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

Sunday, July 16, 2017

PLACING TRUST IN THOSE CHOSEN TO ASSIST YOU

You made the decision to parent and now find yourself looking into adoption. The more you read and talk to people, the more excited you become. However, you still have some concerns.

You will need the assistance of others to make your family dreams come true. This includes social workers, lawyers, courts and other professionals. Your choice of who will be on your professional team is critical.

Your adoption team should include an adoption attorney and/or a licensed adoption agency, a homestudy social worker and a medical consultant to review pre-natal, hospital and/or medical or orphanage records. Many families find adding a professional, as well as having a peer group of other adopting and adoptive parents who can help you through the challenges of the process and of parenting.

You may find your attorney, agency or social worker through a referral of a friend or other adoptive family or on the Internet. They will answer your questions, explain the process and detail the services they will provide. You need to ask them about their experience with the type of adoption you are doing, costs and time frames. You can check them out through local adoption support groups, the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys or state adoption licensing offices.

Since you will receive advice and ongoing guidance from them throughout the legal adoption process, you must trust that they have your best interest at heart, are knowledgeable about the type of adoption you are doing and are ethical.
While every state and country has specific requirements and regulations, every adoption agency and attorney works a bit differently. Some provide more hand holding, other just do specific tasks.

After confirming they can assist you (within your state guidelines), you may ultimately choose them by a leap of faith, feeling that they are the right people to help you achieve your dream

You will work with a social worker during the homestudy and post placement phases of the adoption process. The homestudy is the pre-adoption assessment of you and you home in preparation to adopt. The post adoption phase includes the social worker revisiting you once your child is placed and writing reports that reflect your and your child’s adjustment. All reports are used at various points in the adoption process by attorneys, courts, adoption agencies in the US and agencies, courts and federal agencies in an international adoption.

As you parent, you can choose to seek additional support from your social worker or adoption agency. There may be questions about initial adjustments, especially with a non-infant. Children who have moved from one home or institution to your home will have reactions to new routines, foods, smells, languages and caretakers. Some children can get overwhelmed quickly. Without expressive language, their behavior may seem out of the ordinary or they may not be responding to you as you would like.

As you and your child adjust to one another (it is a two-way street), there may be additional questions you have. Perhaps it is when to talk about adoption, how to handle comments from others, how to help your child deal with peers at school or when to adopt again. Your social worker is a great resource for information or referral to local services. While some parents are fearful of sharing concerns or questions with those who helped with the adoption, these people know you best and have seen your transition to parenthood or a larger family. 

During the process, trust your instincts regarding those helping you and any information they present to you. Ask questions, continue to read about and explore the adoption process and parenting.


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 3, 2017

DEPORTATION OF ADOPTEES WITHOUT CITIZENSHIP

This  has the potential to destroy more lives and families.


Deportation a ‘Death Sentence’ to Adoptees After a Lifetime in the U.S.

BY CHOE SANG-HUN
Adam Crapser is one of at least half a dozen adoptees who were deported to South Korea because their adoptive parents failed to get them American citizenship

If your child was not granted automatic citizenship or you are unsure - contact an immigration attorney who has adoption experience immediately. If you need the name of someone, message me offline.


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, June 29, 2017

DEMYSTIFYING THE ADOPTION HOMESTUDY

WHAT IS IT, WHY IT IS NEEDED AND WHO SEES IT?

The adoption homestudy is a narrative report prepared by a social worker to describe who you are, why you are adopting, a description of the child you hope to adopt and the type of home you will provide for a child. The overall goal is to show you have the physical, mental, emotional, social and financial means to adopt, plus that you have an understanding of general parenting, the adoption process and the complexities of adoption in your and your child's lives.
Some states allow private social workers to conduct the homestudy. Most require the homestudy to be completed by a licenced adoption agency.

Topics included in the homestudy are your biographical history, where you grew up, who was in your family, family relationships, your education, hobbies, interests, employment and future plans to either work or be a stay at home parent. You will also discuss the adoption process, which will include the reason you are adopting, the type of child you are looking to adopt, relationships with expectant and birth parents and issues of adoptive parenting and living as an adoptive family.

You will also be asked to provide documentation to substantiate the information you provide. Most often the documents requested are birth certificates, marriage, divorce or death decrees, medicals for all household members (this may also include pets), adoption decrees, income verification (letters from employers, W2, 1099, investment income or income tax filings), and reference letters. Child abuse and criminal clearances are also conducted.

There will be, at least, one home visit and at least one interview will be conducted with each member of the household. Children will need to be observed and, depending on age, interviewed. Many homestudy processes include a required adoptive parent training course, which is done in person or on-line. Individual states, countries, adoption agencies or social workers may have additional document and visit requirements.

Once all documents, interviews and training  have been completed, the social worker will write the adoption homestudy report, which includes the recommendation to adopt and the type of child for which you are approved.

The final report is used at various points in your adoption process. In some states, an agency adoption homestudy is the final step of an adoptive parent's approval. In others, the adoption homestudy and accompanying documents need to be submitted to a local court for state adoption approval. Others require the adoption homestudy to be signed off by a state licensing board. For international adoptions, the adoption homestudy and accompanying documents are submitted through United States Citizenship and Immigration Services/Department of Homeland Security, who give the final approval for the adoptive parent to adopt from overseas.

HOW IS IT USED IN A DOMESTIC ADOPTION?

In a domestic adoption, the adoption homestudy is used by attorneys and adoption agencies to become familiar with adopting parent(s) and families. If permitted to make matches of birth and adopting parents, the report is also reviewed to see the type of child the adopting parent(s) are looking for as well as their view on relationships with birth parents during the adoption process and after the child is living in their new home.

The adoption homestudy may be used by a birth parent's attorney to familiarize themselves with the adopting parent(s) and to prepare court or Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) paperwork to bring the child from the state of birth into the resident state of the adopting parent(s).

The adoption homestudy is rarely shared with birth parents, and would be redacted if done so. Rather the adopting family prepares a "Dear Birth Mother Letter” or "Adoptive Parent(s) Book" - which includes their story, photos and description of the type of family and lifestyle the child would have if adopted by them.

The adoption homestudy along with other documents is also reviewed by the court that has jurisdiction over the adoption finalization.

HOW IS IT USED IN AN INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION?

In an international adoption, the adoption homestudy is reviewed by the attorney or adoption agency assisting with the adoption. It is also reviewed by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services/Department of Homeland Security as part of the paperwork submitted for the pre-adoption approval as adoptive parents.

The adoption homestudy is then part of the international dossier that is used in the overseas application to adopt, and reviewed by the in country adoption staff, attorneys or agency representatives.

The adoption homestudy is also presented as part of the paperwork reviewed for the finalization of the adoption process - either in country or in the United States.

FINAL WORDS

While many adopting parents fear or resent having to do the adoption homestudy, it is the responsibility of local organizations, states, countries and the United States government to protect children in need of permanent homes. It is also important for adopting parents to understand the responsibility of adopting and raising children, as well as the differences in living as an adoptive family.  The adoption homestudy, if done properly, helps prepare parent(s) for the challenges and joys of adoption and adoptive parenting. In addition, the relationship built with the social worker during the homestudy process offers a source for information and support during the adoption process and in the parenting years to come.

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