Newsletter-Summer 2015

September 1, 2015
Growing Intentional Families Together

June 2015  |  Volume 2 Issue 2

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Color you father,
Color you love!

Happy Father’s Day!

Welcome to the GIFT Newsletter

GIFT coaches know that adopted families, like those formed exclusively by birth are fundamentally the same: parents and children love and are committed to one another forever. We also know that many times the adoption journey included more twists, turns, and an array of “intermediaries” (social workers, lawyers, etc.) than in the creation of a biological family. We found, too, that often there was a gap in the services required to navigate some of the challenges we faced. In fact that is how GIFT came into being -- we became the resources we needed but did not have. Coaching helped to fill the void and our families began to heal, connect, even flourish.
Today as professional adoption coaches, our work supports the love and commitment adoptive families have made to one another. We know that adoptive families who have the courage to “see” the entire scope of adoption will reap huge benefits. We move beyond the fairytale, get real and deal with the reality that can fill a home. Neither parent nor child needs to play a role of perfection but instead, savor the blessings and then gird themselves for any challenges. These children and parents enjoy the freedom to be authentically themselves—warts and all!  Enjoy this edition of the GIFT newsletter!

Lynn Cooper, President, GIFT Family Services, LLC

From the GIFT Blogs

Adoptive Family Milestones–Ordinary and Extraordinary

During 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.  Read More

Adoptees Share Their Hard-Won Wisdom

I recently read Adoptee Survival Guide. This collection of stories compiled by Lynn Grubb opens 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.  Read More

The Coaches' Check-In Corner:

Coach Sally Ankerfelt

For many families, a faith community is an important source of support and healing. Yet sometimes we adopted families feel left behind as we face challenges because of the stress and commotion in our daily lives. As we’ve dealt with fidgeting youngsters, or a disdainful teen announcing we are not their real parent. When we most need the support and connection of our faith community, we may fail to be understood and accepted.
As an ordained pastor, certified coach and parent of three children with various attachment adaptations, I have a unique perspective of the role a faith community and its practices can play in supporting healthy attachment between members, families, and children. I ask myself and members of my faith community how might we build on our current practices to gain new awareness and skills, create a safe, enriching environment for families, children and individuals living or working with attachment disturbances that often challenge adoptive families?

When we adopted our children, we became an adoptive family and this required us to understand how adoption influences all of our lives. If we think of the faith community as being like a “family”, then we should expect and promote  an adoption sensitive attitude or “Adoption-attuned Quotient”—“AQ” for short. Like families, our faith communities can become savvy to the Adoption-attunement Quotient (AQ*) if we enlighten and educate our clergy, religious staff, volunteers, and members to recognize and consider how adoption influences a child.

Such influences include:

  • Adoption-sensitive parenting techniques
  • Sound adoption language
  • Knowledge of the attachment process
  • Consideration of grief and loss issues
  • Respect for birth parents
  • 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

Although many of these concepts are parent centered, they can be extended to the faith community. I know that often times we as the faith community focus on the task of handing down the faith to our young people. We want them to accept the teachings of our faith and to embrace its values. But as someone who is a part of an adoptive family, I have discovered that there is a greater focus that many of us adoptive families need. We need connection, love, and real acceptance so that we will continue to turn to the faith family and feel supported in our time of true need. Remembering that a child’s story belongs to him would mean that congregants be intentional in their respect for privacy and not engage in excessive questioning or gossip about the child’s history.

Another anchoring principle is using sound adoption language for surely children do not need to that themselves labeled as “having been given up for adoption.” (It is more appropriate to say an adoption plan was made for the child.) Yet another Adoption-attuned* practice is showing understanding that our adoptive children and families may be dealing with grief and loss that can ebb and flow. These are but a few of the AQ* precepts that should begin to guide our faith communities toward greater love and acceptance of fall adoptive families. After all, we know that a "happily ever after" fairy tale of a perfect adoption is neither realistic nor healthy. Adoptive families crave the acceptance, loving support and message of hope offered by their faith. It is vital that the community live this stewardship as they minister to these families in need.

GIFT coaches Sally Ankerfelt and Susan David will be presenting, “Faith Communities as a Source of Healing and Connection", at the Association for Training on Trauma and Attachment in Children's 27th Annual ATTACh Conference in Minneapolis, MN September 24-27, 2015. Read More Here

Upcoming Events

Putting Family First Conference
Arlington, VA  |  June 22 - 24, 2015 

GIFT is excited about this first ever conference put together by Joint Council and NCFA. They've teamed up to launch this new conference: Putting Family First, From Family Strengthening to Adoption and are combining their strengths to bring together a diverse group of presenters and participants who are focused on the continuum of care that helps children live in safe, permanent, and nurturing families.  What an unprecedented opportunity to learn, network, and lead and to be with hundreds of passionate child advocates who all believe in Putting Family First!
Putting Family First Conference

North American Council on Adoptable Children 41st Annual Conference
Long Beach, CA  |  July 30 - August 1, 2015
Pre-Conference Session: July 29 

GIFT is pleased to announce that coaches Joann DiStefano and Sally Ankerfelt will be presenting an interactive workshop entitled, "Parent Coaching: Helping Parents Develop Empathy and Promote Healing" at the 2015 NACAC Conference. As always, the NACAC Conference will be a wonderful learning and networking opportunity for adoptive, foster, and birth parents, child welfare professionals, adoptees, foster care alumni, kinship providers, and other child advocates.   NACAC Conference 

The Ties Program -- Uniquely Inspired Global Travel (formerly Adoptive Family Travel)

Colombian Ties
Adoptive Family Heritage Journeys

Colombian Ties 2016 information packets are ready and registration is open! So you get the best airfares possible, and have the maximum time to plan, they encourage you to request a packet and register early.
For more information on adoptive homeland travel check out:   
Adoptive Family Homeland Journeys
Next Generation Korea for Adult Adoptees

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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Call today!
Sally: 612-203-6530 |  Susan: 541-788-8001 |  Joann: 312-576-5755 |  Gayle: 772-285-9607