Thursday, February 24, 2011

Session Three...Understanding Hurt Children

So each session, we become more and more aware that this program is really geared toward foster families. But, regardless, the information about the children is still very relevant and we are learning A LOT!

Tonight, we met a panel of young adults that were in foster care as children who spoke about their experiences in the system. It was very insightful to hear their perspective and to be able to ask them questions. The biggest points we gained were:
  • Communicate with the children and Listen...really listen to them. They've likely not been in a family where someone really cares about who they are and what their interests are.
  • Look for things you have in common with them to help them feel more comfortable and like they fit in
  • Let the child know that its ok to talk openly about their past and their birth family, as well as what is not ok to talk about.
All in all, listening to these young adults speak made us feel blessed to be from such wonderful families. I can't imagine a life of an unloving, uncaring home, or abusive home environment and having to experience the bouncing around from foster home to foster home and moving in with complete strangers and being expected to just adjust. It must be so difficult for these children.

And to think that there are people out there who are fostering just for a paycheck. It's very sad for these children who need someone to just love them, listen to them, and care about them. And the stories I've heard about foster homes that are probably not much better than the homes these children came from. How do those people get approved??? If only there were more families like the ones we grew up in who were willing to foster or adopt these children. I heard a statistic the other day that if every Christian in the world were to adopt just one child, every child would have a home and there would be extra Christians left over. Just think of the impact that could have!

Ok, so I will get back on track now. The rest of the session was just spent educating us on neglect and abuse and how to parent a child who has a history of that kind of trauma. Lots to think about. Definitely no spanking allowed!

On another side note...we did find out some more about adopting and staying in contact with the birth family. The two social workers who ran the session tonight have actually adopted from foster care and it turns out that they don't have contact with the birth families...for various reasons. It really depends on the birth parents and how willing and accepting they are of the adoption. and whether or not the relationship would be appropriate depending on the situation. We also learned that there are different meanings of "open adoptions." For a lot of cases, it's simply sending pictures of the child, artwork from the child, cards, etc. via the social worker, and vice versa...not necessarily visiting with the parents on a regular basis.  Also, the birth parents are not given any identifying information about the adoptive family and whether or not that is disclosed to them is up to us. That was comforting.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Session One....and Two

Well they decided to cram two session into one tonight so that we can finish on time. I guess that's good that we won't have an extra week, but still...a lot of information to take in and ponder in only three hours. I attended alone tonight since Todd is in Tupelo at furniture market. We are doing the make up session on Tuesday.

Down to only us and one other couple...the other one didn't show! Don't know if they will be back or not. Found out tonight that usually these trainings have about 10 couples in attendance. Good thing is that classes will not take as long since there are a lot of group activities they usually do. Bad thing is that we won't get the benefit of the interactions with other couples and seeing others' perspectives during the discussion questions.

Got our notebook tonight with all of the training materials in it...and homework assignments. Its about two inches thick. We each have to complete a homework assignment after each session which involves answering questions--self reflection-type questions that go along with what we talked about. These will become a part of our home study file.

The main goal of the first session was for us to gain an understanding of the children from the system. We listened to a speaker (on video) who was in the foster system from the age of 4 with his little brother. They were bounced around from foster home to failed adoptive home, back to foster home, to group home, to another failed adoptive home. He ran away to live with his father at 16, where he was exposed to drug dealing and murder and went back to his social worker after realizing he didn't want that kind of life where he was placed back into a group home.  He was never adopted, but managed to get his grades up, graduate from high school, and go to college. He's now a social worker, himself and has adopted four boys, in addition to his three birth daughters. His story was amazing! But the reality of his childhood was eye opening. His thoughts on being adopted:
    "Wanted to be adopted so badly"
    "My last name will be the same as theirs" (when found out they were being adopted the first time, after     
      7 years living with a different foster family.)
    "feelings of rejection, scared, lonely" (because his foster family "didn't want to" adopt him)
    "we have to be on our best behavior so they will want us"
    "before I let myself be rejected again, I was going to do the rejecting"  (second adoption attempt)

The last one really made me think. He wanted so badly to have a permanent home, but because of distrust and feelings of rejection, he sabotaged the situation.

The biggest things I took away from this session were:
  • Don't expect warm & fuzzy feelings right away
  • They will have difficulty trusting you
  • Expect to be rejected--many have a "reject them before they reject me" attitude
  • Be prepared to delay parental gratification
  • Know the challenges you may face and take advantage of the resources to help you deal with them
Session two focused on the "three parental roles" (birth parent, caregiving parent, and legal parent) and how everyone should work together in the interest of the child.  The "legal parent" is relevant when the child is in foster care. This is the court, DCS, and/or social workers.When you have officially adopted a child, you become the caregiving and the legal parent.

Thought-provoking points:
  • Again the importance of the role of the birth parent in the child's life.
  • Always be respectful of the child's birth parent and find positive things to say about them when talking to the child
  • The birth parent can help answer a lot of questions the child may have, such as "why am I in this situation?"
  • Let the child look at and display pictures of his/her birth family
  • Understand the child's cultural background and attempt to incorporate the culture into his/her life with you
  • Share the child's artwork, etc. with the birth parents.
Another focus of session two was on "characteristics of successful resource families." We watched a video of foster, adoptive, and kinship parents who shared their perspective and experiences. They are:
  1. Tolerance for ambivalence and negative feelings
  2. entitlement
  3. advocating and assertive qualities
  4. flexible expectations
  5. tolerance for rejection
  6. sense of humor
  7. ability to meet personal needs
  8. ability to use resources
  9. flexible family roles
  10. spirituality
  11. ability to delay parental gratification
I think that Todd and I possess a lot of these characteristics. There are definitely a couple that I will need to work on!

I will go through these training sessions again with Todd on Tuesday. Maybe Todd can blog his perspective and thoughts then.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Snow Day

Well, our first session was canceled due to the snow. Next week will be our first session and I will be attending alone! :( Furniture market calls! Todd will have to make up the class...I, of course, will go with him to that class, too. He will miss again for the High Point furniture market in a few weeks, too. Bad thing is, we can only miss two sessions (even if they're made up, which they have to be). If we miss more, we have to start all over and wait until the next training sessions begin. So pray that nothing happens that makes us miss a third session. Stay tuned...

Friday, February 4, 2011


So we went to orientation last night. A little bummed that there were only two other couples there and they are wanting to be foster families, not adopt. I had heard from another family that has adopted that the group you go through classes with becomes your "extended family" and kind of a support group. I guess were expecting to see more people there that would be adopting.

Other than that, the class was good. It was basically just...well orientation...a lot of facts. They talked about the process and all of the steps that we would have to go through, the children that come through AGAPE (that's the agency we're going through), and how the foster system in general works...oh...and they gave us a nice folder full of paperwork that we will have to complete throughout the process and it only took like an hour for them to go over all of it...At least we have like eleven weeks to complete everything, right?

The class did get us thinking from another perspective. They talked about the children a bit and how what we are doing is a ministry...a ministry to children. They said that part of that ministry is to support the birth family of the child...that these children still love their birth parents despite the abuse or neglect they've experienced, and vise versa. The ultimate goal is to get the children back to their birth families, so foster parents should provide the birth family with support and help and share their faith with them. Same goes for adoptive parents...we should be open to supporting the child's birth family (only when the situation allows, of course) because these children will be missing a part of themselves when they are removed from their home and they experience a significant loss. By keeping the communication open with the birth family, the child experiences many benefits. We never would have thought about it that way before.

Todd says that we are about to enter into a whole other world. One of the checklists in the folder was on home safety and things they will be looking for when they do the home visit. Things like the hot water heater temperature setting and having fire extinguishers on every floor and keeping all medications including over the counter ones in a locked cabinet...not just out of reach, but locked. Who would have thought of that??

So anyway, we have a lot to learn, yet. Until next week...

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Seven Step Journey

So, we've been doing some reading in preparation for tomorrow night's orientation class. We found this great "pocket guide" to download and print on the adoptUSkids website with a nice little checklist of the steps to the adoption process, along with some other great information. But, you know how much Tara loves a checklist, so here it is:
  1. First Contact
  2. Initial Orientation
  3. Pre-Service Training
  4. Application Process
  5. Mutual Assessment and Home study
  6. Licensing and/or Approval
  7. Placement
It was great to see that we can already check off step one and will be able to check off step two after tomorrow night! 

Just coming up with some questions, now, to ask at tomorrow night's orientation session. The obvious ones, of course, are:
  • How long will it be before having a child placed with us?
  • What are the costs and fees?
  • What kind of contact, if any, will the birth family and/or the foster family be allowed to have with the child?
Any questions that you want to know?