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Dear Abby, We Need to Talk about Gotcha

Wednesday, March 8, 2017 @ 02:03 PM
Author: admin

Gotcha-Dear-Abby

For adoptive parents, the arrival of their children is a miracle beyond conception and an event which they love to celebrate. In a recent letter, Dear Abby extolled the virtues of “Gotcha Day” as a wonderful way to celebrate an important and life transforming event. As Adoption-attuned parents, we understand that adoption is a beautiful way of forming a family. But, the Both/And reality of adoption means it has its roots in loss and grief for each member of the adoption triad. Thus, as an adoption professional and an adoptive parent, I’d like to offer three reasons to rethink “Gotcha Day” and to provide some alternatives. Please click this link to read my complete essay which appeared on Lori Holden’s blog Lavenderluz.com author of The Open-hearted Way to Open Adoption.

For me, Gotcha Day feels a bit like a hair shirt. It’s intended to generate warmth but it itches like crazy and somehow doesn’t accomplish the job.

Gotcha-Dear-Abby-The Open-hearted Way to Open Adoption,

 

 

Trust, Attachment and Family Links

Wednesday, August 10, 2016 @ 03:08 PM
Author: admin

Family building via adoption requires effort, commitment, education, intentionality and a willingness to take a risk–by both parent and child. Each must muster the courage to open emotionally and be vulnerable to the other. When we dare to love, we also understand that the risk of being hurt exists. We accept that risk because we believe  the opportunity to love and be in relationship far outweighs any emotional pain.

When we adopt children who have spent years in orphanages, we realize that the risks and challenges increase. The strategies on which children in orphanages depend for survival, don’t magically fall away once these children are adopted. Experience taught them that relying on others is dangerous, that the only one on whom it is safe to depend is themselves, that caring about or for others only leads to heartbreak. This “successful” skill set kept them safe under adverse experiences. They believe in their methods. They have real-life data to prove the value of this self-isolating approach.

Seen in this light, it is no surprise that it takes tremendous courage, effort and a great deal of time before a child dares to risk trust and attachment. Often described as RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder; it is also known as Reactive Attachment Syndrome.) I would argue it is less a “disorder” and more a strategy that has outlived its effectiveness. Their strategy becomes counter-productive and causes kids to deny themselves the love and security they crave and which adoptive parents are eager to share with them. While it is not easy to break through the prison of RAD, it is possible. Michele Weidenbenner has written a fictionalized story which begins in a Russian orphanage. Convinced by her experiences, Oksana believes that trust as an unafforable luxury. “Scattered Links”chronicles her family’s triumph over RAD. Read my detailed book review here. Her story offers hope to those coping with attachment challenges.

When we interviewed Michele for this post we focused on this book but she has written many others as well.

  1. Scattered Links.Weidenbenner.51EFfra9u4L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_What was your primary purpose for writing Scattered Links?

I wanted to show the frustration that a parent might have who wants to bond with a child who can’t trust, who struggles with knowing how to love someone. I also wanted to show the child’s side of the story, so adopted parents and foster parents would see a different perspective, so parents might better understand why a child who’s suffered a difficult beginning might not be capable of loving or trusting someone. 

  1. How has this book been received by readers in general and by those touched by adoption?

Here is how one reader summed it up, which thrilled me:

“A thoughtful story about the complexities of the well-intentioned who set out to “rescue” orphans from horrible conditions, and the attachment difficulties that arise from adopting a child who has lived a lifetime of abuse and/or neglect. The book was realistic. The characters were well developed and real. It would have been so easy to have written this as a “Hooray for the good Christian couple who rescues poor orphans from a horrible existence.” Instead the book looks honestly at the motivations of all involved, and calls into serious question the “happily ever after” ending that one assumes happens when older children are adopted. A serious but up-beat book. The ending is honest but hopeful without being overly cheesy.”

  1. What books did you read to prepare yourself for adoptive family life?

Before we adopted our daughter from Russia, we had been foster parents, too, so I read a lot of parenting books. However, it was the psychologist who did our home study who really pushed us to see that sometimes love is NOT enough.

I didn’t want to believe her though. I thought she was rude and a bit extreme, but she was trying to give us a more realistic viewpoint of what adopting a post-institutionalized child might be like. She didn’t sugar coat anything. I was naïve because I wanted to believe that she was wrong, that my child would bond with us because we would provide the right environment.

I had faith that God would give us the child He intended for us to raise, that He would help us through the ups and downs.

I didn’t adopt to ‘rescue’ a child, I knew it was going to be a challenge. I adopted a child because I never felt that our family was complete. I felt that I was being called to adopt, and that God had His own agenda. He was using me to facilitate His work. (We have two biological children, but I couldn’t conceive again.)

  1. If you could revise your book today, what might you change or add and why? 

Great questions. There are a few typos that I’d love to go in and fix, but it’s not that easy. I had hired at least three or four editors and an oops editor before this book was published, and yet there are still a few missing letters and typos. I despise that, but reformatting everything and reloading the book at all the sites is really complicated, expensive, and timely.

As far as changing the plot—I don’t think there is anything I would change. There comes a time when you write a novel that you need to say, “It’s finished.” The Doubt Devil will often squeeze into a writer’s thoughts that will make us think it’s not good enough. We have to constantly fight him.

Perhaps I would handle the “Gotcha Day” day part differently. We celebrate the day that our daughter “got” us and we “got” her, but after you mentioned how this could be perceived, I might arrange that part differently.

  1. How did your daughter feel about your writing this book?

I remember the day she texted me from school—she was a junior at the time—and she said how much she loved the book. She rarely read or asked me about my work, so I was thrilled.

I asked her your question today (she’s 20 years old now) and she shrugged. She said she couldn’t remember much about the book. She never thought the story was about her, and it wasn’t. Her story is different. However, I gave a character in the book her Russia name, Ruzina. She loved that.

  1. What obstacles in adoption have changed you the most?

Just like so many other families, we waited a long time for Olivia. We were paper ready to go to China (in 1997), but they closed their doors and said since we had two children they were not going to allow us to adopt from their country. I know, it doesn’t make sense, but they were making the rules. I was sad.

We were nervous about adopting a child from Russia because of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and all the horror stories we heard about families who adopted a child from Russia with this disorder.

The process was long and uncertain, but what I learned along the way was to have faith. My faith grew. Adoption made our family closer.

  1. At GIFT (Growing Intentional Families Together) we advocate for parents to commit to Adoption-attunement. If you had been educated on this approach prior to adopting, how might it have changed your family’s experience? 

I think I’ve always been hyper-focused on this. I didn’t know what it was called, but having a strong healthy relationship with our daughter mattered to me from the very first moment we met her, and it’s still a top priority.

At our first meeting with Olivia, I was looking for signs of attachment issues—did she look away when I made eye contact? Did she have sensory issues? Yes and yes.

She was 25 months old and weighed 16.5 pounds. (But today she’s only 4’11” and 100 pounds, so she’s a peanut.) She was developmentally delayed and walked with tight fists. She didn’t even know how to smile. But within days she learned to smile, grew stronger and met our gazes.

When we returned to America, we worked with an occupational therapist on sensory-integrated training, and enrolled her in First Steps—a program for children with developmental delays. She learned sign language and was given the opportunity to work through her. It didn’t take long before she began to grow and thrive. Watching this progression was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had—seeing through the eyes of a two-year-old “new born.” Everything was a new experience for her.

  1. What else would you like to share with our subscriber’s? 

Adoption is a huge commitment and a life-long endeavor. The responsibility is great, but so is the reward if you don’t expect your child to thank you. Your child might, but don’t expect it. Don’t adopt for that reason.

Post-institutionalized children are special needs children regardless of their situation. Each child suffered abandonment. We don’t know how a child will be affected by that, but it can dampen their self-esteem and make life difficult.

Adopt for the right reasons –not because you want to do a good deed. Do it because you are committed to helping that child become an independent adult who contributes to society.

Be open to getting outside help to strengthen the relationship with your child.

  1. What is your current adoption-related goal?

Olivia will be 21 in a few weeks and still lives with us. We’re encouraging her on her college journey. She wants to be an environmental scientist, but also has a huge interest in teaching others about God, which is difficult for her because she’s an introvert.

I also love to coach Mom’s who are considering adoption. People reach out to me often. I don’t sugar coat it. I tell it like it is.

  1. You’ve written several books. How are they connected to adoption?

I write what’s on my heart. Most of the stories are about social issues, but I have a huge heart for children. Adoption is just one issue.

Cache a Predator, my thriller, is about a father’s quest to get custody of his five-year-old daughter.

My children’s book series, Éclair, is about a seven-year-old girl who has to live with her grandma because her mother is ill and her father goes to work. It’s a modern-day Junie B. Jones story. So many children are growing up in extended families—grandfamilies—that I wanted to write a series about that kind of family situation. However, there is humor in this story.

Fractured Not Broken, is a true story of a woman who’s rendered a quadriplegic at the hands of a drunk driver. However, there is an adoption piece to this story, too.

I have a YA series that hasn’t been published yet. It’s about a girl who has special healing abilities. However, she’s an adopted child, too, but that’s just a subplot to the story.

I also have a mid-grade novel that hasn’t been published yet, but there’s nothing in that story about adoption. However, there’s a centaur, a talking dog, and a frog in the story.

M. Weidenbenner.B46C2E57-D41D-4E59-905D-13B68C1D85D8[6]Michelle Weidenbenner

Award-Winning and Bestselling Author

Award-Winning Speaker

John Maxwell Team Speaker, Coach and Trainer


Book Page          Website          Facebook          LinkedIn          Amazon Author

Blog: Teaching Kids To Lead By Equipping Moms and Dads                         Twitter:  @MWeidenbenner1

 

 

 

Adoptive Family Milestones–Ordinary and Extraordinary

Wednesday, June 3, 2015 @ 11:06 AM
Author: admin

H is for homecomingDuring the last month or so, our family has celebrated several family milestones. My son turned thirty. My husband turned sixty-seven. We observed our forty-fourth (!) wedding anniversary. With great hoopla (and decked out in costumes,) we gathered for a baby shower in honor of our first grandchild. In a few days our daughter will marry the love of her life on the Mendinhall Glacier in Alaska. Four days after that, she will celebrate her twenty-eighth birthday. Phew, that’s a lot of benchmarks. All these were special yet pretty ordinary for a typical family.

This got me thinking about two additional—and extraordinary—events we will honor in June and July respectively: the Homecoming of each of our children. Adopted as infants and now well into their adulthood, both our son and our daughter still mention and look forward to their Homecoming Day. This is our family’s commemoration of their arrival into our family. When they were younger, I suspect they enjoyed the observance as much for the presents and being the center of attention as for the marking of this life-changing event. Now that they are adults, they recognize the importance of this event in their lives. They understand why adoption occurred for them and have come to peace with that fact.

For our two children Homecoming Day was/is a happy event. As kids, they liked the idea of honoring this day and appeared unencumbered with sadness or grief. I think it helped that it is distinct from the day they left their birth families. Although their adoptions were closed, they each reconnected with their birth mothers years ago. (We encouraged, supported and assisted them in this reunion process. Reconnection blessed the entire family)

But many adoptees do experience a profound and painful sense of loss connected to their birthdays and adoption days. So celebrating the event becomes complicated, perhaps even untenable. Be aware of  and respect the jumbled feelings that may burden them. Loss is the underlying constant in adoption and it coexists with the gains and joys that adoption can bring. The positives do not erase the reality of adoption loss, pain and grief. Parents can best help their child deal with this complex ambivalence by allowing him to freely express all of his feelings.

Adoption both and permanent - CopyDeliver an unequivocal message that recognizes adoption as a both/and relationship. Reassure him that it is possible and acceptable to have a range of feelings some of which might be dark and heavy,(sadness, longing, anger, grief, etc.) And that it is appropriate to have an interest and respect for his birth family. His need to know, understand and connect with his roots is an integral part of the process of becoming a healthy adult. As an adoptee, he has an additional thread to weave into his identity. Both birth and adoptive factors count. Without the benefit of both parts of himself, something foundational will be missing. He might then feel incomplete, off-balance and out-of-control.

Before celebrating the day he became part of the family, clear it with him. If the associated memories are too painful perhaps a “celebration” is not appropriate. Check in with him. Open an honest dialog so you learn his authentic feelings and not what he thinks you want to hear.

Adoptee fruitAs parents, we enjoy reconnecting to that amazing moment when we became family. Truly it was a highlight of our lives. For many kids, it is like a second birthday—the one where they were “born” into their adopted family—and a day they enjoy celebrating. This is not the case for all kids. For those who experience overwhelming sadness associated with this day, parents will respect their emotions and limit any “celebration” to an internal event. None of us want to extract our enjoyment at our child’s expense. Do offer your child a chance to talk about it so you can support him as he struggles with his turbulent feelings.

It is the parents’ job to provide kids the language with which they can express their complex adoption-related feelings. Think about this when determining the name you assign to this special day—Homecoming, Arrival Day, Family Day or “Susie’s” Day. Just remember to focus on the child’s experience. (This is why I am NOT a fan of “Gotcha Day.” In my personal opinion, it is parent-centric and conveys the idea that a child was acquired, like a pet or a treasured prize. ) So will your family choose to celebrate this special day? If so, what will you call the day? What traditions will you include each year?

 

10 Ways to Increase Attunement with Adopted Children–Part 1

Wednesday, October 22, 2014 @ 02:10 AM
Author: admin

Adoption Attunement.lighting the wayLet’s stipulate that a healthy parent-child relationship grows in the nurturing cocoon of love. In adoptive families love is present, pervasive, intentional and committed. Unfortunately, love is not “enough” to firmly heal a child’s losses in adoption. It takes much more than love to prepare him to accept and embrace his adoptive family. Adopted parents need to understand attachment, bonding, trauma and how these factors must shape parenting strategies with an adoption spin. At GIFT we believe parents need to develop three intelligences: Academic Intelligence (IQ), Emotional Intelligence (EQ),  and (unique to adoptive families), Adoption-attunement Intelligence (AQ ).

All healthy parents care about and attend to their children’s academic and emotional needs. That is a given. Adoptive parents are called to an additional level of education: that of mastering parenting that is infused with adoption-sensitivity.

On this blog, we refer to AQ frequently. As National Adoption Month approaches we thought it made sense to elaborate on each of the specific AQ elements.  AQ (Adoption-attunement Quotient) considers how adoption influences a child and includes:

Adoption-sensitive parenting techniques Parenting techniques–like Time Out— considered the “norm” work well for families with children who haven’t faced the trauma of separation, abuse or neglect. But such strategies can be ineffective, even damaging to adopted children. When we work so hard to build connection and attachment, punishing kids with isolation and creating insecurity about the parent/child relationship is not wise.

Instead AQ parents choose Time In which focuses on “connecting before correcting” a technique advocated by Dr. Karen PurvisTime In focuses on strengthening the relationship, on helping the dysregulated  child become regulated and on establishing an experience of perceived safety. After the child becomes regulated, then he will be able to examine his missteps, to listen to parental input,  and to extract any learning.

Another popular behavior management tool, reward systems and charts often backfire or are largely ineffective–especially for kids with trauma histories. Whether it is the pressure of being “good enough” or self limiting beliefs that expect failure or their unwillingness to participate because they need to be in control–any or all of these factors could contribute to the low response rate with kids who had “tough starts.”

Sound adoption language— Language infused with respect best serves all parties in the adoption triad (adoptee, adoptive parents and birth/first parents.) Choose words that are accurate and reflect the realities of the adoption experience. This is a step beyond “positive” adoption language which can slide into minimizing. The actual vocabulary changes as we better understand the complexities and sensitivities of each. Think it through by imagining yourself as a birth parent or adoptee. How does the term touch your ears and heart now?

Consider “Gotcha Day,”  a term that celebrates a child’s arrival in the adoptive family. While the intent of this unfortunate term is positive, the reality is a bit off the mark. First, it focuses on the parental experience instead of the child’s. Second, “gotcha” is often a term used to indicate victory over another person. Third, it objectifies the child, like a prized toy that was finally acquired. “Arrival Day, Homecoming, Family Day are better choices. Be mindful however, that there are two sides to this special day: the happy part about joining a permanent family, and the sad part –losing the family to which he was born. Be prepared for your child to show very mixed emotions.Read more

Knowledge of the attachment process Attachment is a dance of action and response. A parent’s own attachment style will influence how he/she interacts with each child. By understanding one’s own inclinations, a parent can modify this feedback loop to  be more responsive to their child’s attachment style. Responding accurately, promptly and consistently to your child’s overtures sends many important messages:

You are listening.

He’s important and worth your time and attention.

You value what he feels, thinks, and says.

She is capable of asking for what she needs.

It is appropriate for him to speak up for himself.

She can count on you to listen and respond.

When you respond with empathy, she learns to do the same.

Consideration of grief and loss issues As parents we celebrate the great blessing of welcoming our children into our families. The reality for our children, however also includes  very real losses as well. Their separation from their birth families is a significant source of grief and pain. The two realities–adoptive family/birth family–coexist; they do not cancel out one another. Each is important to the child. Each is an integral, valuable, and permanent part of them.

Respect for birth parents–A fundamental tenet of adoption. Our children are the fruit of their birth parents. When we honor and respect birth parents, we honor and respect our children. In cases where  abuse and neglect occurred, it is essential to separate the individuals from their actions. Find some way to demonstrate to your child that there is always a kernel of goodness that can be acknowledged–even if the it is only that they created your child.

Next week, we will explore the remaining concepts of AQ

Modeling healthy boundaries

Educating family, friends and teachers on adoption

Remembering that a child’s story belongs to him

Recognizing that adoption is a family experience

Encouraging playfulness and good humor as a family value

Integrating a child’s birth heritage

Adoptive Parents handle their own grief and loss issues.

Articles and Books

Wednesday, January 4, 2012 @ 07:01 PM
Author: admin

Articles

Journal Of Social Work, “Issues Facing Adoptive Mothers of Children With Special Needs” By Heather Forbes and Sophia F. Dziegielewski – This article discusses the challenges and struggles facing Moms of adopted special needs children. The authors identify the many stress factors for Moms and shares stories as to help the Moms know they are not alone.

Books—Non-fiction

ABC cover with badges - CopyABC Adoption and Me: A Multicultural Picture Book for Adoptive Families by Gayle H. Swift – Named a Notable Picture Book of 2013 by Shelf Unbound, this is a book about adoption that celebrates the blessing of family and addresses the difficult issues as well. With charming, exuberant illustrations and a diverse representation of families, ABC, Adoption & Me will warm hearts, deepen understanding of what it means to be an adoptive family and provide teaching moments that bring families closer, connected in truth, compassion, and joy.

Midwest Book Review:

Truly a multiple-award winning book about the experience of adoption, “ABC, Adoption & Me” breaks new ground in the field of adoption experience integration. Useful for children, families, caretakers, and teachers, “ABC, Adoption & Me” offers positive presentations of many common experiences shared by adoptive children and families. Prefaced by a helpful introduction titled How to Use ABC, Adoption & Me, this cheery, vivid color illustrated ABC book focuses on special topics related to adoption in a nonjudgmental and respectful way. Some examples are, “C is for children. You can be adopted at any age, from tiny babies to teens,” or “M is for miss. Sometimes I miss my birth parents. I wonder if they miss me too.” Also memorable is “P is for parents. Birth parents gave me life. Adoptive parents gave me a (forever) family.” And finally, there is “Z is for zig zag. Sometimes I feel happy and sad about being adopted.” Written by an adoptive mother daughter team, “ABC, Adoption & Me” uses bright cartoon illustrations to present interracial adoptive families and origin birth families with equal validity and authenticity, as well as many other adoption sensitive issues and topics. “ABC, Adoption & Me” deserves every single one of its many awards and should be a part of every child’s library.

who's in my familyFamilies come in all shades and groupings—bio families, step families, foster families and adopted families. Who’s in My Family: All about Our Families by Robie H. Harris and illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott presents a wide array of family constellations. Most readers will be able to spot their own family reflected in the range depicted in the illustrations. The multicultural illustrations depict  families as they participate in a several activities: eating, exercising, visiting the zoo, etc.  While the variety of families is richly depicted, the unifying thread of the story is that families enjoy spending time together and love each other regardless of how alike or similar they look.

Gift for Little Tree “A beautiful adoption parable about a fruitless apple tree, an abundant apple orchard, one wise farmer, and the greatest gift of all,” is a lovely picture book which captures this concept in exquisite watercolor drawings that are paired with gentle text. (Amazon includes this description: “A parable about adoption, this charming story tells of an apple tree who is unable to bear fruit—no matter how hard she tries—until a wise farmer finds a way. He grafts a bud onto Little Tree’s limb, and in time she becomes the most colorful tree in the orchard. All those who have experienced the bonds of family in more ways than one will share in Little Tree’s delight when she discovers that it does not matter if her apples came from another tree; she loves them as her very own. Existing adoptive parents, as well as those exploring the possibility of adoption for the first time, will find Little Tree’s story especially touching. The book also honors the birth mother in a unique way, helping children understand how love is the motivation for her actions.”)

Personal Space Camp

One excellent resource is a marvelous book by Julia Cook titled, “Personal Space Camp.”With a deft sense of humor and zany illustrations by Carrie Hartman, this book tackles the complicated concept of personal space. Louis, the confused main character loves the world of outer space. But when it comes to personal boundaries, Louis is clueless. His frustrated teacher arranges for him to attend “Personal Space Camp.” This thrills Louis. He is surprised to learn that he will not be an astronaut exploring.

Louis is, however, entering unexplored territory: the world of personal space boundaries. “Personal Space Camp” is entertaining and informative without being preachy. It conveys important information that will assist kids that lack an understanding of social cues.

can't believe.decod

Julia Cook has written several other books that delve into the confusing world of social cues and interaction. One that is also quite helpful is,“I Can’t Believe You Said That.” (Illustrated by Kelsey De Weerd, it features multicultural characters.) The story helps kids discern the difference between saying something true:  ”You are fat,” versus something that is appropriate: “You are a good cook.”

 

lullaby.langston

What greater blessing than that of a mother’s love? It is exquisitely depicted in the book, Lullaby (for a Black Mother.) Based on the Langston Hughes poem, it is illustrated by Sean Qualls in acrylic, pencil and collage.

This lovely book beautifully captures the intimacy of a bedtime ritual. The text is melodious, soothing and accompanied by pictures in the perfect palette of soft hues of blues, purples and aqua. When I view the book’s universal theme of mother/child connection through the lens of adoption-attunement, what do I notice? Read more 

In our mothers house.Polacco

As an adoptive parent, an adoption coach and a writer on adoption issues, I found In Our Mother’s House by renowned author, illustrator Patricia Polacco exceptional. As is probably obvious from the title, the story focuses on a/n (adoptive) family with two mothers. Readers searching for stories that include LGBTQ families will appreciate this upbeat and poignant tale. Read more

 

 

A special familyAnd Tango Makes Three is a charming book that presents a sweet story of “family as different” but still very much a family. On the flyleaf of the book is this quote: “In the zoo there are all kinds of animal families. But Tango’s family is not like any of the others. Tango has two dads. Read more

 

 

Jack & Emma's Adoptee Journey

Jack & Emma’s Adoption Journey speaks about adoption through the adoptee’s personal lens. It is a short yet powerful book. Written by an adult adoptee, the story focuses on the thoughts and feelings of Jack and Emma. The text on each page is accompanied by an author’s note addressed to the adoptive parent. This side bar clarifies the moment/issue for the parent and shines light on Jack and Emma’s action or thought being depicted on the page. Although this book is brief, it touches on some important adoptee issues, e.g., identity questions, yearning to fit in, anxiety, fear of rejection, wondering about birth parents, ambivalent feelings about birthdays, self blame, anger  and longing to understand biological ancestry. All of these thoughts are common to adoptees. Mentioning them in the story, helps to normalize their thought processes and opens the door to important family conversations in which parents can listen, validate and support their child’s feelings and concerns. When parents share such conversations, they reassure their children that their love is unconditional and does not require kids to choose between their two families. It affirms that each is an integral and treasured part of the child, and by extension to the entire family. Pam Kroskie serves as the past President of the American Adoption Congress, is a Congressional Angel in Adoption Award Winner, the current president of H.E.A.R. (Hoosiers for Equal Access to Records,) and for many years has raised her voice on behalf of adoptees. She hosts AAC Adoption News and Views on Blog Talk Radio.

 

Kids like me in chinaKids Like Me in China follows a young girl on her homeland visit to China. Like Elias, she also visited the orphanage where she lived. She shares similar experiences and insights. The story also tackles both generalized adoption concepts and some of the more difficult/serious aspects of international adoption: “abandonment,” one-child-family-rules, special needs issues and orphaned children who never get adopted. The topics are handled with respect and honesty in a way that a child can read and absorb. Photographs from her actual trip illustrate the story. Although published in 2001, the book is still relevant and a worthwhile read.

 

motherbridge of love.2Motherbridge of Love If you haven’t read “Motherbridge of Love,” a story about a little girl adopted from China and how both her mothers love her, I highly recommend this exquisite picture book. Love, love, love it. This wonderful book clearly champions respect for and validates a child’s feelings for his birth and adoptive mothers. When we open the space for a child to hold his birth family in a place of respect, we allow them to honor that part of themselves too. My daughter, an adult adoptee and I both believe it is one of the best adoption books for kids.

 

place in my heartMary Grossnickle’s sweet story, “A Place in My Heart, is one great example of a story that validates the adopted child’s point of view. Charlie–a chipmunk adopted into a family of squirrels wrestles with the differences in their appearance. Adoptees commonly feel like they don’t quite fit so they will easily identify with Charlie’s struggle. Read more

 

Three Names of MeTells the story of Mary’s little girl who was adopted from China. It asserts she has three names: “My first name was whispered to me by my first mother; when I was born; it’s someplace in my heart.” Even though the child is unable to recall it, she finds comfort in the belief that her first mother called  her by a name, one that is no longer part of conscious memory but it still part of her history. Further along her timeline, at her orphanage, she was given the name Wang Bin which means “gentle and refined.” The child experiences a sense of being seen as an individual worthy of a name that captures who she is. This affirms her dignity, acknowledges her journey through to adoption and is a treasured part of her. Finally, from her adoptive parents, she receives her third name: Ada, a phoneme of the Chinese  Ai da  which means “love arrived.” Three names of Me is a heartfelt tale of tradition, identity and history.

Adoptee survival guideOpens a window into the actual experiences of adoptees who are now adults. Each shares their personal truth and offers insight into how we can support adoptees as their parents, partners and peers. Much of their message is painful to hear because it shines a light on the dark underbelly of adoption that is grounded in loss, grief and pain. Truth is often difficult to confront and it is important that we acknowledge and deal with it. Living with or in a lie is far more detrimental for all.

The message this book delivers is clear: Tell the truth; share it with respect and compassion; honor the reality of adoption—not only the benefits, but also the co-existing grief, loss, pain, identity confusion and ambivalence. While it may be tempting to hold back difficult information or to skew the truth through omission or actual untruths, the damage such falsehoods generates are devastating to the parent/child relationship

5 Love LanguagesIn our recent blog post we discussed The 5 Love Languages of Children, by Chapman & Campbell and learned the benefits of using a child’s primary Love Language because it provides a direct way to connect with them. 5 love laguages.teensThe 5 Love Languages of Children asserts that once parents start speaking in a language which the child understands fluently, communication improves dramatically. The child’s Love Language provides a fast lane to their attention and their hearts. To recap, the five Love Languages are: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Physical Touch, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Services Read more

 

The wonderful adoption classic, Forever Fingerprints by Sherrie Eldridge is being reissued by Jessica Kingsley Publishers. An adoptee and a staunch advocate for adoptive families writes, who LIVES the adoption journey, Sherrie connects with adoptees’ hearts and validates their experience. She has written many books about the adoption experience. Forever Fingerprints, a picture book serves a younger audience than Sherrie’s other books.

Behind its simple story line, Forever Fingerprintsmodels adoption-attuned* relationships. It speaks to child and parent. As an adoption coach as well as an adoptive parent, I know it is important for parents to clearly establish that adoption is a suitable topic for family discussion. While this may seem obvious, to children it is not. In the absence of expressed permission, kids will assume that adoptions conversations are off limits. They will fear that it might hurt their (adoptive) parents if they talk about their concerns, mixed feelings and sharing their thoughts about their birth parents. And so, many wrestle with heavy worries weighing down their hearts. Forever Fingerprints is an easy and enjoyable way for parents to talk about some of the “hard stuff” of adoption.

Twenty things.eldridge

Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge – An essential book in the adoptive family’s library. Written by an adoptee, it provides a broad sweep of the issues adoptees face. With this awareness parents can provide the emotional context their children need to develop healthy attachments and to reconcile the challenges of being adopted. It is never too early or too late to read this book. A gem.

 

20 choices.Eldridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lozier.Adoptive & FP GuideThe Adoptive & Foster Parent Guide: How to Heal Your Child’s Trauma and Loss by Carol Lozier, LCSW    The book is written in a straight-forward style that is practical and easy to understand. Because it is compact, overwhelmed parents can read it quickly and put the suggestions to work immediately.
Carol writes in a manner that is informative, compassionate, and encouraging. She understands that adoptive parenting is different from bio-parenting and requires adoption-appropriate techniques. She shares tools that parents can use to educate themselves, family and friends. This helps to create a team that supports the family instead of critics who sit in judgment. Carol Lozier’s book is practical and insightful.

adopting the hurt childAdopting the Hurt Child: Hope for Families with Special-Needs Kids A Guide for Parents and Professionals by Gregory Keck and Regina Kupecky; 1995 by Gregory C. Keck and Regina M. Kupecky; Pinon Press – For those who have adopted special needs children, this book is helpful in its realistic portrayal of the challenges and also the hope and opportunity in parenting children who have been hurt. I appreciated the vingettes interspersed throughout the book that helped illustrate the concepts that Keck and Kupecky were discussing. This book also includes a chapter on intercountry adoption, which we found helpful.

 

I Choose.borderChildren enjoy being able to decide things for themselves. As parents we often make the bulk of the decisions in our children’s lives. Most of us understand that decision making is a skill. Like all skills, mastery only comes through practice. Long before kids become proficient decision makers, they will plod through many errors in judgment. As parents, we face a learning curve too–when is it “safe” for kids to make a choice and when must the decision fall on our shoulders? Read more

 

Adoption & the Jewish Familyadoption Jewish by Shelley Krapnek Rosenberg

This book addresses some of the unique issues that Jewish families face when adopting.

 

adoption is a family affairRemember that “It takes a village to raise a child,” so help your family and friends become adoption-attuned so they can support you and a child. Let them see that your decision is well thought, heartfelt and firm. Bring them into your vision and onto your family’s team. Address their questions. Just as adoption was a decision that took time to explore and choose, it may also take them time to accclimate to the idea.  Let them know, that you want them to be a part of your child’s life. One excellent book is, Patricia Irwin Johnston’s,  “Adoption is a Family Affair  What Relatives and Friends Must Know. Read Gayle’s review.

adoption resource by Lois Gilman – These books are great for Jewish adoptive families. The latter two, however, are applicable to all families as well. Wendy Mogel is an engaging author and her wisdom as a social worker/adolescent psychologist and parent combined with guidelines from Judaism is refreshing! I have never gone wrong in recommending Ms. Mogel’s books!

 

 

Anger: How To Live With And Without It by Albert Ellis, 1977 by Reader’s Digest Press and Thomas Crowell Company – Though this is not directly a book about adoption, it has helped me greatly in my response to not only my children but all people in my life. Anger is partly a learned response. Learning and discerning when and how to be angry can improve relationships greatly, especially when we may have children who come with a great deal of anger over past hurts. I highly recommend this “oldie but goody.”

by David Brodzinsky Ph. D., Marshall D. Schechter M.D. And Robin Marantz Henig – This book covers all stages of development, infancy through adulthood, of the adoptee. The authors use stories from their patients and surveys to illustrate the 6 major themes of their book; life from the adoptees perspective, how the adoptee feels about being adopted changes throughout their developmental stages, giving the adoptee a sense of normal, creating individuality as there is no right way to experience adoption, search for self when a part of them has been cut out of their life and the adoptees sense of loss. I appreciated how the authors tied the scientific evidence to life through the adoptees experiences.

The Blessing of a B Minus: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Resilient Teenagers by Wendy Mogel – Similar in nature and follow up to Wendy Mogel’s first book and looks at the blessings of raising teens and some of the issues today’s parents face and practical advice for dealing with them. Although rooted in Jewish precepts, I agree that Mogel’s compassion and authenticity will ring true with parents of all faiths facing the tumultuous teen years.”

The Blessing Of A Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children by Wendy Mogel – Although not particularly about adoption, this book is a guide to parenting and supports a coaching model in that we cannot, nor should we save our children from experiences from which they can grow to be self-reliant, compassionate and ethical children. Draws on the wisdom of the Torah, the Talmud and other Jewish teachings and employs framework of nine “blessings” to address key parenting issues such as respect for adults, chores, keeping expectations in line with your child’s temperament, avoiding over scheduling and overindulgence, and more.

Building the Bonds of Attachment: Awakening Love in Deeply Troubled Children by Daniel A. Hughes – Looks at, through the experience of one child how attachment can occur, even at a later date in a child’s life. Attachment only worked by using a technique called “The Attitude” (its five qualities include being accepted, curious, empathetic, loving and playful) and by creating strong boundaries.

 

TheConnected Child: Bring Hope and Healing to Your Adopted Family  A brilliant book filled with strategies to assist adoptive familes. Dr. Karen Purvis is the Director of the Institute of Child Development at Texas Christian University (TCU) in Fort Worth, Texas. Her work focuses on building and strengthening relationships.

 

Eye of adoptionThe Eye of Adoption by Jody Dyer Jody Cantrell Dyer writes from the heart with integrity, honesty, humor, compassion, and a commitment to guide others who wait for “their” child to arrive through private agency adoption. She offers her experience as encouragement as they too, work through the arduous pre-adoptive process. When adopting, baby doesn’t arrive after a nine month wait; sometimes the matching process takes many years.
Jody’s story gives an inside view of how one person successfully navigated the journey. She and Kerri created an open adoption that works for them. It acknowledged the grief and loss of all parties—Kerri’s, Bryant and their extended families—and continues an ongoing relationship.
Dyer is understands that adoption must be focused on finding the best family for a child versus finding a child for hopeful parents. This awareness does not dilute the raw emotions that she experiences. Joy, excitement, yearning, frustration, fear, impatience, self-doubt, depression, envy of the fertile—all of these feelings make an appearance in this engaging portrait of a woman who is 100% to adopting a child. Eight years is a long time to remain dedicated to a dream but Jody never faltered.
The interview pages with Kerri provide insight into this young birth mother’s thoughts, emotions and choices.
Waiting parents will find Eye of Adoption an excellent read. They will also want to read widely on how to prepare and educate themselves for the unique task of living as an adoptive family.

Family First: Your Step-by-Step Plan for Creating a Phenomenal Family by Dr. Phil McGraw – In this book by Dr. Phil, parents are honored for their “noble” and powerful role that shapes the “tone, texture, mood and quality of this interconnected and vitally important unit”. The book empowers parents by providing strategies for creating a phenomenal family, for creating a family legacy and for parenting with the insight of knowing your personal style, as well as your child’s. Divorced and blended families are recognized for their unique challenges as well and he addresses that in the beginning of the book. In Part Two, Dr. Phil shares seven tools for purposeful parenting: Define success, Listen and learn, Partner with your child, Performance and payoffs, Shake it up to break it up, Put your house in order and Walk the talk.

I found this book an incredible resource for families and recommend it whole-heartedly. I loved the practical tips but, more importantly, I was impressed by how much the book coincided with the personal growth work that I’ve been involved with in the past few years. Dr. Phil says, “…the challenge of raising a successful family cannot and will not happen until you decide to clean house inside yourself first.” And, what a great first step in creating your phenomenal family – Being the best and most authentic parent you can be.

How It Feels to Be Adopted by Jill Krementz, 1982 by Jill Krementz; Alfred Knopf, Inc. – This book is smaller than Sacred Connections but similar in its structure of telling the stories of adoption, this time exclusively from the children’s viewpoints, ages ranging from eight to sixteen years old and from various backgrounds. It’s an honest book that provides great conversation starters for children as well as letting them know they are not alone in the adoption experience.

In On It: What Adoptive Parents Would Like You To Know About Adoption. A Guide for Relatives and Friends by Elizabeth O’Toole

 

 

Let’s Talk About It: Adoption (Mr. Rogers) by Fred Rogers (“Mr. Rogers”); 1994 by Family Communications Inc.; Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers – Mr. Rogers of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood does an excellent job of describing adoption, giving equal weight to the need of the child and the need of adults to be parents. The pictures are diverse, offering different ethnic backgrounds of both the child and the parents. It’s an easy, short read and a great book for children of pre-school and grade school ages. Our kids had us read it together over and over again.

Newbie's guide Although not specifically directed at adoptive families, “The Newbies Guide to Positive Parenting” definitely concentrates on sustaining connection, on parenting via modeling the attitudes and behaviors parents want their children to learn. Rebecca asserts an important distinction: “leading and controlling are very different.” One invites cooperation; the other invites rebellion. One is respect-based; the other is fear-based.

Here are a few memorable quotes from the book:

“Positive discipline isn’t about making a child pay for his mistake but rather learn from it”

“It’s about teaching them to do what is right instead of punishing them for doing what is wrong.”

“There is no such thing as an unimportant day when you are shaping a child’s life…Be intentional about what it is you are writing.”

No Matter What by Sally Donovan Yes, love heals but parenting kids with trauma/neglect histories, requires so much more. Immerse yourself in this story of the fierce love of this adoptive family. Understand the day to day challenges as these children learn to deal with and heal from their past. Cheer on these parents as they are called on to muster every ounce of patience, determination and hope while they discover what their kids need emotionally, academically and socially and then work to provide it. Experience the heroism of both kids and parents who must confront the aftermath of abuse, learn to cope with and channel the anger, shame and grief. This story will break your heart wide open, expand your understanding of the life-long impact of abuse and neglect and educate you on how to be a better, friend, teacher, family member and perhaps call you to rise to the challenge of parenting kids with “tough starts.” At the very least, it will open your eyes and hearts and draw you in to view adoptive families with more empathy and less judgment. This is not a happily-ever-after tale but a true portrait of what it takes as a family to overcome such a disastrous beginning and to triumph.

One for the Murphys

One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Get ready for a rollicking ride on an emotional roller coaster. One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt will make you laugh and weep as you follow Carly Conner’s journey through foster care. She’s a sassy, resilient survivor shaped by her single mom’s inconsistent parenting. Carly never knows what to expect: her mom’s whacked-out version of nurturing or neglect. When a violent step dad enters the picture, home life deteriorates from inadequate to life-threatening.

Carly enters foster care with the Murphys. Life becomes more complicated than ever as Carly experiences what it feels like to have a mom that know how to love unconditionally and who enjoys caring for her children. The contrast between her two families becomes apparent to Carly. Now that she’s experienced a calm, loving family home, she wants that for herself too. Carly must face a gut-wrenching decision—deciding whose daughter she wants to be.

In Carly, Lynda Mullaly Hunt has created an unforgettable character that will  grab your heart and leave an indelible mark on your memory. A truly exceptional read.

Nat Adopt promo.Lori Holden no discount

Open adoption has moved beyond the experimental stage and become the norm for most contemporary domestic adoptions. It has also created awareness that even with international adoptions, every effort should be made to gather as much birth family information, to preserve and respect these ties and to foster ongoing communication. We now recognize that connection to and respect for an adopted child’s biological roots is integral to successfully unify their dual heritage. Still, the concept remains shrouded in apprehension, confusion and curiosity. How is it possible for a child to have two sets of parents involved in their lives?

Questions abound in the minds of prospective adopters as well as expectant parents contemplating adoption for their unborn child. (Do we need a contract? Is it enforceable? Desirable? Isn’t open adoption confusing for the child?) These and many more issues are addressed in The Open-hearted Way to Open Adoption by Lori Holden and Crystal Hass. They are the adoptive mother and birthmother who have an open adoption relationship.

There are many reasons to recommend this excellent book. It overflows with practical suggestions for how to navigate the constantly changing seas that permeate open adoption. Not just for adoptive parents, it offers ideas for all members of the triad because the three are inextricably connected. Each will be a permanent part of the child. Only the degree and level of involvement will vary. The influences of DNA are forever, just as the influence of the adoptive family’s nurturing will permanently shape the child. (Lori refers to these factors as biology and biography.)

Lori and Crystal Hass (the birthmother of one of Lori’s children,) share strategies, ideas and personal anecdotes that are valuable, sensible and practical. They offer options not a specific blueprint for every adoptive family to follow. This makes sense since each adoption is unique. Their honesty and shared experience provide a window into living an open adoption journey. They reveal that open adoption is not without challenges and suggest “Talking about it and bringing your emotions up to a conscious level allows a healing release to occur … and prevents misunderstandings from cropping up.”

But the greatest value of The Open-hearted Way to Open Adoption is the philosophical assumption that underpins the book: open adoption is fundamentally an attitude that must infuse the relationship and all of the parenting decisions. The child’s best interest is the foundational premise. This may sound like an obvious fact, but all too often—especially in the past–adoption considers the comfort level, fears and of the adults over the needs of the child. Yes, each of these is an important factor, but the foremost criteria must to be child-focused. Many fear that children will be confused or distressed by having an ongoing relationship with a birth parent/s. Lori responds, “Openness is not the cause of any eruptions but instead can actually be part of the solution to them. If you’ve established an open relationship with your child, he is more likely to allow you into his innermost thoughts and fears. He then doesn’t have to face them without you. But if you are closed, he is more alone.” [emphasis added]

The Open-hearted Way to Open Adoption is a positive and inspiring book that will touch your heart as well as provide you with persuasive, practical and useful ideas. I am an adoption coach and a mom of now-adult children who came to us in the 1980s through closed adoptions. My children have reconnected with their birth mothers and I have seen first-hand the beneficial impact this reunion has brought all of us but most especially my children and their birth mothers. Lori points out that she takes her children to various professional who can provide services that she cannot: physician, dentist, therapist, etc. She writes, “I can’t fill a certain emotional need that Tessa has, but I can take her to the well.” (Tessa’s birth mother, Crystal) That is love and that is parenting with a child’s best interest at heart.  I would assert that no adoptive parent want to leave their children unsupported as they process difficult parts of the adoption experience.

Open adoption is not easy nor is it perfect, but it is far better than the old secrecy-based closed adoptions.  The greatest ingredient to success is a heart-connected attitude. This book offers a welcome, worthwhile resource for parents who are embarking on the adventure of open adoption parenting. As Lori writes, “Open adoption is a journey rather than a destination.”

Parenting Adopted Adolescents: Understanding and Appreciating Their Journeys by Gregory C Keck – A hopeful message that acknowledges and understands teen behavior as regular developmental pattern and then gives parents tools for handling the behavior in light of new understanding of the behavior. It is all about relationship!

 

Parenting Teens With Love And Logic (Updated and Expanded Edition) by Foster Cline, MD & Jim Fay – I found this book during the teen years and wished I had found their other versions sooner. A no nonsense approach to giving choices and allowing natural consequences even expressing empathy for the pain of the choice when it doesn’t turn out the way your teen expects. Fabulous learning for both parent and teen.

 

Penguin adoption Handbook

The Penguin Adoption Handbook by Edmund Blair Bolles

 

 

 

Perspectives on a Grafted Tree: Thoughts for Those Touched compiled by Patricia Irwin Johnston – This book is a compilation of poetry by and for those who have been touched by adoption. It reflects authentic feelings from the many perspectives on adoption – from birthparents, adoptive parents and adoptees. Johnston says it beautifully: this book “supports the honest acknowledgement of gains and losses, happiness and pain, that adoption as an experience has on the lives of all whom it touches – birthparents, adoptees, adoptive parents, intermediaries and the world as a whole.

When my husband and I adopted our first child, I pored over this book, eager to understand and grasp all the implications and perspectives of adoption. I smiled, cried and even felt frustration at how misunderstood adoption is in our world. This book covers it all and I so appreciated the empathy that I felt for how adoption affects each of us differently.

Pieces of mePieces of Me: Who do I Want to Be by L. Ballard, editor, EMK A series of essays written by adoptees. They face the same identity issues of all teenagers with the added complication of adoption themes. Well written in a way that address difficult topics without sugar-coating or catastrophizing. A heartfelt exploration that might provide a much needed sense of common experience to a teenage adoptee and several possible roadmaps that could inform their own adoption journey.

The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child by Nancy Newton Verrier – A wound exists when a child is separated from his/her mother. The Primal Wound explains how this wound came to be and how it manifests itself in various ways throughout the developmental stages. The book provides solutions to facilitate healing the wound for different age groups and in different situations. This book validates the existence of the Primal Wound and offers great insight to behaviors caused by it. The solutions are extremely helpful for any adoptive parent.Raising Adopted Children, Revised Edition: Practical Reassuring Advice for Every Adoptive Parent by Lois Melina – An updated version that is comprehensive in covering adoption issues and a good resource book to have on hand.

 

Sacred Connections: Stories Of Adoption, essays by Mary Ann Koenig and Photography by Niki Berg; 2000 by Mary Ann Koenig; Running Press Book Publishers – Mary Ann Koenig, a clinical psychologist and herself an adoptee, interviews those connected through adoption. The stories are real, touching, and span the various experiences of adoption: some who find their birthparents and some who do not, some who are excited about the reunion and some who are disappointed, birthparents who are have searched for their children, etc. My adolescent son has read this book with me several times. Each night, we would take one story and read it, looking closely at the pictures. As the title suggests, the book honors all connections and this is evident in how carefully and candidly the stories are told. I highly recommend this book as a bridge to discussions with your adolescent about adoption.

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt: A Novel by Beth Hoffman – A both delightful and heart-felt fiction book that reveals 12-year-old Cecelia Rose’s (CeeCee’s) journey through her mother’s tragic mental illness and death to her soft landing in her great aunt’s home in Savannah, GA. I especially liked the author’s “take” on grief and how Great-Aunt Tootie so beautifully nurtures CeeCee through it.

Here’s a quote from the book, “You might not think you’re grieving, but grief comes in all sorts of ways. There’s the kind of grief that leaves you numb, and the kind of grief that rips your world in half. And then there’s another kind of grief that doesn’t feel like grief at all. It’s like a tiny splinter you don’t even know you have until it festers so deep it has nowhere to go but into your soul. I think that’s the hardest kind of grief there is because you know you’re hurting but you don’t know why.”

Scattered Links.Weidenbenner.51EFfra9u4L._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_

Scattered Links by M. Weidenbenner connected with me in many ways. First, the story is exceptionally written. Second, As an adoptive mother and a coach to adoptive families, the story had authenticity. Page after page, I ached for Oksana, the twelve-year-old heroine, for the sad reality that was/is her life and that of many other orphanage-raised, severely traumatized children who fear to trust and open themselves to attachment.

The emotional struggles portrayed ring true for both Oksana and her adoptive parents. Self-doubt, grief, loss is experienced by the entire family, not just the child. It affects the way they relate to one another. It factors into their thoughts, beliefs and expectations.

History has taught them trust is a luxury they cannot afford.CLICK TO TWEETEach is shaped by both their history and their dream of becoming a family. Successfully bridging the gap between their painful reality and their idealized fantasies demands a leap of faith that does not come easily for any of them. Oksana’s struggle to build attachments, to trust and heal is well depicted. Children like her who have experienced such significant trauma cannot magically release their fears, their self-limiting coping behaviors and their isolating belief that they must relyonly on themselves. History has taught them trust is a luxury they cannot afford. They’ve learned that lesson well. In some cases, their wariness and resistance to connect was the only thing that kept them alive. (No wonder they are so reluctant to change their strategy.)

This unwillingness/inability to open oneself to emotional connection is often referred to as “RAD” (Reactive Attachment Disorder.) Many prefer to call it something less judgmental, like Reactive Attachment Syndrome. This acknowledges that the child’s response to the emotional trauma of her history is less a “disorder” and more an imperfect, self-isolating, and inefficient strategy. But they are terrified to relinquish it because they mistakenly believe it is their only way of preventing further hurt.

Adoptees are not the only ones with emotional baggage. Adoptive parents also bring their own…CLICK TO TWEETThis complicates the attachment building process, especially when they haven’t been taught how to identify their own “stuff” and it from that of their adopted children.

When Oksana rebuffed her parents, resisted their affection and their rules, she wasn’t being ungrateful or bratty. She was in survival mode. All walls up. Heart on lock down. Mind on Red Alert. She’s as adversely affected by her ill-designed strategy as her parents are.

There is no quick fix for this family and others with similar trauma histories. Healing takes time, patience, commitment. The process is difficult. Success is possible just not quick or easy.

Scattered Links features horse therapy. It is one therapeutic method finding. When human relationships have been contaminated by abuse, neglect and significant violations in trust, sometimes it is easier to trust an animal. This is because they bring a clean slate to the relationship.

This book succeeds in depicting both the struggles, the good intentions and the long road to breaking down walls and weaving family attachments.

As an adoption professional, I do have one criticism of this wonderful book. The celebration of Oksana’s joining her adoptive family is called “Gotcha Day.” This is a term many adoptees find offensive. It is seen as depersonalizing and parent-centric because it casts the child as acquired by the parents.

Some preferable terms for celebrating the anniversary of a child’s adoption would be, Homecoming Day, Adoption Day, Oksana* Day (*use your own child’s name.) Adoptive families must be sensitive to the co-existing grief that celebration days may highlight: Adoption day cannot exist without the prior loss of the birth family. Even if that family was utterly dysfunctional, the separation from one’s ancestral roots is still a loss. Some children enjoy celebrating their adoption; others do not. Let your child determine if he likes it or not.

Bottom line of this review: Adoptees are not the only ones with emotional baggage. Adoptive parents also bring their own…

The Tell: A Memoir Heartbreaking, honest. A mother shares her family’s worst nightmare. It is both an immensely cautionary tale and a story of family commitment. This is a book you will never forget. The Tell: A Memoir by Mags Karn chronicles a family walking through the unspeakable horror of sexual abuse perpetrated by one child against his sisters.

Their story began like so many, a couple decides to grow their family through adoption. First, they adopt a little girl. The family settles into a contented life. Soon, they adopt a second daughter. Again, life finds a rhythm of connection and satisfaction. The Karns become advocates for adoption of other “needy orphans”.

They learn of a medically-needy, slightly older boy whose life hangs on a thread. Adoption offers his only hope to get the medical treatment that might save his life. The Karns work to find a family who will adopt him. Time ticks away. Finally, the family decides to step up to the plate. He becomes their son; they become his Forever Family. Little do they suspect how they will be challenged to fulfill this commitment.

His illness, surgery, healthcare, and recovery place huge demands on the family. He defeats the disease and comes home to join the family. Shortly afterwards, the nightmare begins. The Karns realize he had been extremely traumatized by his pre-adoptive caretakers. Eventually they learn he was the victim of degrading and ongoing psychological, physical, and sexual abuse prior to his adoption. The placing agency withheld this information that might have prepared the Karns to help their son and to protect their daughters. And so their nightmare began.

This book is powerful on many levels. It is a cautionary tale that highlights the need for full disclosure prior to placement. It also reminds parents to pay attention to their gut. When something feels really “off” check it out. Do not dismiss it.

But The Tell is also a testament to one family’s commitment to all of their children, of how the carved a way to heal and protect their daughters and to still maintain a relationship with their son.

Sally Donovan The Unofficial GuideThe Unofficial Guide to Adoptive Parenting by Sally Donovan is a welcome contribution to the reality of adoptive parenting. She knows what it is like to live in the “Polar Vortex” of parenting. She has faced  her fill of platitudes, criticism and rude questions. Reading her book is like finally finding a friend her really “gets” the journey of parenting traumatized kids. Sally has some practical ideas as well as incisive commentary that will make readers laugh as well as cry.

Read it for her great–and practical–suggestions and for the experience and encouragement of “visiting” with a kindred spirit.

 

Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes a Baby’s Brain by Sue Gerhardt – Explains why love is essential to a baby’s development & how this starts very early on… even in the womb & has lasting effects on the infant.

 

 

Yushi and the Tall Man by Tami Staut – A children’s (pre-school and elementary school) book about adopting a Chinese baby. This is a great children’s book to open discussions about adoption, and Chinese baby girl adoptions in particular. The story follows what happens to most Chinese baby girls who are abandoned in China, and has a happy ending with a forever family. The illustrations are wonderful and calming.

This book was written by my friend Tami Staut and is about and for my friends, the Jones family, when they adopted their baby Chinese girl, now named Elizabeth.

The Zippered Heart: Healing for the Secrets We Hide Inside by Marilyn Meberg – We’ve all got it – a “divided” heart. The dark side of our heart that holds our secrets, our hurts, fears, anger and even shame. And, that holds us back from experiencing life to the fullest. When we deny or disown our “stuff”, (which may include adoption or abandonment issues) it may come back in disguise. Meberg says, “It can take the form of depression, anger, moodiness, irritability, or an inability to focus or maintain concentration.”

As an adoptee myself, I loved exploring my “dark” side with Meberg as my guide. It’s a journey that ends in loving and accepting myself based on who I AM; not what I DO. Then, I get to travel through life with confidence in being loved by the God of the Universe and truly live with passion and abundance. Neil Clark Warren shares his perspective on this book: “This book will change lives, because it requires that we look precisely at both the dark and the light sides of ourselves. Then it brings an overflowing grace and forgiveness.”

Books—Fiction

 

The wonderful adoption classic, Forever Fingerprints by Sherrie Eldridge is being reissued by Jessica Kingsley Publishers. An adoptee and a staunch advocate for adoptive families writes, who LIVES the adoption journey, Sherrie connects with adoptees’ hearts and validates their experience. She has written many books about the adoption experience. Forever Fingerprints, a picture book serves a younger audience than Sherrie’s other books.

Behind its simple story line, Forever Fingerprintsmodels adoption-attuned* relationships. It speaks to child and parent. As an adoption coach as well as an adoptive parent, I know it is important for parents to clearly establish that adoption is a suitable topic for family discussion. While this may seem obvious, to children it is not. In the absence of expressed permission, kids will assume that adoptions conversations are off limits. They will fear that it might hurt their (adoptive) parents if they talk about their concerns, mixed feelings and sharing their thoughts about their birth parents. And so, many wrestle with heavy worries weighing down their hearts. Forever Fingerprints is an easy and enjoyable way for parents to talk about some of the “hard stuff” of adoption.

 

Help Hamster.51BjrX06FsL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Help A Hamster by Hilary Robinson (Picture book for children) Meet Alphie, his classmates and their pet hamster, Henry. Turns out, Henry is a she who recently delivered a litter. Taking care of all those babies overwhelms Henry so Alphie and his friends search for safe, loving homes for the babies. They appoint Alphie hamster monitor.
Alphie, an adoptee, sees the parallels in his own story and works hard to find homes where each of the hamsters will be happy.
This book includes information about adoption that is presented in a gentle and subtle tone. It will offer many teachable moments for kids to learn about adoption whether they are adopted themselves or not.
The illustrations by Mandy Stanley are lovely, engaging and inclusive. As in real life, families come in different shapes and sizes. “Help a Hamster” is an excellent addition to the family library.

 

Road to ParisThe Road to Paris (Coretta Scott King Author Honor Books) by Nikki Grimes – Paris is a person, not a place. This is the story of her journey as a frightened eight year old girl placed into foster care. Protective of her mischievous little brother, she is resilient and resourceful. This book follows Paris and her younger brother through many placements. After the children are separated, Paris struggles to stay connected. She is finally comfortable in a supportive foster home. Then her final challenge comes―rejoining her mother and brother discovering what it means to be family.

 

 by Sarah Weeks. Directed toward late elementary and middle-school – Highlights the impact of a fifth grade girl learning she is adopted. Deals with the powerful questions of nature vs. nurture as the protagonist discovers how the behavior of biological parents may or may not inform her own choices and character. An outstanding book.