Wednesday, January 10, 2018

REFLECTIONS

Usually at this time of the year I have the typical resolutions of losing weight, seeing friends more often and watching my health. This year, I decided to go with something less specific - I will be good to myself. 

It has been freezing in the Northeast for over a week. Temperatures have plummeted and wind chills like this have never been seen in this part of the United States. Even weather forecasters seem to be amazed at what we are experiencing.

And so, with the cold days (and remembering how I slipped on the ice two years ago and broke a wrist), I will be staying home on icy and snowy days. I will do more over-the-phone consultations and short-term counseling. This does not mean I won’t do homestudy and post placement visits. I just will be careful scheduling them. I absolutely love meeting the families in person and later, their children.

I am taking advantage of being home more. I have been cooking, baking and snuggling on the couch with the dog (even more important these days as he has extra body heat). I normally bake cookies at this time of year. But with all this extra time, I have added and perfected making bread and fudge.

Baking and snuggling have me reminiscing about days gone by. Thirty years ago, I was getting used to being a mom, making formula, changing diapers and catching up on sleep when I could. Twenty-five years ago, I was juggling 2 daughters under the age of 5. I had begun to work part-time and, while forever tired, was in heaven. 

I always tried to put a home cooked meal on the table, but admit that after a while, Chinese food and pizza deliveries slipped into our routine. I needed to do something better.... I began to experiment with 15-30 minute meals. I would prepare ingredients over the weekends and sneaked lots of vegetable purees into foods such as smoothies, meatloaf, chili and more. I even learned to make a few Chinese dishes and pizza (crust included), so that I knew what ingredients we were eating. Over the years, I got better and better at it. I shared recipes with other new moms and those with little extra time who were learning to cook.

My daughters didn't get the cooking bug until they were older. I didn't get the baking bug until they were teens. I began to bake bread, bagels, bialys and cookies. These days, with my daughters living on their own, I baked and shipped them a selection of cookies, brownies, fudge, rugelach and crispy treats. 

My resolution was to be good to myself. I enjoy working in the kitchen (as well as with clients).  All this baking is my winter routine.  I will stop baking and creating sweet treats but I will continue baking breads and I will snuggle with the dog as often as possible. He is a warm and calming influence in my daily life.

I always think about the days long ago, the adoption of my daughters (1987 and 1991), watching them grow and seeing them become independent young women. One of the many things I take pride in is their ability to cook a delicious meal. While I shall never know if it's nature or nurture, I do know it's like mother - like daughter.

And now, I’m off to send some fudge to that friend "in need" of a sweet....

Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. Through her private practice and agency affiliations, she has prepared thousands of adoption homestudies, counseled expectant, birth, pre/post adoptive parents and adopted persons, as well as trained professionals to work with adoptive families. She was Director of the Ametz Adoption Program of JCCA and a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption Series and is currently a member of the Adoption Advisory Board of Path2Parenthood and active in the Adoptive Parents Committee in New York. Her blogs and written contributions can be seen throughout the Internet, including her BLOG and as Head Writer for ADOPTION.NET  She was named an “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. You can reach her directly at EMAIL

Thursday, December 14, 2017

GETTING THROUGH THE HOLIDAYS

The holidays are upon us. You most likely will spend more time with family and friends, catching up on the year gone by and looking forward to the one to come. Children will be part of many celebrations and ever present on television shows and commercials. If you are trying to conceive or adopt - any of these situations may impact on your emotions. If you are in your own home, you can change the channel or mute unwanted messages. But, if you are out and about or with family and friends, someone will most likely bring up the subject of children or family building.

Preparing for this scenario may make things easier.  You can shop on line to avoid seeing children in the mall or go there late at night when most children should be home and in bed.  You do not have to go to any events or celebrations that make you uncomfortable.  You can carefully choose the ones to attend. However, you should have a plan. Decide ahead of time, what questions you will answer, what information you will reveal and what is off limits. You have the right to share only what you want to share.

Make sure someone else at the party "has your back". They should be aware of your plan and know when to distract others with varying topics of conversation or suggesting you come try a food or are needed somewhere else. Agree on how you will let them know you need their assistance (i.e. a tug on an ear, use of a specific word, twirling a ring or other signal.) 

It's also okay to spend some alone time. Create new holiday traditions. Do something with friends or family who get “it". Schedule a pampering session. Vacation in an adult only resort. 

You can also prepare and get through the holidays (and other events throughout the year) with the help of a support system (in-person or online group) or by seeking out professional counseling (short or long term).

I never forgot how it felt to attend events where I knew my emotions would be raw. I admit I avoided some. Even after having my daughters, I learned to stay away from gatherings where new mothers talked about pregnancy and childbirth. Over the years, it was much easier as conversations turned to day-to-day parenting. Then I was one of the group. 

Remember - it is up to you what to share and with whom, now and in the future. It is your story now. As your child grows, it will become their story, too. You can share specific or generic information or no information at all. You will teach your child how to field questions, to answer or not.

Adoption will always be a part of how you became a family. Some days, it will fade into the background. Holidays tend to bring it to the forefront.

Wishing you a happy holiday season.

Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. Through her private practice and agency affiliations, she has prepared thousands of adoption homestudies, counseled expectant, birth, pre/post adoptive parents and adopted persons, as well as trained professionals to work with adoptive families. She was Director of the Ametz Adoption Program of JCCA and a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption Series and is currently a member of the Adoption Advisory Board of Path2Parenthood and active in the Adoptive Parents Committee in New York. Her blogs and written contributions can be seen throughout the Internet, including her BLOG and as Head Writer for ADOPTION.NET  She was named an “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. You can reach her directly at EMAIL

Friday, December 8, 2017

A CHILD'S UNDERSTANDING OF ADOPTION

What we tell a child and how they interpret and restate what they are told may differ.

While you should have been having this conversation from the time you gained custody of your child, it is not until the age of 2 or 3, as their language and cognitive abilities develop, that a child begins to restate what they have been told. Children in this age range will repeat what they have heard. "You were adopted" may be restated as "I am a doctor", since they only understand and know the word "doctor". Some parents smile and leave this alone. Others, correct the child by saying something calmly and supportively, "It's not doctor, it's 

“adopted”. It means you were born in another woman's tummy and then came to live with me." By repeating what your child has been told before, you are reinforcing the fact and helping them learn the words and the concept. By practicing this from the time your child is placed with you, your voice tone and body language will become relaxed and you will feel comfortable speaking about it with your child.

If you are adopting again, you can use the new process to help explain to your child how they joined your family. You should talk about the process, but not the details of the new child's background or birth family, even if your child meets the birth family. All details should be given to the specific child, when the time is right. Again, be aware of your use of language and responses throughout the process, as they will be sensed by the child that is currently living with you. And as your child gains more of an understanding, you can answer any additional questions your child may have.
  
In the elementary school years, your child begins to understand that for them to be part of your family, they had to lose their first family. And, while their conceptual framework for adoption will improve as they mature, their emotional understanding may take many more years to develop. Regardless of what you say, your child will develop his or her own adoption narrative. It may include what you have told them, as well as what they think or wish happened. It is important to let your child process the information in their own time and in their own language. 

While you may want to protect your child from sad feelings, they have the right and need to feel them.  No parent wants their child to be uncomfortable. Physical discomfort is easier to resolve. Emotional discomfort, such as sadness, anger or anxiety are more difficult to sooth. Do not erase your child's feelings or reactions. Do not tell them not to feel an emotion. Do not provide words for them. Do try to elicit more about how they are feeling. Do try to help them express their reactions in their own words. If they are having trouble expressing themselves, try drawing a picture or acting it out. 

While you may feel bad that you don't have all the answers, maintaining a relationship with birth parents or creating a way for birth and adoptive families to reach one another may make obtaining information possible. However, even with these in place, there still may be unanswerable questions.

It is important to know what you are feeling as your child grapples with the reasons for their adoption. It is important to not let your feelings get in the way. If your child is talking more about adoption, you may need to alert family members, teachers and even the parents of your child's closest friends. You do not have to give any information. Just state that your child may talk about the adoption and if they do, to alert you and send them back to you if they have any questions. Again, remember that any specific information belongs to your child and should be presented to them prior to any family members, etc. Also think through why you are giving out the information. If you need someone to process things with, you should seek out another adoptive parent or counselor (perhaps the social worker who did your homestudy or post placement) or a local adoption specialist.

Over the years, I have counseled thousands of adoptive parents. Talking about adoption is the primary reason they call me after placement. It may be immediately or in the years to come. It may be as their child first begins to understand the words, when a school assignment arises, when peers start asking questions or at the commencement of a second adoption process. It may be an issue for the child or the parents, or both. I am happy to catch up on the weeks, months or years gone by since I have seen a family or to get to know new parents and children grappling with the day-to-day complexities of being an adoptive family and to help a child or family process the information they have, to provide avenues to them to seek or obtain more details or to develop better language for their experiences.

What and how a child understands their adoption is not a one-time event, but takes place over a lifetime. It is a slow discovery and processing, of learning about biological nature, history and heritage and merging it with the family who provided daily care and nurtured them. It is always a unique and individual process. The best a parent can do is to provide information, answer questions, allow a child to feel and process details at their own pace and keep the conversation going.

Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. Through her private practice and agency affiliations, she has prepared thousands of adoption homestudies, counseled expectant, birth, pre/post adoptive parents and adopted persons, as well as trained professionals to work with adoptive families. She was Director of the Ametz Adoption Program of JCCA and a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption Series and is currently a member of the Adoption Advisory Board of Path2Parenthood and active in the Adoptive Parents Committee in New York. Her blogs and written contributions can be seen throughout the Internet, including her BLOG and as Head Writer for ADOPTION.NET  She was named an “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. You can reach her directly at EMAIL


Saturday, November 18, 2017

IT'S A MATTER OF TASTE

I am not the most adventurous of eaters. If I like something, I like it. If I don't, no attempt to get me to eat it will be successful. I am sensitive to food smells.  Certain spices make me feel queasy. I don't generally like mixing textures. For years I'd eat brownies only if without nuts or ice cream without added chunks or candies, and pizza without additional toppings. I like my meats on the rare side and usually grilled. I like Italian food and vegetables. I love bread and butter and cheese.

But my kids had different palettes. They liked meats cooked to medium. They would add ketchup to things I would normally choose to eat with mustard. They would add hot peppers and hot sauces to dishes I preferred with mild seasoning. One liked pepperoni on her pizza and the other daughter hot dogs in her mac n' cheese.

Over the years, while I cooked things more simply, I would provide hot sauces, condiments and additional ingredients  on the side for them to add to their food. Now that they cook for themselves, they have shelves of spices and sauces I wouldn't dream of even trying. LOL

I assume that their sense of taste and preferences is a genetic predisposition. They certainly didn’t pick it up from me. Nature vs. Nurture - amazing.

Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. Through her private practice and agency affiliations, she has prepared thousands of adoption homestudies, counseled expectant, birth, pre/post adoptive parents and adopted persons, as well as trained professionals to work with adoptive families. She was Director of the Ametz Adoption Program of JCCA and a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption Series and is currently a member of the Adoption Advisory Board of Path2Parenthood and active in the Adoptive Parents Committee in New York. Her blogs and written contributions can be seen throughout the Internet, including her BLOG and as Head Writer for ADOPTION.NET  She was named an “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. You can reach her directly at EMAIL


Thursday, November 2, 2017

NATIONAL ADOPTION MONTH INCLUDES THE BIGGEST ADOPTION CONFERENCE IN NEW YORK CITY

From the PRESIDENTIAL PROCLAMATION FOR NATIONAL ADOPTION MONTH to local events, including the ADOPTIVE PARENTS COMMITTEE ANNUAL CONFERENCE (11/19/17 in NYC) there is more of a focus on finding permanent homes for children this time of year.

During this month, with more interest and media attention on foster care and adoption, I get an increased number of calls from singles and couples looking to adopt. The excitement as well as the anxiety are evident in each call as I explain the options and provide resources to move the adoption process forward. 

At this time of year, I always mention the upcoming adoption conference noted above. It is the largest and most comprehensive conference of its kind in the tristate area. Workshops include the actual adoption process, living as an adoptive family, complexities of parenting through adoption, how to talk to children about adoption, relationships between birth and adoptive parents, medical and psychological issues for triad members, school issues and more. Presenters include , physicians, attorneys, social workers, clinicians, birth parents, adoptive parents and adult adopted persons. There is also a large exhibit hall to meet lawyers, adoption agency personnel, homestudy social workers, clinicians and more, as well as a book store.

As a professional and an adoptive mother, I can confirm that this conference is invaluable. This year I am presenting sessions on the ADOPTION HOMESTUDY IN NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY and HOW TO ADOPT DOMESTICALLY AND INTERNATIONALLY. Last year, I delivered the keynote address on LIFECYCLE EVENTS OF THE ADOPTIVE FAMILY. 


If you are thinking of adopting, in the process or living as an adoptive family, there is something here for you. If unsure of which sessions to attend or have additional questions, email me  or drop by my exhibit table on the day of the event. I’m looking forward to meeting you there.

Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. Through her private practice and agency affiliations, she has prepared thousands of adoption homestudies, counseled expectant, birth, pre/post adoptive parents and adopted persons, as well as trained professionals to work with adoptive families. She was Director of the Ametz Adoption Program of JCCA and a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption Series and is currently a member of the Adoption Advisory Board of Path2Parenthood and active in the Adoptive Parents Committee in New York. Her blogs and written contributions can be seen throughout the Internet, including her BLOG and as Head Writer for ADOPTION.NET  She was named an “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. You can reach her directly at EMAIL


Friday, October 6, 2017

SUMMER REFLECTIONS

It's another unexpectedly warm day here in New York. When my kids were young, I remember going to parks that had sprinklers, staying in the shade, arranging indoor playdates and making sure they stayed hydrated. I also got creative with indoor activities. They played in the tub a lot, helped make flavored ice pops, which they later devoured, and even played quietly in our apartment's cool outer hallway and lobby.

For some children, this can be a time to imagine what life and the temperature would be like if they were raised in the state in which they were born. Would the summers be cooler or hotter? Would they be playing indoors or outdoors? Would they be in daycare or camp or who would be watching them? These thoughts and questions in no way negate an adoptive parent's role in a child's life. It is just a reality for any adopted child. Their life is shaped by whoever became their parents, as well as who their birth parents are.

In the same way adoptive parents grapple with how nature and nurture shaped their children's lives, an adopted child can consider who they are and how they came to live within their current family. This incremental exploration enables a child to make sense of their early history, while knowing their parents are willing and available to help them process this information.

Even something as simple as the weather provides opportunity for such discussions. My children came from Texas. At times, we saw stories on the news about tornadoes, rain storms, or droughts in that state. This is now happening in places hit by the recent storms and the concert attack in Las Vegas. This was a chance to reach out to the birth family we had reestablished contact with, to make sure everyone was okay. When 9/11 occurred, and then Hurricane Sandy, many birth parents thought of children placed with New York City families and reached out through attorneys and placement agencies to assure themselves that they were all right. 

As I sit in my office and write this blog, I am surrounded by pictures of my girls throughout their growing up years. The photos themselves do not reveal any of their thoughts on being adopted or birth family. But, knowing how old they were when the photos were taken, I remember what they asked. I always listened carefully, addressed their concerns or got as much of an answer that I could for them. When we didn't have an answer, we imagined various scenarios. 

An adoption plan is a moment in time. Living as an adoptive family or adopted person consists of a lifetime of experiences. As parents, we need to make sure our children know that they can share those experiences with us and ask questions. As parents, we need to make sure they get assurance this is all a normal part of growing up and maturing. As parents, we need to face and slay our own dragons regarding adoption and parenting. Only by coming to terms with our feelings and thoughts can we best help our children.

Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. Through her private practice and agency affiliations, she has prepared thousands of adoption homestudies, counseled expectant, birth, pre/post adoptive parents and adopted persons, as well as trained professionals to work with adoptive families. She was Director of the Ametz Adoption Program of JCCA and a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption Series and is currently a member of the Adoption Advisory Board of Path2Parenthood and active in the Adoptive Parents Committee in New York. Her blogs and written contributions can be seen throughout the Internet, including her BLOG and as Head Writer for ADOPTION.NET  She was named an “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. You can reach her directly at EMAIL

Thursday, September 7, 2017

BACK TO SCHOOL, DAYCARE and AFTERSCHOOL

It's that time of year. The weather is starting to turn a bit cooler and you and the kids are thinking about the changes to come. School looms large. Some of you are looking forward with hopes and dreams for a promising academic year, with smooth transitions, good peer relationships, understanding teachers and plans that fall into place. Some of you may also be a bit anxious on how adoption may come into play during the coming months.  The two biggest issues parents contact me about are: in-class and homework assignments related to family formation, and decisions about disclosure, including when and how much to reveal.

At various stages of the education process, these assignments and discussions crop up. For an adopted child (and parent) the lessons can raise anxiety in their not being able to complete an assignment on a Family Tree. Do they need to reveal the adoption? Can they make up answers? Will they fake a stomach ache to stay home that day? How much sleep will you lose as the concerned parent? Should you talk to the teacher? How can you help prepare your child on what to say or how to answer questions from others?

In the early years, it is usually about a time line showing HOW MUCH I'VE GROWN (including a baby picture). This is most problematic for a child not adopted as a newborn or one that does not resemble other family members. How do they complete an assignment without that photo? How will they answer questions from peers? Should you as the parent talk to the teacher? And what about that parent, who many years ago, told me she cropped an infant's photo out of a magazine for her child's timeline and has felt bad ever since?

Even a young child can learn about their adoption and how to answer simple questions from others. Often, they repeat what they have heard. So, choose your words wisely and be aware of any body-language or other non-verbal messages you are relaying. If you are anxious, identify what is upsetting you - that others will look at you and your child differently? Have more questions than you are prepared to answer? It is up to you and your child what to reveal about your situation or about adoption in general. 

In elementary school, there are discussions of WHO IS IN MY FAMILY.  By now your child should know a bit about their early history and how they became a member of your family. How do they view their birth parents and siblings (if any)? What do they call them? How rigid is the teacher or school about the assignment? Are their options for family formation depictions (trees, orchards, photos, etc.?) Is it up to the child to devise their family profile? How will you feel with birth family members included (or not included) in the family assignment? Can you discuss this with the teacher so that you understand their concept and share your views prior to the assignment? To do so, you will need to disclose the adoption.

Later years may include the genetic chart HOW I GOT MY EYE AND HAIR COLOR. By now, your child should have the tools to disclose what they want and to whom they want? They should understand the concept of sharing their information, sharing generic information or choosing not to share anything. Reinforce their choice while you explore why they are making that choice. Help them express their thoughts (do not interject your thoughts) and help them practice how to talk to others, if needed. Since many children disclose during this stage, prepare them for questions from others.  Not all information in your child's history needs to or should be shared, except by your child, if and when they are ready.

Afterschool activities are another area where questions may arise. Your child may share their adoption with another person or someone may assume and ask you questions. Remember, you do not have to answer any question that is posed to you. Or you may choose to give basic adoption process information, but not any personal details of yours or your child.

Often meeting with the adults in charge of classrooms or activities at the start of the program and sharing the adoption status allows you to ask them to alert you if an assignment is coming up or if academic or casual discussions are occurring or if your child is talking about adoption. A simple email or phone call can give you a heads-up or can catch-you-up on social or classroom activities. 

I started doing this when my kids were 5 years old. I would ask for an early year meeting with each teacher and explaining that we were a family built through adoption. I would ask for any feedback during the year and for any assignments that may relate to family. It worked - I got emails, calls or was pulled aside and told of - books they would be reading - overheard conversations between friends - upcoming assignments. That was all good. I was asked if I wanted to read a book about adoption at circle time in my daughter's classroom. I could answer questions from other kids. I left the book in the classroom library. For all I know, it is still there. I was also told of introductions teachers made of my daughters to other adopted kids. Not so good, although the teacher had good intentions. The other mother was not pleased either. I took the opportunity to privately educate the teacher about keeping the confidentiality of the children. 

Overall, my experiences were positive.  I gave out the information I wanted and thought pertinent. As a mother and social worker, I taught them proper adoption language. I trained teachers, school administrators, clinicians and more. Somedays it was enlightening, others exhausting. I still counsel parents and kids about disclosure and school interviews.

More information:

Each September is a new beginning. Wishing you a great school year.

Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. Through her private practice and agency affiliations, she has prepared thousands of adoption homestudies, counseled expectant, birth, pre/post adoptive parents and adopted persons, as well as trained professionals to work with adoptive families. She was Director of the Ametz Adoption Program of JCCA and a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption Series and is currently a member of the Adoption Advisory Board of Path2Parenthood and active in the Adoptive Parents Committee in New York. Her blogs and written contributions can be seen throughout the Internet, including her BLOG and as Head Writer for ADOPTION.NET  She was named an “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. You can reach her directly at EMAIL