Friday, December 6, 2019

MY EXTENDED FAMILY

I live in New York City – where anything is possible. I am observant, and while I may not always say what I see, I take silent notes.  Take  today for example. I was on my way back from getting some reports notarized when two women entered the elevator.  They obviously had come from the laundry room in the basement of my building.

One wore a long-sleeved sweater and flip flops. The other, a sleeveless tank top and Ugg boots. I smiled to myself – it takes all kinds.

I feel that way about the families I meet with and the children they adopt. Each is unique. Some live in urban bustling communities, others in outer boroughs of Manhattan and the suburbs, and still others in areas outside the City I visit.   I enjoy learning not only about the families themselves but about their communities as well. Even in New York City, I am always aware of a new neighborhood, building architecture and community parks and playgrounds. Their children, by birth or joining their families through adoption, each has a story and a personality. They grow and develop at their own pace and blossom under the love and nurturing care of their parents.

Whether single or a couple, experienced parents or newbies, in flip flops or shearling boots, once I start working with someone who is looking to adopt or raising a child through adoption, I may not see or hear from you often, but you are all a part of my extended family and in my thoughts.

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 the  Adoption  Advisory  Board  of  Path2Parenthood, She is currently a  Adoption   Professional   Advisory  Council  of  HelpUSAdopt , a member of the Advisory Board of the Family Equality Council 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 


Thursday, November 21, 2019

WHAT IF YOU KNEW NOTHING ABOUT ADOPTION

The more I pursued being a parent through adoption and  later  working  with people preparing to parent or living as adoptive parents and with their families, the more I learned. As I extended my  private  practice  to  training  or  supervising  professionals,  the more I realized how much information they needed to know.

So, let’s start at the beginning.

You see a child with an adult. The adult is caring for the child. The child is looking up to the adult. Are they parent and child? Caretaker and child? Extended family? Neighbor? You get the picture. How do you know the nature of the relationship? You don’t. Today’s family looks different. There are so many different combinations of parents and children: birth, step, adopted, extended, foster and more.

Assuming it is an adopted family, what does that tell you? Just that the child and parent found one another. There have been gains all around: becoming a parent (adoptive parent), knowing your child will be cared for (birthparent) and a family (for the child). But for an adoptive family to be formed, there also have been losses on all sides. A loss of a biological connection to a child (adoptive parent), the loss of parenting a child (birthparent) and the loss of a parent and birth family (child). If the child is from another race, ethnicity or culture, there may also be a loss of connection to their birth culture or heritage. But you see none of that.

MYTH: Birthparents were too young or poor to parent or had no family support and after placing their child for adoption, moved on with their lives. FACT: birthparents range in age from 14-40, come from all racial and cultural backgrounds and while some struggle with everyday issues, others are college educated professionals. Some are not ready or prepared to parent, while others are already parenting and cannot foresee taking on the responsibility of another child. For many the decision to make an adoption plan was not an easy one. While life moved on, for a birthparent who felt they had no choice but to make an adoption plan, the emotional toll of adoption remained. Guilt, shame, anger or the yearning to reconnect with a son or daughter may linger. More recently, an open adoption agreement may lessen these feelings as they can get information on how a child is doing and possibly even see them over the years. Discussion of such an arrangement is made during the pregnancy and placement phases of the adoption process.

MYTH: Adoptive parents were infertile and wealthy. FACT: Adoptive parents are singles and couple of all ages and economic and social classes. They are looking to adopt children, domestically and internationally, ranging in age from newborn to 16 years. For those who have experienced fertility issues, the decision to adopt takes thoughtful exploration and understanding of not only the adoption process, but the complexities of adoptive parenting. There are times in the lifecycle of an adoptive parent or adoptee where adoption is more in the forefront than at other times, as on birthdays or Mother’s or Father’s Day or anniversary days (day of custody or finalization of the adoption). School assignments regarding family or genetics can generate more discussions and questions. Keeping the communication lines open between an adoptive parent and child is critical.

MYTH: Adopted children have behavioral and learning difficulties. FACT: First things first - they want to be and should be recognized as sons and daughters, not as the “adopted child”. Adoption is how they joined your family. Unless they choose to identify as adoptees, you should drop the adoption identifier. (Same as with a parent who has adopted. That is how they became a family. Now they are “parents”.) Back to the children. Many people think that adopted children have a higher incident of learning and behavioral issues. It is challenging to know whether it is related to, inherited traits or as the result of emotional distraction of being adopted. Reactions to school assignments, comments from peers or things heard on TV or in the media vary. Many have questions about their birth family or circumstances around their adoption placement. Others want to understand and reconnect with their birth culture, traditions and language. Open dialogue with parents around such issues can be helpful if the parent is comfortable listening and supporting the child. Parents are typically the ones who teach a child how to respond to others and help them to integrate information known or unknown. Many adoptive families are comfortable reaching out to and getting support from professionals to help them identify if an issue is adoption related or just a normal stage of development. Sometimes, it is the parent who can use the support. Other times the child may benefit from counseling and/or interactions with an adoptive peer group.

There’s a lot to learn about adoption. Adoptive parents find they become the educators for their families, friends, communities, child’s teachers and more. Birth parents often feel judged and remain silent. For the ones who speak out, they are teaching the world why an adoption plan is made and the benefits of staying in contact with the adoptive family. As adopted children grow, they take on these roles with peers and others, while grappling with their own history, identity and adoptive status.

The more people know about adoption, the easier it will be for birth and adoptive parents, their children and their extended families to be recognized as legitimate families formed by birth.

For more information, come to the ADOPTIVE PARENTS COMMITTEE ANNUAL NYC ADOPTION CONFERENCE this Sunday (11/24/19) and subsequent monthly meetings in Brooklyn, NY

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 the  Adoption  Advisory  Board  of  Path2Parenthood, She is currently a  Adoption   Professional   Advisory  Council  of  HelpUSAdopt , a member of the Advisory Board of the Family Equality Council 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 

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

TIME TO REFLECT

November is National Adoption Month.

This year it coincides with Daylight Saving Time. As we move the clocks back an hour, I am reflecting back, as well. I remember the days of wondering if I would be a mother. If a birthparent would choose me. I remember talking to and meeting birthmothers, one at the time of placement and the other when my younger daughter was 15 years old. I remember talking to my daughters about their adoptions and their histories - sharing what I knew when I felt they were ready to hear it.

I remember so many conversations with hopeful adoptive parents during homestudies and post placements, consultations about the adoption process and counseling before and during the adoption process and later, in the years of parenting. With parents who only wanted the best for their children and who wondered if an issue was adoption related, who were considering whether to search for additional information, arrange a reunion, or if it was time to adopt again. With parents who were grappling with how to help a child complete an academic assignment, helping a child share or answer questions about their adoption or how to handle other issues at school.

I also remember meeting and working with birthparents for whom social pressure or unethical adoption practices led to relinquishments of their children. Where limitations on contact with children lead to continued concerns about the decisions they had made. Where agreed upon open adoption agreements were later challenged by adoptive parents.

I remember many conversations with children of all ages who just wanted answers to their questions. Who shared close and loving relationships with their adoptive parents and siblings, but wanted to see whom they looked like, if they had birth siblings and if they would ever meet their “real” mom or dad. Conversations with them about the loss of a biological or cultural connection and questions about who they are and where they belong.

National Adoption Day and Month were created to raise awareness for the children in foster care who are freed for adoption, but who are still waiting for a permanent home. Over the years it has come to include all forms of adoption still with the focus of finding homes for these children, but with the added attention to providing support services to make those placements successful.

As National Adoption Month gives us a moment to reflect, let’s not lose sight of the fact that whether you are an adopted person, the birth or adoptive parent or an extended family member, adoption has an impact.

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 the  Adoption  Advisory  Board  of  Path2Parenthood, She is currently a  Adoption   Professional   Advisory  Council  of  HelpUSAdopt , a member of the Advisory Board of the Family Equality Council 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 

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

IT'S A SPECIAL DAY

I have been getting lots of emails about special days recently – Taco Day, Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, Ask a Stupid Question Day, International Coffee Day and World Smile Day to name a few. All of these unusual honorings have me thinking.

For many families created through adoption, there is a mix of cultures, ethnicities and races. Coming from different parts of the United States may offer as many opportunities to express your family’s diversity as adopting from overseas.  There are many ways you can use the current and upcoming holidays to celebrate your family’s unique composition.

FOOD
Food from fasting to feasting, often includes shared meals to mark events. As you mark the holidays, include your child in planning and making foods. Use this time to also discuss where they were born, their cultural background and foods eaten in their community of birth. 

- Make cereal treats with sprinkles in the colors that reflect your and your child’s cultural heritage.
- LGBTQ families can use rainbow sprinkles.
Find a dish that represents your child’s heritage or pick a family favorite and switch up the ingredient to meld traditions –
Lasagna can be layered with ethnic flavors.
Chicken soup can have additional flavors and spices.
Pizza can have toppings reflecting any cuisine.
Rice is a great base for spices, seasonings, herbs, meats, beans and more.
Burritos don’t just have to have Mexican fillings – use the concept and food and spices of your choosing.
- Stews (vegetarian or with meat) are a great base for any country or family tradition recipe.
- Religious holidays often include traditional foods
- Search the web for the foods eaten in another country and include in your offerings.
- Make two versions of a family favorite – your family’s traditional recipe and one of another country or culture. Kreplach = Chinese Dumplings = Perogies, Matzah balls = Mofongo = Falafel, Pastelles = Tamales = Knishes, Egg rolls = Burrito = Tikka Wrap or Injera = Crepes = Pita.

CRAFTS
Children of all ages like arts and craft activities and, luckily, most celebrations offer a chance to show off their creative skills.
- Help your child find an art project and display their creation in your home (even adding it to your holiday table décor).
Make a dream catcher with the colors from your child’s birth country or place of birth sports team
- A door wreath can include any colors and added decorations. The same cut-out hand prints used to make turkeys for Thanksgiving, can be cut out in various colors to reflect a country’s heritage or even multi colored to reflect the world.
- Macaroni necklaces can also be made to reflect parts of the U.S., countries, ethnics and races.
- Create a family crest that includes everyone’s background or favorite food, activity, color etc.

PARTY IDEAS
Celebrating holidays of your child’s background is a great time to teach them and others about the significance of values and traditions.
- Thanksgiving is celebrated in various ways around the world: China: "Chung Chiu" Moon Festival, Vietnam: Têt-Trung-Thu Festival, Brazil: Day of Thanksgivings.
There are harvest festivals in Africa, India and Korea.
Kwanza is celebrated by African American families and reflects the values of the culture.
Cinco de Mayo is celebrated by Mexicans.
Decorate your home to include colors or items reflecting all family member’s backgrounds.
Make and string garlands reflecting the colors of states, cultures or countries.
Christmas has many opportunities to include all cultures and traditions. Check out:
Jewish holidays involve food with variations across the world;

TEACH
Use this time to educate not only your child, but others who visit you for the holidays. Discuss what your child would like people to know and who will tell them (you or your child). A good place to start is:
From there, you can identify a holiday or observance and search for additional information on the internet.

Depending on my kids interests, over the years, my family embraced some holidays and shied away from others based on their curiosities and interests. With choosy eaters, we pretty much stuck to the basics with their food choices but art projects were plentiful. Conversations were ongoing and ranged from where they were born, how customs or celebrations (including religious observances) may have been kept and how their life may have been different if they were raised in the area of their birth.

Opportunities to discuss these topics are abundant if you look for them. Enjoy your holidays and feel free to share the heritage, foods and projects that define you and your family.

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 the  Adoption  Advisory  Board  of  Path2Parenthood, She is currently a  Adoption   Professional   Advisory  Council  of  HelpUSAdopt , a member of the Advisory Board of the Family Equality Council 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 



Thursday, October 10, 2019

SPLIT LIVES

I divide my time between my New York City  apartment and a  second  home in what we call “the country”. I have the advantage of all the City has to offer, being able to get anywhere by public or private transportation. I can order food at any time of the day  or night and it will be delivered to my door.  I  can  easily  go  out  to  dinner, to  a  movie  or a play, or other social events.

But the country (others would call it a woodsy suburb) brings me a peace and quiet the City cannot provide. There are the country sounds – the birds chirping - this year we’ve had cardinals and blue jays in addition to the usual robins, nuthatches, starlings and woodpeckers. I sit on the back deck watching chipmunks and squirrels frolicking and gathering nuts.

Anyone who follows me probably knows one of my daughters is an “animal whisperer” and was involved in animal rescue and rehabilitation when she lived in the country house. When she moved, she took the dogs, the cat, the bunny and the bearded dragon. The squirrel she raised from infancy could not be found so she was left behind and she lives here with her husband and babies. (the squirrel, not my daughter). We know it’s her because of the special mark on her face. I feel an obligation to make sure they are well-cared for and supplement their diet with peanuts and seeds.

I am lucky to be able to enjoy both worlds, which got me thinking – adopted kids also have two worlds: their adoptive family and lifestyle and the birth family with whom they may have contact or with whom they just think about.  Many of us fantasize about how life could have been different.

You may have thoughts related to how life is different that you imagined while growing up, when you just assumed you would be a biological parent. You may have times that adoption enters your thoughts around how you are parenting. Maybe it’s an activity you never imagined in which you would take part, helping a child pursue a talent or interest. What if you had a biological child – would things be the same or different?

For adopted kids, it’s not uncommon for a child to wonder what life would have been like if they were raised by their birth family or, in fact, if another family had adopted them. Where would they live? Would they have one parent or two? Would they have any siblings? What foods would they eat? What friends would they have? What activities would they be involved in?

Some children have the ability to ask birth parents directly. Others may imagine and just think about it. They need help in expressing these thoughts.  Thinking about these things will not cause your child to withdraw or reject you. Allowing your child to express these thoughts may actually help them make sense of their identity, how being part of your family has molded them and how adoption has affected their life.

Making sense of their two worlds takes time for the adopted child. With your support and encouragement, this can be done.

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 the  Adoption  Advisory  Board  of  Path2Parenthood, She is currently a  Adoption   Professional   Advisory  Council  of  HelpUSAdopt , a member of the Advisory Board of the Family Equality Council 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 

Monday, September 23, 2019

EXPECTATIONS

We all have ideas about how things are supposed to be. Sometimes, it’s smooth sailing. At other times, the road takes a sharp turn. That's what happens with many of our parenting plans.

We thought we would have a biological child. We were wrong. After dealing with the fact that this was not in the cards, we realized the goal still was to parent.  Sure, we would miss a child inheriting our eyes, smile, genes and more but we still had options to experience the joys of parenthood. There were decisions to be made about using donor material or choosing surrogacy or adoption. Research and soul searching followed.

For those of us that chose to adopt, the road would have twists and turns and bumps along the way. We would stress over the Homestudy, choosing the right agency or attorney and what sort of relationship to build with a birthparent. You built an initial knowledgeable and supportive adoption team to help you navigate the process. You added a pediatrician to the team to help you evaluate any pre-natal or hereditary medical issues. You found other pre and post-adoptive parents and families to share their experiences.

You never expected nor could you predict all the questions and concerns throughout the adoption process. There were emotional highs and lows. There were days and nights you thought you would never become a parent. Luckily, your team was there to answer questions and provide emotional support.

Family and friends kept asking you what's happening.You became their adoption educator, providing information and alleviating their worries. You never expected so much support and excitement and interest from them would also cause you more anxiety and the wish that they would stop asking.

You didn't know what to expect when talking to or meeting a birthparent. You just had to be yourself. You were surprised to find out more information about their histories. You were told not to make promises without consulting with your attorney or agency. You never expected to feel so many different emotions in rapid succession.

You knew what to expect at the hospital at the time of the baby's birth having discussed it during the pregnancy, but you weren't fully prepared for the dual feelings of excitement and nervousness. You expected to be happy the first time you held your son or daughter, but not the overwhelming and swift feelings of unconditional love, responsibility and commitment. You hadn't prepared for how the waiting for relinquishment papers to be signed, interstate clearance to be granted for you to come home or waiting to finalize the adoption would weigh so heavily on your mind. You never realized you were emotionally holding your breath nor did you expect to breathe such a heavy sigh of relief when the judge finally ruled the adoption complete.

You added a new title (Mom or Dad) to your list of roles and accomplishments. You are juggling new responsibilities, tasks, routines and more. You are building your "village". Interactions with family and friends have taken on new meaning. Additional childcare may now be a part of your life. Meal planning and sleep time are more scheduled. Your organizational skills are being called upon every day. Hopefully, parenting is everything you wanted and expected. Mostly....

You expected life would change and it did. Congratulations.

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 the  Adoption  Advisory  Board  of  Path2Parenthood, She is currently a  Adoption   Professional   Advisory  Council  of  HelpUSAdopt , a member of the Advisory Board of the Family Equality Council 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 

Thursday, September 5, 2019

FIRSTS

I dropped my dog off at the vet yesterday. As I drove him there, I saw many children waiting for the school bus to arrive.  The younger ones with parents, the older ones without.  Today, NYC  kids go back to school.  I remember  those  first  days  so  well.  There were weeks of preparation and anxieties on my girls’ part (and mine, too) as we waited for the class list and teacher  assignment.  There  were  shopping  trips  for  clothes, shoes  and  school supplies. There  were  discussions regarding school or homemade lunches and after school activities. The night before, sleep  was  hard  to  come by. The next morning, everyone was sleepy but excited.

I recall first days at new jobs. The anticipation of a new chapter in my professional growth and concerns over co-workers and learning the ropes. My first day working for an adoption program was meeting with a family for a homestudy. I had lists of questions to ask and information to impart from articles I had read about adoptive parenting. (I was not yet an adoptive mom.) My job fit perfectly into my plans to become one. Six years later with my second child joining our family through adoption, I assumed the role of director of that adoption program. I loved the work - helping couples and singles achieve the dream to parent or enlarge their families and educating their extended families, communities and other professionals.

Another first was my day as an adoptive mom in 1987. We met our daughter and her birthmother in an agency meeting room. I was nervous, unsure of what to expect or to say. The agency staff was wonderful. The birthmother asked questions which confirmed what she had been told about us. She was making sure we were the people she chose. We asked questions about the baby, who had been under her care for 3 weeks. What she was eating, what was her sleep schedule, etc. Returning to the hotel with the baby, it seemed like a dream. Was this little baby really going to be ours? Could someone just hand you a baby and make you a mom or dad? The answer was yes. After 10 days, we returned to NY as parents. The first time my parents met our daughter is etched in my mind. The smiles at the airport. My sister showing up about an hour later eager to hold her niece. The first time everyone got to hold her. The tears in my parents’ eyes. I remember us all sitting in my parent’s living room just watching our daughter, their granddaughter, sleep. Yes, our daughter. How long had we waited to be able to say that?

There have been many other firsts in my lifetime. And still, every time I talk to or meet with a family exploring or starting an adoption process, I recall my own journey to motherhood. There were many firsts during the process. The first time I placed an ad, spoke to or met a birthparent. The first time I fed or changed my daughter’s diaper, watched her take a first step, say a first word, start school. Each day brought a new and exciting part of parenting.

Funny how a simple thing of seeing some kids waiting for a school bus can bring back all those memories. Adoption and my daughters’ birthmothers made us a family. My daughters made me a mom.

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 the  Adoption  Advisory  Board  of  Path2Parenthood, She is currently a  Adoption   Professional   Advisory  Council  of  HelpUSAdopt , a member of the Advisory Board of the Family Equality Council 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