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

Friday, August 25, 2017

A PARENT IS FOREVER

Another quiet morning. The house is empty, except for me and the dog. All homestudies and post placements are written. All client, attorney, agency and court calls taken care of yesterday. So this morning, I get to sit with a cup of coffee, catch up on recorded television shows and enjoy the calm.

So why am I feeling there is something else to do? Perhaps, because for 30 years I have been on the treadmill of life with work to be done, meals to prepare, errands to run, children to care for and more. These days, I help people adopt, decide  which option is right for them, provide parenting advice, train other professionals and consult with adoption agencies.

But I like my down time, which includes hearing from family, talking to friends, hanging out with the dog and trying out new recipes. At times, figuring out what to do when not working is tough. I spent so many years balancing work and motherhood. Now I am balancing work and me.

Any parent who works, mother or father, will understand. It isn't always easy to balance the two. There are many decisions to be made. How many activities are good for a child and at what age? How to get a healthy meal on the table every day?  What if a nanny or babysitter is sick or a child is sick and can't go to school?  How to rearrange work schedules at the spur of the moment? Or should I stay home? Mostly, it's manageable, but sometimes the guilt can be  overwhelming. 

I remember  coordinating everyone's schedules - dropping the girls at school and getting to the office, and then rushing back to pick them up at the end of the day, which often included after school activities or playdates. I remember running errands, planning meals, organizing weekend activities and more. I was always tired.

And then there was the adoption complexity. We talked about adoption many times over the years. Sometimes they raised the subject, other times  I did. We talked about the reasons for their birth mothers making the decision they did and  when and how to talk about adoption with others. I learned to allow them to process their own stories, choose the terminology with which they felt most comfortable and follow their lead with needing more information.  We stuck with it, returning to further explore situations and feelings. I never was sure when a conversation would arise and some of them were more difficult than others.

From the busy days of raising young children, to keeping an eye on them as they developed friendships, to launching them into independent women, to watching them pursue their dreams and careers, I have been an active participant along the ride. 

And, so on this quiet morning, my caretaker role continues. the dog has needs to be met. But with just a tasty bowl of food (no cooking needed), some water to wash it down and a quick walk, he will sleep away most of the day. While, he's the easiest "child" to please, a parent's role is forever.

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








Sunday, August 13, 2017

WORKING MOM

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ve heard me say that I love being in my own home. I like the familiarity, knowing where everything is, slowing down and deciding what to do and when.

After running around all week, meeting with families and speaking with other professionals, I find myself needing that “down time”. Take his week for example. I led a conference for adoption professionals focused on how to best meet the needs of individuals and couples pursuing adoption, surrogacy and other assisted reproduction technologies. I spoke at the New York City Gay Center as a part of an all-day conference focused on family building options. I also did several home studies and post placements. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

But I am also elated at being able to help people seeking to build or enlarge their families and the professionals that work with them. I never take on more than I can handle and leave time between visits with families to quickly complete their reports.

As a working mom, I tried my best to balance my daughters’ needs with those of my clients. But, as hard as I tried, I had moments of feeling guilty and being pulled in two directions. My employer was cooperative and I could adjust my work hours to attend school events. My parents were nearby to fill in when needed. I’m not sure how I could have parented without them.

There were times my daughters wanted me to be at home with them more. There were times I worked late into the night after they went to sleep. There were times we all sat at the same table, with them doing homework and me typing reports. It may not have been perfect – but it worked.

Between school, after school activities, playdates and hobbies, we were on the run a lot. My girls liked to be busy. But, down time was important, too. Cuddling on the couch watching a movie. Going to the playground, park or lake in the summer.

My daughters live in their own homes now. They are always on the move – work, friends, caring for their pets (they each have many) and much more. They prefer to keep active, but realize quiet time to regroup or to sleep is not only a necessity but a privilege.

I love watching them grow and create their own environments. They are like me in many ways and very different in others. What I enjoy is that they are a combination of nature and nurture. They are who they are because of being adopted and are now stretching their wings. They continue to try new things and create independent lives, all the while, staying in touch with their home base.  What more can a mother ask?

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 adoptive parents, parents-to-be and adopted persons, as well as trained professionals to work with adoptive families. She was Director of the Ametz Adoption Program of JCCA, a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption Series, 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 at 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



Monday, July 31, 2017

THE BABY'S ROOM, THE HOMESTUDY & PRIVATE ADOPTION

If you were pregnant, you'd probably spend time getting a baby's room ready. You'd be painting and decorating and shopping for baby furniture. But for those adopting and who remain uncertain of the final outcome of the process, the thought of preparing the room is fraught with apprehension. Add to that the reality that many families have used the extra space, if they have any, as a guest room, office or even storage area. 

Many infants stay in their parents' room for the first few months until they sleep through the night. Add to that the reality that due to high rents, families in urban environments don't plan to move until they are in need more space. Many families in suburban or rural areas don't set up rooms until the child is actually in their home. For a family, who does not yet have a separate room for a child when the homestudy is done, I explore their plans with them. Where will the child initially sleep? Will they be creating a space for the child in the current home? Do they plan on moving and, if so, when and to what neighborhood or community?

While a room may not be decorated before the child’s arrival, there are ways to prepare. Plan to do any home renovations and painting ahead of time. You can pre-order a crib, changing table and other baby furniture and ask the store to hold it until you are ready for delivery. Stores selling baby items are aware of this option and are willing to cooperate. You can set up an order of diapers, formula and other infant care products through an online store by placing it in your shopping cart wish list. These orders can be shipped to you once needed. You can have them delivered to a family, friend or neighbor’s house to be picked up or brought to your home while you are picking up your child on the day you arrive home.

The afternoon before I was to fly out to meet my older daughter, the adoption agency called me. They had forgotten to ask for photos of our home and the baby's room. We had not prepared it as there had been disappointments along our adoption journey, and she was going to sleep in our room for at least a few weeks. I panicked and called my husband, telling him to come home quickly with 2 cans of white paint. We painted half the room, took pictures of that side while the paint was still wet and then repeated the other half of the room. Photos taken and passed off to FedEx, we sank into the couch exhausted. The next morning, we flew out and brought our daughter home. Years later, I told the story to the adoption agency director, who laughed and said I should have just taken pictures of the room as it was, boxes and all. 

In all the years I have done homestudies, I have never forgotten my own experience and have explored the apprehensions and superstitions of other singles and couples starting the adoption process. I spend some time discussing their plans with them. After a child is placed and I return for the post placement visits to see how everyone is doing, we review the living arrangements. Some children already have a fully decorated room, some rooms are partially decorated and others are still being planned. With all the variations on creative use of space I have seen over the years, I sometimes even offer suggestions.

You have enough to worry about during your adoption process but you should ask your social worker or placement agency whether you need to set up a room for your baby. Many feel as I do, that you will do this once you are sure of a child coming home. That you are eagerly looking forward to doing so, but nerves are getting in the way. Dream about the room, the furniture, decorations, wall decals or murals, filling it with toys, books and more. Envision the closet and dresser full of clothes and diapers, the bathroom with a baby bath and baby care products. Your home filled with all sorts of baby equipment and toys. It will happen.

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