Posts Tagged ‘adoption’

Russian Adoption Ban: More than just an adoption news story!

December 28, 2012

19 years ago today my husband and I were counting the last few days until we could fly to Russia to finally bring our daughter Tanya home.  Today we are shocked and saddened by the news that President Putin has signed the bill banning US adoptions of Russian children.  We are sickened to read  that the passing of this bill  has little to do with adoption itself and more to do with retaliation for our own government’s passing of the  Magnitsky Act.  Ironically, this act was passed  to send a human rights message to Russia and instead it has created a new and even more haunting human rights issue.

My heart aches for the US families in the process of adopting who may now never see their precious children come home.  More importantly, my heart breaks for every Russian child whose fate, because of this bill,  will be to grow up in an institution; a fate that the research clearly tells us has dire consequences.  The children are the real victims in this drama.  This is much much more than an adoption news story.  This is much more than the political maneuverings of two countries’ governments   This is a children’s human rights issue.

The simple fact is that the signing of this bill means that thousands of Russian orphans who would have had homes, will now languish in orphanages.  Unacceptable.  It is not unacceptable to me just as an American or just as an adoptive mother or even just  as someone who educates adoptive parents about the very real needs of children who have waited in orphanages.  It is unacceptable to me as a human being.  It is unconscionable to  know that institutional care creates undeniable issues for the social, emotional, cognitive, and physical well being of children and then to enact policy that actually means more children will suffer this fate.

As an adoptive parent, I have always taught my daughter that her father and I are the lucky ones.  I’ve never liked it when people told us how lucky she was to have us.  She was and is our dream come true.  It seemed insane to think of her as the lucky one.  But today, I am forced to imagine what would have happened to our Tanya, and the more than 55,000 other children that were adopted from Russia since then, if they had played out their years in a Russian orphanage.  It is chilling to  think of what would have been lost  to our Tanya, to us, and to the world, if  she (and the others) had not come home to us.

tanya life 2

Feel free to respond to this blog with your own pictures and stories.  And as this tragedy plays out in the days and weeks to come please help to educate the people around you that this is much more than an adoption news story.  Reach out to your senators and representatives and tell them that you expect our government to continue to fight for these children’s human rights.  And if you are blessed with children that are home safe and sound, hug them tightly and commit to teaching them about human rights and our responsibility as members of the human race to fight for them.

Heart of the Matter HOME

JOIN US ON FB

Learning From Adult Adoptees: 281 Voices

November 28, 2012

Our blog has been quiet lately because Katie and I have been hard at work on our new course Opening Up Open Adoption:  What is it and is it right for you?   Creating the course has been an interesting adventure that began almost a year ago when we dove into researching the topic of open adoption and thinking about what families considering open adoption really needed in terms of pre-adoption education.  We started our learning/planning process by interviewing birth parents,  adoptive parents, and adoption professionals about their experiences with open adoptions.  Having learned a lot about open adoption from these families and professionals we were still keenly aware that an important voice was missing.  We needed to hear from adoptees themselves.

In April of 2012, we launched an online survey of adult adoptees 18 years or older asking them to weigh in with their thoughts, feelings, and experiences on adoption in general and specifically with open adoption.    281 adoptees responded to our survey bringing us so much data to consider and offering our course a whole new perspective.  Some of the things the 281 told us we expected, but other pieces of the data were surprising to us and might be surprising to you as well!

So in the coming  weeks, as we get ready to release our full survey report and launch our new course, we thought we would give you a sneak peak of just some of those 281 voices and what they had to say about open adoption.  We’ll be starting by sharing  how adult adoptees themselves defined “open adoption.”   Get your sneak peak of those definitions and some thoughts to ponder about defining open adoption here.  And stay tuned for more interesting results from the 281!

Heart of the Matter Home

The Day After Mother’s Day

May 14, 2012

Mother’s Day can be one of the hardest holidays to get through while waiting to adopt. I remember crying my way through many holidays during the years of infertility and then waiting for my son to come home.

If you are a woman waiting for motherhood, how did you get through the day?

For those of you who waited and are finally mothering, what advice can you give those who are still waiting? What helped you through the hard days?

Open Adoption: Capturing the Voice of the Adoptee

April 18, 2012

Katie and I are deep in work on our newest project, an online course for prospective parents considering an open adoption.  As part of our work we have launched a research project to try and capture adult adoptees’ voices.  We’re specifically looking for adults 18+ who had some degree of contact with birth family members while growing up.  Please share this link with those you know who might want to participate.  The participants may remain anonymous.  Results will be published on our website and used in our course.  The survey takes only a few minutes to complete.

http://app.fluidsurveys.com/s/openadopt/

Heart of the Matter Home

facebookLogo

Can Zip-a -Dee-Doo-Dah Change Eeyore? Using music to chip away at your child’s negative worldview.

April 2, 2012

Which is more powerful, a negative worldview or music?   Don’t count music out too fast.  Research has long shown that music can have a dramatic impact on body and mind.  While I can’t say that music  is capable alone of changing a negative worldview, I do know that for my family it makes a big difference for children and parents alike.

One of the effects of a neglectful, abusive, and/or traumatic beginning in life is that it often leaves a child with a darkened worldview.  We interpret and make sense of our world through our experiences, and when our experiences are largely negative it only makes sense that our view of the world in general would be negative as well.

Parenting  a child who looks at the world like the Winnie the Pooh character Eeyore can be  frustrating and depressing.  It can seem as if no matter what you do your child is still unhappy and gloomy.  That’s because worldviews are not changed with motivational speeches, lecturing, nagging, or  reminding a child how lucky he or she is.  Worldviews do not change instantly just because the child is placed in a better situation. Worldviews are changed slowly and methodically over long periods of  time.  Only after millions and millions of cycles of need are completed for the child  can  these new more positive experiences begin to also impact that  child’s worldview.  Even then, a child’s worldview doesn’t often change dramatically.  I think it is more common to see a subtle lightening of a child’s worldview and hopefully  a continued lightening over time.

Years ago music became a sanity saver in terms of helping me stay upbeat while battling my oldest child’s sometimes gloomy outlook.  I took to singing her rousing choruses of  “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” and “Zip- a -Dee- Do -Dah” as we were waking up each morning.  These off key silly moments were as much for my sanity and centering as they were for her.  But I really do believe now that they also helped  to chip away at that Eeyore-like outlook.  She is in her 20’s  now and when she was home visiting recently she gave me a morning hug and broke into our “Oh What a Beautiful Morning.” song.  So if nothing else, it is a fond memory for her.

My two youngest kids are teens now and reminding  me indirectly  that just  being a teenager can weigh heavily on one’s worldview.  Sometimes it’s hard to stay positive and upbeat as a teen in our society.  So I’ve decided to break out some morning music again.  I made a morning play list and this weekend  happy wake up music became part  the Drew family breakfast again.  I do believe over time  it will chip away just a bit at those challenging teen worldviews and if nothing else, it will help me to start each day off on the right foot instead of getting sucked into their grumpy.

Thought you might enjoy a peek at my list.  I’d love to hear what music  inspires your family.

I think this first song started everyday of my oldest child’s first grade year:

My mom and dad used to sing this one to me when I was  small and this is the one my daughter most remembers us singing in the mornings:

Good Day Sunshine, Beatles

A Beautiful Morning, The Rascals

Three Little Birds, Bob Marley

Ok I admit it, my kids were kind of rolling their eyes at my breakfast music this weekend UNTIL this one came on and then they burst out laughing!

Because of James Brown I was given a reprieve on eye rolling for John Denver.  And I’m sorry but who can’t feel just a little happy listening to this….

More Beatles.  You can’t really go wrong there.

Classic….Cat Stevens

Classic ….James Taylor

Feeling Good, Nina Simone

Heart of the Matter Home

Join Us on Facebook

Sending Parental Messages of Unconditional Love

February 14, 2012

I  thought this day was a perfect chance to remind ourselves  about the importance of sending messages of unconditional love to our children.   In my house we like to say, “Good days, bad days, happy days, sad days, I will always love you.”

Obviously each of us benefits from the security generated when we really know that despite our imperfections we are truly  loved.  For children who began life in less than optimal care and who waited for a  family the message of unconditional love is even more crucial.

Unfortunately, sometimes kids behaviors, especially the  behaviors that can stem from trauma, loss, attachment strain, etc.  are challenging to manage.  It is not uncommon for adoptive parents (and all parents for that matter) to struggle to address negative behaviors while still sending messages of unconditional love.   Take the following example for instance.

Mom says,  “Bad boy!  We don’t throw toys!  Go to your room this instant!”

Message received by child:   I am  bad.  Mom  wants me to get away from her.  I am not lovable.

In order to send messages of unconditional love we have to be very conscious of the language we choose.  Let’s tweak the above example just a bit.

Mom says, “Bad choice!  Throwing toys is dangerous!    I’m going to put this up until you’ve calmed down.  Now come and sit by Mom.”

Message received by child:  Throwing toys is dangerous.  Mom won’t let me throw toys without interceding.  Mom helps  me when I’m upset.    Mom loves me even when I screw up.

Sounds simple but we all know how challenging it can be in the heat of parenting moments to choose the correct words and deliver them with a loving spirit.  I personally motivate myself by reminding myself regularly that I’m not doing this just to be nice or just to be positive.  I’m doing it because the science tells me that this is the kind of parenting that promotes attachment and nurtures emotional health.  One way I remind myself is by continuing to learn and read on the subject.  One author that particularly speaks to me on this subject is Gordon Neufeld.  He  writes,

 “Unconditional parental love is the indispensable nutrient for the child’s healthy emotional growth.   The first task is to create space in that child’s heart of the certainty that she is precisely the person the parents want and love.  She does not have to do anything or be any different to earn that love- in fact, she cannot do anything, since that love cannot be won or lost.  It is not conditional.  It is just there regardless of which side the child is acting from – ‘good’ or ‘bad.’  The child can be ornery, unpleasant, whiny , uncooperative, and plain rude and the parent still lets her feel loved.  Ways have to be found to convey the unacceptability of certain behaviors without making the child herself feel unaccepted.  She has to be able to bring her unrest, her least likable characteristics to the parent and still receive the parent’s absolutely satisfying, security –inducing unconditional love.”

Here’s hoping that this Valentine’s Day finds you enjoying the warmth of unconditional love yourself and inspired to keep sending that message to your kiddos.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Heart of the Matter Home

Join Us On Facebook

Remember….

November 10, 2011

Happy National Adoption Month!

My first thought is always about our family’s adoption experience.  My son came home from Russia on a VERY cold winter’s night in 1996.  He was a teeny, tiny, bald baby with huge blue eyes that seemed to see everything.  He was 11 months old and had never been outside an orphanage.  Our extended family was there at the airport with signs, balloons and lots of tears of joy.  My Grandma Nina loves to tell about the first time she held him.  She always talks about how he “snuggled right up” to her neck, remembering it as a sweet, trusting gesture by this tiny baby.  I don’t tell her that our family had actually freaked him out and that he was trying to get away as best as he could!!!!

15, almost 16 years later, he is an amazing young man.  I don’t talk about him much on this blog or in other aspects of my work because he is a very private person.  He is an old soul in a young body.  He has an incredible depth of thinking, sensitivity and interests that go beyond his age and is one of the few people who almost ALWAYS allow themselves to truly be their genuine selves.  He is often a contradiction–for example, he professes to dislike little kids, but is the kindest, gentlest big brother and older cousin you can imagine.  He is brilliant and can literally do anything he wants to do.  He is thinking of being a geological engineer but says his “back up plan” is to be a truck driver.  (he is only half kidding)  He very, very rarely has the typical teenager angst or anger.  He CAN, however make a person crazy with his stubbornness!   I just bought him a shirt that says “I May Be Wrong… But I Doubt It”.   

Long story short, he is amazing and I have no doubt that he will someday fulfill whatever purpose he is meant to.  He may change the world in big ways or small ways, but I am absolutely sure that it will be for the better.  None of this could or would be possible without international adoption.

We are some of the lucky ones.  There are thousands and thousands of children all over the world whose potential may never be reached because they will not have a family.  The statistics for children who age out of foster care or orphanage care are grim.  Their lives up to that point are sometimes even worse.

I want us all to remember all these little ones.  Whether adoptive parents, birth parents or adults who care about children, we owe it to the children who are still waiting for someone to be their own.   In particular, I’d like to ask you to remember and say a prayer for a group of children known as the “Bac Lieu 16”  They are not the only children needing our thoughts, prayers and especially ACTIONS., but looking at a tiny cross-section of the bigger problem can help us begin to comprehend the depth, scope and reality of so many children’s existence.

International adoption is not the only answer, but it should remain ONE answer.

From Our Inbox: Are We Creating Bad Behavior By Meeting Too Many Needs?

September 21, 2011

Ever worry that meeting your child’s needs might be spoiling her?  Check out the below question we received by email and read our response to learn more about needs, wants, trust and control.

From Our Inbox:

Dear Ladies,

I was discussing the behavior of my adopted 4 year old with a friend, and she was describing what was going on in her house.  It seems we have the same child, she the female version! We realized that each of these children (in addition to coming from the same overseas orphanage) experienced trauma in the first months of life.  Now, both children are loving and continuing to show signs of attachment, but are the most strong willed, stubborn, and at times inflexibe children you’ve ever seen. My husband and I say, we all (including his biological adopted sister) go with the flow and our son directs the flow. I have taken your course on power struggle or adoptive behavior, and I either need to take it again, or need some techniques to use and share with my friend.  We were thinking maybe their behavior is a result of answering that cycle of need one to many times.   Have we created this behavior? Anyway, whatever you can suggest, we are listening and eager to hear. You are always my go-to gals on all things adoption, so thanks for all the work you do.

Signed,

Eager to Hear

Our Response:

Dear Eager to Hear,

First, let me assure you that you cannot spoil or overindulge a child by meeting their needs.  Having needs met over and over again in a timely, consistent, nurturing fashion creates positive brain based skills.  You can, however, spoil or overindulge a child by granting them every one of their desires, wishes, or wants.  There is a big difference between consistently meeting needs and always granting wants.

The Difference Between Meeting Needs and Granting Wants:
You could never become spoiled just because your partner or significant other interacted with you everyday, smiled at you, helped you fix a problem with a broken appliance, attended your child’s school meeting with you, kissed you and hugged you daily, and remembered that you are allergic to peanuts whenever he or she cooked.  That’s because these are just examples of meeting your needs as a spouse or partner.

You could however become “spoiled” if your spouse did all the cooking, cleaning and car and appliance repair with no need for input or help from you, rubbed your feet every single night, routinely brought home lavish gifts , made you breakfast in bed daily,  let you choose the menu always,  never raised his or her voice or demanded their own way, and basically gave in to anything and everything you ever WANTED.

It’s the same with children.  Since I’m not able to see into your home you will have to discern for yourself if you are simply meeting needs (food, comfort, support, boundaries, guidance, etc.) or if you are acquiescing to every want.  And remember, choosing to indulge in some of your child’s wants is perfectly fine as long as it is on your own terms and you understand the difference between needs and wants.

Trust and Control:But beyond the needs and wants conversation there lies an even more important topic to consider in your question.  That is the topic of controlling behavior and why so many children who waited in orphanages before their adoption exhibit such a strong need to control their environment even after they are safe at home with needs meeting parents.  When you say that you have the ability to “go with the flow” but your son “directs the flow” and when you use adjectives like “stubborn, strong willed and inflexible” you describe what I imagine to be a child struggling to remain in control. And given the history it makes a lot of sense.

Remember that even as you meet your child’s many needs over and over again now, you are still battling against the fact that prior to coming to you those needs were likely not met in a timely and nurturing fashion and so it makes sense that skills learned from having one’s needs met,  skills like cause and effect thinking, impulse control, self regulation , empathy and the most important of all ….trust, might be lacking.

You mention that your child shows positive signs of attachment, and that’s great, but remember that attachment is more than just love.  It also encompasses all of those brain based skills….especially trust.  A child who is still developing healthy levels of trust is much more likely to act in controlling ways.  Because of this it isn’t surprising to me at all that both your child and your friend’s child are exhibiting similar controlling behaviors.  I’m just more inclined to point to a lack of needs meeting early in life as the culprit.

So what’s a parent to do?  More of the same.  Keep up that needs meeting parenting and enjoy spending time with your friend who is parenting in the same way.  Help each other by chatting about needs and wants and discerning if you are striking a balance on delivering some wants and meeting most needs.     You mentioned taking some of our shorter courses but if you haven’t taken Because They Waited we strongly suggest it.   It really helps to answer some of the why’s as well as the “what to do’s” in a more comprehensive way than some of our shorter courses.

Hope that helps! Keep us posted on your progress and thoughts.

Julie

Heart of the Matter Seminars Home

Join Us on Facebook

Advice for “the church ladies” who want to help adoptive families….

September 19, 2011

So much of this is great advice, I had to share: Helping a Family Who Recently Adopted

How, When and Why to Phase Out International Adoptions?

September 13, 2011

South Korean Adoptions: The Canary in the International Adoption Mine? is an article written by Dawn Davenport that explores some of the thought processes, pressures and goals behind South Korea’s policies limiting international adoptions.  It does an excellent job of examining some of the rationales and policies based on research rather than opinion or rhetoric.

Most important, it brings to light the unintended consequences of imposing limits on international adoptions before the rate of domestic adoptions has caught up.


%d bloggers like this: