Thursday, March 16, 2017

NATURE VS NURTURE

I'm a homebody. I love being at home. I can always find something to do and like being in my own company. My dog is the same way. He likes to go out but he loves being in his own home. He makes himself comfortable on the couch, in his bed and of course in my bed.

My daughters are just the opposite. And here's where nature and nurture show their effects. My daughters like to be outside. The younger one likes to be out where there is lively activity like down on 42nd Street in New York City or in Las Vegas where she now lives. My older daughter likes to be out in the countryside. She loves taking walks and hikes, riding her horse and spending time running around playing with her dogs.

Their preferring to be outside certainly didn't come from my nurturing them or raising them. Yes we went out to the park, to see friends, to run errands and other events. But the best days for me, were those when we stayed home. They could have friends come over to visit, we could do arts and crafts or cook and bake. We could curl up on the couch and watch a favorite TV show or movie. Snuggling and spending time together was ideal for me.

As the years progressed, there were other areas in which you could see the difference between nature and nurture. They are both very athletic - I am not. They both like to dress up and go out with friends - I do not. They like spicy food- I do not. They like to go out and traipse around in the snow - I do not.

There are areas in which you could see the nurturing.  I have a very close-knit group of friends. These are people whom I trust implicitly and who have been in my life for many, many years. My girls have learned that it doesn't matter how many friends you have, as long as you have some really good ones. You may not see them very often, but the minute you do, you can pick up right where you left off and can always count on them to be there when you need them.

And so it is no surprise that as I write this blog, sitting on the couch with the dog close at hand, one daughter is out at the barn, caring for her horse, and the other is out with friends. We learn and continue to learn from one another. We are aware of and respect our differences. We are a family.

Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. She has prepared thousands of adoption homestudies, counseled adoptive parents and parents-to-be, and has trained professionals to work with adoptive families. She was Director of the Ametz Adoption Program of JCCA (March 1992 to March 2015), Head Writer for Adoption.net and a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption Series. She is currently a member of the Adoption Advisory Board of Path2Parenthood and active in the Adoptive Parents Committee in New York (including being the 2016 Conference Keynote). She lives in New York City where she has a private practice specializing in adoption and adoptive parenting. She was named an “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. Follow or reach her at ADOPTION MAVEN BLOG or EMAIL

Monday, March 6, 2017

NATIONAL SOCIAL WORK MONTH - MARCH 2017

I have worked in the field of adoption for 30 years. I always knew I wanted to work with children and families, started as a camp counselor at the age of 15, worked in various social service agencies starting at age 17 and earned a Master of Social Work degree in 1976. It seems I always knew that this is what I wanted to do professionally.

It wasn’t until 1986, when I wanted to start my family that I began to look for a job that would allow me to spend time with my children. The position I had did not have flexible hours so I found work as a homestudy social worker at The Jewish Child Care Association (JCCA) and added a part-time private therapy practice. I received my training from a seasoned professional at JCCA, and in 1992 was offered the position as Director of their private adoption program. I was able to initially negotiate a part-time schedule that allowed me to spend time with my children and to work from home two days a week. 

As my daughters grew and the demands of the position increased, I added more in-office days, leading to a full time full-timeby the time both of my daughters were in full-time school. Even then, I arranged to take them and pick them up from school daily. Little did I know that I would feel as if I were on a treadmill and couldn't find the “off” switch. I was always running somewhere - to school, to work or to someone’s home for a homestudy or post placement visit. 

I would spend time with my daughters before and after school and write reports late into the night once they were asleep. I would sometimes sneak in writing while they watched a favorite TV show or did "my homework" while they did theirs.

I love my work. I have assisted thousands of families achieve their dreams of parenting or enlarging their family. I have had the privilege of working with some of the best social workers and attorneys in New York and around the country. After leaving JCCA in 2015, I have been able to establish working relationships with agencies and attorneys throughout the country, and continue to provide homestudy, post placement, consultation and counseling services.

During this month of March, I take an extra moment to recognize the contribution social workers have made in the field of adoption. I have supervised some of the best. I know their commitment to help families grow. They share their knowledge and often extend themselves beyond traditional work hours because we believe this work is important and essential. 

I am honored to be a social worker and to have had the opportunity to help children, expectant, birth and adoptive families find one another, and to assist not only in the adoption process, but in the emotional well-being of everyone - before, during and after the legal adoption.

Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. She has prepared thousands of adoption homestudies, counseled adoptive parents and parents-to-be, and has trained professionals to work with adoptive families. She was Director of the Ametz Adoption Program of JCCA from March 1992 to March 2015, was Head Writer for Adoption.net, a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption Series and currently a member of the Adoption Advisory Board of Path2Parenthood and active in the Adoptive Parents Committee in New York. She has has a private practice specializing in adoption and adoptive parenting. She was named an “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. Follow or reach her at ADOPTION MAVEN BLOG or EMAIL.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

OPEN ADOPTION RECORDS

As states have unsealed or are working on unsealing adoption records, the debate continues. Some contend it violates the confidentiality of birth parents who chose to remain anonymous. Some feel troubled that birth parents of the past were not given the opportunity to remain in contact as the years progressed. Still, others argue that adoptees should have the right to their medical, genetic and cultural information.

As of January 1, 2017, New Jersey has implemented a law (signed in 2014) unsealing original birth certificates for people adopted in the state of New Jersey. While birth parents initially had the option to request remaining anonymous, the brief period of time for this request has since passed.

My own daughters have had different experiences surrounding their adoptions. I had contact with their birthmothers either during their pregnancies or shortly after their birth, but did not maintain contact afterwards, other than sending some photos and updates through the adoption agency. Back then, open adoption was rare. We never even discussed it.

Discussions in our family started when they were very young and continued as they grew. We went from “babies come from ladies bellies and when they are born a decision is made who will be the mommy. Some babies go home with the lady whose belly they were in and others go home with other ladies. That’s how I became your mommy.” We moved on to using the word adoption and how a judge said they would be my daughters forever. I reaffirmed that I would take care of them and love them forever. As the days and years progressed, my daily actions proved my dedication and commitment.

Part of my role as their mother was to explore adoption and the meaning it held in their lives. Questions surrounding their mother, father and siblings came and went. Why an adoption plan was made for them was answered to the best of my ability. One of my daughters was satisfied with the information we had. The other wanted more. When these questions persisted into her early teens, it was time to get her that information. With the adoption agency’s assistance, we were able to locate her birthmother and get some answers.  We were lucky. We had enough information and the adoption agency who I had worked with was still around. For those born in an era of fully closed adoptions, there was no contact with birthparents and information was provided through a third person. Accordingly, history has proven instances of inaccurate and rewritten birth history and circumstances surrounding an adoption. Adoptive parents were given little information to pass on to a child. In fact, some even were told not to reveal the adoption to the child.

Birth parents and adult adoptees who have had no contact or who have lost contact may have many questions and mixed emotions. Now, in the state of New Jersey, they have a venue to possibly find that information, integrate it into who they have become and resolve some of those feelings.

Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. She has prepared thousands of adoption homestudies, counseled adoptive parents and parents-to-be, and has trained professionals to work with adoptive families. She was Director of the Ametz Adoption Program of JCCA (March 1992 to March 2015), Head Writer for Adoption.net and a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption Series. She is currently a member of the Adoption Advisory Board of Path2Parenthood and active in the Adoptive Parents Committee in New York (including being the 2016 Conference Keynote). She lives in New York City where she has a private practice specializing in adoption and adoptive parenting. She was named an “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. Follow or reach her at ADOPTION MAVEN BLOG or EMAIL

Sunday, February 12, 2017

VALENTINE'S DAY

While not a major holiday Valentine's Day is one of the heart. Store windows are filled with heart displays and commercials are filled with loving moments between family members. Flowers and chocolate are flying off the shelves. For those already parenting, receiving a valentine from a child is heartwarming and reassuring. But for those still waiting, the day can be another reminder of time one by and a dream that is not yet fulfilled.

As with any other holiday or social gathering time, recognize what you are feeling and be kind to yourself.  Perhaps you want to dedicate the day to your hopes and dreams and the thought that next year you will be celebrating with your child. You might also want to consider if there is something else you can do to move your parenting dreams forward.

Recognize that there is no need to celebrate if you don't want to. Just alert those closest to you that it is a holiday you're going to let pass.

Someone famous once said the heart wants what it wants. Whether you want to be a parent or you are a parent already, this is something you've wanted and waited for, for a long time.

Adoption does make dreams come true.  On this Valentine's Day hold onto those hopes and dreams.

Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. She has prepared thousands of adoption homestudies, counseled adoptive parents and parents-to-be, and has trained professionals to work with adoptive families. She was Director of the Ametz Adoption Program of JCCA (March 1992 to March 2015), Head Writer for Adoption.net and a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption Series. She is currently a member of the Adoption Advisory Board of Path2Parenthood and active in the Adoptive Parents Committee in New York (including being the 2016 Conference Keynote). She lives in New York City where she has a private practice specializing in adoption and adoptive parenting. She was named an “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. Follow or reach her at ADOPTION MAVEN BLOG or EMAIL


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

ADOPTION TAX CREDIT

You have most likely heard about the ADOPTION TAX CREDIT. Most people are advised to claim the credit the year they finalize an adoption, but you can also claim the credit for unsuccessful adoptions. I have asked my colleague, Becky Wilmouth, an Adoption tax Credit Specialist to explain:

Claiming the adoption tax credit after a failed adoption!

Not all adoption attempts end in a successful adoption. There are many failed or incomplete domestic adoptions. Many families who have had a failed or incomplete adoption are often told they do not qualify for the Adoption Tax Credit. You may still be eligible for the credit. The rules of when and how to file are different when you have a failed or incomplete adoption. The maximum amount of the adoption tax credit for 2017 is $13,570. The income phase-out range is $203,540-$243,540.
             
The adoption attempt must be for a domestic adoption only. It does not apply to international adoptions. You as the taxpayer may apply for the adoption tax credit the following tax year after the expenses were paid. You basically have to wait a year. So for example, if you paid expenses in 2016 and the adoption failed, you would not be able to claim them until you do your 2017 tax return at the beginning of 2018.
              
The tax return will not be able to be electronically filed, because you do not have a social security number for the child you are claiming the credit for. The Form 8839 is the form used for all adoptions claiming the Adoption Tax Credit. You will need to have a detailed invoice or statement from your agency or lawyer showing the paid expenses. I recommend you attach that to the paper return.
             
If you have a successful adoption after the failed adoption, the amount you received for the failed adoption will go against the amount you will receive on the successful adoption. You can also combine all expenses from the failed and successful adoption and claim it as one adoption. Once you have a failed adoption and then a successful adoption the process will then start over.

Becky Wilmoth is an Enrolled Agent and Adoption Tax Credit Specialist® at Bills Tax Service. She is a member of National Foster Parent Association, National Council for Adoption/Adoption League, North American Council on Adoptable Children, Kaskaskia College Business/Accounting Advisory Board, National Association of Enrolled Agents, National Association of Tax Professionals, and Illinois Society of Enrolled Agents. She is a guest writer and guest speaker at national adoption conferences, webinars, internet radio, blogs, and podcasts. Bills Tax Service is a member of Christian Alliance for Orphans. Many at Bills Tax Service have been blessed by adoption! She can be reached at www.billstaxservice.com    becky@billstax2.com    1-888-7ADOPT0 should you have additional questions.


Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. She has prepared thousands of adoption homestudies, counseled adoptive parents and parents-to-be, and has trained professionals to work with adoptive families. She was Director of the Ametz Adoption Program of JCCA (March 1992 to March 2015), Head Writer for Adoption.net and a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption Series. She is currently a member of the Adoption Advisory Board of Path2Parenthood and active in the Adoptive Parents Committee in New York (including being the 2016 Conference Keynote). She lives in New York City where she has a private practice specializing in adoption and adoptive parenting. She was named an “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. Follow or reach her at ADOPTION MAVEN BLOG or EMAIL


Sunday, January 15, 2017

THE UNMADE BED

When I was a kid I remember my mother always telling me to make my bed.  I thought how silly - I'm just going to get in again tonight. Why bother wasting my energy on making my bed?

I made my bed throughout college because friends always dropped by the room and that's where everyone sat. I made my bed in my first apartment because it was a studio with a fold out couch.  I made my bed in my next apartment, even though I could close the bedroom door. I taught my kids to make their beds, even though they gave me the same reasoning I gave my mom. I still make my bed everyday - even though I often have to coax the dog to get down.

Some things are worth doing every day. Some you do less often. Some you may not do at all.

Talking about adoption probably falls in the middle – not every day, but ongoing. You most likely started sharing you plan with family and friends. You adopted. You should have started talking to your child, sharing their story with them, even before they understood. This gave you time to practice, so by the time they understood, your voice, body language and manner were calm and relaxed. You answered questions from others or will shortly. You chose between secrecy and privacy as you gave out facts or generic information.

As the years progressed, it became easier and more of a habit to make my bed. I repeated what worked and tried new things. Yes even making a bed requires imagination and skill. The size changed. Fitted sheets were wonderful, but hard to fold. I learned a new trick which made it easier. Then I learned to put the folded fitted sheet and flat sheet inside one of the pillow cases. Presto – easy to grab when needed. No more digging around for a matched set. I was prepared.

It will become easier for you to talk about adoption as the years progress and your child grows. You will be creating an environment where it is safe to ask questions and share ideas. You will practice how to share details and help your child learn what and when to share their adoption with others. You will learn to look for opportunities to bring up adoption or ask your child how they are feeling. Television, movies, books and more will provide these opportunities. Birthdays, Mother’s, Father’s and Birthmother’s Day  add extra occasions for discussion and exploration.

There will be times you talk about it more. Times you talk about it less. The important thing is to make sure your child knows they can always talk to you and that you will help them navigate being part of a family built by adoption.

But like that unmade bed – it will present itself daily – What you decide to do about it is your choice. 

Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. She has prepared thousands of adoption homestudies, counseled adoptive parents and parents-to-be, and has trained professionals to work with adoptive families. She was Director of the Ametz Adoption Program of JCCA from March 1992 to March 2015, was Head Writer for Adoption.net, a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption Series She is currectly a member of the Adoption Advisory Board of Path2Parenthood and active in the Adoptive Parents Committee in New York, where she has a private practice specializing in adoption and adoptive parenting. She was named an “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. Follow or reach her at ADOPTION MAVEN BLOG or EMAIL.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

NEW YEAR RESOLUTION FOR 2017

It’s that time of year when we all make New Year’s resolutions. I am as guilty as anyone of starting out with good intentions: “I will lose weight”. “I will concentrate on good health”. “I shall spend more time with friends and family”.  My success from year to year varied.

So this year, I shall make a resolution I know I can keep: To be the best I can be and to help pre and post adoptive families understand adoption.

My resolution includes continuing to share my experience as an adoptive mom and an adoption professional. I will provide guidance and counseling on the adoption process as well as living as an adoptive family. I will help triad members understand that adoption is a family affair and that while you may not be living together, that there is an emotional presence. I will assist children and families as they explore and integrate the influence of nature and nurture, and help them develop self-confidence as individuals and as a family.

I will help them to understand:

That any holiday or life event may cause you to think about your child’s history or how nature is influencing the nurture you are providing.

That children may think about their birth parents….that they may imagine or wonder how life would have been different if they had remained with birth parents or were adopted by another family.

That each family experiences adoption differently and that there is always more to learn.

I believe the New Year will take me in many directions and the best I can do is to follow that road.

I shall hope for the best the future has to offer for myself and others.
I shall learn from any mistakes I may make.
I shall look for the good in people and situations.
I shall seize personal and professional opportunities.
I shall continue to share my knowledge and experiences with others.

Wishing you and all you know a healthy, happy and hopeful new year.

Kathy Ann Brodsky, LCSW is a New York and New Jersey licensed social worker, adoptive mom and advocate for ethical adoption practice. She has prepared thousands of adoption homestudies, counseled adoptive parents and parents-to-be, and has trained professionals to work with adoptive families. She was Director of the Ametz Adoption Program of JCCA (March 1992 to March 2015), Head Writer for Adoption.net and a member of the Advisory Board for POV’s Adoption Series. She is currently a member of the Adoption Advisory Board of Path2Parenthood and active in the Adoptive Parents Committee in New York (including being the 2016 Conference Keynote). She lives in New York City where she has a private practice specializing in adoption and adoptive parenting. She was named an “Angel in Adoption” by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption in 2001. Follow or reach her at ADOPTION MAVEN BLOG or EMAIL.