thinking about the types of children that you're hoping to be presented for, right. And think about in terms of why you might disrupt birth order, you know, start that conversation, I think any agency who is working with a family really needs to initiate those conversations, and certainly give the family the opportunity to think about it, and understand what kind of feelings the other children might have. And so once you do that, feel responsible for really educating yourself on that, if you decide to disrupt birth order, you have to really acknowledge it for the child who's being disrupted, and just ensure that they still have an important role in the family. You know, you have to hear from them, I would, I would think, of how it might feel to be disruptive, of how to no longer perhaps feel like the oldest or the leader. Know, what other ways can you lead, you know, or no longer be the baby, but you will always be my baby, you know, and so making sure that their voices heard very similar to what Adam was saying, you know, about kids who have concerns about adding children through adoption, they have to have that voice and, you know, you can't make assumptions that they're just going to be okay with having their birth order disrupted. That to hear their their concerns, their questions, their fears, you know, they may not even recognize it's being disruptive until it happens. So, it really starts with an agency where of the families work
With to adopt to begin to initiate those kind of concepts and conversations. Yeah. And creating a family has a course on disrupting birth order through adoption. And we talk about a lot of these issues, and as well as some specific suggestions for families who are considering it, suggestions that make it easier on the children in the family and some specific things to think about in advance. All right, Adam, well, this is not exactly it doesn't necessarily mean that you're disrupting birth order. But it does happen that we end up where we're adopting a child who will end up being in the same grade at school as one of the children already in the family. And that can be hard for for both kids, quite frankly, and for the parents. So what are some of the things that parents should think about? and things that they can do to make it easier on the child already in the family? Sure. Yeah, you know, I think, again,
the theme of the day, really, really talk to each one of those kids, right? that are in that same grade and get a sense of, cuz everyone's a little bit different. And you may be, you may find out that both are really excited, and they can't wait. Right? Or you may find that you know, what, this, the last thing I want is to be in the same grade as my my new set. But to really get their perspective and to kind of talk through those things and get a sense of, are they anticipating that, you know, it? Has that going to make them feel? Do they want that? Do they not want that? You know, and then I think to kind of mitigate, I think some of the things that I think we can do is really advocate for our kids, with our schools as well, right? That if we do have a situation where it's gonna be uncomfortable for both kids to be in the same grade, you know, talk to the school about that, have them use them as a support to kind of help, maybe that means they're in different, they have different teachers, right, or different schedule if they're in high school, but it can still be in the same grade. You know, I think, really, you know, some Sometimes kids kind of, are worried about kind of losing their uniqueness or their individuality. And so to talk about that with our kids and our school, and then maybe one is involved in and in bands, and the others involved in sports, find ways even within the same grade to be doing different things, when that makes sense. So really rely on kind of getting a sense from your kids, what that's going to feel like, find those areas that they're excited about, maybe not so excited about, and then talk with our school, find ways to kind of make adjustments where we can just allow folks to be as comfortable as they can be at school. Okay, excellent. And I'll throw out a particular one of my favorites, if only by title alone. Books is Emma's yucky brother. And it's a great book for talking about adopting a child past infancy. And whereas expectations, don't always, the reality doesn't always meet the expectations. And it's a great book, too. It's for younger kids, but it's a great book to read in advance. Michelle, or Adam author would open to either of you do you have any additional resources other than what we've talked about is again, we've got books called perhaps a list preparing kids for the adoption of a sibling, we have a lot of books on that. Anything else, either of you can think of for resources to help with adopting an older to help prepare in kitchen, your family when you're adopting an older child, who's not already living with you as a foster child. You know, I think of just general once again, adoption books, you know, these concepts in even an older child can read a young child's book, right? I think there's nothing wrong with that. And so, you know, there's one called how I became a big brother, and so that specifically for a child, but you know, what I would do is just ensure that you're, once again, incorporating that general concept of adoption, and keeping the keeping that dialog open for your kids.
Yeah, there's a number of why a books not a huge number. Well, maybe not quite ya, but but books for that are on our list. books that are for kids up to tweens. I don't really know that many teens that are just great, great books. And the other one I will throw out is this is intended for adoptive kids. But I think it is helpful for other kids kids already in the family to read that's the wise up power book. And that can that spans a large area for younger children. You'd have to read it to them, of course, but so that's another book I would throw out any other resources before we move on. Yeah, I would say we're an agency that one of the things that
informs our our philosophy is tbri or trust based relational intervention comes out of TCU. And their faith based kind of partner is a is a agency called empowered to connect. And they have a website, just a power to connect.org that I really send a lot of our parents to, but but kids I think could benefit from some of the they have a pretty large video library. And they're just very short little videos on a lot of different topics, but they do tackle some of these kind of sibling issues and adoption. I have pointed several of my families to that website as well. So that I think that's a good resource is out of our out of our kind of tbri relationship. I said, I recently became came across a website called suddenly siblings, and that this is their bread and butter. Right, talking about kind of adoption relations issues where now we're suddenly siblings. They have a lot of resources there as well. They absolutely do. I'm glad you suggested that we, for those people connected with creating a family know that tbri was the brainchild of and research resulting from the research of Dr. Karen Purvis. She has been had had been on the show a number of times, she her interviews are a number of our courses. She was a great friend of creating a family is a great loss we when she when she died quite a few years ago. And certainly siblings we also have they have created with dinner and of course with us as well. So you can look up Yeah, so you could look both of them up on our website and empowered to connect is terrific. And we can and all of the things that we're settling siblings we have connected they also have a new workbook that is available for families to work through.
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All right, now, let us talk about a adopting an older child who is your foster child. And this is often a way that had happened you are fostering a child reunification may have been in the plans that is not going to work out. So the foster family is going to adopt the child but this involves a a roll change that the child is shifting from a foster sibling to an adoptive sibling. And of course, the US parents are shifting from foster parents to adoptive parents, Michelle thoughts on preparing, I think we don't think that we should have to prepare because they've already in our home, we all know each other, they have a sibling relationship. But if there's something in changing from a foster sibling to an adopted sibling, or I think for the children who are already in the home, you know, you start fostering children, you start sharing this concept that kids are going to come and they're going to live with us and we're going to love them, and they're going to be part of us. And they may not stay forever, right? You know, when you embark on this journey of fostering and adoption, you really have to introduce the idea that we may get hurt through this process, you know, introduce that to your children. And so, you know, they're kind of prepared for that. So you're right, once it does appear to be transitioning to adoption, you have to almost recognize that that's where you guys started, and you got your hearts ready to possibly be a little broken. But in this particular case, we do get to start talking about becoming a permanent family. And I think what happens is just over time, as children are in the home, they do become a part of your family, right foster children do. And so sometimes that kind of transition into an adoptive child isn't as difficult for the kids already in the home, because they already started to feel like their brother, right? Even though we might have prepare them in the beginning to say hey, they might not get get to stay, you know, their kids and they formed these relationships. And so it may feel like a natural transition to them. But we do have to then talk about the idea that
Now they're going to move into adoption. There's grief and loss for that child associated with the fact that they're becoming adoptive, because it means they can't return to their birth family. And so, you know, you have to address that with the children in the home already, as well as with the child who's being adopted. What does this change mean for that child? Is that does that feel like a really positive great thing that they're excited about? Or is there some apprehension about it either on the adopted child's you know, as far as their thoughts and feelings or for the child that's already in the home? You know, is there some apprehension, so really kind of discussing why the child's sort of role in the family is changing, and ensuring that everybody's able to kind of ask their questions and share their thoughts and opinions about it? Mm hmm. Yeah. Good suggestions. Adam, is there a transition period that is expected? Again, the child is living in the home? Should we go into this thinking that there will be a transition period for all the children? Absolutely, you know, I think of just even the practical nature of, you know, we talk about kind of the relational nature of these role changes, and brief And last, but even just in the practical real life kind of transitions and changes of, you know, the while this child was in foster care, they had all sorts of caseworkers, and they had, you know, all these professionals, and, you know, court and kind of a legal process to manage in. And we're having to do visits, family visits, and doctor's visits, sound, with deadlines, and all of these kind of practical matters, and foster care,
for some, in some ways, either go away completely, or at least lessened in this and once you kind of make that switch to adoption. And so just even in the practical matters of just the way you manage your household and the things that your family's involved in, just kind of naturally changes and takes a period of transition to kind of recalibrate, right, what life looks like. So yes, you can expect to transition period, just to the practical things, but also just in kind of getting used to the to the new role changes, it takes time, it really does to kind of get a sense of my role was this. And now it's this. So to be able to talk to our kids about about those things. And there's some great things about that. And there's some things that maybe it's struggled to that, you know, one of the things we we kind of encourage our families and so the kids experienced this, too, is, in some ways, I think families, not that it is a finish line, but there is at least a sense of relief or change, when it does switch from foster care to adoption. And so we encourage our families to kind of take some time to breathe a little bit. To get a sense of what is the new normal for us now, it's all different. We're all got different roles, what is that new normal? What does the new normal look like? And to be able to talk to our kids that are in the home about that, that, hey, some things are going to change, and there's going to be this transition period. So absolutely. Even even though the child has been in your home for six, six months, a year, that there is there is a transition period. So to be aware of that to talk about that and help our kids that are in the home to be able to adjust well to that, I think Yeah, exactly. Well said. All right. Well, thank you so much, Michelle, and Adam, for speaking with us today on preparing kids already in the home for an adoption. And that is Michelle folker. And Adam Crawford, for being here today to talk to us about it in both are with the Presbyterian children's homes and services. Thanks so much, and for our audience. Thanks for joining us today and we'll see you next week.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai