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Families follow a core set of values that governs their priorities, shapes their belief system, and guides their behaviors. (We’ve blogged about the process of being intentional in defining these core values.)
GIFT Family Services also has a guiding set of principles and beliefs that inform all of our coaching and writing: our Adoption Philosophy (posted on our website) and Adoption Attunement (AQ) form the 16 Core Tenets. These two pillars establish the lenses, through which we explore adoption-related topics. They inform our blogs, podcasts, webinars, and posts on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and Pinterest.
Today’s blog will focus on number 14: “Parents handle their own stuff.” Our own “stuff”? What might this be? (Let’s stipulate that adoptive parents love their children even while they acknowledge the lack of biological connection. This love does not erase the reality that adoption builds family through a connection of the heart affirmed by legal sanction, not through biology. (For the entire list of the Elements of Adoption-attunement (AQ), see the graphic at the end of this post. Feel free to copy and share.)
Infertility Most— but not all— adoptive parents choose adoption because of infertility issues that render pregnancy impossible. Once we accepted this reality of infertility, we reformed our goal from pregnancy to adoption. But, adoption does not cure infertility. Nor does it erase any of the memories of monthly cycles of hope followed by crushing despair. Our minds and our bodies recall the emotions fueled by hormonal storms and other personal struggles associated with infertility. These echoes of the pain, sadness, and resentment of infertility create results that are both significant and permanent.
We cannot know the intimacy of carrying our child, ensuring that we care for them as carefully as possible until their birth. We cannot enjoy murmuring conversations with our unborn offspring, silently affirming our joy at their existence sharing our hopes and aspirations for them.
We cannot conceive a child that blends aspects of ourselves and our partners, the penultimate, tangible expression of marriage in which two become one.
We cannot create a child who shares our DNA; the flow of our family lineage is interrupted, the continuity broken.
Without doubt, these alterations evoke an emotional response within us, one which we do well to explore, understand, accept, and which we must resolve.” If we do not, emotional repercussions will reverberate through our relationships with our children. Buried and unacknowledged feelings eventually erupt— usually with damaging ferocity—and at the worst times.
This is not a relationship strategy that we want to model for our children. We want to show them that it is important to face whatever issues they find challenging. We must convey to our children that we are capable of managing our own feelings, that it is not their responsibility to hide or minimize their adoption-connected thoughts and feelings in order to shelter our hearts from sadness.
If our kids are overly focused on caretaking our emotions, they will be stuffing, denying, or minimizing their own. Instead of being able to turn to us as a sounding board to explore their own complex feelings and as a source of comfort and security, they will struggle to handle them alone. Children lack the experience skillsets and perspective that adults have. Their ability to manage complex grief and loss is not yet strong enough. They need us as parents to provide that safe harbor. They need to be able to believe that we are capable of hearing difficult stuff without falling apart emotionally ourselves.
If we feel overwhelmed or challenged by the emotions, grief, and loss connected with infertility or adoption complexity we must not burden our children with the weight of them or the shadows they cast. We must attune to our own needs with the same intentionality that we strive to attune to our children’s needs. We must find a qualified adoption-attuned professional to help us cope and to ensure that we have handled “our stuff” and thus, are fully available to our children to help them handle theirs. We will all be healthier, happier, and more authentic in our relationships with each other.
Finances— Infertility and adoption are both inextricably entangled with finances. We must be careful not to overextend our financial stability as we pursue the dream of conception and/or adoption. It is equally important that we remain true to the highest ethical standards when we engage in family-building strategies. We cannot allow our hunger to be parents to blind us to the ethics and morality of whatever paths we follow. (Our previous blog explored some of the tragic fallout of ethical and/or legal lapses.)
Our children depend on us to keep them safe. Living aligned with our ethics is important both as a model for them to follow and for the security and stability that doing right creates. How are you ensuring that you are handling your "stuff"?
Learn how the coaches at GIFT Family Services can help you and your family navigate your adoption journey. We've faced our share of family challenges and crises, ridden the metaphorical rollercoaster, and our families have not only survived; they have thrived. We offer experience, neutrality, and understanding. GIFT coaches are available to present workshops on-line. Contact us to explore this possibility: 1-800-653-9445
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Recently I've been providing full-time day-care for my four-year-old grandson and will be homeschooling him when school restarts. The words of my grandmother have been on my mind: Parenting is the hardest job you will ever love. She was the mother of fourteen— eight boys and six girls— so her belief sprouted from reality. When one has that many children, family life covers the gamut of heartbreak and joy, of good times and tragedy. She had faced it all and deemed it worth every heartache. “Ma” celebrated the birth of every child, grandchild, and great-grandchild.
Adoptive parenting includes the same joys and challenges of “bio” parenting overlaid with the repercussions of fractured biological bonds. Our children need additional support and guidance to help them cope with feelings of grief and rejection, identity and intimacy issues, bonding and attachment, and the collision of nurture with nature. This sets up a dynamic and emotion-filled world. Adoptive families ride the white water in the River of Life. Its forces ebb and flow in an unending stream of challenges and thrills, joys and sorrows, highs and lows.
If we focus and pause, we can extract the learning, see and appreciate the gift of every obstacle, and muster the determination to continue. This requires our intention, determination, commitment, empathy, and courage. (These presuppositions led us at GIFT to develop the concept of growing High AQ families based on the fifteen-point strategy which we named Adoption-Attunement.)
We’ve frequently explored most aspects of Adoption-attunement (AQ) yet one has received less emphasis: Follows ethical practices. On the surface, it feels like an obvious premise. Surely none of us would engage in unethical methods to accomplish an adoption. However, the truth about adoption practice includes a regrettable and unconscionable history of black and grey market policies: Baby Scoop Era coercion, outright baby-selling, falsified documents, private adoption that lacked legal oversight, etc. The consequences of unethical, incomplete, falsified, and/or defective paperwork are profound and can become the stuff of nightmares for the adoptees and the families who love them.
Recently, such paperwork errors have caused several adult international adoptees to be deported to the countries of their birth even though they have lived in the US since they were adopted as babies or youngsters. Without resources, language skills, and or family, they have been dumped unceremoniously at airports like unwanted and unclaimed baggage. In despair, some have committed suicide.
Imagine an adoptee's shock and terror at discovering themselves no longer welcome in the country they call home.
“The agony of growing up in the United States with American parents, only to find out decades later that you’re not an American citizen, is the reality for an estimated 35,000 people who were internationally adopted. Between 75 and 150 adoptees in the District and up to 1,700 Virginians are now adults without U.S. citizenship.”
Because of failure to file and/or incorrectly filed adoption paperwork, many international adoptees are stunned to learn they are not actually citizens. Secure in the belief that they were adopted and American citizens, they fully participated in American life. They attended American schools, secured jobs, and created families of their own. In short, they were living the proverbial American Dream and they enjoyed their rights as Americans which included voting in American elections. They were shocked to discover that their exercise of this right to vote made them criminals, even though they did not know that because of faulty paperwork issues they were not citizens. The consequences were devastating. Any non-citizen who votes in an American election is subject to prosecution and deportation.
“In 2000, Congress passed a law to close the gap and give automatic citizenship to adoptees from other countries, but it only protected children under 18.
Those born before 1983, like Tom and Joy Kim-Alessi, were left out…
The Adoptee Citizenship Act, introduced in 2015 and 2018, would have fixed the problem and granted adult adoptees automatic citizenship as well, but the bills never made it out of committee.”
As adoptive parents, we have both a moral obligation as well as a commitment of the heart to ensure that we complete all paperwork, follow all legal formalities, and work only with entities that subscribe to the highest ethical policies and practices. We should advocate for policy changes that will benefit adult adoptees facing deportation because of errors of adults that were acting on their behalf when they were being adopted and brought to the US. Many international adoptees are persons of color, so this is yet another aspect of racial justice for which we as an adoption community have a vested interest and an obligation to ensure that these children are treated fairly.
Adoptees for Justice is an organization that is working on this agenda. This is their mission statement: Adoptees for Justice is an intercountry adoptee-led organization whose mission is to educate, empower, and organize transracial and transnational adoptee communities to achieve just and humane adoption, immigration, and restorative justice systems. We believe in a world where every person thrives in a safe and supportive environment in which communities of color, immigrants, and adoptees are liberated from all forces of injustice, with full citizenship for all. Our first project is to educate, organize and advocate for an Adoptee Citizenship Act that is inclusive of all adoptees.
Learn how the coaches at GIFT Family Services can help you and your family navigate your adoption journey. We've faced our share of family challenges and crises, ridden the metaphorical rollercoaster, and our families have not only survived; they have thrived. We offer experience, neutrality, and understanding. GIFT coaches are available to present workshops on-line. Contact us to explore this possibility.
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Intent Versus Impact: Why It Matters
It is easy--and naive--to expect that our good intent guarantees a positive result. Even the purest intentions can still yield negative consequences. Negative results--even if unintended--are no less consequential. Most folks do not deliberately behave in a way that will hurt, undermine, and discourage. Yet, some of our actions and words do just that. We are after all, human. Mistakes will inevitably be made. As Intentional Parents, we work to be the best parents we can and we strive to avoid repeating the errors our own parents made. Nonetheless. we will certainly make missteps. They will be different mistakes, errors in judgments, oversights, etc. but still they will happen.
Regardless of the goodness of our intent, the defining importance derives from the impact of our words and actions.
When the result contradicts our intentions, we must effect repairs and take responsibility as quickly as possible. By being accountable for our errors, we provide a model for our children to follow. More importantly, we demonstrate through our actions that we value the relationship MORE than we value being right. We show them that even if words or actions were not intended to be hurtful, we can acknowledge that others did experience them as hurtful. We must not expect our lack of malice to excuse any damage caused by our actions, inactions, words, or our silence.
Our apology must be heartfelt, sincere, and genuine. (The real measure of our sincerity is a commitment to not repeat the mistake. Our subsequent actions will reveal the veracity of our remorse and the genuineness of our promise to change.) When we nurture relationship, vulnerability, and have the courage to share difficult conversations, we deepen the relationship. Breakdowns will happen and the repair/accountability process is integral to healing, respect, and to the health of relationships. (Revisit our blog on apologies.)
As adoptive parents, we have additional complexities and obstacles to overcome and often we face them without the reassurance of a familiar parenting template from our own experience. Our intuition and inclinations must be informed by education. Instead, we depend on our dogged dedication to becoming High AQ parents who understand, embrace, and practice Adoption-attunement (AQ).
We understand that adoption is not a single event and realize that it is a lifetime journey for us as parents and especially for our children. They are the ones who do the heavy lifting emotionally as they strive to braid their dual identities into a healthy, cohesive, identity. Last month we referred to the Seven Core Issues of Adoption (Loss, Rejection, Guilt and Shame, Identity, Intimacy, Mastery and Self-control, and Grief.) These issues are not minor. Working through them is a hero's journey and our children must be able to rely on us for comfort, validation, and truth.
The distinction between intent versus impact is especially powerful when we allow ourselves to see adoption through rose-colored glasses this places a hyper-focus on the benefits and minimizes the complexity. Adoption is not totally benign. While adoption was the answer to our prayers for family, it exacts a high cost from adoptees. The trajectory of their lives is permanently changed. They are severed from their family tree and lose their place in the flow of their ancestral lineage. Even in open adoptions, the original relationships are realigned, subordinated, and reshaped. There is an "intactness" that can never be reestablished. Not through openness. Not through reunion. That primal link is cut. A new connection results--whether tenuous or robust, it will never be the same as the original bond.
The current headlines bring to the forefront issues of race. Families who have adopted transracially or transculturally are particularly concerned. And all adoptive families have a special stake in the outcome. We know the pain and stigma of people devaluing our families. The pain of being seen as inferior simply because of the color of one's skin is far more destructive and crushingly personal. For a long time, the dominant belief regarding race in adoption circles has espoused "color blindness." Buried in the phrase is the precise reason why it is not the best solution to achieve family harmony and to support our children who do not share the same race as our own. Blindness indicates that we are not seeing something. To deny a factor as integral to our children's identity and to the way they experience the world is not only folly, it denies them the validation and support they need so they can learn to cope and survive, and thrive.
All adoptive families have a vested interest in seeing their children as they genuinely are. We must be mindful of the chasm that exists between any fantasy child we imagined while we dreamed of becoming parents and the living, breathing human being that joined our family. we must see, affirm, and nurture their true selves as the fruit of their DNA as encouraged by our loving nurture. Their differences enhance and invigorate our families. Enjoy any similarities and commonalities while ensuring that we are equally appreciative of their uniqueness.
A new awareness of racial inequity in this country has dawned. As Intentional Parents, we must commit to having Difficult Conversations about race, of living a commitment to equity and respect. of "seeing" all aspects of our children including their race. We must teach our kids to be "I-standers" instead of "bystanders." The best way we can do that I by living it ourselves, within our families, friendships, workplaces, and communities.
This blog has frequently quoted the words of David Augsberger: "Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are indistinguishable." This is a powerful statement! Pause and ruminate on it. Take it to heart; it will inform your relationships in a deep way. We must ensure that our children feel seen and heard if we wish to build loving, attached, and healthy families. Wishful thinking and Good Intentions will not accomplish it. Genuinely hearing and seeing our kids in this deeply profound way is the bridge that transports us from Intention to Impact and ensures our Intention becomes a result that occurs in reality not just in our minds.
Episode 1: If Only We Knew Then What We Know Now--Adoption-attunement and Transracial AdoptionEpisode 2: As Adoptive Parents and Adoption Coaches: What parents can do to help their children be part of the solution to racial inequities and nurture tolerance?Episode 3: Special guest Lola Adebara, Founder and CEO of Minneapolis based Partnerships for Permanence shares some insights into adoption/fostering/ and racial justice.Episode 4: Sharon Obazee adoption coach, and adoptee, will discuss transracial adoption and how we can make a difference in our actions, words, families & communities with a lens particulalrly focused on the intersection of race and adoption.
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This blog explores how Adoption-attunement (AQ) and intentionality provide a clear approach to follow, one that helps adoptive families to flourish. It is firmly rooted in a belief that adoption is complex and therefore recognizes the hard truths of loss and pain in which our families began. We Speak truth aloud: adoption is not all rainbows and roses. A family built on the separation of a child from his birth family is by definition rooted in grief and loss. We must not only speak truth, we must follow our words with action.
As families who are committed to Adoption-attunement (AQ)℠, we choose to Be honest and acknowledge this difficult truth. We do not deny or minimize these losses; we have deep empathy for our children’s grief and loss. We create a safe, nurturing space where our children can talk about this reality and rely on us for the reassurance and support they need.
We gather up our courage and Talk about the tough stuff because our children need our wisdom, support, and love. They depend on us for strength and comfort as they work through the Seven Core Issues of Adoption: Loss, Rejection, Guilt and Shame, Identity, Intimacy, Mastery and control, Grief. If we avoid the hard discussions, the challenges of these difficult issues do not go away. The challenges remain whether discussed or not and our children will have to cope with them alone.
Stuffing and suppressing difficult issues is like trying to hold a beachball underwater. Initially, we can keep it submerged. But eventually, it erupts with a huge surge of force. This year has provided a surplus of challenges and difficult issues that we have had to face --within our families and beyond. We have needed to muster courage, determination, and discipline.
The times have also presented us with a chance to Be kind — to ourselves, our families, co-workers, and neighbors. We have a chance to set an example for our children and to respond with patience, empathy, generosity, and kindness. We are all in this storm together yet we are not all in the same boat. Some of us have many more resources than others.
During this month, in what ways will you choose to embody kindness, honesty, and truth-telling? What Difficult Conversations will you choose to explore with family and friends?
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Our families, our country, and the world at large is currently facing an unprecedented challenge. We are collectively facing a Difficult Situation of unparalleled proportions. The survival of many people directly depends on the collective actions of all. Each of us is challenged to think of the greater good when we decide how we will respond to this crisis. We have been asked to engage in social distancing. to stay as isolated as possible, to be vigilant about handwashing, and to subjugate personal pleasure, convenience, and interests and commit to actions that prioritize the collective good.
We face additional levels of challenge as parents raising kids who tend to be resistant to change, whose "radar is supersensitive to perceptions of danger, who move from "connection" to "protection" mode with lightning speed, and who worry about the permanence, safety, and security of their families. How can we persuade our kids of the necessity to accept the current limitations of social distancing, closed schools, and sheltering in place without setting off all of their inner alarms that might trigger their unconscious fears of loss, abandonment, and rejection?
First and most important, talk about the dangers—in age-appropriate ways. Silence exacerbates fears. Secrecy stokes our ability to imagine the worst. We must speak honestly with kids about our concerns without over-catastrophizing the situation. Help kids to understand how they can be part of the solution through simple yet effective and essential ways. Explain what is happening, what's expected of them, of us and of our communities. Help them visualize their behavior as an integral contribution.
As parents, we also have an opportunity to stay solution-focused. Yes, we have serious worries and fears because of this virus. These concerns are valid. Still, we have to plow through the current situation as well as possible. Our kids will be looking to us for reassurance and for an example of how to respond. Our most important task is to remain regulated ourselves and then to reassure our kids and wrap them with a sense of safety. Unless and until they feel safe, their thoughts and behavior will reflect and express their fears and worries. When fear flames, the thinking brain shuts down and the survival brain takes over. Their behavior will reflect this shift and it will be distressing for all.
Just as fear and worry impede our own ability to function, it makes it hard for our kids as well. If ever there was a need for Attunement, it is now. Academic work is important, however, sustaining your family relationships is primary. Many homeschooling parents have posted suggestions for those of us who are new to this endeavor. Most suggest establishing schedules to give the day structure. As much as kids may complain about schedules, most of them fare better with the structure and security that schedules provide.
Academic progress can be reestablished! Concentrate on nurturing connection and mutual concern. Look for opportunities to create laughter and fun as well as some quiet, calm time. Imagine this crisis is finally resolved, what will you be glad that you did with your family? What will you be pleased that you avoided? What will be the lessons you have learned together?
GIFT coaches are available to present workshops on-line.
Contact us to explore this possibility.