Coaching & Support Before, During, and After Adoption

Fall 2015 Newsletter: Support for Back to School

by | Sep 17, 2015 | General Discussion



Growing Intentional Families TogetherSeptember 2015 | Volume 2 Issue 3



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GIFT Celebrates Autumn, Change, & Choices

Fall is in the air. The days are getting shorter, the nights are cooler and in New England where I live, the leaves are beginning to change color. Many more things change as autumn approaches. The “lazy, hazy, crazy” days of summer are replaced with busy days returning to work, school and the regular activities of life. Some may be excited to return to these activities while others may struggle to get back in to the swing of things. Either way, change exists and can be difficult to navigate for families.Will you or your children be leaving friends or reuniting with them? Will the routine of the family be greatly disrupted? Does a change in the weather or even wardrobe have an effect?


Having awareness of these potential challenges as well as a plan to work through them benefits everyone. Know what may trigger each member of the family and how best to assist them. Spend time as a family discussing what will or may change and how you want to move through the change together.What would work best for your family to build the needed safety and security for the development and growth of coping skills? Maybe you and your family will spend a day at the park, create game night, plan a pumpkin patch or apple farm visit, or head to the football stadium? Whatever you decide, along with change, fall brings an array of wonderful possibilities!

Lynn Cooper, President, GIFT Family Services, LLC

From the GIFT Blogs:
Back to School Assistance

Heather T. Forbes, LCSW: Your Child is Misbehaving, Are You Listening?

GIFT is proud to post this important article which Heather Forbes, LCSW, wrote for us. She is renowned for her work through the Beyond Consequences Institute. At BCI, Heather Forbes advocates a healing, therapeutic response to parenting kids with trauma. She has written several superb books. Next week, we will review her latest, Help for Billy, which examines how schools and parents can help kids who are challenging in the classroom. All of her books will prove to be an excellent addition to your family’s book shelf. Read More

Help for Billy: A Beyond Consequences Approach to Helping Challenging Children in the Classroom

In last week’s blog, we shared an interview with adoption expert and author, Heather Forbes, LCSW. We are pleased to review her latest book, Help for Billy: A Beyond Consequences Approach to Helping Challenging Children in the Classroom. This excellent book continues to advocate for children by focusing on relationship first. In each of her books for adoptive parents, Heather Forbes has written knowledgeably with an emphasis on compassion and understanding. In Help for Billy, her approach is again steeped in respect, empathy, and love for the child. He’s not scapegoated as the problem; he’s viewed as a child with problems. Billy is not a bad kid; he’s a kid that life has thrown into the white water and he is struggling mightily to stay afloat.

Yes, it is challenging to be the parent or teacher of a child like Billy. His behavior is problematic. It is both a symptom and evidence of Billy’s need for help.

Several points in the book resonated with me. First Forbes encourages educators and parents to reformulate the questions they ask themselves as they try to determine how to help Billy. Instead of querying, How can Billy change his behavior? She recommends asking, How can we assist Billy in feeling safe, supported and calm? Read More

The Coaches’ Check-In Corner:

Coach Joann DiStefano

Coaches Joann DiStefano and Sally Ankerfelt presented an interactive workshop entitled, “Parent Coaching: Helping Parents Develop Empathy and Promote Healing” at the 2015 NACAC Conference. They report back that as always, the Conference was a wonderful learning and networking opportunity for a wide range of adoptive parents and adoption professionals. NACAC continues to be a prominent force in the adoption arena. Coach Joann shares some of her experience below:
Often times, coaching requires us to look at things differently. How’s this for different: “Adoptive Parents are the Biological Parents”.That statement, asserted by Dr. Dan Siegel at the NACAC Conference had a profound effect on the audience as well as on the overall tone of the Conference. Siegel, a psychiatrist and the Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute as well as the author of many parent-child books, maintains that biology is experience.As adoptive parents, we are constantly guiding our children through their experiences; experiences that GIFT coaches argue should include Adoption-attuned practices (AQ*) and a connection-first mindset because these experiences have a positive factor only if we have a good relationship with our child. It is understandable then that every workshop that we attended, including our own presentation, stressed the importance of this parent-child connection. All the presenters were in harmonic accord that without a solid relationship, we couldn’t be the guides we need to be for our children, leaving their growth into regulated and secure adults in jeopardy.

Further highlighting the importance of the parent-child relationship were workshops that discussed the older emancipated child entering the adult world “parentless”. Many of them foster children from group homes, these young adults have no parent to guide them once they become a “so-called” adult, i.e. reach the age of 18 years.

As coach, parents confide that they are eager to have their children “launch” and struggle with what the “launch” will look like. Yet, as parent to my own children, now in their twenties, I experience that they continue to need at least some guidance navigating many of their decisions. They look to my husband or myself for advice, too. Most importantly, though, they know that we are their “safe haven”, that place they can return if they ever need to do so.

A foster child, now a young adult, without a parent does not have this “safe haven” or constant guiding force. Statistics are high that many of them will become our nation’s homeless or criminals. They may be adults “by the nation’s standards”, however, many of them have psychological issues based on their lack of connections and still exhibit manipulative child-like behaviors.

Without a parent with whom they can experience life, they may never learn how to deal with its challenges and frustrating circumstances nor make lasting connections.A strong family unit, then, is a key ingredient for our survival. Without it, we can expect to see more violent episodes from those who have not had that all important consistent and nurturing connection provided generally by a parent.

Books can often help us empathize with these sad statistics on a deeper level. Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s, The Language of Flowers, I believe illustrates Dr. Siegel’s point. It is the heart-wrenching story of an emancipated homeless foster child who learns the true meaning of the parent-child relationship. Through her love of flowers and through her experiences, she discovers her vulnerability and finds out about “love” that she believed she was incapable of feeling. Using moss in her creations with flowers, she realizes that moss does not have roots, and yet, it represents “maternal/nurturing” love. So, we, too, do not need roots for our growth.

Our DNA is simply a blueprint that was handed to us. Our experiences, especially when they are given to us through solid parent-child connections, are the primary source for influencing the architecture of our life. Looking at things differently, then, adoptive parents really are the biological parents.

Upcoming Events with GIFT Coaches

Attachment Matters: Raising the Bar for Child Wellbeing

GIFT coaches Sally Ankerfelt and Susan David will be presenting, “Faith Communities as a Source of Healing and Connection”, at the 27th Annual Association for Training on Trauma and Attachment in Minneapolis, MN, September 24-27, 2015.

There is still time to register. Join parents and professionals from across North America and beyond to learn from one another and receive the most cutting edge training from leading speakers in the field of trauma and attachment.

Read More

Join Coach Joann DiStefano at the Walk for Adoption Chicago 2015

Date: Saturday, October 03, 2015
Time: 8:00 am Central Time
Duration: 3 hours
Location: Lake Arlington in Arlington Heights, IL

Started in 2010 by three adoptive moms with very different backgrounds and adoption experiences, The Walk for Adoption Chicago celebrates the miracle of adoption and the adoptive family as well showing support for birth families and their loving decisions to place their child with another family. This yearly event is a way to network, to talk openly about adoption, and to give back to the adoption community. GIFT applauds The Walk for Adoption’s mission to promote both a positive view of adoption and positive adoption language and to give children that have been adopted the opportunity to associate with children that may have similar life situations. See you at the Walk!Adult tickets are $10 and Children are free.Read More

If you or someone you know is seeking assistance, please call us at GIFT Family Services

Grounded in the belief that a safe, loving family is the gift of a lifetime, we formed Growing Intentional Families Together (GIFT) to make adoption a smoother and gentler experience for adoptees and the families who love them. GIFT is a full service coaching firm providing support services to adoption/foster families before, during and after adoption. Not only are all of us adoptive parents, we are all certified coaches as well. Coaching focuses on action steps to move families forward through difficulty. Combining our own adoptive family experiences with our professional training enables us to listen without judgment, empathize, and then strategize effective solutions.
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