Saturday, April 8, 2017

Post-Adopt Challenges

(A continuation from my last post)

Sometimes when you have so much on your mind that you realize you are already at 900+ words, you start a new post as a continuation and the introductory paragraph is the concluding paragraph from your last post:

Dealing with birth parent visits, court hearings, home visits by caseworkers, and extra paperwork at medical and dental appointments are issues that I don’t have to worry about anymore since we adopted our two youngest children from foster care.  But that does not mean that the “work” is done or that the hard parts are completely over.  Rather, I have found that there is a continuation of work and dedication in meeting the needs and issues that my children and I will face.  

We adopted our two youngest children from foster care two years ago- after they had been living in our home as our foster children for over a year and a half.  In the past two years I have discovered at least two major areas of “work” that continue on their behalf and one area of “work” that I have acknowledged in myself:
  •     Their relationship, identity, and contact with their Birth parents
  •    Seeking Post-Adoption Support and services for new diagnoses
  •   Grieving Over/Processing my own Losses regarding their histories.

My Children’s relationship, identity to, and contact with Their Birth parents

Hypothetically speaking, even if a child was adopted at birth and the adoption is closed does that mean that the child will never have questions about or a longing for their birth parents?

Even if a child is “too young” to understand, adoption does that mean that their adoptive parents should not share information with the child about their birth parents and how they joined their family?

I suppose these two questions are rhetorical as well, because in my humble opinion, children deserve to know about their history- from the very beginning- even if there are some not-so-happy elements about it.  With this in mind, I am still learning to navigate exactly how much to share with our youngest two children about their first family and their birth parent's histories.  It’s a little easier to share our oldest daughter’s history with her as her birth mother chose us from the very beginning to be her parents.

In the case of foster adoption, birth families have no choice of who ends up adopting their children (if relatives are not an available option).  In addition, continued contact with birth family is not always in the best interest of the children for safety reasons- hence the reason for removing the child from their first family in the first place.  Such a heartbreaking situation on many levels.

In the case of our youngest children it’s also complicated when one birth parent has chosen to no longer be in their lives and the other birth parent would like a relationship with them but is not always accessible.  On my part I can always send pictures and hope that they are received even if I don't get a response back.

Seeking post-adoption support and services for new diagnoses

I could probably write two or three posts alone on this particular subject.  Instead, let me just pass on a few observations about post-adoption support, particularly in cases of foster adoption:

1) If you have adopted from foster care, you should have a post-adopt worker assigned to you.  If you don’t know who that is, contact the state or agency you went through!  Although I have only spoken with our post-adoption worker once over the phone, I was very impressed with her willingness to help me find the resources I needed.

2) In addition to your post-adoption worker, other foster parents who have adopted are often the best source of support.  Case in point: I had a question/concern about the best ways to get one of my children settled down for sleep at night and to sleep through the night.  Sleep issues are not uncommon for foster parents to deal with but this particular issue was slightly different than other cases I have dealt with (again- I may explore this issue in another post).  I posed a question to a private, online forum of foster parents and I not only got some great advice within a matter of minutes from parents of children with similar backgrounds/diagnoses to my child’s but I felt so VALIDATED in my frustrations about dealing with this particular issue.

 Children are placed into foster care because of abuse and neglect.  Many times this abuse/neglect or domestic violence is amplified by substance abuse problems.  Therefore,
3)  it is VITAL when caring for children in the foster care system to be prepared for issues in the child’s development specific to trauma and exposure to drugs.  I think it is also safe to say (although I can only think of one specific statistic- see graphic below- off the top of my head) that children in foster care are disproportionately at risk as compared to their counterparts not in foster care for mental health diagnoses such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, ADD, ADHD- and even ODD, RAD, or Sensory Processing Disorder.

     Now here’s the thing about dealing with diagnoses or issues specific to children in foster care: In pre-service training our trainer did a good job of teaching us what kind of behaviors or issues we might expect in the children who came through our home.  However, it’s kind of like when you get a placement or even AFTER an adoption has been finalized, you find yourself dealing with an issue or behavior and you realize, “Okay, they told us this might happen, but what exactly do we do about it now?   What services are available for this child and where can I learn more about how to effectively parent in this situation?”   This is where post-adoption support and reaching out to other foster-adoptive families can be so beneficial!  

For general post-adoption support resources, click below:

To search for information from a particular state, click below:

Grieving/Processing My Own Losses Regarding my Children’s Histories

     I've focused this post on meeting the needs of my children and seeking out support, so I will save this last particular issue for a different post.

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