Wednesday, April 11, 2018

GIVEAWAY: Foster Care- One Dog's Story of Change

*To skip to the Giveaway Scroll to the Bottom*

How many fictional children's books do you know of that address the subject of children being in foster care?  There are not many out there, but I would like to introduce you to a wonderful newly published resource:

Foster Care One Dog's Story of Change was written by bestselling author Julia Cook who is not only an author but a counselor as well.  Julia's intent in writing Foster Care One Dog's Story of Change was to help children in foster care to know that they are not alone.  This is a needful objective considering that 273,539 children entered foster care in 2016 according to statistics released from the U.S. Children's Bureau.

Foster Care One Dog's Story of Change explores the ambivalent feelings of children in foster care, although technically the children are not humans but animals.  The illustrations for this book, courtesy Marcela Calderon, are darling!  Of course, I may be somewhat biased because I once had a pug and the main character of the book, a little dog named Foster, happens to be a pug.

One of the most touching parts of the books to me was when, after a caseworker removes one of the animal characters, Zeke, from his home to a safe house she introduces him to her "many friends", including a social worker, a counselor, an attorney, and a doctor who are all work together on the same team- "Team Zeke". 

Zeke describes his caseworker's explanation of "Team Zeke" this way: "She said they all wanted to help me bring my family together again."  I appreciated that description of foster care because it is truly a collaboration of professionals and volunteer foster parents and others who come together for the sake of a child.  Foster care, of course, is a complex process because although the goal is to keep families together, that is not always the outcome.

The strength of this book is that it is centered on the child in foster care and helps them to understand that whatever they are feeling throughout the process: anger, fear, guilt, or sadness- it's okay.  Furthermore, the characters in this book- children living in the same foster home headed by the loving yet fair Miss Beulah, are the greatest supports to each other.  

Foster Care One Dog's Story of Change is not only an excellent resource for children in foster care, but for other children to understand what it might be like to be in foster care.  My children who were adopted from foster care don't remember much about being in foster care since they were so young when they were placed with us but I will definitely read this book with the next child who is placed in our home.

I asked my 10 year old, who has never been in foster care but who has had many foster siblings over the years, to read this book and tell me what she thought about it.  At one point as she was reading she looked over to me with a look of concern on her face and pointed to the picture on the page she was reading and referring to one of the characters explained, "He's been there for two whole years . . . that's why he's crying."  

(Mind you, this particular child can not stand to be away from her parents for more than 2 or 3 days at a time so reading about being separated from family really affected her.)

When my daughter finished the book I asked her what she thought.  These were her words:

"It's good.  It tells you what foster care would be like- you can feel lots of different things." 

I followed up with the question, "How did it make you feel?" and her answers included,

"I felt sad for them being away from their parents. I felt like if I were to go into foster care I would know what it feels like." 

Foster Care One Dog's Story of Change reassures children in foster care, helps to build awareness and sympathy in children not in foster care, and also includes some helpful tips for foster parents and educators on the last couple of pages.  Some of the most effective, in my opinion, are Co-Parenting Matters, Teamwork Matters, and Reassurance Matters.

For more information about the book:

I am eager to spread the word about this book and will be giving away two free copies of Foster Care One Dogs Story courtesy of National Center for Youth Issues to two lucky people.

Giveaway starts 4/12/18 and ends 4/19/18

There are two ways you can enter this giveaway through Rafflecopter:

1) Leave a comment on this blog post telling me where you're from.

2) Visit Adoption & Foster Care: My Personal Experience's Facebook Page and tag someone in the comments who would be interested in this book.

That's it!  Two possible entries available and the winner will be randomly selected by Rafflecopter and announced on 4/19/18.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Helping Others Understand Adoption

I have a friend named Judy.  Judy is both an adoptive mom and an LCSW and I don't think she's even aware of this, but I've heard her say two things regarding adoption that have always stuck with me.  I'd like to pass them on in case they're helpful to anybody else. 

The first example:

Judy recounted how she heard someone once tell her "But I just don't understand how you can love a child if they're not biologically related to you?"

Judy's calm but oh-so-wise response to the woman who expressed this concern was:

Judy:  Do you share your husband's genes?

Woman: (Somewhat puzzled) Of course not!

Judy:  But do you love your husband?

Woman:  Well, of course!

Judy:  But you don't share any genes with him- how can you love him?

Woman:  Oh . . .

That simple explanation was enough for this woman to "get it" and understand something she didn't quite relate to previously.

The second example is not something that Judy actually said but that one of her adopted daughters has told people in response to the question:

"How long have you known you were adopted?"

Her daughter's similarly rhetorical reply is "How long have you known you were a boy or a girl?"  In other words, when something is never questioned or hidden but just explained as an obvious fact, then there is no sudden "A-ha" moment of realization because it's as natural as having a belly button- you don't question how it got there- it's just always been there.

I share those examples in the hopes that they might be helpful in explaining adoption to others or in reassuring any prospective adoptive parents out there that if you share with your child that they were adopted from the very beginning, it just becomes a part of who they are, which can be beneficial in preventing less identity confusion or resentment from not knowing later on in life.

Social Work & The "This Is Us" Superbowl Episode

I admittedly only watched about five minutes of the Superbowl this year- but I was glued to my T.V. during the infamous This is Us Superbowl episode and gave strict instructions to any who were within the sound of my voice that there would be NO INTERRUPTIONS while I watched.  It was an  intense episode, to say the least.

One of my first reactions upon seeing Rebecca receive the news of Jack's death in the hospital was:  "Where's the hospital social worker?  Someone get her a hospital social worker to talk to- STAT!" (Beginning next fall I will be getting my practicum hours in a hospital setting- so, there's my plug for medical social work.)

My absolute favorite scene and new development was when Randall was talking to a distraught Tess.  He asked her how she felt about fostering and the way the writers presented things I thought for sure the Pearsons would be getting the little boy shown at the beginning of the episode as a  new foster placement (and I believe there was a hint of him in a previous episode as well).  But they didn't because, come to find out, Deja was back and TESS was the little boy's social worker in the future.  She ends up working with foster children- how cool is that?! 

The fact that they showed Randall as an old man made me wonder, "Will there be a This Is Us spin-off in the future- for the next generation- or will it continue to have multiple seasons?"

Here's the clip which warmed my heart:

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


Tomorrow our licensor is coming to do a walk-through inspection of our home as we have decided to renew our foster care license for another year.  It's funny because when we first started fostering we would cross our fingers to get placements where there was a high likelihood of us adopting them, but now, twelve years later, and with three permanent children to call our own in our home, our preferences have changed.  I think this is the first year where we've told our licensor and RFC that we are interested in fostering but not necessarily adopting.

The first obvious consideration in deciding whether to open up our home to more foster children or not is physical space.  Our family is growing and kids take up space-especially as they grow!  We currently have room for two more children in our home & cars but we're starting to feel a little cramped.

Another important consideration in taking a placement is what ages would work with the kids in your home.  At this point in time my husband and I both feel more comfortable with not disrupting the birth order of our children.  Because of that, we prefer children no younger than our youngest and no older than our oldest.  I miss caring for babies and toddlers even though they are a LOT of physical work.  However, one advantage of fostering babies and younger children is that cribs and toddler beds take up a lot less space in rooms than "big boy" or "big girl" regular beds.  I think I might actually cry when we get rid of the last spare toddler bed in our home. 

I have also recently learned that beginning next fall I will be working twice a week to get hours for my LCSW license.  This has necessitated arranging day care for our two youngest children when I'm not at home- something I've never had to do before as I've been able to stay at home during the day.

Because of this new development, I think it would be best to take foster children who are at least in 1st grade. Although it's not impossible to be a foster parent who works full-time I think it would be difficult to do so, especially with younger children, because foster parents have to foot the bill for their day care (at least in my state).  Besides that, the time needed to take kids to weekly visits with their bio family and court hearings and lots and lots of doctors appointments or other appointments if they have special needs or need therapy or early interventions.- can really add up. 

Case in point: I was going through some old papers and forms of Jack and Jill's (my two youngest children who were adopted from foster care after being in our home for over a year) and I calculated that in between the both of them I took them to 26 medical appointments- including early intervention/speech therapy- during the 16 months that they were in our care before being adopted- including at least one trip to the E.R. and a hospital stay at a children's hospital.  Those appointments did not include weekly visits with their birth family, team meetings, or court hearings.  It would be very difficult to arrange time off of one's work to attend all those appointments, visits, and meetings.  I was able to do it because I was a stay at home mom at the time.

Honestly, as I've remembered how time consuming weekly visits and regular check-ups are for children in foster care I start to get a little discouraged about taking any more placements.  Isn't our family busy enough with appointments of our own?!  

I know that for a lot of people the biggest fear they have about fostering is reunification and while that can be a very painful process, lately I've found myself having much more pragmatic concerns.  As we've debated whether or not to continue fostering I have found myself worrying more about the sheer physical time and energy it takes to transport a child to appointments and visits and court hearings.  We've already dealt with the pain of saying goodbye to foster placements before- some cases are much harder than others- but at this point any reluctance I have to taking any more foster children in our home is simply the devotion (time, energy, and love)  it takes to be a foster parent and to advocate for a child.

We got a call earlier this month about a little boy the same age as our little boy who needed to be placed.  The story of how he came into care is one that left me shaking my head and thinking, "Its just not fair what some kids have to deal with in life."  After getting more info on his case and realizing that his placement might be more of a temporary than permanent situation as kin were in the process of being tracked down, my children and I were allowed to visit this little boy at the temporary shelter he was staying at for the purpose of seeing if he would be a good fit with our kids and into our family.

Unfortunately, it became very evident at the visit that this little boy was overwhelmed and resistant to "coming home" with our family.  [Even though the transitional worker made it very clear to him that we weren't there to "take" him but just wanted to come and hang out for a bit].  Perhaps if I were by myself without my kids this little boy would have felt more comfortable- or maybe not.  Whatever his reasons, this innocent little child had already been passed around and suffered too much disruption since initially being placed into foster care a few short weeks ago.  Although we were willing to take him into our home, the team of case workers and other staff felt it would be best, given his response to meeting us, if he could go to a home where he could receive more individualized attention (perhaps less children in the home) as well as a home which would be open to adopting him in the case that a placement with kin didn't work out.

I hope that little boy gets placed in a home where he can get the care he so badly needs.  In the meantime, it inspired me to be a little more nurturing and attentive to my own children.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Open Adoption as a Protective Factor for Adoptees

Another excerpt from an assignment last semester which applies to adoption: 
Competency #2- Critically evaluate the current research evidence on how adoptive families fare.
Statistics show (DeAngelis, 1995a)- p. 284, Ashford text, that about 25% of adoptive children, compared with 15% of non-adoptive children, require clinical intervention for severe behavioral problems.  However, an adoption researcher from Rutgers University who has been studying adoption for more than 20 years reported that 75-80% of adopted children are within the “normal” psychological range.
Researchers at the Search Institute in Minneapolis conducted a study of 181 adopted adolescents and found that “most of the teens were functioning within the normal mental health range” and the teens described themselves as attached to their parents.  It was also found that in the case of open adoptions, adopted children who maintained contact with their birth mothers weren’t confused about their parents’ identity- they still view their adoptive mother as their mother and view their birth mother more as more of an aunt or friend.

How does understanding this competency apply to my own personal development?

 I have three children and all of them are adopted so I was very interested in this research.  I readily admit that I am totally guilty of over-analyzing my children’s mental health [particularly their neurocognitive development as a result of their in utero development] and to a lesser degree, their physical health, and wondering, “How much of this is due to genetics and how much is due to their environment?”  I’ve come to the conclusion that I have to stop speculating about the “why’s” but focus my energy on seeking the earliest possible professional interventions, if necessary,  and advocating for any special needs they might have.
How does understanding this competency apply to social work practice in general?
Adopted children are most often referred to for clinical treatment for acting out & aggression at about 5-7 years of age because this is an age where they are beginning to understand that they’ve lost their birth family.  It’s imperative for social workers to understand that no matter how awesome an adopted child’s adoptive family is, adoptees will have to sort through issues of grief and loss.  David Brodkinsky, the adoption researcher from Rutgers I mentioned earlier, found that the coping styles of adoptive families affected the experiences of their adopted children: those whose families engaged in an assistance-seeking style of coping did much better than those with an avoidant style of coping.  This knowledge is very helpful so that social workers can aid in helping adoptive families model affective ways to process grief and loss.